Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The land that time remembered

If you see Acklins and Crooked Island, just below the Tropic of Cancer in the south Bahamas from an aerial view, they are curled into a hug. Almost touching and highly interdependent. In fact, the water between the two islands is barely 3 feet deep – you could walk across! As Kendra, a wonderful local lady with ever smiling eyes explained to us, “we are a family island. That means everyone knows and helps each other. Even if you are not family, once you join us here, you are family. 

It seems a few Americans have done just that, building winter homes along the beaches and spending half their year here forever. They are welcomed and accepted. They might have to wait a week for fresh bread when the mail boat comes through, but I’m sure it’s a trade off that is worthwhile.
After a few blissful and quiet days in the calm and protected but uninhabited Lady Slipper Bay on Acklins Island, where we walked the sandy beaches, played bocci ball and had a big bonfire beach braai, we headed to Crooked Island, to see the famous old lighthouse. We got so much more than that.

We felt the hug. Venturing over the treacherous reefs that protect the residents of Landrail Point, we brought the dinghies into a clever man made little harbor. The first thing I noticed was the cheery paint jobs on all the buildings, from bold ocean turquoise to juicy orange. There was no garbage strewn around the roads, instead, tidy bins lined the bottom of each driveway. Conch shells decorated our path from house to house down the one main road. And then we met our first person. Waves, smiles and some banter started our little walk off so well. After that it only got better. Everyone we met came to say hello and offer us a bit of info about their town or their island. 

We found a well stocked little converted bungalow grocery painted bright green. They had everything – and after a couple weeks of nothing, we were literal ‘kids in a candy shop’. We chatted to the owner, “That was me out there in the fishing boat as you sailed in!” he explained. “We were catching snapper”. And indeed, we’d seen a boat. Small town this, and very industrious folk.
In the next shop come house, we had a ball trying on the elaborate church hats and chatting with the owner about her double life as an entrepreneur and a government postal worker. We bought some beautiful locally made t-shirts and headed to Gibson’s Lunchroom #2 – the only restaurant in the settlement, and famous for it’s hospitality and home style cooking. On the road we met Willy the owner and her brother Andy the local tour guide, who’s bus also doubles as a school bus gathering the kids from the few settlements to the one school. They discussed how they might find beers for our supper as Landrail is Seventh Day Adventist and alcohol is not readily available.

An hour later we sat at the long table in Gibson’s, a veritable feast in front of us – fresh snapper fritters then home fried chicken, fresh caught grouper, macaroni and cheese, fresh baked bread, green salad, and rich brown ‘peas an’ rice’. Kendra sat with us, sharing stories about her life on Crooked Island and abroad. Her cheeky, spindly legged little girl Roshay, in her Diva t-shirt warmed up to us too after she finished her supper.

We had cold beers in hand, courtesy of Andy who’d driven to another town to find them. And just when we thought the day couldn’t get much better in Landrail, Andy set up his magic trick. A private magic show to accompany dessert of cake and ice cream.  Andy had eggs balanced on little cups, on a heavy tray under which there stood two glasses of water. Then, wielding a clunky kitchen broom he jolted forward and with a crash the tray went flying and the eggs plopped safely into the cups, suspended unbroken in the water. Wow!!!! It was quick and violent and impressive.
Andy and his magic broom

But all good things must come to an end and we had to navigate the spiky, propeller shredding reefs back to our boats before darkness settled over us and this Crooked, wonderful little place. So with hugs all around and a few cool snapshots with Roshay, we bid them all farewell and set off, back to our ocean homes.
Kendra and her winning smile

Two cool divas!

The night that followed, being tossed about in a huge surf was worth the visit to this out, out island which was home to no more than 300 people – a place that proved you can have a thriving and beautiful community in seemingly the middle of nowhere.
Visiting the crumbling lighthouse the next morning, a regal testament to times gone by, was merely the icing on this cake of a visit. Thank you Crooked Island!


  1. I always love reading your posts and these past 3 were definitely keeping me glued to the chair with my nose into the screen.

    1. Thanks Paola - I love your always encouraging comments xx. The Bahamas is definitely inspiring me to write more!!!