Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Marac, home of T&T's only rock museum


HIGH TIDE: Beach at Marac

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ONE OF A KIND: Stone museum.

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Marac is a rural village situated between the Moruga foothills, and Columbus Channel, near Point Curao.

The village centre is at the intersection of La Lune and Moreau roads.

La Lune Road starts from Gran Chemin, Moruga, and ends at Marac.

First occupied by native Amerindians, Marac expanded in the 19th century, when trade between the southern coastal villages of Trinidad and Venezuela had peaked.

Resident Ruthvin Pegus, 91, recalled when the Guarahoons from the mainland of South America came to the area in boats to exchange their crafts, animals and birds for sugar.

"They used to come in dugout boats, called corials, bringing animals, hammocks and birds, and exchanged these for our sugar. We used to call it contraband trade," he said.

In a geographic sense, the two principal roads that pass through the village are La Lune Main Road and Moreau Road, which connects Marac to Penal Rock Road.

The latter was named after EE Moreau, an official of Trinidad Central Oilfields, a company that carried out oil exploration in 1915.

George Higgins stated in the History of Trinidad Oil: "In 1915 a well was drilled at Marac by cable tool, but failed to find oil, but another was drilled a year later and oil was struck at 1410 feet. Further drilling in the area ceased when the company failed to find oil in large commercial quantities."

Geologically, Marac is noted for numerous oil seeps and mud volcanoes.

Residents refer to them as "the mud pit and the tar mine".

Voyager Oil Company of Canada expects to resume drilling operations at Marac during this year.

There is also a stone quarry on Moreau Road with rocks that do not belong to Trinidad's known rock formation.

Over time some large rocks cascaded down the Marac River and clustered into what is now called a rock museum.

This museum is one of the main tourist attractions in the village.

It is believed that Marac got its name from the abundance of rocks found throughout the village.

But some residents are of the view that Marac means "more rocks".

Although most of the agricultural land is in a rocky environment, there are vast areas that were planted in cacao, coffee and bananas, dating back to the French planter's occupation in the village.

The French took Roman Catholicism to Marac from the church's base at Gran Chemin, while a number of local church leaders took other forms of Christianity to Marac and surrounding areas.

Currently there are seven Christian churches in the village, including one built by the early London Baptist Movement.

They also constructed a primary school which caters for the entire population.

There is a modern community centre with playing field constructed more than a year ago, but it is not being occupied.

Villagers say the Government is still to equip the centre with furniture and complete payment to the contractor who built it.

In the meantime an unpaid watchman looks after the building.

The Express was told that a meeting was held recently between residents and Government officials to resolve the delay in opening the centre.

The aesthetics of the village are breathtaking.

Along the northern end, a huge mountain some 500 feet high towers over the village like a sentinel.

It is part of the southern range forested with timber of various heights and species that form an umbrella over the mountain.

During World War II, American forces installed intelligence equipment on this mountain to detect enemies entering the waters along Columbus Channel.

The station was part of the Leased Base agreement between Britain and the United States which was signed in 1941.

What is left of this installation are crumbling concrete columns on which the lookout instruments were mounted.

Moreau Extension Road passes through the main residential area and ends on the beach. At low tide, it is safe for bathing, but during high tides such activities are hampered by huge rocks in the bay.

These rocks have also affected mooring of fishing boats along the beach.

To the north of the village there is a large teak field owned by the Government.

It was there in 1913, teak (Tectona grandis) was introduced from Burma on a trial basis.

Twenty-five years later, farmers were allowed to plant crops between the teak and the system was called the Taungya.

Teak logs are now cut and moved out of the area using Moreau Road, which is currently in a state of disrepair.

Residents say the road has not been in need of urgent repairs for decades.

"We would like the road to be repaired and the start of quarrying so that we could get some employment," a resident said.

Marac has an estimated adult population of just over 800 people, living as a closely knit community.

The residents depend on fishing, agriculture and extraction of timber from the Moreau Road forest.

Among the residents is 25-year-old Merissa Aguilleira, captain of the West Indies women's cricket team since 2009.

Before her selection as captain, Aguilleira was captain of many cricket teams, including one at Marac Baptist Primary School, Moruga Composite School, and Phoenix Club, from which she made her debut into West Indian cricket.

Her mother, Pamela Aguilleira, said: " My daughter had her start in cricket while playing on Moreau Road Extension. For her to reach where she is in the world of cricket was a great sacrifice for the family."