I have started a trend of using song lyrics in my titles, and this one seemed like a no-brainer, which probably means I should be trying harder.
It was January, and the Michigan winter had been pretty tame so far. I had scheduled a brief trip to the Bahamas and was actually looking for the snow to pile on so that this trip would be that much more necessary.
Just to address all the critics at the onset; I know the Bahamas is no adventure, but even your fearless leader needs a soft core trip once and a while, or at least that is what I convinced myself leading up to the day of departure.
We were off to Nassau, the capitol city of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, on the island of New Providence. The Bahamas is a nation that consists of 29 islands with New Providence housing roughly 70% of the 300K inhabitants of all islands. The Bahamas were actually the site of Columbus’s first landfall in 1492. Their history, like most islands in the area, is dominated by slavery, eventually gaining freedom and emancipation from Britain in the 1800s.
Now that we got that settled, let’s focus on the task at hand. I was not expecting much from this trip but a few rays of sun and maybe some form of water exercise. I was surprised at how many people I knew had actually been to the island, either as part of a cruise or a quick vacation similar to my own.
The flight is about 30 minutes due east from Ft Lauderdale. On our flight we had some Europeans that were yelling, drinking and dressed in cabana gear straight from an Old Navy commercial. I was grateful that it was only a short flight. The whole time I was looking for a reason to tell them to shut-up. I was even ready to climb all over them for talking during the safety speech, which was really reaching, but they behaved for that, much to my chagrin. I was also concerned that if I lashed out, the other people around me might not have my back. I need not have worried about that as when we got to immigration, all the other passengers complained about their behavior and a common bond of hatred, the strongest kind, was formed.
We grabbed a cab to our hotel and enjoyed the meandering ride along the beach, slowly shedding our mainland worries, and wondering what the weekend had in store.
You may know that my usual hotel of choice is a hostel or a cleared piece of land, but Talia was with me, and she was used to travel with all forms of pomp and circumstance. Pretty much every hotel on the island was an all-inclusive, which I could never lower myself to, or raise to, based on your perspective. I found the only hotel on the island that showed local color, good location and moderate safety. I pitched the establishment, embellishing it in any way possible and a deal was struck.
We drove through a few sketchy streets on the way to El Greco, our hotel, that left me a little nervous if this was gunna survive the litmus test, but it turned out to be a cool little setup right on the beach. We checked in and the lady at the desk told us to go look at the room and make sure we wanted to stay because once we commit there are no refunds. It seemed a bit odd. I doubt this is S.O.P. over at Atlantis, the sterile monolith on the nearby island. I loved the place as soon as the lady in the lobby addressed me as Mister Darwin, but Talia needed the hard sell.
We dropped our gear and hit the beach.
I found Talia on the beach, where she told me she just met the town’s undercover police sergeant. When I arrived he came running over and congratulated me on selecting such a fine Puerto Rican specimen (I determined he meant Talia). The “undercover cop” was basically blind, disheveled and in need of a shower. He let me know that he would watch over Talia on the beach, and for some reason I asked him about the safety of our hotel, El Greco. He responded with delight, describing how it is a great place and he uses it to have sex with women when not on duty. Not the hard sell I was looking for.
We extricated ourselves from the conversation and made our way downtown to assess the situation. Nassau is about 10 steps from the cruise ship docks. Every morning 2-3 ships arrive, the passengers waddle out, buy jewelry and cheap trinkets before drinking a few daiquiris at Senior Frogs and rush back to the boat before a 6pm departure.
We, meaning Talia, were very excited to find a Starbucks, as it became a daily routine before kicking each day off.
After scoping out the town we took a bus to a local area, Arawak Cay, where we were told we could score some local food at a fish fry. Food was decent, but overpriced, which was a trend for the trip. It seemed like everything was fried here and it was no wonder the locals were walking heart attacks and case studies on diabetes.
We walked the beach and had a few drinks before settling in for the evening after a long day of travel. Plenty of noise at the hotel and a little shady operation on our communal balcony forced us to go into lockdown for the night.
The next day I dropped her off at the beach under the protection of Sgt Campbell and went exploring. I came across the “Straw Market” which is were the tourists buy straw hats and purses, but did have some men carving designs in wood, probably the only thing actually made on the island.
I wandered through the neighborhoods taking pictures, fearing for my life a few times as I was yelled at to get back into town and get the bleep out of their neighborhood.
