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In Pursuit of Paradise Day 2: Paradise Island

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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We made it through the night without anything with more legs than us getting into the bed and without dying in a pool of our own sweat, so I considered the first night a success.

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In the early light of that first morning, it seemed unreal. Surely there was no way we were alone on an island. But the fantasy was a reality. We really were on an island all our own. The sun and the palm trees and the sand and sea were all ours. There was no one to answer to, no one to share it with, no one to worry about, not even that fat pelican who sat guarding the wooden dock beyond the house.

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It was Easter morning, so we spent the first hour on the east dock (there were two, one on the east side and one on the west, perfect for sunrise and sunset, we found) having our own sunrise service in the most perfect place I could imagine. I thanked God for giving us this amazing opportunity.

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Then it was time for breakfast. I knew before we even arrived on Little Cay that meals would be momentous occasions. When your only form of entertainment is watching the pelicans dive off the dock or racing hermit crabs, food becomes important.

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For each meal, I would spend hours conjuring magic from a limited universe of strange ingredients and a conspicuous absence of modern cooking tools or appliances. While the kitchen had a reasonable amount of supplies, most of the items were slightly less than perfect or just not exactly the thing I needed.

On the 9th match, I got the stove lit and cooked up some thick, smoked Honduran bacon (the stuff was amazing) with eggs. To celebrate our first day off the grid, we poured up some mimosas.

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Once breakfast was over, I wasn’t sure what to do. Matt and I are people that need to be busy. We need things to do.

I wasn’t sure what we would do with no itinerary, no plans, no list of things to check off and see and do. Could we enjoy doing nothing?

Apparently, we could.

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We lazed in the sun, taking frequent swims or soaks in the cool water when we got too hot. We snorkeled for hours in the shallow water surrounding the island. We sipped cold coconut rum under the rustling palm trees and took rum-induced afternoon siestas.

Before the first day was even halfway through, we were happy simply being. We limited our movements to small trips to the refrigerator for drinks, dips in the water, turning a page in a book, or moving from one chair to another that had better shade/sun/view (whatever we were looking for at the time).

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I had a staring contest with the fat pelican and he won.

The humidity curled my hair into an impressive mess, my freckles popped out almost immediately, and, to combat sand fleas and mosquitoes, I was constantly coated in a thick sheen of coconut oil and Deet.

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It was simply magical.

We had used what little lighter fluid we had found the night before and I didn’t want to try to cook meat on that stove.

“Call Barry on that little phone,” I said. “See if they can bring us some lighter fluid. While they are at it, see if we can get some fresh fish.”

Matt tried dialing the little cell phone and looked puzzled.

“No matter what I do, I just get a weird message in Spanish and then the phone hangs up. You try.”

Like I had some kind of cell phone mojo that he didn’t possess.

I dialed.

“La red móvil que está intentando acceder está abajo . Por favor, intente llamar en otro momento.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Then silence.

Our one form of communication didn’t work. Just. Great.

We really were alone.

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No matter. This was what we signed up for, wasn’t it?

I took my iPhone out of airplane mode and shot off a quick email to the Jacksons, knowing it was costing me a small fortune in roaming charges, but praying to the cell phone Gods that my message would find its way to them.

I made the message really short:

“Need lighter fluid. And fresh fish. Tomorrow. Thanks!”

Then I used my two burners (and about 12 matches) to whip up some pasta using fresh veges, more of that thick bacon, and a jar of pesto.

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We found what was left of a picnic table, and discovered it made a perfect seaside table for two.

We set up dinner on the east side of the island to watch the sunset as we ate our meal.

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After dinner, Matt used some dried palm leaves and driftwood to get a nice fire going on the beach where we made s’mores using my distinctly non-graham cracker mystery cookies. I had no idea what they were because the entire package was in Spanish. I am pretty sure they were sugar-free, as I realized later what “sin azúcar” meant. Leave it to me to find the one package of diabetic cookies on the entire island of Utila.

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No worries. There was enough sugar in the Hershey bar and giant marshmallows to make our teeth hurt.

We licked the melted chocolate off of our fingers and laughed like children as the fire crackled and the last glow of the sun faded over the horizon.

Did I already say it was magical?

We fell asleep to the sound of gentle waves lapping at the shore from all sides and the sound of the coconut palms rustling in the wind.

Oh, sure. There was also the sound of the occasional hermit crab skittering across the floor.

(I learned quickly to take a flashlight when going to use the bathroom in the dark. One doesn’t make that mistake twice.)

Posted by vicki_h 05:12 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (0)

In Pursuit of Paradise Day 1: Naked and Afraid.

The Bay Islands of Honduras

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Ways I can die in Honduras:

1. As Matt so thoughtfully pointed out, Honduras is the murder capital of the world.

2. There is a zipline on every mountain. Flying 200 feet above the ground on a cable erected by workers in a third world country with severely substandard wages and no US Department of Labor probably isn’t a good idea.

3. Sleeping in a house with no a/c in a country infested with mosquitos is as smart as simply injecting the disease into your bloodstream with a syringe. Hello? Malaria? Zika? Dengue? Chicayunga?

4. You can get Hepatitis from drinking the water.

5. I could be a victim of a Honduran roadside shakedown gone bad.

6. I could get macheted to death for refusing to hand over my camera.

7. They have tarantulas and boa constrictors and I would die of fright if I saw one.

8. Can you get sick from holding a monkey?

9. Spending 3 days alone on a deserted island with Matt could likely end up with one of us dead.

This was either going to be the best trip of our lives or the worst.

