Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Twilight Zone of Great Abaco Island Bahamas

My lifestyle doesn’t suit too many people. Especially in small town Ontario where I am from, where most people collect hunting tags instead of stamps in a passport. As well I have absolutely nothing to tie me down and a job where instead of the normal five day work week, I work 10 days and have 5 days off. Fortunately with the flexible life style a handy passport in the waiting for another stamp and my easy going travel savvy personality this suits my jet setting pilot friend just fine. His ideal co-pilot would have been a tall, thin, blond model type but unfortunately for him those girls either do not have a passport or cannot string a sentence together without using the words “Oh my god” “Like” “Awesome” and “Louis Vuitton” or they do have a passport and ask him where he summers. So instead of a Bimbo I agreed to go away to Abaco island Bahamas to help do some research on a resort down there.

I got off my boat, unpacked my uniform and boat clothes then quickly replaced them with sarong, sandals, sun block and a bathing suit. I felt like I was going on a road trip, I packed us a lunch, I threw books and magazines in a bag on the back seat and my blanket and pillow up front with me. The only difference was we were flying in a four seater plane instead of driving. It took us 7.5 hours in the single engine plane with a 45min stop in South Carolina to refuel and use the washroom. We had however brought on plastic orange juice containers just in case a pee emergency happened in flight.

Most people envision the glitz and glamour of Nassau when you mention the Bahamas. They think of white sand beaches, fancy resorts, The Atlantis and Casinos. I didn’t go to Nassau I stepped through a portal into the twilight zone otherwise known as Great Abaco Island.

The view out of the plane on our approach to the run way was a deserted land covered in tall green trees. On our drive from the airport to our hotel we had our taxi stop at the super market to buy juice and water. With the meter running we got stuck behind a woman paying for her groceries with food stamps that she had to individually sign. I often question how my life is real, this could only happen in a movie.

We were beginning to think we had literally landed in a deserted island. Our hotel’s beach was completely empty and there was no one is sight. We had found out later on this being hurricanes season a lot of the hotels and businesses shut down to re-evaluate and renovate before the busy season picks up again. So when our waiter told us this was the only restaurant open he wasn’t just trying to keep our business it really was the only restaurant open. In the evening we did find signs of human life, a group from a Canadian company building a power plant and another group attending the Bahamas environmental convention.

We decided to explore Marsh Harbour, I did the girl thing and dragged my friend into clothing and souvenir shops but found only the same tacky stuff you would find anywhere no good discoveries. That was until we walked a bit further and found Conky Joe’s, a small floating shack on the water with a guy sitting on his motorcycle beside. Was he Conky Joe? We walked down to plank to the shack to discover what it was and met the owner whose name turns out isn’t Joe. He used to run a dive shop out of the floating hut that he built but recently converted it into a little kitchen where he servers Conch. His wife is a chef who also works at Snappas, a local bar and restaurant. He made it the floating style so if a hurricane came he could attach the hut to his truck and pull it out of the water to safety (this was just the first example of how redneck this island is). We decided to order some conch salad and crack conch with peas and rice to go. We sat and chatted with the owner while I watched him cut the conch and vegetables with a very large knife thinking if that was me it would read “conch and finger salad in a red sauce” on the menu. We did find out a lot about the island from him. Apparently the United Empire Loyalists received land in the Bahamas during the American Revolution in the seventeen hundreds. Many generations of white ex Americans have lived on the island as well as decendents from African slaves. They have the strangest accent; a combination of British, southern United States drawl and island Caribbean English. The black and white mixed residents of the island are referred to as Conky Joes just like the name of the floating Conch shack.

We discovered more of this strange culture mix when we walked into a typical American looking diner complete with the greasy eggs and grits, it was fantastic. My jaw was dropped open the entire time we were there. Black island ladies were cooking up the breakfast while in walked a man with a mullet and his hill Billy family wearing matching camouflage shirts. It was like we were transplanted into a country western song but we were on a tropical island.

