Tar Baby: Why All Roads Come From La Brea Pitch Lake in Trinidad
All roads may lead to Rome, but most roads certainly come from La Brea Pitch Lake, Trinidad, which contains the largest deposit of asphalt in the world.
When I treaded the still rubbery Pitch Lake perimeter, I was a little nervous. La Brea Pitch Lake off Kelly Village Road, and past several fishing villages. The lake itself has so many natural gases, including methane and Hydrogen sulphide trapped beneath. You can actually see the bubbles in the asphalt. As I walk, my sandals sink in the hot surface and I can see tread marks.
Pitch Lake is where a substantial amount of the world’s asphalt comes from, and certainly the source for most of the roads worldwide. Ironically, Trinidad does not use asphalt themselves to make roads, but a “hot mix” of pitch and other substances like iron and debris because that is enough in the climate to make decent roads.
As I walk over beautiful water lilies in a pool, I notice cracks on the surface of Pitch Lake, including the still pools filled with sulfur. I bend down and touch the water and it is quite cool, because pitch is a good insulator. I bend down and jab a stick into the pitch and it comes up nice and gooey, just like tar should. La Brea Pitch Lake is the chief driver for roads in countries as diverse as Germany, India and China, and houses so much mineral content including iron, as well as natural gasses.
If you can sustain the long drive it takes to get to La Brea (especially from Port of Spain), it is well worth the visit.