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We arrived in Roatan shortly after noon local time. We were immediately thrust into the most crowded, chaotic airport I have ever entered. Hundreds of people from 2 arriving flights were being crammed into a queue to go through customs and immigration. Several “airport volunteers” helped to keep everyone guided in the right direction. The power had been out, so it was hotter than the 3rd circle of hell.

We were asked if we were staying on Roatan or connecting and we advised the volunteer that we were on a 2:00 flight to Utila. We were ushered into another line that moved even slower than our original line, which seemed to defeat the purpose of expediting us so that we’d make our flight, but explaining things in rational terms to these folks didn’t seem to be an option. We went with the flow.

After a long, hot wait….we were fingerprinted (all 10 fingers), our documents were examined, we were photographed, and sent on our way. I imagine it would be easier to sneak into the research and development lab at Apple than Honduras.

We then had to exit the airport and re-enter on the departure side, which was even hotter than the arrivals side. And more chaotic.

Lines streamed behind each airline and a HUGE line extended across the length of the airport under a sign that read “Departure Lounge.”

We found the counter for tiny CM Airlines and were given big plastic cards to use for boarding. We then got in the huge departure line and waited.

And waited. And waited.

It appeared the line was taking us back through immigration to be fingerprinted again.

This didn’t make any sense.

I saw a much shorter departure line with no one in it.

“I think that’s the domestic departure line,” I said.

We moved over and discovered it was, indeed, the domestic departure line. No sign of any kind overhead. The only indicator was a sign painted on the floor. Because you can certainly see that clearly from 200 feet away in a room filled with sweaty bodies.

Inside the “departure lounge” (this is their term, not mine….it was not lounge like in any capacity), we proceeded to wait in another very hot line.

Eventually, we were herded in a very chaotic fashion with a disorganized group out onto the tarmac where we boarded a less than amazing 15-seater plane.

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I suspected they didn’t put a lot of stock in safety when I noticed that my seatbelt appeared to be missing some important parts and there was no safety briefing. I was certain no one had done a weight and balance, and the rear door was shut by the passenger in the back seat.

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No matter. We made it on time, with relative ease, and were on our way to the small island of Utila!

The flight was quick and uneventful. Twenty minutes later, we landed on a tiny airstrip on the island of Utila.

The Utila airport was not much to look at.

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Several tuk-tuks were waiting, so we jumped inside one and asked to be driven to Bush’s Supermarket, the largest grocery store on Utila, where we would pick up our groceries and wait on the boat dock behind the store for Barry Jackson, who would take us to Little Cay for the next 3 days.

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Utila Town was small and lively. Scooters, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, trucks, and vans all competed noisily for the single lane road that ran through town. The air was filled with the mingled scents of exhaust, salt air, and fried dough. Dogs barked lazily in the shade, and music pumped out of several small bars.

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We found Bush's easily enough and were dropped off with our luggage. I had one hour before Barry arrived. I left Matt sitting out front in a plastic chair with the luggage and several old men smoking cigarettes and went inside with my list.

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I have shopped in many small island grocery stores. I know what to expect. Still, I expected more.

Shopping at Bush’s was an experience in patience, frustration, and creativity.

They had the most random, incomplete, awkward selection of products that I believe one could amass in a central location and still call a grocery store. I had come prepared with a list. When spending 3 nights on a remote island with minimal amenities, you need to plan properly. It’s not like we could run to the corner to pick up something we forgot.

List be damned. They didn’t have anything that was on it.

I started to panic, realizing Barry would be there soon and all I had in my cart was a giant block of mysterious cheese and a squeeze bag of refried beans. I scowled as I looked through freezers filled with bags of frozen meat labelled simply, “Ground meat.” BUT WHAT KIND OF MEAT??? I pawed through boxes of produce I didn’t recognize. I flipped over packages that were entirely in Spanish three or four times, thinking maybe there was some English on there somewhere that I just didn’t see the first time.

The most puzzling aspect was that about half of the packages were opened. Like someone just got hungry while they were shopping, decided to pop open a pack of moon pies and eat one. Haphazardly opened packages filled the store. A box of butter might only contain 2 sticks. A box of granola bars might have a few missing.

I was later told that it's perfectly acceptable to open packages at the store and just buy what you need. You can even ask for half an onion and they'll cut it for you. You only want half a can of Coke? They'll actually open one and pour it in a cup.

Despite the randomness of the inventory, I managed to put together what I felt was a pretty decent collection that would serve us well for the next couple of days. I was sweating profusely and was close to a panic attack, but as they boxed my groceries up, my breathing returned to normal and I realized nothing was that important. So I couldn’t find graham crackers. We were on our way to a PRIVATE ISLAND.

It was going to be amazing. Even without graham crackers.

They delivered our boxes of groceries and our luggage to the back of the store and placed them on the boat dock where we could wait for Barry.
Somehow, we managed 15 minutes to spare, so I sent Matt in search of sustenance.

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He came back with margaritas.

Matt is a good man.

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As we gulped the tequila down faster than the ice could melt in the 97 degree heat, Barry pulled up in his boat.

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Then it was off to Little Cay. Private island paradise or the worst experience of our lives? Only time would tell.

As the little island came into view and began to take shape in the distance, my heart started to beat faster.

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It was around 4:00 p.m. when Barry dropped us off on Little Cay with our two suitcases, two boxes of groceries, a cooler of ice, drinking water, and lots of apprehension.

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As Barry’s boat pulled away, the fading of the sound of its motor left behind a very loud silence.

