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Published: January 25th 2017
Looking back, I realize it has been almost two weeks since our last post; the old adage is true, time flies when you are having fun.
After another little “blow”, we located a mooring in the area where we could leave the boat for a while in preparation for the arrival of my parents and my daughter, Marina. They arrived last Sunday, January 15 for a week and had booked a condo on land.
Since we were unsure of the weather, we decided we would leave the boat and take the big step to stay “on the hard” for a few days. It certainly is a big change to go back to sleeping on a bed that doesn’t move!
The condo they had rented was on the main Great Exuma island, about a 10 minute drive north of George Town along the shore of Hooper’s Bay. It had a lovely view and beach access a short walk away, along with all the traditional amenities...like a washing machine (gasp), a dryer (double gasp), a tv (I guess I still know how to use a remote control), a stove (now I was really excited), full size fridge and freezer (we
So Happy Together
My kid, Marina, and I are completely goofy together!
could have ice – although somehow throughout the week we didn’t actually get to making any?), and 3 bathrooms (with lots of running water); all pretty thrilling!
I am sure, coming from a “real” house, my family did not quite realize the luxuriousness of the accommodations from our perspective. The first evening we were there, I ran a bath and sighed as I sank into what would be a full weeks worth of water on the boat. Blissful.
The first few days with my family was spent exploring the island and catching up. Anyone who has spent any time with us would know that we can get a little silly and excitable when you put us all in a room together, so there was a lot of goofy activity and laughter, along with many hugs and kisses.
My parents had rented a car at the airport, making it much easier to get around and run errands. It is still a little disorienting being back in a car, and with traffic traveling on the “wrong” side of the narrow little roads, there were moments my heart would do a little jump. But since my parents live in Japan
now, they are used to driving on the left; good thing they drove.
Since the boat was safely moored across the harbour at Stocking Island, we spent a good portion of the week at the condo. The water was still fairly rough, so we took Elvis’ Water Taxi across the bay to George Town, where my parents picked us up. The water taxi is a great local service; you hail the taxi on your radio and they will come pick you up right from your boat and zip you across to town. After a few trips back and forth to our boat on the taxi, we have made a good friend in our “captain”, Sugar Daddy (I think he was a little smitten with my daughter!).
I am trying to figure out how to organize the mish mash of events of the week, and I think the easiest way is by activity, so here we go J Road Trips
Since there are certain areas that are harder to get to by boat, we took advantage of having a car to explore both the Greater and Little Exuma islands.
The first voyage out, we headed north,
Tropic of Cancer Beach
Mom, picking up something for dinner...lol
minus my dad who was not feeling too well that day. We spent a couple hours cruising from George Town to the settlement of Steventon, stopping along the way at various beaches and a historical landmark. As we travelled, following along with a map, we passed through several Bahamian “settlements” including Hermitage, Moss Town, Forest and Rokers Point. “Settlement” is an apt name for these small hamlets as they wouldn’t really qualify as a town in our developed country idealism.
One of the things we noticed most is that things seem to blend together here, and it can be a guessing game whether a building is empty or occupied and whether they are abandoned and falling apart or amid construction. You can pass a restaurant, bar or convenience store without even realizing what it is apart from a small sign. And even then, it’s questionable whether the business is still operational. It seems one of those places that has a hidden network running in the background, and it is only once you really immerse yourself into the community that the full scope of what is available is revealed. If you are expecting big fancy signs, advertisements and decorative storefronts,
Waiting for the Charter
This is how my family amuses themselves...
you might need to head back to Nassau. Great Exuma is rustic, practical and about experiences and the people, not the materialistic.
Later in the week, we hopped back in the car, this time to head south. There is a small, one-lane bridge that crosses from Great Exuma to Little Exuma where you can find the Tropic of Cancer beach. The road leading to the beach from the main highway is pitted with rocks and potholes, and apparently the turnoff is hard to find as the hand painted sign is often stolen by tourists as a souvenier. Luckily, there was a sign and after some “4 wheeling” in our little Toyota rental (hey, we had 4 wheels!), we found our target location.
