I took off to the Bahamas with Jillian for winter break 2009.
The trip there was without incident and in a handful of hours, we had gone from the frigid New England winter to sunny mid-70s Caribbean weather. I mentioned to Jillian as we were landing that we should find people to share a cab with to downtown Nassau. After deplaning, I spotted a kid about my age (so by kid I mean 20-something 🙂 Turns out he and his new wife (it was their honeymoon) were fellow New Englanders from Maine and headed in the same direction, so we shared a cab. As we drove along next to the shore, we were all excited by the beautiful, turquoise blue water. We arrived at our hotel and said goodbye to our new friends.
We spent the rest of the day tasting some of the local cuisine and just taking in the island surroundings.
In the evening, we decided to check out Paradise Island and the famed Atlantis Resort located there. We walked the whopping 2.5 miles there from our hotel. I say “whopping” because everyone we asked about walking reacted as if it was a preposterous endeavor to undertake. Apparently walking 2.5 miles is not commonly done around Nassau. On the whole, Paradise Island was extremely touristy and walking around Atlantis reminded me of my old Vegas days stomping around the Bellagio, Caesar’s, or any of the other casinos. And just like Vegas, I generously “donated” some of my money to the casino. Jillian and I did get a kick out of the many million dollar yachts docked around Paradise Island. RIDICULOUS!
Since we had gotten up at 3:30am to catch our way-too-early flight, we were pretty tired by 9pm. We started to walk back (crazy I know) to our hotel. We hadn’t seen anyone walking when we walked over the bridge to Paradise Island earlier, so we were surprised to see a couple walking towards us on the bridge now. As they got closer, the guy and I looked at each other with familiarity. Then we both went, “Hey!” It was the couple we shared the cab with from the airport! The four of us just started laughing at the coincidence. They invited us to their room to hang out and grab a drink. Tired as we were, how we could say no to having a free drink with new friends? We made plans to meet up a week later when Jillian and I would be back from the Out Islands.
The next day, Christmas!, we went to the Cable Beach area and lounged around on the beach and hotels’ pools there.
We celebrated in the evening by eating a buffet dinner at our hotel complete with conch and delicious glazed ham. We went to bed early as we had an early ferry to catch to to our next destination – Harbour Island.
We woke up early and started walking to the ferry dock. The nice part was that Junkanoo, the annual festival (think Mardi Gras) that happens on Dec. 26 and Jan. 1 was going on. The party starts at midnight and pretty much goes all day. The downside was having to walk through the crowds to get to the dock. We spent too much time enjoying the music and sounds and lost our way nearly missing our boat.
Luckily, we hailed a cab and made it. After a beautiful 2.5 hour ferry ride, we pulled into Harbour Island, sometimes called the Nantucket Island of the Bahamas. Harbour Island’s fame is its 3-mile stretch of pink sand beaches, which is often rated as one of the top beaches in the world. We soaked up some rays on the beach and played around in the waves before heading out to grab dinner at Tingum Village Ma Ruby’s restaurant. We had read that Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was allegedly inspired by the cheeseburger here. Naturally, we got the meatloaf…just kidding, we both went with the cheeseburger and it was good.
Eleuthera Island was next on our itinerary and the island we were most looking forward to.
Eleuthera is a slender 110-mile long island no more than a few miles wide at any point. A quick 10-minute boat ride connects Harbour Island with North Eleuthera, which is 25 minutes from Gregory Town where we were headed. We read that hitchhiking on Eleuthera is common and easy to do, so after arriving, we started walking figuring we could hail down a ride. After about a 1/2 mile, a gentleman in his driveway on the other side of the road called to us asking where we were headed. We told him Gregory Town and he told us he would drive us to the airport only about a mile down the road. We figured we could easily catch a ride with someone near the airport, so we hopped in. This decision turned out to be the most entertaining part of our trip.
