Heading South to San Fernando and Pitch Lake

Tue 3 Sep 2013 18:41
Chaguaramas and the islands between Trinidad and Venezuela seen from San Fernando

Sam, our friend and superb varnisher, was good enough to invite us to come to the South of Trini to meet members of his family and enjoy a superb home cooked meal at his sister's house - which was delicious and included pig tail and bread fruit from the garden. We went down in two cars, following Sam through the side roads and getting to see more of the towns and scenery as we drove.

In the afternoon we all set off to Pitch Lake, where we were greeted by a wonderful "Documentary Tour Guide" who enlivened our outing with explanations and demonstrations along the way. Here's a clip of him introducing himself and explaining how the whole lake thing works...

And here's a taste of some of his scientific explanations...

Pitch Lake is literally a lake of pitch, it just naturally oozes up to the surface. Houses we passed on the way there seemed to have tarmac yards, but it wasn't put there, it just surfaces... really weird! When the sailing ships of old arrived, fighting with each other over who was to own these Islands, they must have been so delighted to find this lake with pitch here for the taking to repair their boats and barrels with.

It's not water, it's pitch with a little water on top.

Surprisingly, you can walk right out to the center, if you watch your step, as it forms a sort of skin on top, called the elephant's skin, but dig a little and you can pull up sticky tar. I wasn't prepared for the smell as well, all over it methane bubbles up, which our guide took delight in setting fire to with a lighter. 


There are some deeper pools where some people bath in the smelly green water to help heal their ills. I don't know if it works, but, apart from leaving one a little smellier, it certainly can't hurt so is definitely worth a try.

Healing waters

Surprisingly, the plants grow right up through the pitch and there are plenty of signs of life: small fish in the shallows, plenty of birds and insects. It's amazing how they tolerate the smell!


We finished up the day with a trip to a nearby beach where everybody, and their blinged up car, seemed to have converged for the saturday evening lime. In the distance the flares of the oil processing plants lit up the sky line, reminding us where Trinidad's relative affluence originates from.


It had been a fascinating day, we met some lovely people, ate superb home cooking and it was much more interesting and fun wandering around a smelly tar filled lake than I thought it would be!