THERE are a hundred reasons why one should visit the 100-step beach on the North Coast. In comparison with its neighbours, Maracas Bay and Las Cuevas which are frequented by large crowds, 100 Steps is a serene peacful beach with calm clear waters. It's a perfect family watering hole, the shore is wide enough for endless sandcastles and a game of cricket. It's proof that hidden among Trinidad and Tobago's nooks and crannies are some of the most beautiful gems waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. It's the type of beach that would appeal to three groups: nature lovers, adventure seekers and water-babies.
But there are also several reasons why the beach is often sidestepped in favour of others. For one thing, it's difficult to access. Especially during the rainy season, can the trek to the beach become particularly dangerous. The beach is also secluded and is best visited in larger groups. Nevertheless a trip to 100 Steps for some relaxation and fun in the sun is well worth the effort. The weather was in our favour when the Express paid this emerald gem tucked away along the North Coast a visit. At our first stop – the La Fillette beach, bare-chested boys, giddy with excitement played in the water, their heads bobbing up and down between brightly coloured pirogues. A woman and child carrying a peppery treat of mango chow to the boys and men waiting at the beach below, stopped to give us directions.
100 Steps is near La Fillette and is a 15-minute drive from Las Cuevas and can be accessed by turning onto Mitchell Trace. Bamboo and other tall trees line either side of the trail and as a cool breeze rustles the branches and the birds call out in the early afternoon, we're reminded of one of our previous trips into the forest. Just then, the unmistakable drone of a boat engine as a pirogue slices through the water, interrupts the silence. As we walk along the trail and peer through the spaces among the trees we can see the sun's reflection on the water's surface shimmering like a thousand diamonds.
But the tranquil walk did not prepare us for what lay ahead. The narrow track that leads to the beach is winding and with the passing of time and lack of maintenance, the steps are mossy, broken apart or missing in some instances. At a certain point along the trail, a rope fastened around a tree must be used to hoist oneself further down the trail below. Under wet conditions one must be careful when making this manoeuvre or risk taking a fall as the Express found out the hard way. Several minutes later and to our exhausted relief, we emerged from the forest and found ourselves face to face with the beach. We were alone, the only sound being that of the waves lapping at the shore. The beach with its clear waters is perfect for snorkelling. From afar, I imagine that the ocean appears to be embracing the forest, 100 Steps is where thick lush vegetation meets the water. Crabs moved skittishly on nearby rocks, hiding from these strange visitors to its beach. Aside from a few plastic and broken glass bottles, the beach was relatively clean – thanks to the work put in by a few community members.
But aside from beach maintenance, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in La Fillette said assistant secretary of the La Fillette Village Council, Constance Lalman. As much as one may revel in having a beach all to himself, the villagers in La Fillette would prefer having a packed beach, more visitors and tourists can result in economic benefits for the village. But if 100 Steps is to enjoy more visitors then access to the beach has to be made safer, although there are some who enjoy the thrill of getting to the beach.
"Sometimes we feel as if we are on a back burner, everyone knows about Maracas Bay, Las Cuevas even Blanchisseuse, but La Fillette is left out and we need assistance,' said Lalman.
The village, she says, is home to friendly people and ideal bathing spots and would make a perfect tourist destination but down to this day, La Fillette remains underdeveloped. As a result, self esteem runs low amongst youngsters.
Lalman said the council met with potential funding agencies at a meeting last year during which they put forward several proposals for developing La Fillette but their efforts ended in futility.
La Fillette may have beautiful beaches but the children go to school on roads with no pavements, the roads of six of the village's sidestreets are in terrible condition, the youths have been deprived of their only recreational grounds and the village is also in need of a larger community centre.
In the next three to five years, Lalman hopes that sweeping changes will take place in La Fillette, only then would the village live up to its potential to be a major tourist destination.