Day Two: Freeport Bahamas

Breakfast.

We woke up kind of late, but by our standards, it was really early. I mean, it wasn’t late. It was 7:45. I don’t know. The ship docs at 8:00 a.m. So, 7:45 was was probably later than we should have gotten up in order to have breakfast in the dining room.
See, as I hinted at yesterday, Jeni and I can’t stand the buffet crowd. I’ll tell you something, cruisers, if you are on a cruise ship and you are treating the experience with the same reverence and awe you have for Shoney’s, you’re doing it wrong. Sorry, but its true.

But I digress. Well, wait, one more: Why do you smoke? You’re surrounded by miles and miles of fresh sea air, and you are sitting at a bar smoking? Really? If you smoke, please stop. You don’t like it. Smoking is for the weak and stupid. You’re not weak and stupid, so please stop smoking. I like you and I want you to live. Asshole.

Ok. So we had breakfast. It came with a glorious plate of bacon shaped like an Angel. And it was pretty good, this heavenly bacon. And it came slow but we got off the ship in plenty of time. Jeni was worried about the time pretty much all day. Because she broke her watch. So we never knew what time it was. That was hard on her. I have never adjusted from the recent time-shift for dailylight savings time, so I have decided I don’t really care what time it is anymore. But getting back on the ship is important. So I’m glad someone cares. Turns out, we all bought watches onboard later. I have a watch now. It’s a Terner. I think that’s french for “extra fancy.”

Bahama Cruise 2012

Freeport, the port.

The Port of Freeport on Grand Bahama, or where they docked the big ship, or whatever, is, according to the tour operator, in the industrial side of town. it would seem that in Freeport there is an almost fanatical devotion to zoning. Which isn’t bad for a country that only earns it’s unconditional freedom in 2068. *(date may be off). I mean, in some countries, it takes more than 200 years to get to a point where zoning decisions outweigh founding principles of human liberty.

Traveling through and around Grand Bahama with this particular guide seem to feature, mostly, information about zoning: “This is where they build the industries. This is where they build the light industries. Here is where they build shopping for the people who live in the island. And this is the gehtto. And here is where you can only build duplexes. And this is the zone where all the churches and not-for-profits go.”

The guide also seemed to relish sharing the occasional tidbit of folly. “Here’s where the governor decided to connect all the properties here with channels, but in so doing he created this massive flood zone, and so nobody here can get flood insurance.”

Also, the 2004 hurricanes were hard on them.

In all, I found Freeport to be one of those kind of sad, broken little islands. It seemed from our 6 hours there to be especially devoid of wildlife, agriculture, or, really, self-sustainability of any kind. It’s probably not surprising, though, since, again, as the tour guide said, “We don’t make anything here. We have to have everything imported.”

Also, the 2004 hurricanes were hard on them.

Aboriginal Bahamians?

So that kind of begs the question, I guess. Who where the aboriginal bahamians? Who lived on these islands before Columbus brought over his particular mix of influenza, vanereal disease and self-righteousness? Nobody seems to talk too much about the Lucayans, but that’s probably because Columbus and the spanish were pretty effective in rendering them extinct.

I’m not trying to be a downer, here, but this is important. From what I was able to suss out based, again, on the mostly homogenized version of the stories being told to us by a local who really, really hopes we’ll give him a good tip, they all died. Or were taken into slavery. Or both.

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We took an excursion to Lucayan National Park, where there are some caves and a beach, and we expected to be able to kind of run off on our own, which was what happened.

What lives here? I mean besides the fish.

Pro Tip No. 2:When the group of 100 tourists all are shepherded off to walk down to the caves past the bathroom, walk the opposite direction. You’d be surprised at how well this instinct has served me over the years. It did this day, that’s for sure.

Jeni and G. And I took off the opposite of the crowd and walked into the little nature trail that took us toward the beach. It moved along the land which, nearer the center of the island is harsh – mostly dead coral and scrub and the fantastic Caribbean pine.

