The ship felt as if it was coming to a stop--a slow sort of dragging--as it made its way into port in Freeport, Grand Bahamas. I woke up and looked out the window. The color of the water had changed and was clear light greenish-blue. I woke Dayo up and told him we were coming to port. Arriving in the Bahamas for my birthday was like being in a dream, but I had just awoken from one as well. I was ready to get off the ship.
When all was said and done down at the port, our prearranged taxi driver took us to the Sheraton at our Lucaya resort, where we would be staying for the next two nights. The ride there was an easy one, with little bumps or hassles. I took my first look at the Bahamas, squashed between the driver and my friend in the front of the three-seated cab. At first glimpse, the island seemed a bit drier than I imagined. It had a Mediterranean feel like Ibiza, but there was also a lot of damage from last season’s hurricanes. You could see the trees that had been bulldozed over from what had to have been, at the very least, 60mph winds.
The resort was beautiful. It was pretty much the typical Sheraton; however, the stunning, pristine beach seen from all the windows made me want to forget the room keys and head straight to the beach. After check-in, we dropped our bags off and went to handle the first line of business. I really wanted to feast as much as possible on local foods so we went in search of a local restaurant. Being on a resort makes it a little difficult to find reasonably priced dining and also the homestyle cooking found in a real Bahamian kitchen, but we asked around and came to the Caribbean Café.
I wanted to try something completely new and ordered a dish called Grio. Grio is diced pork with a coleslaw-like concoction doused on top. This coleslaw like dressing is extremely spicy and I like my food that way. The sides included real coleslaw as well as fried plantains. Dayo played it safe and ordered jerk chicken. We settled in nicely in the restaurant drinking Bahama Mamas, laughing and toasting to my birthday. The food was highly delicious, and the restaurant atmosphere was fairly sleepy, with a very sweet girl as our server. We knew in the two days we were staying on the island that we would certainly be back for seconds.
We wandered around some more in the Port Lucaya shopping center, looking in a couple of the shops. The straw market was also located around the corner, which we scooted past, as I had been to quite a few straw markets in the past. I wasn’t in the mood to haggle, and just when I thought I was home free, we ran into Zena. She was a pudgy Bahamian woman trying to lure tourists to the new Ritz Carlton resort with free breakfasts and gifts. We tried to kindly explain that we weren’t interested, but she insisted and we played along.
Traveling as a man and a woman in the Bahamas will instantly type you as a married couple. Dayo and I aren’t married, but we acted for a few or just laughed and explained we were good friends. Zena, on the other hand, needed us to be married for us to get our free gifts, so I filled out some fake information and hurried the conversation along so we could get out of Dodge. Again, we weren’t interested in any free gifts; we just wanted to relax and stroll the quiet streets as we figured out what we would do for the rest of the evening.
I picked up a local ‘What To Do Guide’ before heading into the hotel room for a little while. It was filled information on sites and day trips to take part in on the island. I didn’t find a lot on nightlife, but I figured someone in the hotel could point us to a couple of cool places to go dancing. Being a danceaholic, I wanted to find a fun place to shake my groove thang before the night’s end. Dayo knew I wouldn’t want to be surrounded by tourists and went to ask what spots would be best for dancing amongst the natives. The first few suggestions didn’t turn out too hot.
Our first stop placed us back in the square of the Port Lucaya shopping center where we watched two women do tribute songs and covers. They were entertaining, but there were also a lot of kids around who also found them very entertaining seeing they were the only ones really dancing. Port Lucaya at night is good for bars, but that was really about it. The next attempt had us wiping from one spot to another in a taxi as the driver tried to think of local dance hangouts. She failed miserably finding anything that could make me happy and just when we were about to give up we found Timmy.
Timmy is another taxi driver. He is one who should be avoided when visiting the Grand Bahamas at all costs, or he’ll cost you a fortune. Though he was good at overcharging for the cab rides, he was better at picking some of the best locations to show us on the island and knew exactly what we were looking for when we asked about a local dance club. He dropped us off at ‘The Hut.’
Dayo and I had to have been the only out-of-towners in ‘The Hut,’ which was perfect. No drunk tourists getting jiggy with it. The DJ spun the latest soca, dance hall, and reggae riddims back-to-back. The dance floor was pretty small and even smaller with many non-dancing folks just sucking up space on the floor. Even though other people didn’t dance quite as much as we did, we had a blast. Well, I know I did for sure.
When Timmy dropped us off at the hotel that night he suggested some other sites, which took us into day two.
On day two of my Bahamian Birthday Bash, we started the day off with a Bahamian breakfast at a local restaurant two miles down the road away from the resort. Timmy took us of course and set a time to pick us back up. Dayo and I both ordered the stewed fish with Johnny Cake for breakfast. The Johnny Cake, which is a little like cornbread, was fairly tasty, but the stewed fish did nothing for me. Luckily, Dayo was happy with both.
Timmy mentioned the Lucayan National Park as a place we might want to check out and for the price of $60 round trip he would take us there. I thought this was a bit much seeing it wasn’t even an hour out, but we rolled with the punches. When you don’t plan ahead you fail to find out that the hotel could have arranged such activity for no charge. Maybe we’ll keep that in mind for next time.
In the meantime, the park was a good stop. The hike through the park isn’t tough at all, and across the road you’ll find a makeshift bridge through the swamp that leads to a secluded beach. The swamp was muggy and full of mangroves. There was a huge rain cloud hanging from above, but we figured we could get in an out fast enough to avoid the rain. Ten minutes passed just as we had made it onto the beach before the drizzling turned into a downpour. We ran under a covered picnic area not too far off and waited for the rain to stop.
This beach was amazing, though. If the sun had been shining, it would have been fantastic! It wasn’t that the water was clear, but it was also the cleanest water both of us had seen. I’d definitely go back to this beach if I ever made it back to Freeport, but it was time to head back and take advantage of all that beach behind the resort.
The sun was sure shining when we got back to the Sheraton, and out to the waters we ran! I tested my cartwheel and handstand skills on the soft sand, splashing my way into the water when I lost my footing but laughing the entire time. Dayo could have easily been mistaken for a real photographer, the way he captured shots of my silliness.
And so the day continued, as the one before it had begun, like a dream. Happy, happy birthday to me!!!
If you go:
--Avoid Timmy the taxi driver
--The West End has the best conch salad on the island. A must-have!
--A ride through 8-mile can score you some of the best ribs ever at a little yellow establishment. I believe the name is Beretta’s.