Some songs are like time machines, they have the ability to transport me straight back to the past and conjure up distant memories. In that respect I suppose I have always paid attention to the music that has accompanied my life. For some unknown reason when we arrived in the Bahamas, Kiera, Alex and I all started singing “Baby I Love Your Way” without knowing who had started first and once we got going, it just stuck in our heads. As soon as one of us started singing it, the others could not help but join in until, in the end, it drove us all mad. “Baby I Love Your Way” will now forever remind me of our wonderful holiday on Eleuthera.
We travelled there from Miami and our trip to the airport was not without incident. Jim and Maggie very kindly offered to take us all (Peter, Alex, Kiera, James and myself) to the airport in Fort Lauderdale, about a one hour’s drive from Miami. En route Jim’s car had a blow out on the interstate, which was a bit scary, but he managed to pull the car over onto the broad shoulder and fortunately Maggie, who was following behind, was also able to pull over. Anxious not to miss our flight, we all piled into Maggie’s car (with our luggage, fishing and diving gear, and a coolbox of frozen meat) and reluctantly abandoned Jim on the side of the highway waiting for the AA. Trying to get back onto the highway was hair-raising but Maggie eventually managed to pull out into the oncoming traffic (I closed my eyes!) and got us to the airport safe and sound and in good time. We all spilled out of the car at the airport like clowns in a circus act, much to our own amusement and that of onlookers.
After leaving Jim on the side off the road, we almost lost his son as well. Security at American airports is hectic and James, bless his cotton socks, had forgotten that he had a fishing knife in his carry-on dive bag. It was touch and go whether they were going to detain him, but fortunately good sense prevailed and we all boarded the little 18 seater turbo prop plane together. Eleuthera is perched on the northeastern edge of the Great Bahama Bank, approximately 370 km east of Miami and we arrived at Governor’s Harbour airport about an hour later, at 7pm.
We were met by Freddie Ferguson, a local methodist church organist and preacher on the island, and the go-to guy who oversees our rented villa. On the way to the villa we inquired about buying booze and were informed that bottle stores were closed and that we would not be able to buy alcohol the next day either, it being Sunday and all. Freddy, seeing that this situation was causing us some distress, took us to what in S.A. we would call a shebeen. It was a bit of a dive but we managed to procure, from a back room, some bottles of French wine, numerous bottles of Kalik (the local beer) and a half-jack of rum, decanted from a vat. I could see that Alex was a bit jumpy (memories of the Nigerian incident in Point Road, no doubt) but it really was just unnecessary South African paranoia. Freddy assured us that there is no crime on the island and I can well believe it.
Our villa was right on Rainbow Beach, a pristine Caribbean beach with clean, clear turquoise water lapping gently against the soft, sandy shore. Although it was high tourist season, the island was very quiet and it felt as if we had the whole place to ourselves. As I sat at the kitchen counter writing this, with a view of the garden and beach beyond, I was reminded of all the family beach holidays we’ve had with the kids over the years, up and down the coast of KwaZulu-Natal; the slip-slops at the door, beach towels hanging over the veranda ballustrade, kikois draped on the back of bar stools, and the braai out the back. And I felt as if my heart could burst! James and Kiera got Alex hooked on fishing, and I loved seeing the three of them heading off to the beach with all their fishing gear, chatting and laughing together. I know how much I miss Kiera but I never thought about how much Kiera and Alex must miss each other. This beach holiday, casual and relaxed, was the perfect opportunity for us all to reconnect. And it was fun preparing meals again with Kiera perched at the counter keeping me company. Just like old times except that now I am much more aware of how precious moments like that are.
James’ family arrived on the island a day later than us and rented another house nearby. On New Year’s Eve we bought some fresh crayfish and hogfish (a type of rass) from local fishermen on the quay and joined James’ family for splendid dinner together and afterwards a hilarious game of Famous People, a game Alex taught us, which is a combination of 30 seconds and charades. After seeing the New Year in with James’ folk, we went down to the beach to lie on the sand and listen to the rhythmic sound of the waves lapping gently against the shore and watch a million twinkling stars above us. What better way to see in 2013?
At the northern tip of Eleuthera there is a small island called Harbour Island which is only accessible by boat. We took a day trip there and discovered a place that was more in keeping with my preconceived idea of a Bahamian island – quaint, colourful houses; miles of sandy beaches; palm trees and beachfront restaurants. The rest of Eleuthera is more rugged and less manicured, but as a result, Harbour Island is much more touristy. We caught a water taxi to get to the island and then hired golf carts to get around. The beaches there are truly gorgeous, with soft, pink sand and gentle waves, and the vibe is fun. We met up with James’ family and had lunch together in a beachside restaurant which served the most delicious crab cakes I have ever eaten, and the margueritas (with habenero and scotch bonnet chillis steeped in pineapple juice) weren’t bad either. This is definitely a holiday destination for the well-heeled but it is well worth a visit.
Back at Rainbow Bay we dined on lobster and fish bought from the local fishermen, and drank copious amounts of the local beer. James’ cousin, John, and his girlfriend, Jamie, were also dab hands at concocting the most wonderful rum cocktails and a good time was, I believe, had by all!
However, there is always a snake in the garden of Eden, and on Eleuthera it was the dreaded no-see-ums (bugs so small you can’t see ‘um) that created a few problems for Peter and me. One night we slept with the screen closed but the window open not realising that these little bastards are small enough to get through the mesh. By the time we left we had started developing a rather alarming and seriously itchy rash on our arms and legs. When we got back to Washington we looked as if we were suffering from a nasty infectious ailment. At first I thought that we had scabies but after googling it we were reassured that our bumps were indeed caused by vicious no-see-ums.
When we arrived on Eleuthera I had to pinch myself about being on the Bahamas. When we left, I was scratching myself instead.