Whew! Yesterday was a smokefest with all the driving and exploring. As it turned out, today was a bit less driving but just as much exploring. Our focus was on central Eleuthera and we didn’t have anywhere to be so we could just poke around the beaches, bars, and neighborhoods as we pleased. We probably accomplished more today than most people do in an entire vacation. That’s how we roll! Here was the list of activities for the day, in sequential order:
French Leave Beach: This was named one of the most beautiful beaches on the island so we had to see for ourselves if it lives up to that superlative. Yep it did. Again, we ended up taking the rockiest, and what seemed like the longest way there, but eventually made it and had the whole beach to ourselves. After about a half hour, another family with three zillion kids showed up and that was our queue to leave. No pun intended.
Twin Coves Beach: We were dying to get some snorkeling in since we lugged our gear all the way here and I read on Trip Advisor that this might be a good spot. We had to drive down a LONG one-lane dirt road to get to the beach, then walk a couple hundred yards to get to the beach where the two coves come together. It’s really a neat place and as you can see, the limestone outcropping has caused the sand to collect in the center of the structure to create two “twin” beaches facing different directions. The southern cove was a bit choppy but the northern cove was calm and glassy. So we swam and snorkeled on the northern side. There were several large coral heads but we didn’t see anything too exciting. Some really healthy brain coral and one section of elkhorn coral made the snorkel worthwhile but not many fish to speak of. We had the beach all to ourselves which is not uncommon or surprising.
Double Bay Beach: Another snorkeling spot I read about on Trip Advisor. A long cluster of coral heads was just off the beach within swimming distance and an enormous half buried ship anchor (or something that looked similar) was providing the perfect landing pad for a seagull. Ick, seagulls. All I can think of since watching Finding Nemo is “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” I swam up and down the reef for a while and it was nice, but…just…nice. Nothing to write home about. Again, we had this beach to ourselves. I walked to the end of the beach to a cave-like structure. For some reason, the sand near and inside this cave was REALLY pink. Somehow the particular shells that make the sand pink were concentrated in this area. You can see it in the pictures.
Savannah Sound: A protected sound that we hit at a very low tide. I found a neat palm tree leaning over into the white sand so snapped a few pictures.
Tarpum Bay and Dolphin Blow Hole: We drove as far south as Tarpum Bay and decided to turn back when we saw on the map that it would be another half hour or so before we would hit Rock Sound, the next settlement to the south. So we tooled around Tarpum Bay for a bit and it was exactly what I picture the Bahamas of 50 years ago. A quaint sleepy little fishing settlement, with locals lounging on the dock, a couple of boats coming in to drop off their day’s catch, and other than that, absolutely nothing going on. We didn’t even see a restaurant in the area so we pulled up to the private gate at Windermere Island and asked the security guard where to eat. He pointed us in the direction of Dolphin Blow Hole. The restaurant looked closed, as do most of them, but we tried anyway and to our delight it was open! The building looked brand new, with cold A/C, and even colder beer. I’ll skip to the point, the food was amazing. The shrimp were like small lobsters and the fish I had was wonderful. It was easily the best meal we’ve had so far, surprising for a one man operation in the middle of nowhere.
Illyas’ On the Rocks: As we made our way back towards home, we saw a small shack on the beach with a few picnic tables and a sign. We were intrigued to check it out so we made a U-turn, pulled into the rocky driveway on the beach and asked the man sitting on the porch, “Do you have beer?”. He nodded and we parked the car. The gentleman welcomed us and offered us a beer to which we obliged. I don’t drink Kalik but my choices were either a Kalik or a Kalik so I guess I’d be having a Kalik! The man’s family was snorkeling off the shore. In the 30 minutes we spent there, we learned that: Illya was the name of the man’s son that died of cancer. The family was originally from Nassau and he had been on Eleuthera for over 30 years. His sister, brother, and grandson were visiting (the ones snorkeling) from Nassau. The potcake sitting with us was brought to this spot by it’s mother along with another one of her puppies. Then she left and never returned. She knew they would be well taken care of at Illyas. The man lives right next to the “bar” and has clearly mastered the simple life.
