We went to the Tourist Information office upon arriving at Port of Spain (POS) to find out how to get to La Brea Pitch Lake. The pitch lake is located at San Fernando, south of Trinidad and about a 2 hour drive away from POS. The price quoted for a cab from the Cruise Complex at POS to the pitch lake was 150 USD for the 4 of us, and we later found a tour that would drive us there for 200 USD altogether, but also included lunch at a food court in San Fernando.
Being poor but scrappy college students, we did a bit of googling, and found a super inexpensive way to get to the pitch lake at 12 USD per person.
Introducing the Cheap, Local Way to get from Port of Spain to La Brea Pitch Lake
-Credits to Char for finding this!
Firstly, we took the Water Taxi from Port of Spain to San Fernando. They have cruisers leaving almost every hour from 0650 to 1730. The ride was extremely comfortable and the journey only took 45 minutes and cost 30 TT per person. At San Fernando, we located the maxi taxis behind the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) terminal. After asking around, we got on the one headed to Point Fortin (Route 5) that would drop us off at La Brea. The maxi cabs are 13 seater vans that cost 3 to 7 TT depending on where you alight (getting to La Brea cost each of us 6 TT). The ride took us approximately an hour because we got caught up in traffic and also wasn’t the most comfortable because the maxi taxis had no air-conditioning and the heat in Trinidad is enough to toast bread out in the open and then some.
But it really can’t get more authentic when you are squished beside a lady who’s so well-endowed her breasts are her handphone pouch (iSkin anyone?) and you’re swerving in and out of incoming traffic, past beautiful mansions built next to houses barely held together by wooden planks and zinc plates. And then when you check to see the speed at which the crazy taxi is moving at, you realize that the speedometer needle is stuck at 0 the whole time. (I swear, every single car I’ve been on in Trinidad has some missing or spoilt part!)
La Brea Pitch Lake is really one of its kind in the world. Supposedly slated to be the “eighth wonder”, it probably didn’t make the cut just because it looks like a giant parking lot that has flooded potholes. As the world’s largest commercial deposit of natural asphalt, the asphalt that is mined here is exported to countries all over the world for manufacturing and road paving. The coolest thing about this lake though, is that it’s actually like a pseudo-active volcano.
There are little bumps on the tar that spit out hot liquid when you step on them; just imagine stepping on a huge face with pus-filled acne. The landscape of the lake is completely different in the wet and dry season because the asphalt melds during the dry season but opens up to allow sulphur water to flow through during the wet season, making it a lot more like a lake during that time. During the wet season people also bathe in the sulphuric water, which supposedly has healing qualities especially for skin problems.
Our guide also brought us to “the mother of the lake”, a gurgling, molten body that apparently drowned 4 unsuspecting, wandering cows in 2008. The asphalt here is so thick and heavy that it will suck you in almost immediately should you step into it.
Some smart-alec Trinidadian went onto the lake without a guide in 1998 and fell quite literally into this Mother of Nature. It took about 5 villagers to fish him out and he spent the next 2 weeks in the hospital trying to get the asphalt out of his pores. Not pretty. Apparently the fossils of the woolly mammoth, the mastodon and the giant sloth have also been uncovered here. Because the lake is constantly replenishing and regurgitating, it always throws up the bones of whatever it has consumed.
Definitely a journey in which the process of getting there is just as interesting as the destination (: