The Bahamian Way

Adventures spring from no were! A simple trip can become a mind broadening experience and today was a prime example.

It was decided the quickest way to get me back to Miami was to travel by boat to Marsh Harbour and then to fly from there to Miami. Marsh Harbour is Castaway Cay’s neighbouring island and just a short boat ride away. Easy I thought…

On the dock at Marge’s Barges I said my goodbyes to Marco and Hoku before hurling my rucksack from the dock in to the front of our speedboat. The Bahamian captain revved the engine, our signal to climb aboard. I sat up front of the 17ft boat with Joelle the Islands Elite, Ellis lifeguard trainer. We were instantly shunted forward as the engines lurched in to action. We surged away from the dock, past the breaker wall and around the island’s peninsular before reaching the choppy open water. While we sat back enjoying the ride, the captain slalomed through shallow sandbars and ploughed forwards towards Marsh Harbour.

Through the glare of the powerful morning sun a lonely boardwalk appeared directly in front of us. It stretched maybe ten metres from the shore and as the boat eased to a stop we launched our bags on to the dock before climbed the rotting wooden ladder onto the decking. We seemed to have landed in someone’s garden. At the end of the dock there was an old concrete building being held captive by over grown bushes and vines. Trucks sat rusting in the dusty yard and an ancient fuel pump stood unloved next to a collapsing brick wall. For a fleeting moment we wondered were we had been left.

Eventually an elderly gentleman staggered from the bushes clutching a phone and waving his arms. In a thick Caribbean accent he yelled, “I’ll call your ride guys, wait right here” his accent was so thick that I’m not sure that is exactly what he said, but it was certainly words to that effect. We nodded and obliged, all the while being eyeballed by a pack of rabid dogs who listed after our our flee bitten ankles.

I naively expected a taxi for our ride across the island to the airport. Apparently that’s not how it works here. What we got was a guy with his family halfway through the school run. As we climbed inside the heavily dented people carrier we realised he had brought his wife, two kids and friend along to ogle at the sunburnt strangers wearing rucksacks. They seemed pretty friendly, they smiled and giggled, but mainly ogled. We drove on through the island, firstly along a rugged coastline dotted with small wooden jetties and finally though a long straight road lined with tall palm trees and marshy long grass. The centre of the island seemed altogether empty and unfortunately our path didn’t show us many of the coastlines delights.

There were none of the usual signs that we were approaching an airport. I didn’t see a plane, or signposts for terminals and there we no endless roundabouts to navigate. We pulled up outside what looked like a big bus stop. Rows of blue plastic chairs lined the pavement and men in orange jackets sat socialising. The family didn’t say much as we got out, apparently still flabbergasted by the sunburnt strangers. I got the feeling we had seriously inconvenienced their morning. The orange jackets pointed us towards the ‘terminal building’ it was the size of a large, dirty and unorganised living room. Each airline had a wooden desk with a computer fresh from the 70’s. I handed my passport to the check in lady, Shakira, she took half a glance before continuing to admire her claw like nails and casually browse her phone. Eventually she decided to print my ticket and pointed towards ‘security’ to get my bag checked. When I say security I mean a table were a woman sat knitting, and when I say checked I mean she opened my bag moved around my sandals and a few t shirts before deciding I wasn’t a threat. On a positive note, there were no queues, I was even able to order two coffees and a chicken sub from a hole in the wall by speaking in a slightly raised voice from the check in desk. Heathrow could learn a few things from Marsh Harbour.

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I sat outside with Joelle for a hour before her flight to West Palm Beach departed. For the next hour i watched the security and baggage handlers sit outside in the sun greeting the driver of every passing car with a hand shake of fist bump. People popped by the airport as if they were nipping to see their friends at the pub. It was like a social meeting spot for everyone who had nothing better to do.

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It’s obvious that time and efficiency is just not of any importance to Bahamians. Watches are obsolete. You wait until you are told they are ready or in my case until I heard the loud hum of a planes propellers approach the large concreted area behind the terminal. The bags were wheeled lethargically on a small red handcart to the rear of the plane and then loaded on at a painfully slow pace as the impatient American travellers paced the concrete. No rush, no stress. They just plodded along, laughing, joking and flirting with the knitting lady on the security table. The plane was no longer than a bus and had only one row of seats down each side. It seemed so old fashioned, fresh from the 50’s, but somehow looked perfectly adequate in line with the days events. Simple yet effective, no frills, nothing flashed or shimmered but it did it’s job and everyone was happy.

In the air over the island of Marsh Harbour i admired it’s tropical beauty. Acres of nothing surrounded by empty stretches of sand, old docks and pristine turquoise ocean. An island and a people content with themselves just the way they are.

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“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson

Today I travelled in a very Bahamian way. Island hopping by boat, gatecrashing a families cross island school run and flying out of the most relaxed airport I have ever experienced. I watched as people went about their job with no stress, I watched as they seemed to enjoy work. It might not be the way I am accustomed to, it was different but it was real, it’s how it’s done here and who am I to criticise. In the end it got me to exactly were I needed to be.

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