Matt and I were alone on a one acre private island with a modest house and minimal amenities. Purchased by the Jackson family in 1968 and developed about three decades later (“developed” being a relative term), Little Cay was about 6 miles west of Utila Town, but felt worlds away from anywhere.

The house was a very basic, open structure with minimal power provided by solar panels and a giant empty hole where the hand-crank generator used to be. There was running water from a cistern that collected rainwater, but no hot water. There was no air conditioning and random wires stuck out from the ceiling where the fans used to be. There was no television, stereo system, or wi-fi. There was only one working power outlet in the entire house. Our only means of communication was a small cell phone on the counter that had Barry’s number saved on it. Gourmet kitchen? Try a charcoal grill pit and a gas stove with only two working burners that had to be lit with matches every time we needed to cook.

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It wasn’t exactly Survivor. It wasn’t exactly Necker Island. It was something else altogether.

We spent the first moments in delight and disbelief, discovering every inch of our own personal island. We walked from one end of the island to the other.

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This took exactly 4 minutes.

We had no idea what to do for the remaining 3,966 minutes.

What was this going to be like? Did this have the ingredients for an amazing vacation or just a really good reality TV show? I feared it was the latter and started to wonder which one it would be….Paradise Island? Survivor? When Vacations Attack? Snapped?

Most likely it would be Naked and Afraid. He’d be naked and I’d be afraid. We’d only been here 5 minutes and he was already calling it “Naked Island.”

We only had about 2 hours of daylight left, so we needed to unpack, put the groceries away, and get dinner made while we still had some light.

Dinner presented the first challenge.

We had charcoal, but no lighter fluid because I couldn’t find any in the store. While Matt went on a search of the various closets and buildings to see if he could find something we could use, I set about trying to figure out the stove.

There were 5 knobs, but all of the markings had long since been rubbed off, so I had no idea which knob went with which burner. It also wasn’t obvious what position to turn the knob to in order to light the burner.

I proceeded to go through the awkward process of holding down a knob with my knee, while using both hands to light one of the world’s crappiest matches in a windy kitchen, which resulted in the match immediately blowing out. I would have to light a minimum of 3 matches before one would catch and hold. Then, while holding the knob in with my knee and trying to shield my match from the wind with one hand and hold it with the other, I had to quickly hold it to each burner to find which one(s) worked. I found two and I managed to do it without blowing myself up.

Matt discovered a bottle of mysterious blue liquid that he felt certain was lighter fluid and attempted to get the grill going.

Success!

We grilled up some shrimp, cooked some rice, and made a quick salad.

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We managed to get dinner ready in time to eat before the last dying rays of sunlight disappeared, leaving us in utter darkness.

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Yes, the house had a few lights, but they were weak and we were tired. We’d also experienced a 2 hour time change and had endured a long travel day. We discovered on that first night that it was simply easiest to go to bed at 8:00 p.m.

We chose the downstairs bedroom because it had a king sized bed and tons of windows that opened to the breeze. We put up our mosquito net, put flashlights on the nightstands, and called it a night.

Tic…ticticic…..tak….tiktac….tictictiktac……..

I woke up in the middle of the night, completely disoriented. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand before my face and something was lying across my leg. I swiped at it and lurched forward only to realize it was just the mosquito net, blowing in the breeze.

Tiktac…tikkkky…tactactick……

And what was that noise?????? Dear Jesus. There was something in here with us. Why not? All the doors and windows were wide open. I knew I should have slept with the flashlight under my pillow.

I carefully pulled up the mosquito net and grabbed my flashlight, hitting the button quietly, so the intruder would not be alerted.

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Dozens of hermit crabs were crawling all over the floor.

Tic…tic…tac…tikkkk…..

You know, it’s amazing what you can tolerate when you are really, really tired.

I sighed and hoped they didn’t have any interest in getting into bed.

Posted by vicki_h 07:00 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (6)

In Pursuit of Paradise: Intro

The Bay Islands of Honduras

When you tell people you are going to Honduras, the response is always the same:

“Are you going on a mission trip?”

When you respond, “no,” the response is always the same:

“Then why are you going?”

When I told Matt I wanted to rent a private deserted island in Honduras, one that lacked electricity, hot water, and was a 30 minute boat ride from the nearest town, he was less than enthusiastic.

“But it’s a whole private ISLAND….” I stressed.

“Alcatraz is a whole private island,” he responded, “and Honduras is the murder capital of the world.”

It was going to be a harder sell than I thought.

Sure, Honduras does not get high marks in the luxury travel category. High crime rates. Extreme traveler warnings of carjacking and armed robbery. Advice to get Hepatitis shots and take anti-malarial medication. Stories of police shaking travelers down as they drive the only road across the island. Sand flies that are likened to blood sucking dragons. These were the most common things that I found online when I started researching Roatan and Utila.

Had I stopped my research there, I would have concluded from the warnings that only a reckless, death-wish kind of traveler would ever consider a trip there, but I don’t let little things like sky high murder rates and communicable diseases get in the way of my fun.

However, as I continued my quest for information, I started to wonder if maybe I WAS a reckless, death-wish kind of traveler.

I actually saw an article called, “21 Top Dangerous Places to go on Vacation.” Guess what was #1? Honduras. Just in case I needed confirmation that it was not a one-off, I found another titled, “Travel on the Edge: 7 Dangerous (but Awesome) Adventures Worth Having.” Honduras was listed, right up there with Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia. I’ll put that right up there with “Top Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” “Top Foods to Give You Gas,” and “Top Musical Acts Similar to Miley Cyrus” with regard to how desirable being on that list is.

