Instead of succumbing to the usual Thanksgiving helter skelter, I jetted off with my parents and my son to Herron Hill Villa on Great Exuma, Bahamas (thanks to my pal Scott Lowman for the use of his place). Another stamp in the passport, another round of vacation related injuries, and I’m back in time for the holidays only a little worse for wear. As usual, I came back from the trip with a few lessons learned, a few friends made and a few days of recovery time ahead of me. As poet Moslih Eddin Saadi once said, “A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” My observations may not do Saadi’s talent justice, but they are anyway:
- Irony is not lost on Bahamians. They don’t work on Sundays and often seem to be on island time but Bahamians (Exumians at least) are quick with a come back and the art of irony certainly isn’t lost on them. We weren’t on the island even two hours before a guy named ‘U.S. Marshall’ tried to sell me, and I quote, “The best smoke on the island.” Never mind that Mary Jane is illegal in the Bahamas or that I was traveling with my parents and son and standing not 10 feet from them at the time, what really struck me as rich was his self-appointed name combined with his occupation. Americans may not understand how to apply the use of irony, but those crafty Bahamians sure do.
- You can make a manta ray your pet. We all know you can litter box train a cat or teach your favorite pooch to shake. Hell, you can even teach a ferret not to piss on your favorite shoes. But, on Stocking Island, just across from Great Exuma, the owners of Chat n Chill (not Hurry Up n Harass as one NOLA native was reminded when she tried to rush the owner) have domesticated a manta ray. Do yourself a favor and buy the ridiculously tasty conch salad (better known as ceviche stateside) and they’ll give you the inedible parts to hand feed to the ray. He never leaves the area because he knows a good thing when he sees it, but if you shriek like a school girl when he sucks that conchy goodness from your hand, you might be tempted to leave with a quickness.
- Unlike Exumian residents, island hornets are not laid back. Apparently, I can’t travel without being stung by the local wildlife. You may be aware of my run in with a lime urchin in the USVI earlier this year. If you’re not, you can read all about it on my blog post Sea Urchins are Bastards (I know, I know … shameless self promotion. If you don’t get why, read this post). Well, this go round I had a close encounter with a hoard of angry Bahamian hornets. These little bastards really pack a punch. The proof? Well, the locals told me so but, if that’s not enough street cred for ya, how does three days with an appendage that looked like the backside of the elephant man sound? Still, those hornets were nothing the maintenance man couldn’t handle using only some gasoline and a match. It’s amazing how fast a hornet nest burns.
- The best local food on Exuma is at The Fish Fry. The name may sound like your redneck uncle Cooter’s annual Thanksgiving dinner, but this place is actually a hodge podge of colorful shacks owned by local purveyors of fine Bahamian cuisine sold at a reasonable prices. Even better? On weekend evenings, this spot also turns into quite the outdoor nightclub too. My first day on the island I got a platter full of grilled lobster and grouper from a chef named Charlie (he had the chef hat and everything), and the night before we left I attended a late night party worthy of Atlanta circa 1993 (complete with club ‘hos) in the very same spot, and I even got to leave my stripper heels at home. Good thing too because we all know how easily my ankles break … quick sand anyone?
- Swimming pigs exist. When I first posted a note about this on my Facebook page, all my friends thought I was having LSD induced flashbacks. After assuring them this was not the case, I posted some pictures of these crazy hogs as proof that I wasn’t losing my mind. No one knows for sure why the pigs are on the island: Haitian ship went down and the pigs were resourceful enough to swim for shore? Farmers drop them there rather than care for them? Who really knows. Hell, who really cares, the main point here is that pigs may not be able to fly but they sure can swim! Just don’t try to hand feed them unless you want to draw back a nub.
- Giant Exumian rock iguanas love bread. These endangered bad boys love them some stale bread and look hilarious when they’re running after you to get it. They’re not easy to find though, as they live on only a handful of the 365 islands in the Exuma Cays. Find the right tour company, however, (enter Starfish Adventure Center) and you’re on your way to tossing crumbs at the modern day equivalent of dinosaurs … just a little smaller … I mean, they’re not going to be destroying Tokyo anytime soon but, with just a little imagination, you can definitely imagine what life might have been like for the neanderthal set.
- Kaine is skeered of starfish. These aren’t just any old starfish, they’re the largest ones in the Western hemisphere and they’re easily found at the aptly named Starfish Beach just off Great Exuma. Starfish Beach, giant starfish, Starfish Adventure Center … do you see a pattern developing here? We got to see one of these mammoth, spiny crustaceans eating some seaweed and learned that they stay secure on the ocean floor by taking in water; without the water as a weight, starfish actually float. Despite this marine education by Lyndsay and Neville Sears of Starfish Adventure Center, Kaine wanted nothing to do with holding them … because he was skeered.
- He may be scared of starfish, but Kaine sure can snorkel. He may find starfish icky but swimming by a 3-foot barracuda and its shiny sharp teeth didn’t faze him at all. Seriously, this kid is one hell of a snorkeler despite being a late blooming swimmer. He was the first one off the boat and was already out at the reef before I even had both my fins on my feet. We gave him a noodle because the tide was rough and the current was strong but he gave it to me after about five minutes because he wanted to dive down to the bottom (in 15 to 20 feet of water no less) to look at the coral and fish close up. I’m always carrying his discarded crap, but this time I didn’t mind because my proud mom bells were chiming so loud. Guess I’m going to have to make good on that scuba certification promise after all.
- Beach volleyball is not my sport. I know, I know … what could be so hard about one of the most beloved beach sports of all time (I mean, aside from the scratchy sand in all the wrong places)? Well, apparently, my fragile body can’t take the abuse and I’ve got the big black bruise on my serving hand to prove it. Kaine loves beach volleyball and forced me to play four games over two days despite my pained protests. Two weeks later and my hand has healed but Kaine’s ego has not … his old ass mom beat him in a full half of said games.
- TSA agents are douchebags. Okay, so this is no surprise to anyone who travels regularly or who has read my blog. What was news to me is that they’re even douchebags outside the security line at the airport. To be honest, I’ve always suspected that the TSA hires a certain sort of person for that job (control freak, delusions of grandeur, Napoleon complex) but the bus ride back to the park and ride lot confirmed this. It’s too long a story to tell in its entirety here but suffice it to say that the behavior of the these four chuckleheads was so abysmal that even my 12-year-old son couldn’t believe it. Thank you Homeland Security for gracing us with the presence of these antisocial assholes.
You can check out more pictures of the first annual Pruden vacation on my Facebook page.