Friday, June 20, 2014

A serenade to the beauty, the decay, the vastness and the diversity that is the Bahamas

A cacophony of birds serenades, and the warm sun pokes at my shoulder through the cabin hatch, waking me to yet another magnificent Bahamas scene.

Shiloh sits, eerily still in mirrored glass water, if there wasn’t a depth meter to say otherwise, I’d be convinced we’re on terra firma. We’re surrounded by pine trees and the smell of a campfire. I feel as though we’ve been transported to a Canadian lake, only if I dip just one toe in this luke warm water, I’ll know different.

This is Port Lucaya, an unplanned stop for us, and yet another one of Bahamas surprises. Highly developed with many marinas, duty free shops, cruise chips and their thousands of pasty pink skinned, camera happy passengers. It's a change, and like Nassau, a hub of human activity among a largely uninhabited set of semi-tropical isles.

The landscapes are changing, the birds are different. We have moved north. For us, this is the end of the Bahamas. Our last stop before hitting the gulf stream and Florida’s east coast. I can’t believe it really. Two months ago we arrived in sweltering Mayaguana at the southern most end of the Bahamas, to a desolate little settlement. Since then we have visited thousands of worlds within themselves. So many unique little gems with indescribably blue waters, turquoise reflecting on the clouds above. A few with tiny, friendly populations, but many, many with none. Places that feed your soul. 

It’s been a whirlwind tour of opposites. Of islands grouped together by colonial conquest. Places that are beautiful or troubled in their own right. Islands in the ocean, like us. 

From weeks of no shops, no internet, no other human contact in the Exumas, to huge supermarkets and bustling casinos. We’ve been screaming down adrenaline gushing water slides in the opulence of Atlantis resort. 

The Bahamas can’t be described. Many have tried. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing. Some of the islands belie secrets of an opulent past, where the rich made their playgrounds. In their place now, are decaying, crumbling buildings, nature quickly reclaiming their territory. Norman island, the former private fortress of infamous cocaine dealer Carlos Lehder is one of them. It really happened and wasn’t just a scene in Johnny Depp’s movie Blow. And we were there, crunching through the dead leaves that line the floors of the old rooms, imagining the parties and the killings. 

And there are so many ‘almost developments’ – places where visions and dreams were half built – marinas, hotels, huge mansions – all left for dead. Investment lost, lives changed forever. As a transient on the sea sailing past, we can only imagine the stories that surround each place.

And the next day, surrounded only by warm blue waters and sting rays and turtles and white sand beaches -you pinch yourself and wonder whether all the rest was an illusion.

This is the ‘off season’ better known as the hurricane season where the cautious leave this part of the world, holiday cottages, condos and boats all locked up and stored away for the dangerous season, while summer awaits back home in the US or Canada. It means we’ve had so much of these places to ourselves. The only boats in an anchorage, the only ones swimming in a blue hole, the only patrons at a rare bar/restaurant up the chain. It’s been our own paradise and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the hustle and bustle of tourist season at all.

Face to face with an 80 pound grumpy faced grouper in a natural aquarium,  swimming along with a graceful sting ray, sand combing with ancient dragon-esque iguanas, catching a flourescent, majestic dorado for supper setting up a ‘braai’ on our own island for the night, watching the flaming sun sink down into the ocean on another night in paradise…. These are the memories I’ll carry away from the Bahamas. A magical and largely unspoiled place. A place of dreams and a glimpse of times gone by. 

But it’s time now for even us stragglers to head out of the hurricane zone, leaving behind the grumpy groupers, the lobsters and parrot fish. The turquoise clouds to build up with weather fronts, for mother nature to rip through this chain of paradise for another season… 

We’ll sail out of Port Lucaya, with her blocks of closed up condos, and bid farewell for now to an enigma. The wonderful Bahamas. And off to a whole new adventure – America by sea!

1 comment:

  1. hi Holly,l have been reading your posts,so briliant. when are you coming out with a book? Your posting on your years in Ghana is a complete book.,and when are you visiting europe?