But they also said it was AWESOME.

That was the thing. Pretty much every piece of information I could find on the place was polarized into one of two categories: Dangerous or Awesome. So which one was it?

It seemed to depend on who was doing the talking.

I did get some comfort from realizing that the bay islands clearly had a better reputation than mainland Honduras. Sort of.

While the islands didn’t seem to share in the whole “murder capital of the world” bit, the realities of mosquito and water-borne illnesses, high crime rates, and severe warnings for tourists were still there.

But then there were the accounts that said the islands were amazing. They were described as an undiscovered treasure, the Caribbean’s best kept secret, and a tropical paradise where we would be awed by silky beaches, lush jungles, and a pristine reef. These people described it as quiet, safe, and beautiful.

I needed to satisfy my curiosity. I had to talk Matt into going.

Sometimes I feel inexplicably compelled to just DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

I feel the need to combine fear with fun.

I need a new stamp on my passport.

I had nothing left in my arsenal, so I simply showed Matt where I wanted to go:

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When that didn't work, I told him it was only $150 a night.

Who hasn’t romanticized the notion of living on a deserted tropical island, if only for a few days? Especially with a boatload of food, books and your best friend? It only sweetens the deal if that island costs less than an inexpensive hotel room in Knoxville, TN.

That’s all it took. Malaria be damned. Matt was IN.

After doing enough research to make my eyes gloss over, I chose to split our time between the remote, private island paradise of Little Cay, Utila and the popular island of Roatan.

It was time for another adventure in paradise.

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Posted by vicki_h 10:00 Archived in Honduras Tagged beach island caribbean tropical honduras roatan utila little_cay deserted_island Comments (3)

Beating the Winter Blues

Take that you stupid groundhog.

I thought the whole point of living in the south was to make fun of northerners in the winter.

We southerners are not equipped to deal with extreme cold and we panic at the very idea of snow. Actual snow is not necessary. All we need to see is a forecast predicting flurries or temperatures below 40 degrees and we declare a State of Emergency. We run to the nearest grocery store and buy it out of bread, milk, and eggs. We clean the hardware stores out of salt and we prepare to burn our furniture.

It was January and it was cold. It wasn’t just cold outside. It was cold inside. I live in a historic home. By “historic,” I mean “drafty and probably insulated with newspapers.”

My old Victorian house found it impossible to cope with the single digit temperatures and my thermostat showed me that, despite the fact that it was set on 71, it was, in fact, only 55 degrees in my house.

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To add insult to injury, my most recent utility bill had been for $658….to keep my house at that balmy 55 degrees. There was ice on my windows. ON THE INSIDE.

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My Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was kicking into high gear.

I needed to go to the Bahamas.

We threw the dogs in the plane, shook the snow off our boots, and headed south for a long weekend.

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So, for all of you who are suffering through you own 9 months of winter, here is proof that warm places still exist. That the sun is still somewhere in the sky. That the world has not, in fact, been swallowed up by cold and snow, thrusting the universe into some eternal night like some end-of-the-world Bruce Willis movie.

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So, here is my parting message to Old Man Winter. We've had enough. You can move along now, and take that stupid groundhog with you.

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Posted by vicki_h 06:28 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco elbow_cay guana_cay Comments (4)

Stranded Naked in Abaco

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We should have known better than to plan a trip to the Abacos during a week when there were three, yes….THREE….big beach parties. I can barely keep myself in check when there is just the one Sunday Pig Roast at Nippers. However, the first week in July we found ourselves faced with the Sunday Pig Roast, the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party, and the 4th of July Celebration at Nippers.

Oh dear.

I have to apologize in advance to my mom and dad. And to my Granny. All of them will be reading this, trying to figure out what they did wrong all those years ago when they tried to teach me how to behave in public.

I’m sorry.

I did not behave like a lady. I did not use my inside voice. I did not eat my vegetables. I did not wait an hour after eating to get in the pool. I did not wash my hands before I ate. I did not act my age. I took candy from strangers. I talked with food in my mouth. I stayed up after midnight. I ate dessert for breakfast and ran through the house with scissors. I put my feet on the table. I jumped in the ocean without a life jacket. I wore that skirt that was too short.

An no, my face did not freeze that way. I did not catch my death of cold. I did not go blind. I did not fall and crack my head open.

I had the time of my life.

Day One:

The flight down to Abaco never disappoints me. The views from above are nothing short of a miracle of nature.

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I have to start by showing you photos of the trip down. I can’t help it. It’s a compulsion. I always take photos of the flight, the ferry, the plane. I can’t help it. I want you to know how I got there. Otherwise, I can just imagine you, dear reader, sitting in front of your computer screaming, “BUT HOW DID YOU GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE FERRY DOCK???? HOW???!!!! Did you take a bus? Did you ride a donkey? Did you hire a pedi-cab? For God’s sakes, I have to know!”

I just can’t do that to you.

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After an easy landing and a quick taxi ride, we found ourselves at Curly Tails with about an hour to spare before the Guana Cay ferry. That should have been enough time for drinks and lunch. Should have.

We had just ordered up some Bahama Mamas to kick off the trip when the 4 horses of the apocalypse came bearing down on us at breakneck speed.

The sky went from this:

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to this:

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in about 10 seconds. In case you don't see it, that is a wall of storm coming right at us.

We were soaked by the time we ran down to the ferry dock and grabbed our luggage. I think I ripped a shoulder muscle as I dragged my too heavy bag up the staircase. Then the power went out. And stayed out. We ran onto the ferry an hour later soaked and starving.

