Dear Wilby diary, I woke up around 4am this morning to start my shift on the helm and relieve captain ‘Three Fifty Seven’ from watch duties. Conditions were pretty ideal for our approach: Winds around 15 knots, swell no more than a couple of meters and the sky just starting to light up... Ahhh, I love the sunrise shift. I changed course from south to south west and followed the coast towards the far end of the island where we were due to anchor. It was such a beautiful sight, to see the lights that lined the shore slowly fade as the sun broke over the mountains and revealed my next adventure: Tobago island.
By 7am the mainsail was down and we were on the motor, slowly working our way past the other boats in the bay to drop hook as close to the beach as our keel would let us. The water turquoise blue, the sand pure white and the clouds still holding the colours of sunrise. "Must be time for a swim ay?" I thought as I stripped off all my clothes and bailed over the side of the boat with a splash. "It's gunna be a good day".
Three Fifty Seven came to Tobago to meet his wife and kids then was due to continue on to Trinidad a few days after, but I wanted some time to explore the island. I packed up all my gear and loaded it in the dinghy to take with us to immigration. Malo, the French hitchhiker, would continue on the boat to Trinidad with Three Fiddy and his family, so after I signed off the crew at immigration, it would just be me and Wolfy.
I had no idea of the island or the local customs and had no local currency in my pocket, only the 9 bottles of cheap French wine that I brought over from Martinique. This would be my barter for food until I found a way to make some coin. My first trade was with Malo. Typical French guy: can’t refuse a good deal on wine, so I gave him my best bottle of red and he took me to a local restaurant to fill my belly with fried chicken. YUM!
On our way from the port office to the restaurant I noticed that we were following a hippie-looking chick and fella down the street. "Oi gypsy crew!" I called out after them. "Where's the bush camp on this island?"
Obviously, I wasn't from around here. Apart from the fact that I was asking for directions to a bush camp that may or may not exist in a ridiculous Australian accent, I had everything I owned in a bag on my back and a huge stuffed teddy dog under my arm. My new friends were curious.
'Who are you and what are you doing here?' The thoughts on their faces read like the headlines of a magazine stand, so I replied appropriately. "Yeah, I'm just boat hitching around Carib and arrived in Tobago this morning. I wanna go and explore the island, discover some waterfalls, uncover some treasures, eat some acid in the forest... you know, typical adventure time shit. You guys got any tips for me?" "Well we don't know of any bush camp, but we're squatting a place out of town. If you wanna come check it out, it could be a good start to your adventure...” Chicken fuckin' dinner! That's what I wanted to hear, so after a chicken lunch I loaded my bag into the hippies' car, said goodbye to Malo and kicked off my tour of the island. We drove out of town and into the country, past the hills and the pastures until finally we turned off the main drag and onto an old bumpy access road signposted ‘Friendship Rd’. Further ahead, another sign: 'STATE PROPERTY. NO SQUATTING' .... hmmm so there must be some squatable land up ahead ay?
'Friendship Farm', as the property is called, is a semi-functioning horse stablery and riding school located at an old sugar mill left over from the slaving times. Basically the land was sold to the state years ago, but the caretaker of the land never left and was never kicked out. So the farm lives on, run by the old caretaker and worked by travellers, gypsies and free spirits. The deal is, I do a bit of work on the farm in the mornings for my food and stay and I can earn cash for working the afternoons — that’s on the days that I don’t want to hang out at the beach or go exploring the mountains.
So yeah, I’ve found a pretty nice base. This place is so beautiful. Tropical birds singing in the trees, horsies munching on the green pastures, coconut beaches only a couple hundred meters away... 'Rasta paradise' as the residents are calling it. I'm sure the old slavers would be turning in their graves to see their estates now taken over by a black man and being worked by a white man but fuck 'em, life has a habit of turning around on itself ay?
I've decided to name the place 'Little Holland' after the mark that the Dutch left from their times here in the middle sixteen hundreds. I'm living in this amazing old sugar mill built in 1666. The wind vanes are now long gone but the round millhouse and conical roof are still standing tall in the plantation fields, which are kept dry by classic lowland drainage canals — so reminiscent of the Netherlandic agricultural design.
Yepo, Little Holland is pretty fucking incredible; a little piece of 17th century golden age, set within a tropical island paradise… couldn’t have planned my stay better if I tried.
"When you travel without a plan, you always end up where you want to be."