Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lobster Roll and Nassau Challenges

Two substantial lobster tails in one night was a little too much lobster for me to really handle, so once I filled up on the pasta and one tail I took the other tail's meat and mixed it with a little local hot sauce, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mixed it all together and put in the fridge. The next morning I woke up early to make the most of the last three or so hours I had before Wallace picked me up and drove me to the airport. That included a cup of tea and a grilled cheese/lobster roll as a sandwich, which turned out pretty well I must say.
And then suddenly Wallace rolled up exactly at the time we had discussed and I gathered my packed and ready things and rolled on out. I said my goodbyes to Kimy and Terry and to the couple who had stayed in the cottage across the way. At the airport I went across the street to the Sands liquor store for one last beer and an hour later I was in the air. I'm pretty sure that this gap in the photograph below is the gap between Eleuthera and Spanish Wells, and is called "the Current" because when the tides change the water flows like a river in that gap. Apparently there's really great snorkeling to be had there, but you have to be a fairly good swimmer and know what you're doing. I'm a fairly good swimmer but decided against trying this out because I wouldn't have known what I was doing. Next time I definitely hope to go with a friend and will avail myself of the dude out that way who rents equipment/does current guidance support.
Just pretty stuff.
Once I was on Nassau I went to A Stone's Throw Away. I must say the remainder of this day was generally a disaster. I was low on cash and hadn't expected to pay for a cab (the previous year ASTA would have a car come pick you up) so suddenly I was $12 less rich than I expected. Then the restaurant at which I planned to have dinner (Traveler's Rest) was closed. So I decided I'd go to a larger resort, Compass Point, and have a cocktail there before using their private beach. I walked along the main causeway that goes around the island, which is not without its risks, and this dog started walking with me. Since my dog bite experience I'm a little more wary of dogs I don't know so I made a concerted effort to walk more slowly than the dog so I could see what it was doing, but sometimes it seemed decidedly in need of staying behind me. This story ends well enough. It almost seemed like the dog was protecting me or acting as a sherpa. Or it was just super friendly. Or just knew a girl who used to love taking walks with random dogs (Sewanee pre-leash law will do that to a girl). My experience at Compass Point was pretty much a total disaster. That should be taken hyperbolically. They said they took cards, but then the phone lines were down so they couldn't take the payment and when I explained that I could leave my card, go the beach, and try again and for dinner later on they weren't allowed to keep cards like that and suggested I just give them the cash I had left. So suddenly I went from having $9 to having no dollars. It was problematic because I also wanted to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff and a tip for the driver who would take me to the airport the next night.
After the cash exchange I did check out the beach, but there was all sorts of trash and debris in the water and then the dog showed up again and peed on a pile of seaweed about 10 feet away from me, so the whole vibe was kind of ruined. I went back to the restaurant to see if the card machine would work because I knew I needed to figure out a place to eat. Alas the machines still weren't working, so I figured I'd have dinner at ASTA as the woman who checked me in said that was an option. I got back, asked them about dinner and suddenly there was going to be no dinner there. This was sort of a strange change in a four hour period and worried me because I didn't have the money to pay a cab to take me farther afield and the timing was such that if I walked farther to get to some other eating option the chances were it would be dark when I had to walk back, and walking on that road at night was not recommended. It was kind of dumb. The silver lining is that I did have a cocktail at the hotel and was talking with an older couple explaining this difficulty and the man offered to give me $10, which was all I needed to cover my tip costs. I also had a can of tuna fish I could have for dinner so it kind of worked out. Honestly I was a little annoyed at the mixed messages the hotel had about dinner being available on site. And a little annoyed by Compass Point's lack of credit card ability, though I understand that it wasn't their fault. I had hoped for this last day to be a bit of a transition from total out island relaxation to the reality of heading home. What it turned out being was more along the lines of a very expensive mistake. I could have stayed at the cottage for an extra two or three nights at the price I paid for one night on Nassau, the daylight hours of which included no great adventure, meal or vista.
I did, however, befriend this woman during cocktail hour. She is Croatian. And a neuroscientist. Very smart, and generous with the secret cache of gin she and her boyfriend had. We ended up hanging out and drinking together for a good portion of the evening. In fact, I never had to worry about eating my can of tuna fish because she pretty much appointed her boyfriend 'the getter of dinner at all costs,' and he actually lived up to it. A large portion of the island, it seemed, was having trouble with its phone lines so a lot of places that could potentially deliver couldn't without cash. Meh. Too many details. The point is that after some behind the scenese rigamarole, she and I had the pleasure of eating two Domino's pizza on the second-level porch while the wind picked up quite a bit.
It was the best pizza ever. Or I was just really hungry. Either/or.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Final Tamarind Cottage Day and Lobster Dinner