When we got to Guana, we didn’t even unpack or get cleaned up. We just headed straight to Grabbers for some dinner. That’s one of the many things I love about Guana Cay. No one cares if your hair looks like a wet dog and your clothes are a mess. Heck, you don’t even need shoes. Just come as you are.

A chicken-in-da-bag can cure a lot of ills.

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As can meeting a new friend.

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We called it an early night. We were tired and disheveled.

What we didn’t know was that “tired and disheveled” was pretty much going to describe us for the rest of the trip.

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Day two:

Good morning, Guana Cay!

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There is nothing I love more than a long, slow walk on the beach to watch the Guana sunrise.

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It was Sunday, so we made our way to Nippers. Of course we did.

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On every trip to Nippers on a Sunday I swear this will be the Sunday that I behave. It will be the Sunday that I don’t give in when the frozen Nippers start flowing and the young girls start dancing. The Sunday that I don’t have that extra frozen Nipper and find myself front and center, dancing badly, the oldest person in a bikini, singing loudly to the Village People.

That Sunday never seems to come. Before I know it, the Cupid Shuffle is playing and I have that extra Nipper. I pull out all my bad dance moves. I step on people’s feet. I frighten their children. By the end of the afternoon, I feel a need to throw an apology to the universe.

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Things always start off well. I am incredibly well intentioned. We found a table, enjoyed the view and sampled the buffet. We laughed with friends. We made new friends. It was all very civilized.

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But then these guys showed up and all hell broke loose:

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You know it's going to be a memorable afternoon when the patriotic thongs come out.

I know some people find the behavior at Nippers over-the-top. I remember reading one trip report where someone made fun of people dancing that thought they could dance but couldn’t. The way I see it, there is nothing better than a place where a person who dances badly can feel comfortable doing it.

Hello. My name is Vicki. And I am a bad dancer.

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Nippers is a place where those of us who are fairly uptight in our normal lives can let our hair down in a safe setting.

We had fun that day. Fun that I know I am technically too old for, but when those days come along, I find it’s best to just jump in and grab them. One day, they’ll stop coming.

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Somehow, we all made it out the other side intact.

The best end to a day at Nippers is a pizza at Grabbers. So, with the final rays of the setting sun, we ended the night. Sure, we were tired and disheveled, but we had made memories that we wouldn’t forget.

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Day Three:

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Looking forward to a quieter day, we decided to take the boat to north Guana. It was very windy and this seemed like a good way to test the boating conditions before we got overzealous.

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I agree that Bakers Bay is the root of all that is evil on Guana Cay. I would prefer that they had never developed the pristine end of this beautiful island. When I see those beautiful beaches now covered with mega-mansions, it makes my heart hurt. I remember when it was nothing but a blinding stretch of perfect white sand, fringed with palms that waved ever so slightly in the breeze, with the bluest waters of the island lapping gently at the shore.

But Bakers Bay is there now. There’s no stopping it. And I have to admit that I do like the restaurants. They provide a much needed break from bouncing back and forth between Nippers and Grabbers, which we tend to do like a giant, over-carbed volleyball.

On the way to the beach, we stopped at the Conch Shack for lunch.

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This drink was not only delicious, it was gorgeous. Like a little tie-dye cup of happy.

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The shrimp salad was to-die-for good. Giant, plump grilled shrimp on a bed of lettuce drizzled in creamy balsamic goodness and topped with fried onions.

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We wandered around the grounds a bit. After eyeing a dress in their clothing boutique that turned out to be $1050, I started wondering if I was in the Hamptons again and decided it was time to get back on the boat before I started getting an inferiority complex.

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It was too windy to make it all the way around the point so we stopped a bit short and couldn’t have been happier.

It was a slice of heaven.

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This is my favorite thing to do on Guana. Nothing compares to an afternoon spent on a long, deserted stretch of perfect beach, when the water is calm and clear, the colors changing from bright turquoise to cool blue to indigo as the ocean stretches toward the horizon. The boat rocks gently in the water and the soft sounds of the radio fill your head as you do nothing more than float on an endless sea.

It is my perfect moment.

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That evening, we had a potluck of sorts. We met up on the deck and several households brought what they had. We had been given a ridiculous amount of fresh caught fish the day before by some guys that were flying home and didn't want to carry it with them.

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There was grilled fish, peas n’rice, salad, tuna sashimi, and a chocolate concoction that I had managed make with the weird ingredients I had mish-mashed together from the grocery store.

It was so much better than those potluck dinners we used to have at work sometimes, where we always ended up with some overcooked sausage balls, four dishes of baked beans, and weird tuna salad.

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Good-night, Guana.

Day Four:

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The boating had been good the day before, despite the wind and choppy water, so we decided to make it an Elbow Cay kind of day.

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We hit Tahiti Beach right at low tide. Tahiti amazes me because it never looks the same twice. This time it was more blue than green and the sandbar had made an impressive entrance.

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We caught Austin from Lubbers Landing doing his thing. He was amazing on that kite board.

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The guys anchored the boat.

Or so we thought.

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Everyone was wandering about in the shallow water, spread from here to there, when a stranger started waving frantically at me. I was halfway to Tilloo, wading through the shallow water so I couldn't hear what he was saying. He was shouting and jumping up and down.

Because I couldn’t hear what he was saying, and because he looked positively frantic, I jumped to the only logical conclusion: there must be a great white shark behind me.

Holy Crap! I started running toward the sandbar, certain that death was upon me. I was in knee deep water, so this was not a graceful run. I was high stepping it like a drunken drum major. I was going so slow that I might have been going backwards.

