Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tobago Peeps: Tobago Treasure Map

The art of map reading is a useful skill to have. Some people (myself excluded) are “map people”, easily able to use maps to navigate successfully around new landscapes. A friend of mine, before going traveling in South America, wisely embarked upon a map reading course—something I never knew existed until she said she was going to do it.

As children, one of my sisters and I often created ‘treasure maps’. We would draw fictitious landscapes on pieces of tracing paper, the edges of which we then singed with candle flames to create a parched, antiquated look. Guided by our cartographical artwork, we would go digging in the garden for buried treasure.

I still view maps as treasure maps of sorts. More than simply being practical tools for finding specific locations, they are networks of possibilities leading to unfolding adventures and (one of my favourite words) serendipity—the finding of something valuable or delightful when not looking for it.

Now, with a Skyview map sprawled before me, I close my eyes, circle my hand over the paper expanse of Tobago and, after a while, set my index finger down on a spot at random: Nutmeg Grove. I have never been there—at least not knowingly but, possibly unintentionally, I might have taken a “wrong turn” and passed through in the quest for some other destination.

The name conjures images of groves of nutmeg trees, but because locations often don’t visually match what their names suggest, I can’t be sure what the area is actually like. Maybe it is peppered with small rural houses—and possibly very few because (if my understanding of the map is correct) the area is located somewhere in the Tobago Forest Reserve.

The randomness of selecting Nutmeg Grove brings to mind a story someone shared via Facebook: It is Easter weekend and two young Torontonians, on their second date together, spontaneously decide to go to the airport and hop on the first available, affordable flight—to wherever. Long story short, they end up flying via Westjet to spend the weekend in Tobago, experiencing jazz, beaches, waterfalls and as much “island life” as they can fit in to their three unplanned days.

In a world where so much of daily life is organized and orchestrated, the magic of random or spontaneous acts and moments is often lost. Something about the unintentionally chosen Nutmeg Grove draws me and I sense that the impulse to go there may have little to do with the place itself. The Ralph Waldo Emerson quote comes to mind: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Who or what will I experience on my journey to this place? Today is as good a day as any to find out … Skyview map in hand to lead the way.

I peruse the Map Icon Key. The highway, signified by what looks like a red and yellow train line, is short, covering only the distance from Lowlands to Dwight York Stadium. Before and after those points, the route is defined by a yellow line which, according to the Map Key, is a ‘Main Rd’. That one Main Road runs like a frame around the island.

To get to Nutmeg Grove, I can turn off the highway to drive along Providence Road, then on to Northside Road. The map seems quite straightforward. On the right, just after the name Mason Hall, there is a broken white line (“Parishes”, according to the Map Key) that veers off from Northside Road. This, according to the map, leads to Nutmeg Grove.

The day is young and I am free to see where this journey takes me.