Even though the Asa Wright Nature Centre is not at the centre of the Northern Range Tinidad geographically, this might as well be the case. For the inhabitants of the surrounding villages of Arima, Morne La Croix, Brasso Seco/Paria, Caura and Blanchisseuse, the Asa Wright Nature Reserve has been central to their lives.
The AWNC is a landmark. Some neighbouring villagers have even played a role in its development. Many have created unforgettable memories there. Others may have never made it further than the signpost but have genuine respect and reverence for what it means to be engaged with protecting any area of the environment for the good of us all.
Many of these villagers come from families who have always lived in the Northern Range, indigenous people who were similarly engaged. These indigenous communities maintain a strong kinship with their environment, and traditional knowledge is an invaluable resource.
In fact, it was an encounter with the Asa Wright Centre that changed the life of Arima resident, Lawrence Calderon. Calderon worked as a taxi driver in the Arima Valley. After the AWNC was established, occasionally Asa’s guests would require taxi services to take them to and from the outlying centre. Guests would even hire him to take them “birdwatching” and he would ferry them to vistas along the Paria Main Road. As time passed, his knowledge developed, and he was made the first official AWNC Guide. With many community members still settled in the Northern Range, the indigenous community has continued to play a role in the preservation of our natural environment.
Arima, deriving its name from the Arawak word for water, bridges the gap between the forest and structured development. This vibrant community showcases its deep indigenous roots through celebrations like Borough Day and the Santa Rosa Festival, commemorated by the First Peoples Community. You can wander through the lively Arima Market on Saturday mornings, where extended families congregate to share stories and gather provisions and perishables for the week ahead. Immerse yourself in their traditions, and find yourself connecting with the rich cultural tapestry of the area.
If you are interested in witnessing the amazing legacy of cocoa and chocolate production, venture towards Brasso Seco/Paria. This pristine, beautiful valley is about 45 minutes from Arima and has a population of about 300 villagers. If you are seeking a walk on the wild side, this is a likely starting point. Brasso Seco is the gateway to a deeper exploration of the island’s Northern Range. The Brasso Seco Chocolate Company creates sweet treats using cocoa beans grown and processed right there in the valley by the villagers themselves. Don’t miss the chance to visit a refreshing waterfall in this enchanting setting.
Rising 200 metres above sea level, the lush, steep slopes of Morne La Croix are the first village you encounter, about 23 km along the Arima to Blanchisseuse Road. The populations of these remote villages waned along with the cocoa industry, and only a few families remain in the quiet village. The area is a favourite haunt for explorers and hikers who follow along the trails left through long abandoned cocoa estates to emerald bathing pools.
From the Morne La Croix Community Grounds your eyes can follow along the ridges of the mountain range that dips into Caura, which was once an indigenous settlement. There was once a plan to capitalise on the flow of fresh water making its way down the range by damming the Caura River and residents were asked to relocate. The plan was never completed, and the valley returned to nature.
If you continue along the Arima to Blanchisseuse Road, we recommend you do so at a leisurely pace. There is so much to see as you drive through the verdant rainforest, until you emerge in Blanchisseuse, nestled midway along the island’s North Coast. To the left, the village church and the North Coast Road which leads all the way to Port of Spain, and to the right, the paved road comes to an end at the Spring Bridge, which crosses the Marianne River and empties into the bay. The road soon dissolves into a trail which is part of the Paria Main Road.
Blanchisseuse got its name from the washerwomen who would gather at the river. Residents settle along the main road hemmed in by the rugged coast and thick forest. Fisherfolk share the coastline with tourists and holiday homemakers.
At HADCO Experiences, we wholeheartedly support the local communities and their deep connection to the land and coastlines. By hiring local staff and providing training opportunities for young adults, we actively contribute to sustainable livelihoods. We foster farm-to-table partnerships, allowing visitors to savour the authentic flavors of the area while supporting local producers. Let our networking with local communities inspire your eco-minded exploration and join us as we work towards preserving the environment, supporting local livelihoods, and fostering a network of knowledge and appreciation.