Running roughly parallel to the Uriah Butler Highway, the old Southern Main Road south from Curepe on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway is little more than a parochial thoroughfare these days as it potters through one small community after another surrounded on all sides by the Caroni Plains, Trinidad’s original sugar heartland and a region dominated by the East Indian community, whose ancestors settled here as indentured workers. The complete restructuring of the sugar industry during the 1990s and the eventual closure of the state-owned Caroni Sugar Company in 2004 has forced farmers to diversify, however, planting rice, pigeon peas and cassava in the former canefields. Some 5km south of Curepe, Caroni village was founded around the old Caroni Sugar Factory, though this and the rum distillery closed in 2003; you can still sample local rum in any number of rum shops along the road, however. Set in a former train station, the Railway Bar is especially distinctive.
South of Caroni, the SMR becomes increasingly urban as you pass through Warrenville, home of a particularly attractive mosque, which merges imperceptibly into Conupia, itself morphing into a suburb of Chaguanas. The route displays a fascinating combination of old and new Trinidad, with mandirs and mosques interspersed with evangelical churches, while extravagant signboards shout out the wares of the small shops and mom-and-pop restaurants that line the road, many of the latter selling excellent Indian fast food.