The Bahamas is one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that drive on the opposite side of the road. You are so conditioned in the US to right-sided driving, that no matter how many times I crossed the street I was confused as to where the cars were coming from.
I made my way to Potter’s Cay where I was told the local fish is brought in and sold direct to restaurants and patrons. It was basically a row of shacks on stilts extending out into the water.
These are Conch.
They seem to be the staple of the local diet. To be honest, they scared the crap out of me. I see these shells and then while I was not paying attention, one of them flips over and extends this evil-looking appendage out and tries to snare me. I recoiled in terror at the juxtaposition of such a vile creature living inside the confines of a beautiful shell.
After having a beer, I headed back to Junkaroo beach to see what Talia was up to
Here is a shot of Atlantis, the resort that dominates the island.
It represents everything I hate. People spend there money, for the honor of being holed up in a Disneyland where you never actually experience any of the local culture. It holds the same place as cruise ships in my heart. But yet, like may things there is a dichotomy to its existence. On one hand, Atlantis comes in and all the mom and pop lodging, restaurant, bars, attractions are pushed out and forced to close when tourists never leave the walls of the all-inclusive. We saw this firsthand with hundreds of dilapidated buildings, making El Greco seem like the last of dying breed. On the other hand, Atlantis is a marketing machine that has a global reach, bringing thousands to the island, and providing employment and income to hundreds of locals. It is the same scenario as a Wal-Mart entering a town. Atlantis is getting competition as the Chinese are investing heavily in, well everything, but specifically in the Bahamas. They are building a rival to Atlantis on the main island, and any local flare will surely be demolished in favor of casinos, Johnny Rockets and yes, more Starbucks. The locals are cautiously optimistic as it means more paying jobs at the expense of culture, but money and survival wins out, and who am I to tell them to remain in poverty and preserve their heritage.
I found Talia on the beach kickin’ it with her new group of friends
That night we went out to eat at 5pm because everything in town shuts down at 6pm as soon as the cruise ships depart. We ate at a Coney Island, and enjoyed 2 Gyros, a salad and a couple drinks. For all this gluttonous feasting we were presented a $100 bill. Out of control.
The next day was rainy, so we holed up until my brother and Lisa arrived. We went to a bar and watched the Giants / 49ers playoff game, or so we thought. We watched the 49ers win the game, only to realize a few days later, when I got back to the mainland that we were actually watching a reshowing of a game between the teams back in October. It made for some very confusing moments as I thought maybe I had slipped into bizzaro world.
Our final full day on the island was to be our grand adventure. The girls were put in a cab to Atlantis were they spent the day in luxury and Bryan and I would find some hair raising adventure, if possible. We found a bar that had a kayak sitting on the beach out front. We asked the owner if we could take it our for a few hours. We were vague about our intentions because I assumed he would make us stay within the area, and out of the cruise ship lanes. We took the 2 man kayak, with only one functional paddle out and immediately paddled out of the bay into the open ocean, which was not advised by the owner or the coast guard. We passed Nicholas Cage’s house and worked our way over to the island were the girls were relaxing at Atlantis.
The seas got angry and our boat sprung a leak. We capsized and had to drag out vessel back into the beach, but fortunately all this happened close to our destination and not out at sea.
We beached the kayak and basically snuck into Atlantis. Apparently they charge $75 just to sit on their beach, but I doubt they have many people kayaking there from the mainland. We searched, but could not find them. We were expecting to round a corner and see them in a congo line with a bunch of well-oiled Italians in banana hammocks. We made our way back to the kayak and spent the next hour draining the water out.
We shoved off and after a 5 hour daytrip we landed back at our original beach. We dropped the kayak off and avoided the owner as we only paid for a one hour rental. After showering and getting our cabana wear on, we planned to walk the few miles to the bridge and over to Atlantis to meet the girls for dinner.
This is a picture of the only bar overlooking the water. It is called the Green Parrot and was full of captains of yachts who were relaxing while their cargo were getting massages at Atlantis.
We eventually met up with the girls and did a little gambling, which resulted in all of us winning enough to cover dinner. I was happy to get out of there and back to my home away from home, El Greco.
The next day we flew back to the frozen tundra. It was a relaxing trip, and I learned that I can actually travel with other people without crawling out of my skin. That being said, I am heading off on my most exciting trip yet next month…solo.
Until next time,