Pidgeon Point by Stuart Cockerill

Pidgeon Point, Tobago by Stuart Cockerill

Stuart gives his views after a testing trip with Boards mag

Pidgeon Point Beach, Tobago.

 

Pidgeon Piont beach

My trip to Pigeon point was as part of a testing trip with Boards magazine.  As such I didn’t pick the destination or hotel but was much encouraged by the reports I’d read and also the comments of “the Guru” who described it as one of his most favourite places.  As such I had a vision of an earthly windsurfing paradise.  The trip itself was always going to be interesting as the magazine was taking 31 boards and 20 sails and immense amount of other kit.  We flew Excel Airways and I have to say that the nine hour flight from Gatwick was fortunately made comfortable by the fact that being a Thursday, the flight was half empty.

Being in Tobago in February was a shock

Tobago in February was a shock

,….very warm, 30oC, you have to be ready for the heat hitting you after a freezing February morning in Gatwick and on Thameslink.  The transfer to the hotel was short, 10 minutes, in fact the airport was a mere 20 minutes walk from the hotel in reality.  Jumbo Jets could were visible almost in close up from the hotel, curiously, the sound didn’t carry.  On the practical front, one key piece of advice at this point, i.e. on arrival, is to change whatever currency you have into T and T dollars (Trinidad and Tobago).  Prices are often cheaper in T and T dollars, something I’ll come on to later.

The hotel, the “Conrado Beach Resort”, was a trip back in time for myself and several of the older members of the testing team.  Back to when we were students.  We’ve all got used to a high standard of accommodation, a consequence no doubt of our home counties, middle class lifestyle, but the place was a shock. Unfinnished, with builders around allegedly finishing the fitting out of rooms.  Also just basically tatty with paint peeling, puddles of water in corridors and a style of decoration which suggested things being done on the cheap.  The Hotel is owned and managed by Maria and her husband and they are clearly limited from a cash point of view it.  That and the Tobagan national attitude to work would suggest that the upgrading of this hotel is a long term goal.  If you go there in a years time,  expect the same.  Maria was lovely and looked after us well, but throughout the stay, there were moments where members of the group were seriously close to “losing it”.  One memorable occasion was the middle Saturday night of the 15 day trip when a beach party/concert type event had been organised at Pigeon Point.  All the traffic to the event had to go by the Conrado.  This consisted of Tobagan cars with big speaker systems blaring out their beat as they revved their way up the road to the beach.  This happened at midnight to 2am then again at 6am when they left the party.  The Hotel response was to turn up their music in the Hotel bar, presumably to attempt to attract custom.  This resulted in a 2am showdown between Maria and one or two members of our group and not much sleep in general for a party of windsurfers who had sailed non stop in force 4/5 conditions for 8 days consecutively at that point.  Ho hum, a hard life!

Anyway that is all the bad stuff.  Pigeon point is like paradise.  Clean beautiful sand, palm trees and water like you wouldn’t believe, beautiful turquoise blues and bath tub warm.  Fantastic.  That coupled with the fact that we had only one day with little wind for a fortnight made the place just tremendous.  The wind around the point works in a northerly or easterly direction.  So you either launch on a starboard tack out towards the reef with the shallow reef area downwind in the more easterly cross shore breezes, or… port tack in the more onshore northerlies.  Either way there is a large blasting area opening up in front of you. Also the whole lagoon area is shallow out to Bucoco reef which is about a mile offshore.  At high tide, a swell could be experienced, with the wind in the right direction.  This only ever added to the fun of the place.  Learning how to deal with swell, controlling back foot pressure on the fin and avoiding spin out was something I think I learnt during the trip.  Overall, this all added up two weeks of the best windsurfing I have experienced.

boards on beach

Both of these wind directions provide great wind for the windsurfing beach but just around the headland is the tourist beach which operates in a total wind shadow and is something of an oven.  It is a real shock to walk around to this area for lunch and experience the sudden rise in temperature.  For two thirds of our stay, this tourist beach was pretty empty, but on one day in three, a cruise ship would disgorge a mass of overcooked, overweight tourists at Scarborough (the local port), and a fleet of taxis would ferry this mass of, usually English, slow moving blubber to Pigeon point.  How these people coped with the oven like environment of the tourist beach is beyond me. wit  The other issues you become acutely aware of are that; you have to watch the sea urchin spikes in the areas where the sea bottom is covered by seaweed and the reef type areas can be hard on fins at low tide.  It became a bit of a macho thing as to how many spikes you had in your feet.  My record was nine in each foot on one day, after that I gave up and wore boots!  Also some truly inspirational catapults were achieved by members of the group trying to cut back up wind across the reef areas.  But these were all minor irritations, you get on with it and enjoy windsurfing paradise.

Eating options at the beach are all around the corner of the point at the tourist beach, “Pizza boys” or one or two other smaller establishments, the Roti (a kind of potato based curry wrapped up in  Chapatti) and the Fish sandwich bakes are well worth a try.  But the food is largely high fat stuff aimed at the aforementioned cruise ship tourists.  Use your T and T dollars on cruise ship days, this makes lunch much cheaper on as the prices are hiked and changed to US dollars when the tourist arrive!

Eating in the evenings can be achieved via a range of establishments, from the aforementioned “Pizza boys”, the chefs grill, to proper restaurants more like some of us older types are used to.  The local nightlife could be lively, apparently, with the “Sunday School” nightspot a bit of an attraction.  As I was spending most of my time trying to recover from the pounding my body was taking during the day, dancing the night away was the last thing on my mind, but it had good reviews from the younger element.

Finally, choosing the appropriate hotel would undoubtedly be key.  The Hilton Tobago has a good reputation, up market facilities as has the Coco Reef Resort at Store Point, the latter has its own enclosed beach with guards in evidence.  Needless to say, I never got in there.  There was little to do for families where we stayed although the more expensive hotels boasted all the usual facilities. 

So in summary, the windsurfing was fantastic, the beaches were just great, Tobago itself was an experience. Would I go back, to windsurf?…..like a shot.  Would I take the family?  To the Conrado, not in a million years, should they experience Tobago, very definately.

Windsurfing in tobago

By

Stuart Cockerill

 

 

Pics by,

Top: Hywel Harris

 
Middle: Stuart Cockerill  
Bottom: John Bainbridge