 My last day on Eleuthera was generally a pretty one, though I would say that some of my time could have been better spent. It started out lovely and sunny, so I figured I'd try to take a few extra photos of the property. See the top little window? That's where my bed was/where I could look out in the morning and see what kind of day it was going to be.
 Down the hill at the dock there were all these volunteer tomato plants that made many of my meals just a bit more special.
 Tamarind Cottage as cyanotype.
 Bromeliads I believe?
 More tomatoes.
 A view of the cottage from a different vantage point.
 The last day involved a trip to Governour's Harbour for cash as well as Ben Bay and Gaulding Key. On that day I actually went farther out to the far side of the rock and got to see a wider variety of fish. And I found this neat-o thing, which I took out of the water for a photograph before returning to the sea.
 Just a little god-light.
 So perhaps the thing I wish I had figured out much, much sooner, was the fact that there was a dude right in Gregory Town selling a variety of seafood. Frozen, but local. I knew that if I was around at a certain hour I could potentially go to the harbor and buy fish directly from fishermen, but I was generally still on some beach around the time they came back to shore. The point is I was able to buy two lobster tails for my last night's meal, but I should have been buying lobster tails and other such treats from the very first day instead of eating macaroni and cheese. In any case, these were Caribbean lobster tails that I steamed in a combination of Sands beer, butter and garlic and served over spaghetti with a fresh tomato/garlic/basil pseudo compote. Tomatoes were from the property.
Yup. The life. I was living the life.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Twin Sisters and Ben Bay Beaches in Eleuthera

The next day I had two new beaches on my radar: Twin Sisters Beach and Ten Bay. Twin Sisters wasn't far north of Gregory Town according to the internet directions I found, and while that was true the directions weren't totally helpful when it came to finding the beach. I think some of the landmarks had changed so while I could see the beach from the shoulder of the road, it wasn't quite clear how to get through all the brush. Eventually I did figure this out, but I wasn't feeling it. Many of the beaches on Eleuthera necessitate some rather rough driving off the main highway. This gives you more a sense of peace and isolation, but this beach was within spitting distance (if you were a superhero Llama) of the highway, which kind of ruined the vibe. Because a) I felt far more exposed...anyone could see my parked car and peer over toward the beach and see me. Who these 'anyones' could be and why they would give a shit is totally unclear to me but I guess I'm always on the offensive against rape and murder. I had planned on swimming out to the 'sisters' to see what kind of fish I could see, but I ultimately chose to simply eat half a sandwich before moving on.
Half a sandwich. My Kindle Fire also stopped working that day, so I had to take a book from the cottage. John Grisham's The Appeal.

