Once upon a time the Lopinot Valley was occupied by African slaves and Indentured East Indian Labourers who toiled the lands, planting and harvesting cocoa for their French Masters. Recently discovered Amerindians artefacts proved that the Amerindians frequented the valley as well.
On Sunday 15th January, the first 2017 Road Trip led 25 exploratory souls along a winding road lined with lush green mountainsides decorated by a variety of flowers including the Chaconia (National Flower). The journey took them to the foothills of the Lopinot Valley in the Northern Range which is now predominantly settled by Spanish descendants.
On disembarking the bus we were welcomed by a vibrant young lady, a Director at the Lopinot Tourism Council who then introduced us to Mr. Martin Gomez, a legendary parranderos and discoverer of the most visited Cave in the area.
Filled with the rich history of Lopinot and interesting memories, Mr. Gomez began his tour in the Great House taking us back to the year 1806 when Charles Joseph Count de Loppinot acquired the lands for his cocoa plantation. Mr. Gomez ended his session with a short walk around the Lopinot grounds where we broke for lunch. It felt like time stood still as we enjoyed the tranquillity, fresh crisp air and the picturesque scenery of towering trees shading the green landscape.
After lunch we were escorted to the Community centre to view local craft including some exact models of items of yesteryear. Some persons were able to reminisce of their childhood days while some on the memories of stories told to them by relatives.
Then it was all about Chocalatѐ! Firstly, we participated in the Bean to Bar tour which carried us through each stage of the chocolate making process. We were informed that the machinery used in the process was donated by a very popular soca artist and to our delight the tour ended with some delicious samples of chocolate made from some the country’s finest cocoa grown in Lopinot.
If getting to taste chocolate at every stage was not satisfying enough we were then invited to “Dance the Cocoa” to the sound of sweet parang music. This was done on a high wooden platform with a retractable roof, an exact replica of the historical cocoa houses. This dance was a necessary step in the production of preparing the cocoa beans. The merengue style dance among the beans was invigorating to say the least and some even said it was therapeutic.
Energised and ready to discover the Martin Gomez cave, we left the cocoa house and walked for about 15 minutes before reaching the entrance of the cave. On the way we had the opportunity of getting to eat some freshly picked cocoa. As we entered the 10 foot opening in the mountainside, the natural light slowly disappeared. Now everyone taking precise footsteps and listening keenly to the guide as we walked through the narrowing corridor of the cave.
The bats awakened by our voices and headlights flew above causing many to duck and squeal. The few roaches on the wall were the least of worries. About 10 metres into cave the environment became moist as compared to the dry dusty entrance. We had to manoeuvre our bodies through the crevices and limestone formations. Eventually we arrived at a 20 foot chamber. The stalactite and stalagmite formations were breath-taking!
On our return to the complex some stopped at the popular Mariposa restaurant to get a taste of local ice cream flavours.
We will visit Lopinot again in November to get ready for the Christmas season so be sure to make a booking to ensure you experience this exciting and educational trip! Bring out your inner explorer this year with Road Trip TT! Adventure awaits….