Bahama Cruise 2012

Oh, the Caribbean Pine. What a fantastic tree! Growing twenty feet tall, like a palm, and blooming into a beautiful firework cascade of piney branches the top, I can only imagine what its like to see the pinecones come falling down to the rough soil beneath them. Maybe the reason we had a hard time finding any pinecones was because when they hit the ground from those heights, they disintegrate.

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As we walked along the nature trail, approaching the ocean, the flora thickened as mangrove took over, eventually giving walk to larger tropical plants and more and more mangrove, until up and over an embankment, we come to some of the island’s (according to the sign) largest sand dunes.

And we are suddenly alone on a beautiful Caribbean beachside surrounded by beautiful organic spider castles of tipped over mangrove driftwood.

Bahama Cruise 2012

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It was fantastic. And, of course, it couldn’t last. So when the beach started to crowd up, we head back along the circular nature trail – across a very large patch of wetland teaming with fish. I saw our tour guide coming through as we approached him from the beach he was heading toward it, throwing a crumbs of bread over the rail for the fish as he walked down the boardwalk. I can’t an’t help to wonder if he was offering the bread to the fish as a way of thanks or if he was throwing the bread out into the water ahead of the tourists to help embiggen his tip. I like to think both. Both have merit, honest.

Bahama Cruise 2012

As we approached I saw in the Northeast a large bird circling, almost never flapping, and although it at first looked like turkey vulture, it seemed a little small for a buzzard and had a slightly different wing shape than I’m used to seeing. I think it might have been an osprey. I suspect it one of those who watch over the island, and I am also certain that the little lizard that escorted us and then lead us to the caves a few minutes later was too.

And then there were caves.

Following my intuition, and the kind directions of a passing lizard, we found our way to what is called “Burial Cave.” Again spoken by the excursion guide, who told us to call him “Biggie”: “There were some indians left on the islands, and those who didn’t want to go into slavery or get sick and die went over to this cave and lived in there, and so then they all starved to death there.”

I don’t believe that’s the real story, but there you go.

When we got down to the cave we were all alone and amazed. It was a sad, solemn place but amazingly beautiful There were several holes that were begging to be explored. Some from the roof, some from the floor, but the most interesting one was the one that lead back from the back of the walkway that had been built in the cave and disappeared into the black. There was no way to walk there and the caves were full of water, so it was pretty much out of the question.

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We went around then to what is called “Dan’s Cave”, so named for the guy who found it. And you can see how these caves would be hidden away from the surface, with mangrove vine climbing over the edges, it would be easy to walk out into the middle of a net of vine and tree.

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Dan’s cave resonated on a low hum, so I held the note and listened to it bounce off the walls for a while. Sitting down near the water in the cave, things seemed very still. We paid our respects and moved on.

Fortune Bay

Eventually it was time to go. We climbed into the coach and were whisked off to a Banana Bay Restaurant along Fortune Bay that is “’”well known for their famous banana bread."

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We had agreed to eat light, and there were a ton of people, so we lost some time while the wait staff did its best to manage the throng of people. Then Jeni, Gaia and I went out into the ocean. And swam with pure white and silver barbs. And a few other strange fish. And Gaia collected shells and bits of conch. And I took my pants off in front of people. It would not be the last time on this trip.

The Banana bread was, indeed, quite good. And maybe worthy of the accolades of its fame. I’m pretty sure it was made with a little cinnamon and honey. It was nice to finally get in the ocean though. Very nice.

Back to Freeport.

They have the junk shops that pop up along the ports of cruise ships. they are amazing and sad and amazing to me. The people come out there, sell and hustle their wares. And they work so hard at it. And you have to haggle, which I hate.

Back on the ship

We tucked in early, after lunch and dinner, and my favorite thing happened. They made a towel bunny for and gave him my sunglasses. And Gaia thought it was fantastic. Because it is.

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In a lot of ways spending time on a cruise ship is like being stuck at a wedding with a bunch of people you don’t know. Or a bunch of weddings of a bunch of people you don’t know. The best way to handle it? Stay the fuck away from people. They’re not your friends. If you’re in bed by 8:30 p.m., you can leave the mooks to fester in their own vomit on the pool deck bar and it’ll be cleaned up by the time you’re up there again.