Mate and Jenny’s: This was a little hole-in-the-wall bar I also read about and is famous for their conch pizza. We had just eaten so wouldn’t be partaking in food consumption, only alcohol. The temperature in the bar was about 100 degrees so we ordered a beer and drank half of it outside and then took the rest with us on the road. I could tell this was a popular spot as tourists over the last couple of decades have been hanging up their pictures around the bar. The bartender said generations of pictures were hanging and visitors come back to bring their families and say hello year after year.
Fish Fry!!!!!! We wanted to make it back in time to take a booze snooze, shower, and head to the Fish Fry, THE place to be on Friday night. Everything I have read online and heard from the locals was that the whole island comes to the fish fry. So we were pumped. Booze snooze happened. Shower happened. Fish fry bound. We were told to get there early because they sometimes run out of food. Well we weren’t having THAT so we arrived at about 6:15 when technically it starts at 6:30. The Fish Fry location was right down the hill from where we were staying so we had an easy short drive. Several tourists were already hanging out on the picnic tables and walking around the nearby grounds where the library, basketball courts, and small protected bay were located. I was a little surprised to see just one little shack and a few grills for as many people as I expected would be attending. It appeared people were standing in line, one for food and one for drinks, so we followed the lead. The drink prices were the cheapest I’ve seen on the island and the Rum Bubba was their specialty drink. Naturally, we HAD to try it. Oh dear. You can tell in the picture below just how delicious it was. It seemed to be just a mixture of white rum and a cheap Bahamian version of childrens fruit punch. Right out of the jug. Blaph. It tasted like cough syrup hidden in fruit punch. I did my best to drink half of it and opted for a pink Sands instead. The bbq was pretty good and fairly inexpensive as well, compared to other restaurants around the island. By 8:00, the music started, about 100 tourists were meandering around, some dancing, kids flitting about, and we were sitting at a picnic table just waiting for everyone to show up. By everyone, I mean locals. I enjoy locals much more than I do other Americans. I see American’s every day so today is a day to watch, and perhaps join the locals to party it up. 9:00pm rolls around and there are a handful of locals sitting at the bar and on the outskirts of the area, watching the fishbowl of tourists. I knew that any minute, they would come out of the neighborhoods and start partying with us. Nothing yet.
We’re still sitting at a picnic table watching the “dance floor”. My mom is sitting on one table backwards (with her back to the table top) and I am sitting next to her at the corner of a different table sideways enjoying the tourist show. A large Bahamian man sits at my mom’s table, on the opposite side of her, facing her back (since she is sitting backwards/outwards) to eat his freshly made conch salad. He spends the next 10 minutes enjoying his meal and my mom and I continue to chit chat and watch the limbo contest. From the corner of my eye, I see the large man slowly setting my mom’s cup of water down behind her. What the ?????? I wanted to yell at him, slap him, and laugh all at the same time. Apparently, big man ( I shall call him Bubba) was thirsty after his evening nibble and thought my mom’s water was the most convenient liquid within reach. Bubba’s gotta wash down his conch! My mom went to grab her water and I gave her the look. THE look. You know what I’m talking about. The, “don’t you dare drink that water” look. You can imagine her state of confusion. I wanted to die laughing. I whispered to her very slowly, annunciating as clearly as possible so Bubba wouldn’t hear, “heeeee juuuuust draaaaank yourrrr waaaaterrrrr”. It was all we could do to keep a straight face. I heart the Bahamas for this and so many other reasons.
By now it was 10:30 and no sign of an infiltration of locals. We decided that maybe the fish fry in Eleuthera is really just for the tourists and not a local hangout like it is in Exuma. Alternatively, maybe they just wait for all of us to go to bed and then come out to dance. My mom DID overhear some locals nearby say “we ain’t going til the white people leave”. Bahahaaa. We just wanted to play in the sandbox together. But they’ weren’t having it. Wahn whan wahnnnnnnn.