I was nearing a panic attack. Not a butterflies in the stomach panic attack. Not a going down a roller coaster panic attack. Not a nervous first date panic attack. No. I felt like I was about to jump into a pit of rattlesnakes while being chased by clowns.

Not funny clowns. The scary kind.

My heart was racing. My breath was pounding. That little vein in my temple even started to throb. I couldn’t move fast enough. I would have simply curled up in the fetal position if it hadn’t been for the fact that I would have drowned. And then gotten eaten by that shark.

Dammit. I KNEW this would eventually happen if I came to the Bahamas enough times.

He was still jumping and waving. I knew the end was near.

That’s when I got close enough to hear him.

He was not shouting, “There’s a big freakin’ shark behind you,” as I was certain he was. No. He was saying, “Is that your boat?”

I was so confused that at first my brain couldn’t process the question.

Shark? Boat? Shark? What?

That’s when I saw a tiny speck on the horizon that I recognized as our boat.

Oh dear God. The panic attack was back. But this time the clowns had machine guns.

Matt and John were REALLY, REALLY far away and I had no idea where Kelley was. Holy hell. I was already exhausted from the shark run. Now I had to run to the other side of the universe to tell them the boat anchor hadn't held and the boat was well on its way to Africa. So now, I was running toward them, still high stepping it through the water, but this time I was the one waving my arms and shouting.

I was like Tattoo from Fantasy Island. “Da boat! Da boat!” I screamed as I flailed and ran. I knew they figured out what was going on when I saw the “Oh shit” look on their faces.

That’s when they started running.

So now, all three of us are running, knees to chin, through the water, screaming. I’m not sure if we thought we could run to the boat, which was now at Lubbers Quarters, but we kept running because we didn’t know what else to do.

By the time we reached the sandbar, we realized a stranger had taken his boat from Tahiti to retrieve our runaway. He was towing it back to us. I have said it before and I will say it again: you won’t find kinder people on any island anywhere than you will in the Abacos.

To the stranger that saved our boat that day: Thank You.

And I am sorry if I scared your little boy when I was running and screaming about sharks and clowns.

The guys got the boat PROPERLY anchored and we resumed our beach day.

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As though giving us a little gift to make up for the Great Boat Chase of July 2013, God provided the Tahiti Beach Hot Tub.

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We found this perfect little spot after wading through the shallow water toward Tilloo. There it was, a perfect circle of white sand in the midst of an endless bed of sea grass. It was about 2 feet deeper in this one spot than the seagrass bed around it.

How unbelievably cool. We made it ours and dropped in to relax with some cold drinks until our fingers pruned.

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All the running and screaming had left me famished, so we loaded up in the boat, which was blessedly still nearby, and motored over to Lubbers Quarters.

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Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than the saltwater margarita, they had to go and dazzle me with the caipiroska. The recipe says: two muddled limes, organic cane sugar, & 3 oz of Stoli vodka. What it doesn’t say is that she oozes this amazing sugar syrup on the top.

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As we waited for our food, the guys became obsessed with the “around the pole hook and ring game.” I think men just like anything that involves a floor to ceiling pole.

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Or maybe they were just enticed by the free shot of Patron for a successful ring.

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I decided to have the island burger – a ground tuna patty filled with some kind of mysterious spices, so delicious that it makes my mouth water just to think about it. I think they are putting a narcotic in there. Because I’m pretty sure I’d be willing to knock over an old lady or a small child to get at one of those burgers.

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After lunch, we all agreed that the dockside sofa at Lubbers Quarters is the single most perfect spot in all of the Abacos. Maybe in the entire world.

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Back on the boat, which we kissed every time we saw it, thankful it wasn’t in Cuba by now, we motored over to Hopetown to grab a drink at the Reef Bar.

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We were excited to see that Gary was back! The last time we visited, he had moved across the harbor, but it was great to see him back where he belonged.

The Reef Bar just isn’t the Reef Bar without Gary.

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We had enjoyed our lunch at Bakers Bay the day before enough that we decided to try it out for dinner. Okay, we really went because I had packed a maxi dress and where else are you going to wear a maxi dress on Guana????

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The guys were still all jacked up from that free Patron and it was all we could do to keep them in the cart long enough to get to the other side of the island. Random bouts of erratic street dancing kept delaying us.

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We finally made it. I hate to admit how pretty Bakers Bay is, but yeah, it’s pretty. Even at night.

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We grabbed a table outside the Market Restaurant. Only on Guana Cay will you find that the restaurant that comes the closest to “fine dining” is a combo grocery market-deli-restaurant with a table of souvenirs thrown in for good measure. Reminds me of the Video-Tanning-Gas Stations we have back home in TN.

The setting was lovely, the drinks were tasty, and the food was delicious.

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After dinner, we wandered down to the waterside bar. That’s when John spotted the bell.

You know how you can’t help but pop bubble wrap when you see it? That was John with that bell. He was mesmerized. He just couldn’t help but ….…..ring it.

As soon as he did, the bartender said, “All right everybody! This man’s buying a round!” Everyone clapped and she proceeded to go around the bar and take everyone’s order.

$120 worth of drinks later, we knew what the bell was for.

Thank goodness there were only 12 other people at the bar. Dear lord, what if there was a bell at Nipper’s??? You could end up with a second mortgage on your house.

It was worth every penny to see the look of disbelief on John’s face. Every. Penny.

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We managed to make it through the night without Johnny ringing another bell. Actually, he’ll probably never ring another bell. Ever.