This white sand, turquoise water beach (well, ok, almost every beach we see here is white sand, crystal blue water) is located on the Northern Tropic latitude circle, about 23 degrees north of the equator. It is the northern most part of the “tropics”, although this whole area still seems pretty tropical to me! We spent a nice afternoon walking the beach, building sand sculptures, and being nibbled on by noseeums (sand fleas). On the
By the middle of the week, the water and wind had calmed down enough to hit the water. We hit up our favorite water taxi driver for a ride, and headed over to where the boat was moored. After dropping the dinghy in the water, Lukus buzzed us over to a trail that led to Honeymoon beach, where he would pick us up again and take us to the next beach. Well, you shouldn’t leave me to lead a brigade! Although it couldn’t have been more than a few hundred yards from where he dropped us to the beach, somehow we ended up taking a wrong turn and walking a “path” that I don’t think was really a path anymore. We were trudging through some pretty heavy bush; lots of bites and scratches to show for it. But even after this dubious first exposure to trail walking, once we found our way, everyone was game enough to try some more. We spent the next few hours exploring the various beaches and trails on Stocking Island including the climb to Monument Hill and across to the Atlantic side of the island.
By Friday, the water was much calmer,
so Lukus took the taxi to get Abigail and bring her across to Hoopers Bay, right in front of the condo. After picking us up by dinghy from the beach, we spent the day cruising along the coast of Great Exuma to do some fishing. It was nice for the family to get an idea of how we spend our days. It is a big adjustment from life on land, much slower pace, but the view is always beautiful! Unfortunately, we didn’t catch any fish, but we did nab some fuel and water for the boat. Since we were out anyway, we decided to stop at the Marina at Emerald Bay and top up our boat in preparation for when we finally move on. Charter Cruising (and the butt story….)
One of the things Marina had hoped to see while here was the swimming pigs at Big Major Cay. Since it would have taken a full day just to get there on our boat, we decided to take a tour with Coastline Adventures out of Barraterre (on the northern tip of Great Exuma) to hit up some of the most popular Exuma spots. It was a great opportunity
to get a better idea of places we would like to go back to again later with our boat.
Our first stop was to watch one of the charter staff dive for conch. Pretty impressive since he was diving with his snorkel gear to depths of about 20 feet. I don’t know how many of you have tried to drive when snorkeling, but with my “bouancy” (nice way of saying fat – lol), I can literally get down about 4 feet before bobbing right back up to the surface again. He quickly gathered about a dozen conch and later in the day, they made us conch salad right on the boat. It is a local favorite of fresh conch, orange and lime juice, tomatoes, onions and peppers…tasty stuff!
Our next stop was the Thunderball Grotto of James Bond movie fame. This is a small island that is hollow inside. You can follow a crevice in the rock and then snorkel into the middle of the island. It is basically a large cave lit by light shafts coming through from holes in the cave ceiling. Inside this treasure hove is some of the most beautiful coral and fish we
He's a Big Pig
This is the guy who bit me! (Not the man, but the big pig..ha ha)
have seen so far. We definitely plan to go back with our boat and gear to explore it more and get some photos (we had left the underwater camera at the boat).
From there, it was on to the famed “pig beach” (and for those who are on my Facebook, the story I alluded to). Just north of Staniel Cay is a beach populated by little piggies; a popular attraction that draws many visitors. There are a few stories how these pigs ended up there. Among the more “romantic” is that the pigs survived a ship wreck and swam to shore, or that they managed to escape from an inlet and find freedom, however some say the pigs were planted deliberately as a tourist attraction. Either way, it is pretty surreal to see pigs wandering around in white sand and swimming in the blue waters.
Now, these pigs are not afraid of people as most tourists will feed and pet them. However, as I found out, they can be aggressive (unfortunately, no one warned me ahead of time!). Excited and eager to see the pigs up close, Marina, Lukus and I jumped in the water, each with a
After 4 days, this is still what my bum looked like (not that you all wanted to see a photo of my butt!!). A week later, and the bruising is finally going down.
handful of bread to feed them. Two larger pigs, spotting the boat and obviously anticipating snack time, came swimming up and were beside us in moments. I threw each one a piece of bread and then began heading into shore to see the smaller, baby pigs on the beach. Well, I guess the one pig didn’t think I gave him enough, turned to follow me and decided to bite me right in the bum….hard. I mean, I could tell they had big mouths and some chompers, but I was not prepared for how hard he bit.
At first, I tossed him the rest of my bread, laughed it off and headed a little faster towards the beach. But throughout the day, it progressively got worse, until it was swollen into a hard lump almost the size of a melon. Who knew I even had that much butt to bite! It has taken a good week for me to get some mobility back, but it is slowly healing (see the photos for a “5 day after the incident” picture).
