Bahama Bound

Downsizing for a Dream


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Tarpum Bay

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I will never forget the very first time driving into Tarpum Bay. We were coming from Gregory Town, on our way through to visit Spider Caves and Ocean Hole in Rock Sound. As we approached, glimpses of pure turquoise water glowed from between the trees, giving hints of the beautiful water at the roadside beach, just around the bend.

Arrival into Tarpum Bay, with its bright yellow school on the right, and beautiful clear, cyan water behind, catches my breath every time. The whimsical homes, worn with age and sea air, give this settlement a mysterious sense of history that makes me wonder about the stories of people who live here.   Some are little cottages, while others reveal their colonial influences with full length balconies, dormer windows and weathered shutters. All are a temporary safe haven to their  inhabitants as each slowly concedes a return to nature.

Nearly all of my photos from several different trips, not curated in any way:

The very first time we drove through Tarpum Bay, we had to stop for pictures.

Culmer House

Dock end view of Tarpum Bay.

Best dress to honor a fallen comrade.

Tarpum Bay Dock Team Norms

Sunny kitty.

Potcake

Nearly every time I walked past this house last April, a man was sitting on the front porch.  We got to the point of exchanging greetings. Not sure if he lives here, but I really wonder how the tree looks from the inside of the room from which it grows.

Microwave reclaimed by Earth

Kervin and Brenda’s special homecoming dinner.

Bringing up conch for Kervin’s conch salad.

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Leftover conch shells from the first night of homecoming.

Sign maker and small appliance repair.

Jesse, 2015
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Hana, 2017

 

 

 


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Finding Your Adventure on Eleuthera

Since I have a hard time hiding my obsession for Eleuthera, I am asked often about how to set up a similar vacation in this island paradise.  I have to admit, this is tricky because I don’t want anyone to be disappointed. My husband and I love, love, love it there. However, at the risk of offending, it is not the best vacation destination for everyone.

If you love:

  • Improvising (For example, water and electricity are not 100% reliable, stores are not like in the U.S.)
  • Nature watching over people watching
  • Driving to explore
  • Taking a rough, unmarked two track for a mile that may lead to the most beautiful beach, or be turned around at a sand pit, or locked gate
  • Spending hours at a time with no other people around
  • Stopping for food at a place that looks like a person’s house with a handmade restaurant sign out front, who’s posted hours and menu may, or may not hold true
  • Not seeing a single recognizable brand named commercial establishment
  • Understanding that “being on time” or a “sense of urgency” is not everyone’s thing
  • That doing nothing is doing something

Then Eleuthera might be for you.

However, if you are looking for:

  • A place where you can easily find anything you forgot to pack available at a store (innovation is a plus)
  • Shopping and/or nightlife
  • Detail on what to do, how to find things, and support in the event your plans fall through
  • Restaurants with very specific types and preparations of food
  • All inclusive experiences
  • Having someone look out for you
  • Everything being planned and running on a set time frame

Then, Eleuthera may not be your cup of tea. Each person’s idea of relaxation is different and it’s important to do some research ahead of time by reading blogs and looking into places such as Trip Advisor’s Travel Forum to get an idea of what to expect.

 

In case you think Eleuthera might be a great place to check out, here’s how I do it:

  1. Vacation Rental.  We have been doing family vacations for about six years, all of them staying in rental homes. We find it so much more relaxing since there is more privacy.  Having a kitchen not only saves money, but keeps eating at restaurants a special treat.  Since these go fast and define the trip, I always start with booking the rental first. I check VRBO, Trip Advisor, and Airbnb. There are other ones out there, like flipkey to check out, too. Eleuthera does have some hotels and a few resorts, but most lodging options are through house rentals.  There are all types available, depending on your budget.  Things to consider are if you want to enjoy sunrises (Atlantic side), or sunsets (Caribbean side), if you want to be near a sandy beach or coral beach, and if you want to stay near a settlement or in the country.  Check the Trip Advisor Forum link above if you are seeking specific amenities such as a child friendly beach, or surfing.   We have paid everywhere from $111 a night to $250 a night for three bedroom homes, usually with use of a couple of kayaks and close proximity to the Caribbean side.  IMG_2914
  2. Flight to Nassau. Next, I book flights.  We live in West Michigan, so I always book an early flight out of Chicago’s Midway Airport on Southwest.  We are Southwest members and use their credit card for points.  With the companion pass and saved points, there are four of us and we don’t end up spending more than $500 total for this part of the trip. We typically fly out of Midway very early in the morning, to Ft. Lauderdale, then get a second flight to Nassau, arriving in the early afternoon.  Be Aware: before booking the flight to Nassau, I check the inter-island flights to Eleuthera to make sure there are a few compatible options. IMG_4184
  3. Flight from Nassau to Eleuthera.  It is important to understand that Eleuthera has three airports: North Eleuthera, Governor’s Harbor and Rock Sound.  I worry more about flight times that match coming in and out of Nassau than I do where our rental house is.  However, do keep in mind that the speed limit is 45 m.p.h. and driving at night is not ideal.   The airlines to consider from Nassau are Southern Air, Bahamas Air and Pineapple Air