Day Five:

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For an island chain that hosts one of the biggest beach parties in the universe EVERY SUNDAY, you’d think there couldn’t be anything too special about simply moving that beach party to a different location and calling it by a different name, right? No, this wasn’t the Nippers Sunday Pig Roast. Today was July 3rd. This was the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party.

A small, uninhabited cay just off of Green Turtle has become the host to one of Abacos biggest parties of the year. What began as a few friends grilling up some burgers on the beach has become hundreds of boats, 1200 cheeseburgers, 100 turkey burgers, 450 hot dogs, 450 pounds of french fries, 100 gallons of margaritas, and 100 gallons of rum punch. Throw in some temporary tattoos, hula hoops, a limbo contest, and top it off with some Jimmy Buffet music and you have the annual Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party on Fiddle Cay.

Did I mention that it is all FREE?

No one is actually naked.

At least I didn’t see them.

It’s just a big beach party and everyone who has a boat is invited.

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We had never been, but we always wanted to go. Just to see what it was all about. We had timed our trip to coincide with the event this time. We were finally going to get stranded naked. The ride over was filled with the beautiful sights we have come to expect from the Sea of Abaco.

When we arrived at Fiddle Cay, I knew quickly that this was no Sunday Pig Roast.

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Crewed yachts were tying up to dingys. Luxury power boats with triple 250s were saddled up beside rental Whalers with 75 hp engines that were jimmied up with duct tape. Hundreds of boats were carefully placing themselves around a deserted island as what looked to be about a thousand people drifted in the shallow water toward the shore.

Pool floats were blown up and set adrift. Tables and chairs were erected in the water and tied down with cement blocks and rope in a manner that would have made McGuyver proud. The smell of grilled beef and boat fuel filled the air as Jimmy Buffet music pumped out of the speakers, competing with a hundred different boat radios. Depending on which way your turned your head, you could listen to Margaritaville, Zac Brown, or Daft Punk. Girls in bikinis strolled through the water with coolers full of beer tied to their waists, men carried gallons of rum punch on boogie boards, beer bongs flowed off the backs of cruisers.

For a people watcher like me, I’d hit the mother lode.

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As we wandered up toward shore to find the cheeseburger line, a guy in a bandana and sunglasses approached me.

"Are you our photographer?" he asked, eyeing my giant camera.

"Um....no," I replied.

"Do you want to be? Meet me at that sign in 9 minutes. I have to go round up some girls in bikinis."

And that, my friends, is how I got commandeered to take the sponsor photos for the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party.

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My compensation was excellent: a temporary tattoo, a free tank top, and....the best part....I got to get in the front of the cheeseburger line.

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Walk softly and carry a big camera, I always say.

It was a crazy afternoon, as more and more people arrived. I think I heard one person say that they waited in line for 4 hours for a burger. Drinks flowed. Music pounded. Frisbees and footballs flew through the air. Girls danced on the backs of boats. Kids did backflips in the shallow water. Dogs rolled in the sand.

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I have never seen anything like it.

Oh, dear sweet Jesus, my hair – I was tapping my inner Chewbacca.

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We stayed until late in the afternoon, and as the sun began to drop low in the sky, we saw how much the wind had picked up and realized it was going to be rough going back to Guana. The seas were choppy and rolling. The waves were big. We had an hour long ride.

As we unhitched ourselves from the safety of the giant motor yacht next to us and began rocking to and fro as we motored out of the protected shallow waters, I began to regret eating that hot dog and fries after I finished my hamburger and knew I never should have had those last couple of drinks that stranger was pouring out of a gallon jug. I wondered just how long it would be before I threw up on myself.

Matt gave us all some really good boat advice before we hit it: "Hold on. Don't fall out. And if you have to puke, do it with the wind, not into it. Hang on!"

And away we went. As we hit against the first wave with a smack, raising my butt about 6 inches off the seat as the boat started bouncing violently against the water, I instantly knew this boat ride was going to be awful. It's all fun and games until someone loses a bikini top. Or their last meal.

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Thankfully, we all made it back without anyone getting sick, although I'm pretty sure I had chipped a couple of pieces off of my tailbone.

We had a quiet evening at Pirate's, wolfed down some ribs and lobster, and went to bed thanking the sea for not capsizing our boat.

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Day Six:

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It was July 4th, and although Bahamian Independence Day is celebrated on July 10th, Guana Cay was celebrating Uncle Sam all day long. We knew that Nippers was having a big party later in the afternoon, and we were all still a little rubber legged from the previous day's boating, so we decided to chill at the house for the morning and have a good, old fashioned cook-out for lunch.

First, we made a morning run to see the dream tree. People hang their dreams on this tree.

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Apparently, most peoples' dreams look a lot like dirty mooring balls and bobbers.

We grilled up the rest of the fish for lunch and paired it with a key lime pie we'd found at the Grocery that morning.

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We also found Harrison.

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Typically, I would describe a little boy as noise with some dirt on it. But Harrison might have been the coolest kid I ever met. And the cutest. We thought about making his parents an offer, but we were pretty sure they wouldn't sell him.

After lunch, we stopped at Dive Guana to take a look at a boat that had run up on the rocks earlier in the week. This is called "How to ruin a vacation in 10 seconds flat:"

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Ouch.

Then it was time to head back to Nippers, the scene of Sunday's madness.

You know that old saying about learning from your mistakes? Yeah, well, that doesn’t apply to me so much. I make a lot of mistakes. Like, a lot of them. And every time I do something stupid, I say to myself afterwards, “Self, we are not going to do THAT again.” A couple of days later I do that again. I don't know. Maybe I’m just a really slow learner, and one day I will eventually learn not to repeat my mistakes – like when I’m a hundred.