Not sure why he chose to bite me, I don’t even like bacon, you would think he would’ve taken out
Swimming with Nurse Sharks
You would think as Nurses, they would have tried to make me better!!
his aggression on a bacon lover! But, hey, at least we all got a good laugh out of it, and a story for everyone to take home. We still plan to go back and visit the pigs on our way back north (maybe I will nab some fresh ribs and roast while we are at it – just kidding).
After the pigs, we stopped at a nice sandbar. My dad was a little disappointed not to see any bartenders or drinks…what kind of bar is this? He asked. But it was nice for me to sit my throbbing rear end into the cool water for a bit.
Our last stop before lunch was Compass Cay where you can swim with nurse sharks. Not to be deterred by my injury, I eagerly (and maybe a little stupidly) jumped right in, along with Marina – her first snorkeling adventure of the trip. Fortunately this time, I was not bitten, but another girl did get a little bite on her posterior; although I would like to point out it was not nearly as severe as mine! However, these sharks really are quite gentle and friendly, and it was peculiar to be
surrounded by them, having them brush up against you from all directions and nudge their heads under your hand for a pet. They feel a lot like sandpaper, and Marina and I had a grand time swimming after them to get a feel.
After all that swimming and adventure, it was time for lunch. We indulged in an “all-you-can-eat” buffet at Black Point complete with corn, baked mac and cheese, chicken, ribs, fish, rice and beans, salad, fruit and dessert. Yum.
Contentedly satiated, and a little sleepy, we began the trip back towards Barraterre. There were a few more stops along the way. First was Farmers Cay where we were treated to watching turtles and stingrays feeding. While a couple people jumped in, but by this point, I wasn’t game to become bait again so we stayed on the boat. As we watched them being fed, a houndfish (a skinny, long silver blue fish we have seen here often) nabbed a piece of conch and leapt out of the water to escape another fish. It was pretty thrilling to watch him skip across the water, using his tail to propel himself off the surface.
Our last stop
Iguanas At Leaf Cay
One of our guides has obviously spent a lot of time with these Iguanas. Most of them are too skittish to even pet.
was Leaf Cay where we wandered a beach littered with sunbathing, giant iguanas. These iguanas love to be fed (do you sense a theme here?) and will scamper up as soon as someone gets ashore. Watching these giant lizards wandering along the sand and black rock gives one an almost prehistoric feel, like you have stepped back in time to the age of the dinosaur.
The whole day was packed full of adventure and excitement, and by the time we returned to the condo, we were all pretty exhausted. Dining Out
While we did a fair amount of cooking in the condo (how was I going to give up the opportunity to cook on a stove with four
burners and an oven!), we did treat ourselves to a few meals out.
Our first dinner together was at one of the many little vendors at the Fish Fry, a jumble of multi-colored little shacks that serve up some of the tastiest, authentic Bahamian dishes. It is one of those places you picture when you imagine “eating local” in the Caribbean; intimate and laid back spiced with colorful island flavour. Probably one of my favorite places we have
eaten so far.
During the middle of the week, we took advantage of being over at Stocking Island and headed over to Chat N Chill for lunch. We had some great ribs and fish; the food here takes time, but it is well worth the wait. Everything is prepared fresh and slow cooked, tastes like there is a whole lot of love poured into it. We also toured their little gift shop, walked the beach, and finally met their “pets”. The staff at Chat N Chill will throw conch pieces into the water and so there are a few stingrays that have taken up permanent residence along the shore.
Our last dinner out was at a fancier restaurant close to Exuma Beach Resort (I have forgotten the name). Unfortunately, the dinner was not overly impressive, a full seafood dinner of conch, lobster, fish and shrimp, but all battered and deep-fried (we were remiss not to ask ahead of time how it was prepared). However, Marina thoroughly enjoyed her grilled fish dinner that was aesthetically presented, saying it was the best meal of the trip (not including her mother’s awesome cooking of course) and we did enjoy the conch
fritters and conch chowder. And The Week Was Over
Sunday was a sadder day as we had to say goodbye once again, for a while. It is hard to be apart from family, but we are blessed to have shared such a great week together in a wonderful setting.
Despite the luxury of being on land in a house, we are both happy to be back on the boat. After the short break, we missed the sound of the water on the hull, the gentle rocking of the waves and our cozy little cabin.
A few days has passed since my family has left, but since this post has become pretty long, I will save those days to share in another blog.
We hope you are all well and enjoying each day to it’s fullest. Thank you for sharing in our days!
P.S. Mama, Daddy and Little Bear, I miss you all so much already. Thank you for coming to see me and indulge me in my “crazy”!! XOXO
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