I stumbled upon the most amazing travel technique ever and apparently the senior crowd have already thought of this. We got a guided tour of the island completely free of charge; we just had to look at a few houses. Well to be honest my friend was interested in buying and we were only going to look at one house but the very friendly and informative realestate agent took us all over the island. Most of the realestate is second home owners from the U.S and Canada. We met a fellow Canadian who stopped his quad bike to have a chat with the agent, turns out he lives quite close to where my boat docks. He spends his winter on Abaco and his summers on a lake in Ontario.

After our tour of the island and the houses it has to offer we decided to take our waiter’s advice and check out the live music at Snappas the one bar open on the island. After a few drinks at the hotel I put on a dress, did my make up and hair only to be way over dressed for this island. I packed for the Ritz and got Motel 6. Everyone was wearing jeans and old t-shirts drinking beer with the occasional person in a cowboy hat. I grabbed a few rum punches and enjoyed the music from Sweet Caroline to Bob Marley.

The next day Just when I thought this four day trip couldn’t get any weirder I was spotted by a rowdy group on the beach. They had pulled up in their yacht and were looking for the party. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that this island is shut down either. For some reason I decided to hang out with the middle age king and queen of Kinky, the sister in law that liked to flash her breasts and their gay Bahamian friend who they picked up along the way. After a few drinks with them I had to slip away, they were making me very uncomfortable I felt like they were sizing me up for a threesome. I felt so violated by her eyes alone.

On our way home we spent the night in South Carolina and my friend flew me back directly to Ottawa where I was to meet my boat. Everyone was curious to know about my trip and how the Bahamas were. The only thing I could think to say is, “Nothing that you would expect.”


  1. What a great adventure...I wanna see pictures of the sleaze lizards...
    redneck bahamas...i got it though with Jimmy Buffet floating around, totally makes sense.

  2. You certainly did not know what you were talking about. The white Bahamians were descendants from the British Isles, you know Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The islands used to be British Colonies before they got their Independence from the Crown in the 1960s. The mixed people are called "mulattoes". Bahamians are kind and loving people, the islands are beautiful, of course you have those who cause trouble but they are everywhere including those in Canada and USA.

    1. Hey Anonymous dude

      this is the history of the Abaco islands of the Bahamas.

      they were British Empire loyalists!!


      The Abacos' character dates back to the island's Loyalist heritage. Pro-British colonists left the United States after the American Revolution of 1776 to establish plantations in the Bahamas. Some 600 refugees from New York founded Carleton, the first Loyalist settlement in the islands on Great Abaco near the present-day resort of Treasure Cay.

      The Loyalists dreamed their town would become King Cotton of the Caribbean and, for a while, their vision came true. The Abaco Islands' economy boomed and the population flourished to over 2,000 people. But soon the bloom was off the cotton blossom and fields failed within a few years because of pests and soil depletion. Most of the settlers moved away, leaving a population of 400 on the islands by the end of the century -- 200 white planters and 200 black slaves. The fifty-fifty ratio has held steady to this day. The Abaco Islands have five times more white residents per capita than The Islands Of The Bahamas as a whole.

      In the 1800s, The Abaco Islands took on an almost New England character as fishing, wooden boatbuilding and "wrecking" -- salvaging damaged ships while they were sinking -- became the mainstays of the local economy. It took nearly a century for the boatbuilding industry to strip the island of its hardwoods, and today only two firms carry on the tradition. Still, the Loyalist heritage of The Abaco Islands remains strong. Many island residents, commonly called "Conky Joes", vehemently opposed Bahamian independence and even tried to secede from The Bahamas and form their own British colony. Descendants of the original settlers even went to England to solicit the support of Queen Elizabeth II, but their efforts were rebuffed.

      With excellent boating, fishing and scuba diving, The Abaco Islands rank high among the tourist destinations in The Out Islands. The historic Loyalist settlements that survive here offer a fascinating time-travel experience and striking contrast to both Nassau and Grand Bahama.

      Booya! Gringa Trail 10 Reader (whom I still love for reading!) zero!!

  3. I remember him saying you were going on this describe it much better :)


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