The Grand Canyon, in the US, is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, a national treasure and one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion on earth. The Britannica website describes it as an "intricately sculptured chasm" containing a "multitude of imposing peaks, buttes, gorges and ravines" between its outer walls.
Averaging 4,000 feet deep for all of its 277 miles, it is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 18 miles at its widest.
Given that these mind-blowing dimensions attract visitors from all around the world, it is surprising that Tobago, ever desirous of amplifying its tourism magnetism, has not yet grabbed at the potent opportunity to market this island’s comparable geographical features.
The deep, wide chasms that define many of our roadways can surely cop the prestigious title of "eighth natural wonder of the world." Expertly sculpted by rain, floodwaters and ongoing vehicular movement, these commonly-occurring basins become even more outstanding on a daily basis.
Local and foreign off-road driving enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that Tobago offers one of the most easily accessible "off-grid" experiences in the world. No need to head far into the hills and undeveloped rural areas for challenging terrain. Especially after heavy tropical downpours, the rugged surfaces and unpredictable drops into muddy, water-filled chasms can be found virtually "on your doorstep," even in Tobago’s more "developed" zones like Crown Point and environs.
Recently, navigating my way through and around questionable trenches on a Lowlands road after heavy rain, I was grateful for my four-wheel drive vehicle. Such notable road erosion is commonly accepted in local "geo-culture" as "just another pothole." These holes are far too often allowed to expand to proportions that could make them worthy of mention on sites such as UK Off Road Driver, which promises: “You will plough through deep water crossings, learn how to cross ditches, climb vertiginous ascents. Tackle scary side slopes, drive down really steep hills...and learn a range of other off-road skills designed to create an experience you’ll never forget.”
In recent times, a newly-formed "geographical feature" on Milford Road, Bon Accord, gave that part of the roadway the honour of becoming a newly-developed obstacle course. Confronted by a potentially damaging drop into the water-filled abyss, drivers (myself included) were forced to slow down and proceed with caution, many no doubt exclaiming: “How deep is this going to be?”...“What will happen to my vehicle if I go into that?”
Given that THA elections are around the corner, last Saturday it was no surprise to see teams of men at work, furtively installing new streetlights and digging and drilling the road, undertaking repairs of rugged patches of terrain.
The hasty act of pre-election road-fixing and paving is a national expectation. These hurried community facelifts are akin to the fix-up-for-Christmas spirit that roams through most local homes in December: the painting of walls, the sewing and putting up of new curtains, the new sheets and cushions and whatever other aspects of home décor may be in need of quick change or resurrection.
Recently, following directions to meet a visiting friend who was staying in Lambeau, I found myself driving up Carnbee Appendage (the hill running up from the corner store across from the abandoned yacht).
“There are some massive holes in the road. Drive past those...” my friend had said.
So I knew that I was on the right path as I manoeuvred around the massive pits. It is alarming to think that a visitor to the island would use potholes (significantly wide and deep) as a landmark.
Are area representatives aware of these abysmal roads? How often do they walk and drive in the areas they are elected to manage? Until our island’s roads are repaired, perhaps we can transcend our dismay at their unacceptable state by looking for the "pot-ential" in pot holes.
Some possibilities include:
1. New tourist attractions: "Tobago’s Grand Canyons"
2. "Holey Ground" pilgrimages offered by religious institutions
3. Drinking troughs (after rainfall) for the island’s many homeless animals
4. Legal swimming sites (inspired by the local version of a meme circulating recently on social media). In it, a person, clad in beachwear and shades, lounges in a large, muddy, water-filled pothole. The caption reads: "They can close our beaches, close our rivers and close our public swimming pools but they cannot close our potholes."