Paramin Hills – Exploring the Steep and Storied Side of Trinidad
It’s difficult to describe the amazing beauty of Trinidad’s Paramin Hills. The area stretches across a broad expanse of undulating hills and valleys, resplendent in the lushest, greenest greens imagineable. To the south lies the bustling capital, Port-of-Spain. To the north there’s the sea and a collection of several smaller satellite islets. It’s a scene of utterly idyllic tropical bliss… None of that, though, has anything to do with why it’s so hard to describe.
No, the real reason Paramin leaves visitors at a loss for words is its roads. It’s insanely narrow, impossibly steep roads…
Hair-Raising Roads of Paramin Hills
In some sections, the roads are so steep they appear to take drivers straight into the sky. Think the initial ascent on some Strata coaster before you make a screaming drop for joy.
It’s a wild ride, to be sure, but not one that you’ll want to take without some serious guidance. For instance, in Trinidad, people drive on the left. In the Paramin Hills, though, there are some sections of the road where all the locals know you’re supposed to switch over to the right!
What sections of road apply to the rule is not something you’ll find in any guidebook. You either just know, or you’re lucky enough to find yourself under the care of an experienced driver/guide like Andrew Welch from Banwari Experience.
Best Trinidad Tour Guide
For any visitor to Trinidad looking for guidance and insight into the country, I can’t recommend Andrew more highly. The man wears his love for Trinidad all over his face. He revels in regaling anyone and everyone who’ll listen with useful and interesting tidbits about Trinidad’s history, its culture, heritage, music, food – you name it. He’s also quick with a joke, seems to know everybody, and is always in good humor.
That last characteristic was certainly needed as we made our way up through the Paramin Hills. Reason: the tail end of his van kept scraping bottom along the sharpest and steepest of our hairpin turns. Each successive lurch and scrape drew ever-louder gasps and curses from a few fellow passengers.
Andrew, though, simply laughed it off. He also pointed out that the best vehicles for traversing Paramin are Range Rovers like this one…
These were obviously the preferred vehicles of choice in these hilly environs as we scarcely saw anyone driving anything else. Aside from a few school kids, we also scarcely saw anyone else as most everyone was out working in the fields.
Extreme Paramin Hills Farming
The land around Paramin is definitely unforgiving from a transportation standpoint. In terms of agriculture, though, it’s rich. Farmers here grow everything from cabbages, yams and tomatoes, to thyme, parsley, chives and other spices.
Fields are carved right into the sides of the mountains, causing farmers to tend to their crops at the same insane inclines as the road. It’s an incredible sight to witness, even if you’re just passing through…
What struck me most about our short drive through Paramin, though, was how wonderfully stuck in time it seemed to be. The left side/right side driving quirks, women walking along the road with bundles balanced on their heads (haven’t seen that back home in St Croix in years), the extreme farming… Life is certainly hard here. At the same time, though, it has a simple laid-back charm that I wished I could’ve experienced a bit more.
Bastion of French-Creole in Trinidad
If I had more time, Andrew tells me I would’ve learned of the area’s strong French-Creole heritage, a product of the 1783 Cedula of Population called by the Spanish that effectively helped to settle Trinidad.
Andrew also told me that after slavery, maroons were given land in the unforgiving hills due to their lower status. The area, being so rugged and isolated, has remained a bastion of Creole culture in Trinidad. Local residents likely having more in common, in terms of language and heritage, with the people of Martinique and Guadeloupe than my family ancestors from San Fernando in southern Trinidad.
In fact, elders here still speak a type of French Creole that is virtually the same as that spoken in French Caribbean islands. There’s even a Catholic Church in Paramin that once a year conducts a full mass in Creole on Dimanche Gras, the last Sunday before Carnival.
Clearly, Paramin offers many more reasons to stop and stay awhile than its wild and crazy roads…