It’s 8 a.m. and I’m on my way to a solo hike in Pedernales National Park in Texas (a decision I made at 10 o’clock the night before) when a text comes in from Maria. We haven’t seen each other in months and it’s apparent that we can’t go on like this much longer. She feels it too, that yearning for a change of scenery, both in landscape and people. Right then and there it’s decided that we will leave for the Bahamas in just three short months.
Excitement builds as I drive to Nashville where we will fly from the international airport to the islands. After a couple of short flights, we climb out of the tiny twin engine and onto the bus that will transport us to our hotel. The hotel is spectacular. Marble floors, high ceilings, and a huge winding staircase that leads past the hotel restaurant and into the pool area that is flanked on either side by restaurants (where we can eat and drink all we want for free).
-(Advice Insert)- We booked the five day vacation, which was all-inclusive plane, food at four restaurants, drink (including alcohol), and hotel for just $750 each using our travel agent. Most of the time travel agents are not the way to go. They work on commission, you usually will not save much money. It is always good to double check the prices yourself just to make sure your travel agent isn’t ripping you off. We’ve just been lucky enough to find an honest and sweet woman that we have known for quite some time and we book some of our travels through that we can’t get cheaper ourselves.- Okay back to the action!
As we are walking down to the beach, drink in hand and grinning from ear to ear, I am suddenly pelted in the head by something! Took me about two seconds to realize that the culprit of the attack was a passing seagull! I swear he was laughing as he flew away; Maria was bursting at the seams and all I could do is laugh along and wonder what I did to piss off that bird. I mean, doesn’t he/she know we are vegans? Friends to the animals and the Earth. Perhaps he just needed a good laugh himself. If I were a bird I’d probably aim my missiles at unsuspecting ground creatures too. And so, after a quick wash off under the outside showers we made our way down to the secluded part of the beach and remembered a little thing we learned from a Diane Lane movie: in Italy it is considered good luck when a bird shits on your head.
Now (slightly) recovered from the bird poo incident, we go for an evening walk down the beach in front of the local houses and clumps of palm trees. Hand in hand and absorbed in the events of the day and plans for the evening I never see that rock coming-and neither does my innocent middle toe! That’s right. The MIDDLE toe, not the big one or the longer second toe or even the little guy at the end, but that unsuspecting mid-sized phalange nestled in between the four toes of my trusty left foot. Never have I ever stubbed a toe like that in my life. Pain and laughter erupt as I hop around on one foot, holding my sandy, newly broken toe in one hand and Maria’s shoulder to steady myself in the other. The bruise and tiny pain of walking and scrunching my toes reminded me for a week after returning home what a wonderful first adventure the Bahamas had been for us as a new couple.
The next few days were filled with unbelievably breathtaking beaches and caves and lots of free drinks. As we were leaving the bar with our margaritas one day, we were approached by a local who ran banana boat tours and also a side business dealing in street pharmaceuticals. After turning down the most generous proposition, we couldn’t help reflecting on the boldness of the man and the myriad of ways that could have ended. He could have been running a scam or working for officials or maybe he was just running a side business with his day job. Either way, being young women and slightly on the smaller side we are always cautious and aware of what’s going on around us. Scammers, muggers, and crafty locals profile and try to pick out easy targets. If you appear young, old, like a tourist, or just unaware of your surroundings then you will be a likely victim to any and all dishonest people’s tricks.
The beaches of the Bahamian islands are unlike any other that I’ve seen so far. You can stand in the waste deep water and see the white crabs moving around your feet. The porous rocks littering the shore add a hidden island feel to the environment, even though in the back of your mind you know there is a hotel and a hundred people on the beach a half a mile a way. One of the things that I couldn’t be more thankful for is having a partner that can make a crowded room feel like a deserted planet that only the two of us inhabit. It brings me a lot of joy and sanity on this overcrowded world we live in, where seclusion has come to mean a single cell with padded walls and a complicated jacket.
(sunrise from the lifeguard tower on our last morning on the islands)