My next destination was Ben Bay, which was described as having easy/close snorkel options on reefs that also helped keep the beach/water calm even on rougher/windier days. Now the directions to this place were a little more complex, involving right and left turns at forks every .1-.5 mile once off the main road. This was complicated by the fact that it seemed like there were options that wouldn't come at quite the distance I had written down. At some point I definitely took a left when I should have taken a right and found myself bumping along a mainly dirt/rock road with rather dense brush on my right and left. Suddenly I found myself looking at a huge tractor like machine in the middle of the road and got concerned. Was there someone in it? Or was it a farming piece of equipment left behind for some later time? Would they just move without my having to get out and ask? A few seconds later three blonde headed boys hopped out of the truck and one man to boot. The man came by and said they could move the thing and I confirmed I was even on the right road for Ben Bay. Now here's something about the boys and man that might surprise you: they were white. And maybe that won't surprise you that much. How about this...they were dressed in what I can only describe as 'Amish-styled clothing.' Dark pants, simple shirts with no buttons, straw hats. The man had a beard and very piercing blue eyes. In any case it turns out that I was not on the right road. So first he helped me get turned around (these are not roads that are built for 3-point turns) then gave me the directions I needed to get to the Bay...then he asked me if I was alone and I said yes and he kind of gave me a look. Then he asked me if I had a cell phone. I said no and he gave me even more of a look. Then he also noted that I needed to put more sun lotion on behind my ears because they were burned (entirely true) and noted that I had to be careful about sticks on the sides of the road that could potentially pop a tire. I asked him what kind of farming they did, and he said mostly sheep. At that point I realized that beyond the brush that lined the roads there were wire fences and beyond those fences were definitely some sheep doing their sheep thing. He said they also grew fruit. He was very nice and we ended our conversation with his saying if I got into trouble I could just come back their way because they'd be around. Which actually was kind of comforting; if I had gotten a flat tire in the middle of really and truly nowhere it would have been quite the thing. With better directions and a little chutzpah I made my way and found Ben Bay. And man. What a great spot. Because it's harder to find and rougher on cars I think it doesn't get as much traffic as other spots (which again is sort of a stupid thing to say because no beach ever had more than 10 people on it at one time). For the first 40 minutes I was the only person with this view.
I think this may be me being smug about how stupid beautiful it was.
A few other folks showed up eventually. A group of younger Italians I think and a couple. I took a walk along the edges, which is all I guess volcanic rock or something? Research is not something I've done clearly.
The person who took this picture just couldn't wait for me to finish opening and closing my mouth. That person was me.
So you see how it's white all along there where the water is breaking over the reefs? Yeah that's where it was fun to swim out and see some things. It's where I saw the barrucuda-like fish.
So neat.
Rough around the edges.
Later on the Italians left and then a couple and their three red headed children appeared. The husband quickly got into snorkel gear and headed out to the reef with a spear. I spoke with the wife briefly, asking just what he was out to catch and she said lobster. She mentioned that earlier that week he had caught one big enough that it fed the whole family for dinner. Soon enough he came out with one lobster and put it into a bucket. I was a little shy and didn't want to crash the party but you know I wanted to see it. Then when he came out with another one closer to where I was situated, I did go over and ask if I could take a photograph because that is just really the coolest thing ever. Then he asked me if I wanted a photograph of me holding it, which of course I did. Of course I did! So he told me how to hold the lobster and I got my moment. I told him I'd tell all my friends that I caught the lobster....but I just ruined that now didn't I.
After more delightful snorkeling, reading, lying down and sandwich eating (and beer drinking) I decided it was late enough in the day that I should do my ritual Gaulding's Key time period (basically 3-5). There I spoke with a couple I had seen on the two days prior. They'd just been talking to a younger couple who had just arrived on the island and were in search of a car to rent. Then the older couple left. Then I left and went to Daddy Joe's because I thought an early meal out would be nice. There I reconnected with the older couple, who suggested I try this green drink. The name of which I cannot recall. It was sweet and heavy on the rum.

I hadn't realized that Daddy Joe's was cash only and I was running low on money in hand, so while I had planned on trying more of their menu, I ended up with the conch soup because it was in my budget. But it was very good. Spicy and rich.
The younger couple also came in and sat down. We chatted for a while (they were from Brooklyn and the closest in age to me that I'd really seen on Eleuthera) and they also ordered drinks that turned out to be strong in liquor and vibrant in color.
And after my drink I went back to the cottage and settled into a lovely evening. I think I may have chatted with other guests on the property that night and the night before, or some combination.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beachy Times and Lunch c/o The Beach House and Tippy's

