It did not take too much encouragement from this group to spend a do-nothing weekend in Rampanalgas (near Toco). There was no television and no newspapers, so it simply meant lazing around, perusing the grounds and plenty of ‘ole’ talk about our various life experiences.
The weekend was going well, swimming and playing in the waters of Balandra and Toco beaches. Then out of the blue, I suggested that we visit the old Lighthouse at Point Galera which my trusty history book had told me was 120 years old. The visit turned out to be a shock of unbelievable proportions.
First thing one notices en route are two single lane bridges, one bridge seems to be very dilapidated and certainly needs a prayer to cross it safely, but 50 yards further you come upon a second bridge, this one is sturdier because it is a Bailey Bridge installed some years ago.
Having made it over those two obstacles, on entrance to the site you are greeted by piles of garbage, broken fences, generally unkempt grounds and uneven footpaths, but in spite of these shortcomings there is an almost continuous stream of local visitors.
Did anyone pay an entrance fee? No. I have serious doubts that any self-respecting tour organisation would have the Point Galera Lighthouse as part of any itinerary.
I have grave doubts that the current Minister of Tourism or even the previous one knows exactly where Point Galera is located, but yet he talks up a storm about tourism becoming a foreign exchange earner.
It can be Mr Minister, but not the way we do things in this country. Certainly not the methods used to upkeep our important historical sites.
Let’s go into this a little further, so people can understand why tourism does so poorly locally as opposed to other Caribbean destinations. For instance, there are five toilets inside the site and not a single one works and that goes for the other seven in the public park. Not a single toilet working, but that’s not all.
A building outside the compound, ostensibly for use by visitors—half the roof is gone; there is no furniture inside and several doors are missing. One toilet door could be seen discarded near a cliff which drops some 50 feet to the sea.
Inside the compound, burglar bars on a building which seemed to have been occupied by some sort of staff is completely rusted with parts broken off. The building was closed so I couldn’t get a look inside.
The accompanying picture on this page was found on the ground, ripped from its rotted steel frame, whipped by the ceaseless salt air and left carelessly where it had landed. I tried to stand it upright but failed.
What is important here is the sign gives a short history of the lighthouse, an important piece of history, but the powers that be do not feel that such information is useful to the thousands of tourists, local and I guess some foreigners, who visit the site.
The writing on the sign itself seems to be contradictory but I will leave that for you to decide.
That, readers, spoilt my weekend and I intend to return to the site to see if this column has moved anybody in Tourism to correct some of the ills I have so delicately described.