Rock Sound Airport Lobby

4 Car Rental. I always check with the homeowner about recommendations first. Eleuthera is very reliant on the tourist dollar and small businesses need our help. Prices run $60-$80 per day and will probably have a delivery fee added.  The word “Jeep” is synonymous with “S.U.V.”  Someone will meet you at the airport, you will sign a receipt and drive away – on the LEFT.  Except for renting from Big Daddy, there is little comparison to renting a car in the United States and is in fact, one of the first indications that things are more mellow on the island. This is so much so that I made an entire blog post about it, which you might want to read here. By the way, you must be 21 to rent a car and I would not recommend using a car as part of a home rental because you will not be insured in the event of an accident. 

5.Packing. You will not need as much as you think.  Pack shorts/skirts, some short sleeve shirts, a long sleeve (for sun protection), a hat, swimsuit(s), and importantly a pair of shoes for rough coral rocks. Some beaches are nothing but soft pink, or white sand for miles, but if you do any amount of exploring, an old pair of tennis shoes or my favorite, Chacos, are a must.  There are some fancy restaurants, but most everything is very casual, but modest.  We bring our own snorkel equipment and still pack everything into a carry on.

Money. Although we’ve seen a change in the few years we’ve been visiting, Eleuthera is mostly a cash economy.  U.S. dollars are completely interchangeable with Bahamian dollars.  We typically take about $150 for each day, spending most at the beginning on groceries and supplies.  Although finding a cash machine is not impossible, they can be unreliable.  We’ve had luck in Governor’s Harbour and Rock Sound, with a very low fee for use.

 

Waiting outside the North Eleuthera airport during an unexpected flight delay of several hours. Thank goodness, we had leftover pizza from Nate and Jenny’s and cheap Kaliks available across the street.  We did miss our connection in Nassau, and then again in Chicago, but everything worked out in the end.  Don’t worry, things will always work out!

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Caribbean Car Rental

Renting a car for our first trip to Eleuthera was the first indication that island life is different.   The vacation rental owner gave us the name and email of a car rental guy, Stanton Cooper.  I promptly emailed Mr. Cooper with the dates we needed and he responded a few days later with a simple “ok.”

Clearly, this was not Avis. With a few more emails, I learned that our rental would be $60 a day, we could pay with credit, and that all we needed to do was ask for “Stanton Cooper” when we walked out of the door of the airport.

Sure enough, we found Mr. Cooper very quickly.  He walked us out the the parking lot where he had a random collection of cars, eyed us, then chose a burgundy Impala as our ride for the week.  He filled out a carbon copy sales receipt with our credit card number and name, then instructed us to put the copy in the glove compartment.  We dutifully placed ours on top of a pile of receipts, filled with names and credit card numbers from people all over the world.

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Our Impala was a well-loved beauty.  Multiple warning lights flashed unheeded reminders from the dash, the empty c.d. player refused to turn off, and there were no working seat belts.   We loved this car.  With the windows rolled down and scratchy tunes from the A.M. radio, we had found instant summer, circa 1980.

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The week that followed was unbridled, family-island adventure.  Stanton Cooper’s Impala took us past the most beautiful turquoise water in the world. FullSizeRender (4) I wonder if the island-wide 45 mph speed limit is imposed knowing that drivers are distracted with the stark beauty of this place.

That Impala took us to the most amazing, and nearly empty white sand beaches.

Of course, those beaches are the reward after taking some back roads better suited for SUVs. Nonetheless, our Impala persevered.  To prevent very bad things from happening to the transmission, we did get out every now and then to provide a bit more clearance.  In all our adventures, she only lost a bit of side mirror.

 

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It’s true that the residents of Eleuthera are as beautiful as the water. In fact, headed back home, we dropped the car off with Stanton Cooper in the airport parking lot. We were settling down to wait for our flight when I realized I had left our passports back in the vacation rental, 20 miles away. Holy crap.

I ran back out to Stanton, who was busy with a bucket and rags, washing returned rental cars.  I was panicked and told him what happened.  He’s a robust man, with a kind face and so genuinely replied, “Well, you’d better get back in that car and get them.”

Nevermind the 45 mph speed limit.  I flew.  Smartly, I counted the James Cistern speed bumps on the route north so I could maximize my speed on my return.  In a mad panic, I arrived, passports in hand, to the airport parking lot.  I could see the plane, still parked (it was the only jet that morning) and exclaimed to Stanton that I was so relieved that it hadn’t yet left.   His reply? “Honey, they weren’t going to leave without you!”  Actually, there’s a chance that’s true.  Island life really is different and we love it.

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In the Governor’s Harbor Airport, mere seconds before panic ensued.