Though the first two days were sad in their temperatures and level of sunniness, the days that followed were decidedly better. On this particular day I decided to head south towards Governour's Harbour. The day was anchored around my desire to have lunch and snacks at two different restaurants in close proximity to one another. The plan, which went off without a single hitch, was to spend my morning at the Coco di Mama Beach, which is called something different by locals...Travelers' Rest maybe? L. and I had enjoyed a portion of a day there last year, but the resort (Coco di Mama) was in service then so there were more folks on the beach. On this particular day it was me, a dude fishing, a little girl and her mother. That's it. Well, until a very loud party of middle aged Italians showed up later on in the day and ruined the so amazingly tranquil and quiet atmosphere.
The beach is on the Caribbean side of the island and when L. and I went last year it was much the same as far as being incredibly calm and incredibly shallow for a very, very, very long distance. I floated then sunned then floated and then sunned a good number of times. Not much going on as far as sea life but the shelling was pretty good.
My badass sunglasses can give you a bit of a sense of how there wasn't anyone else around.
The Italians ran me off with their complete gusto for life, speedos and general noisiness. But it was also about time for me to have a snack, so it wasn't all bad. I went to the Beach House first, which is where L. and I had our first lunch out last year. I had the grouper fingers and a beer. The bartender, a dude named Breeze, chatted me up, telling me about how he had lived in the States but that George W. Bush had kicked him out (not personally, I assume) and recommending I buy real estate on the island before suggesting we go out later to a club that was open late. After my earlier party with strangers experience, I demurely refused his really sounded like it would either be too much fun or a disaster.
The view above my head. The grouper fingers were great. Could have been just a tad crispier on the outside, but they were perfectly delightful and fresh on the inside.
I then went to Tippy's, which I had read about last year but we didn't actually make it to see it for ourselves. I've got to say the atmosphere and vibe of the place on the day I went was not quite as interesting as I might have expected. Everything was expensive and the folks eating certainly seemed on the well-off side, but there wasn't a real sense of fun. Maybe things get more fun later? Probably. In any case I had a momentary brain spasm and ordered conch fritters even though I know I don't really like conch fritters. So you won't be surprised that I only ate one of them. They were huge and hot and I enjoyed the chili lime dipping sauce, but it's just too starchy/bready for me. I like my conch free of such leaden constraints .
This was the restaurant's resident dog, Matilda. Since I was on vacation and she's not my pet, I did give her a few fritter scraps.
Which endeared her to me enough that when I walked out to the nearby beach, she came along.
This was on the Atlantic side and a bit more rough. I did see folks snorkeling but I wasn't feeling it.
I then drove back north, past Gregory Town and on back to Gaulding Key. Gaulding Key became my official 'end of the day beach.'
I swam a bit but mostly just soaked up the last of the sun while reading a book.
And then I returned to the cottage and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.

I forget what I ate, but it may very well have been more pasta.


So one totally cool thing about the grounds around the cottage was just how much life was going on. There were the wild and free resident rooster, chicken and chicks who generally took a perimeter stroll around 7 in the morning, there were a range of birds, lizards of course, a frog in the outdoor shower, and hummingbirds. I quickly saw the hummingbirds but was too lazy at first to get my slightly better zoom lens out to try to capture one flitting about, but eventually one morning I did. This first photo was supposed to be of a bird, but it vamoosed before I could take the photo...but look at that lizard on the tree! I had no idea that sucker was even there until I looked at the photos later.
Birdy bird bird!
Mmmmm. Bird.
So neat. I think this hummingbird was roughly the same size as the moth!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Underwater Disposable Camera

I figured I'd just round up the photos I took with a combined 1 and 1/2 disposable underwater cameras. Fat T. warned that I would take a bunch of photos and none would be terribly good and I must agree the lack of clear focus choice led to a bunch of rather grainy photos that even with a modicum of photoshopping are still a bit impressionistic. Nonetheless, with no real commentary, some things I saw in the water:

I thought this was a barracuda but I'm not sure.

Purple and yellow fish just a smudge in this photo.