Or when I’m dead.

I think a better saying for 2 Nippers parties in one week is "Like a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly."

Sigh. Here we go again.

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As it always does, it started off nice enough.

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But then these guys showed up again.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Nippers.............. the thongs come out again.

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Let's just say there was a lot of patriotic enthusiasm that day.

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Things really took a turn when this huge group of guys showed up with a bunch of scantily clad girls and started buying TRAYS of Nippers and passing them out to everyone. TRAYS, people. TRAYS OF FREE NIPPERS.

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Sweet funky moses.

Apparently, Lindsay Lohan is not the only person spending her fortune on booze and hot pants.

When the 3rd tray of drinks showed up, we knew it was time to get out of there before someone needed a stomach pump. We headed to Grabbers to bring things down a notch.

Steel Daddy was playing and the sun was putting on a dazzling display.

Matt and John did a little paddle boarding and we snacked on some ribs and pizza.

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We headed back to Nippers to catch the fireworks with Harrison.

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Day Seven:

The guys got up really early the next morning to go fishing. The sky was exceptionally gorgeous that morning.

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The sea had been rough all week. And Matt and John had more than their share of those free Nippers the day before. Even a Grabbers pizza couldn't cure a free Nipper hangover.

They looked a little green.

Rough seas, the smell of bait, and a slight hangover did not sound like a good combination to me. They were just asking to get sick. They were both a little worried. "Should we take some Dramamine?" I heard John ask Matt as they headed out.

The feeling of seasickness starts as a distressful lurching in the stomach. Then there is that slight dizziness that comes when you get a nose full of boat fumes wafting through the air. You then find yourself making a heroic effort to force your stomach contents to remain in their rightful place, only to end up leaning over the railing, hoping no one will notice, as you hurl to the sea.

It happens to the best of us and I was pretty sure it was going to happen to one of them before the morning was over.

Poor John. Apparently, he was the one that the vomit fairy paid a visit to that day.

There is no good way to vomit politely on a fishing boat when you are a guest. I am guessing that he first went through a stage of denial. If you've ever been there, you know. That's when you start to feel a little green, but you look at your fishing companions and say, "Wow. I feel really good. Don't you? It's refreshing out here. I love the smell of that bait."

Denial is a bad idea when you are a guest on a boat and you know you are getting seasick. Why? Because what you should be doing is immediately moving into position. The only thing worse than vomiting in front of the other guys on a deep sea fishing trip is vomiting on the other guys on a deep sea fishing trip.

Hopefully, he was smart enough to vomit with, not into, the wind. Releasing your breakfast is bad enough. You don't want it to blow back on you so that you not only get to experience it a second time, but a third.

Despite the fact that he was probably gray and was no doubt wobbling around the boat in a manner that made the other guys wonder if he was about to die, John did what any man would do when seasick on a deep sea fishing trip.

He stopped. He barfed. Then he fished.

A little vomit never stopped a man from fishing. It takes a real man to haul in two giant tuna while tossing his cookies over the side of the boat.

While the guys fished (and vomited), Kelley and I slept in. Then we took a run into town to visit Bear, the dog king of Guana, and to do some shopping at Gone Conchin', a great place to lighten your wallet if it's too heavy for the trip home.

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When the boys returned, we packed up the boat and headed to Man-O-War.

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We pulled the boat into the shallow beach that sits at the narrowest point on the island.

It was amazing. The island is barely the width of the road, with the sea on one side and the ocean on the other.

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Since it was our last day, we had made a picnic lunch of all the food we had leftover. It reminded me of Sunday nights when I was a kid. We ate all the leftovers from the week and called it "FFY Night." This meant "fend for yourself." There was never enough of any one thing to make a meal, so you ended up with a little bit of this and a little bit of that until you had enough to call it a meal.

A bbq rib, half a sandwich, a bite of potato salad, a handful of Doritos, an orange slice, and three Fig Newtons.

With that view, it could have been chateaubriand and creme brulee and it couldn't have tasted any better.

After lunch, we headed into the harbor to visit the sail shop.

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We hadn't gotten 3 steps from the boat when a little golf cart pulled up with a white haired lady and a box full of still warm cinnamon rolls.

Miss Lola!

I greedily handed over my $7 and clutched my still warm rolls like a prize. I think at one point I was stroking the bag and whispering, "my precious...." but I can't be sure.

I can tell you that the rolls got eaten before I remembered to take a picture of them.

Yes. They are that good.

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We enjoyed picturesque Man-O-War before calling it a day and heading back to Guana.

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For our final dinner, we decided to try the reopened restaurant at Orchid Bay. The first thing we noticed was that it had a spectacular sunset view.

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The Greek salad was fresh and the lobster was incredibly tender.

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We wrapped it up with a final Grabber as the lights of the sailboats bobbled about in the harbor.

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Day Eight:

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It had been a full week of overdo. I had eaten enough sugar to put a diabetic into a coma and had more fried food than can be found at the Texas State Fair. I hadn't gotten enough sleep, my rear end had boat sores, and my calves were sore from one too many bad dance moves. I was dehydrated, exhausted, and my pedicure was badly chipped. I probably needed a liver transplant.

Don't worry. I promise to run five miles as soon as I finish typing this paragraph and eat nothing but fruits and vegetables for the next 10 days.

After all, I'm headed back to Abaco in a few weeks.

I gotta' get ready.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:41 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco guana_cay Comments (7)

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