I've heard a lot about Lopinot over the years. Each time I did, it would be in the context of someone speaking about Trinidad's History, Heritage, Cocoa estate and Parang (the traditional Christmas music).
So I've decided to take a solo drive to go see what it's all about.
How to get to the Lopinot Complex ?
The Lopinot Historical Complex is located in East Trinidad, in the vicinity of a town called Arouca. Lopinot is a village located North of Arouca. One has to enter Lopinot Road, from Arouca's Main Road (Eastern Main Road).
The Lopinot Complex is a 1.5 hour drive from the capital.It's about 45 minutes away from the airport. Once you enter Lopinot Road, you won't take longer than 20 minutes to reach the complex. You will definitely enjoy the drive like me if you like a long winding road, alongside bamboo trees and other trees forming an arch over the road in some areas. Awesome!!
It is an easy drive since you will simply need to remain on Lopinot Road until you reach the complex. There are also many road signs for the complex along the way.
The Lopinot Museum
This museum is ideal for anyone interested in learning about Trinidad's history. Also, one will learn lots about Parang, the national Christmas music, whose lyrics are in Spanish.
Compte de Lopinot House.
Mr Martin Gomez, 71, who has been a resident of this village since birth, will take you back in history as you step inside the Compte de Lopinot's House. This part of Trinidad was named after Charles Joseph Count de Loppinot, Lieutenant General from the French Army in the 1800's. This French soldier would have lived in various parts of the Caribbean and North America to finally find his most fruitful and prosperous time in Trinidad.
The Museum's Artifacts
Mr Gomez will also give you a background story for each items inside the museum. From framed photos to furniture to coffee beans, among others.
There is a very well preserved 200 year old table which belonged to a governor back then.
To the audience surprise, they discovered several items (snakes in jars, tree seeds, etc.) used as local medicines (eg. the shingles) in the village, to this day.
Fully functional Mud Oven
We briefly stood in front of a mud oven, located behind the museum. Explanations were given on how to use it. Nowadays, that oven is used, once a month, as bread is baked in it, then offered for sale.
Sweet Beats of Parang
Mr Gomez will speak of the origins of Parang. At some point, he will also pick up his Cuatro (small, 4-string guitar) and ask some of the visitors to play the other instruments (box bass, chac-chacs, etc.), while he sings a few Parang songs.
Those who were shy at first to be part of 'the band' quickly rose to the occasion, to the delight of the other visitors.
In Lopinot, unlike the rest of the country, Parang is not only heard during the Christmas season. It's played throughout the year, at various occasions, from parties to funeral wakes.
For more on Parang's origin, click here.
Spooky Ghost Stories!
The visitors were slightly spooked after hearing a few ghost stories which took place in and around the Complex. Actually, crew members from the American Tv show (SyFy Channel) called "Ghost Hunters International", spent a week on the property and at the caves.
Mr Gomez firmly believes the ghost of Count de Lopinot still roams around at the complex to this day.
This might explain the abnormal events witnessed over the decades.
Ghost Hunters International admits that Lopinot is among the top destinations they have filmed. This is due to the intensity and the multitude of mind-boggling paranormal activities they got to record during their stay at both the caves and the complex.
You can click here to watch this amazing 5-minute video made by Ghost Hunters International, in which they reveals their jaw-dropping findings in Lopinot. You can also read more on their findings here.
Overall, Mr Gomez was very pleasant and quite entertaining. How I wished my History teachers were like him back in my school days, lol!
Chocolate, from Beans to Bar
Trinidad is known to have one of the best Cocoa beans in the world (learn more about the local Cocoa industry here).
Count de Lopinot's prosperity had a lot to with him developing the cocoa industry in this particular village.
Many chocolate lovers will come to The Lopinot Complex especially to visit its Cocoa Center. So instead of the cherry on top, this tour comes with Chocolate toppings! Why Not!!
At the Cocoa center, you will get a short lecture/ demonstration of how Chocolate is made, from beans to the bar.
Then, you'll sample some Chocolate Tea (similar to Hot chocolate, but without milk). You'll also be given a 65% rich chocolate bar, made with Lopinot's cocoa beans at the center.
Some handmade craft, souvenirs and other yummy treats, beside chocolate (organic fruity lollies, Tulum, Sugar cakes, Homemade wine, etc) are also on sale.
Dance de Cocoa
You'll get a chance of a lifetime to partake in the Dance de Cocoa, to the sweet beats of Parang.
This technique is used by cocoa farmers before they take the beans to sell them at the market. Mix a bucketful of cocoa beans with several hours of dancing and a little bit of water and Voila!! The farmer gets himself some super shiny beans to show off with!
Both tours (at the center and the caves) were headed by Donna Mora who is a Chocolatier and the President of the Lopinot Village Council. She is also the daughter of Mr Martin Gomez! She is featured in my Video, as she does the Dance de Cocoa with a young visitor.
The Martin Gomez Caves
These caves are named after the Curator/Tour guide at the complex, Mr Martin Gomez, who has discovered them. They are located less than a 10 minute walk North from the Lopinot Complex.
This cave is still "alive", therefore water drips from its stalagmites. This causes the floor to be quite slippery in some areas. Also very alive in this cave, are bats, which you should be expecting to fly around while you are there. Many creepy crawlies live in the cave, including the Blaberus Colloseus cockroaches (4-inch cockroaches, or bigger), spiders, etc.
Being in the cave feels like a sauna and having a flashlight is a must. Bummer, I did forget mine, but there were enough as Donna shared some around.
The cave is very narrow in some areas and the ceiling can become very low as well.
Proceed with Caution!
Do note that there are 5 additional named caves in Lopinot, beside the Martin Gomez Caves.
Features of the Lopinot Complex
Here is a summary of what makes up the Complex:
- Restored Count de Lopinot's House/Museum
- Cocoa Center
- Two restored Cocoa drying houses (partially used as an office)
- Picnic Tables, Benches
- A River
- Public washrooms
Many visitors relax on the grounds, to picnic and/or take a dip in the river before leaving Lopinot.
Ensure you pack the following items when you come to Lopinot:
- Insect repellant
- A hat/sunglasses
- A bathing suit