The gentleman’s name was “Big Al” and he was crazy…in an entertaining sort of way. Instead of driving us once we got in, he regaled us with comments about how great his wife Tina is. Every other sentence was about how great a woman she is. The other sentence? Him yelling “Tina!” from the truck so she could come down and meet us. After this cycle repeated for ten minutes, it turns out she was in the bathroom and never made it down, but we would have loved to see what this woman was like. We finally thought we’d be on our way, but Big Al ran in and brought each of us a Heineken first. We were pleased and ready to roll, but then Big Al decided he needed a drink too and pulled out a handle of Absolut and started making himself a cocktail! Hahaha! Fortunately, he didn’t actually drink any of it as he drove us, but we had enough of an adventure anyway. He went from planning to drop us a mile down the road to going and going and eventually telling us he couldn’t take us any further, and us getting out and grabbing our stuff, then him saying, “Hop back in, I’ll take you to Gregory Town.” Later, he ran out of gas but had some extra in a container in the bed of the truck; he stopped to take a leak; this all happening in a span of about 30 minutes!
In the end, Big Al took us most of the way and we quickly caught another ride to Surfer’s Manor – a hostel like accommodation.
We ended up getting a great deal on a car rental, so for the next three days, we explored the island up and down including with two female friends we met at Surfer’s Manor. We went to Glass Window, the narrowest part of the island where a bridge separates the Atlantic side from the Exuma Sound side. We checked out famous Surfer’s Beach and watched surfers riding the big waves as well as snorkeling at Gaulding Cay.
It was Jillian’s first real snorkeling experience! It was cool being able to introduce her to the amazing underwater world. We saw loads of fish, coral, a sting ray, and even a few jellyfish! We also traveled south to Ocean Hole at Rock Sound, which is literally a hole filled in with water from the ocean. Loads of fish swim around and folks throw bread in and watch the fish jump up and snag it. The hole is encircled by 10-15 foot cliffs, so we had some fun cliff jumping as well.
We also did some conch shell collecting at this beautiful nearly deserted beach. Some of those shells are now sitting on our bookshelves. Free souvenirs are the way to go! Another of the main attractions on Eleuthera is Hatchet Bay Caves, which was my favorite. It is a massive cave system complete with stalactites and stalagmites…and graffiti. The abundance of graffiti was really disappointing. There were several enormous rooms and endless cool formations to explore. Jillian and I went through the cave and climbed out at what we thought was the terminus. I liked the cave so much that I went back the next day with the two female friends, who hadn’t been to it yet. When we reached the spot that Jillian and I climbed out, one of them remembered that someone told her that there is a small opening at your feet here that most people don’t notice, but the cave actually continues much farther. We decided to get dirty and crawled our way through the opening and continued exploring. We discovered that the cave just goes on and on with numerous paths.
We tunneled through for a bit, but soon decided to turn around worried that we would lose our way. In that environment, it would be extremely easy to become turned around and disorientated. How I would love to go back with some string and spend an entire day exploring the cave! We made it to Preacher Cave the final morning on Eleuthera, believed to be the birthplace of the Bahamas.
On 12/30, we took the ferry back to Nassau and met up with our friends from the cab ride for a nice dinner. We told them about our adventures and they shared the knowledge they picked up the last few days watching the crews working the yachts. They were astounded at how many times someone could buff a railing. Unfortunately, our Bahamian adventure would come to an end the next day, but we had no idea that there would be one more adventure for us…not one we wanted though. Due to a combination of fault on our part, absurdly slow customer service, and extra security measures due to the attempted Christmas plane bombing, we missed our flight. We were told that the next flight would not be for two days! After a frustrating hour of getting nowhere, we luckily and miraculously got on a standby flight to Atlanta and another from there to Boston. We got back to Boston around 11:30pm, which was 5 hours after our original flight. We took the subway and hopped out at State Street at 11:57pm and rang in 2010 with a few fireworks before finally getting home around 1am. It was a long day, but how could we complain after the awesome week we just had! Nothing like starting the New Year refreshed!