Friday morning, I awoke at 5:30 because the sun was already up. We put on bathing suits and sunscreen under our clothes and went to breakfast in the hotel. From the dining room there, we could watch the cruise ships pulling into the harbor.
A shuttle came to pick us up to take us to the harbor on Paradise Island, and we were not surprised to see that it was Frankie again. Watching Frankie drive, I was surprised we arrived anywhere safely; he only seemed to be watching the girls on the street, turning to look back at each of them as we passed. We got a tour of the Paradise Island hotels again, and then he dropped a busload of us off at the marina.
on the catamaran
We boarded the boat and went up to the top deck, even though it was only in the 70s. There was sun, dammit, and we were going to enjoy it. We laid in deck chairs and watched the islands disappear into the distance as we went out to sea.
It took about an hour to reach Rose Island, a little sliver of land that seemed to have only one property on it apart from the tour company’s outpost. On the side where the boat docked was a stairway leading down to a little inlet, which opened out onto the reef where we could snorkel. The other side of the island was a beautiful white-sand beach lined with palm trees with hammocks. On the top ridge of the island was the large deck where they served lunch. They had bathrooms, changing cabanas, two bars, and an equipment house with snorkels, sea kayaks, and floaty things for kids. That little island was hooked up.
We got masks and snorkels and headed down to the inlet. The water was cold, but it was just a matter of dunking a couple times and yelling loudly to get used to it. A couple showed us how to use the snorkels correctly; they didn’t allow flippers because they damaged the reef.
I thought it would be really disconcerting to breathe underwater, but it was fine. We could even talk to each other through the snorkels. We both had trouble getting the mask to seal completely, so water would slowly seep up around our noses as we swam. It didn’t really bother me to have water in the mask until it started fogging over, and then I discovered the real fun when I went to empty it: for some reason, whenever I came out of the water, I’d automatically breathe in through my nose. Salt water up my nose and out my mouth; I nearly threw up (we called it chumming the waters). After doing that three or four times, I finally managed to force myself to not breathe in while I ripped the mask off my face. YUCK.
Besides that, though, I loved snorkeling. It was amazing. Yeah, I know all those fish I see in aquariums actually live in the ocean, but I didn’t expect to see them right there. I didn’t see fish at first, and then I started to notice them hanging out in the shelter of corals, looking at us. Then I saw them everywhere. We saw friendly blue fish and nervous green fish. We saw eel-like fish peeking out of holes in the coral. We saw purple fan coral and yellow brain coral. I was experiencing the Discovery Channel live. When they called us for lunch, I didn’t want to go.
Here are several of the shots I took with my disposable underwater camera. The composition isn’t great, but I was kind of wearing a mask at the time. If you look closely, you’ll see a bunch of fish.
rose island (reef side)
We had lunch up on the deck, from which we could see both sides of the island. It was really windy, but the sun was warm. We ate beans and rice, bread, and bananas from a giant pile of fruit in the center of the complex. We took advantage of the ‘unlimited free wine’, which was served from gigantic glass jugs (but was totally boxworthy).
After lunch, we went down to the beach side of the island. The waves were huge. I stood in the surf laughing my head off as each one hit me and I stumbled to stay standing. After getting knocked down twice, I followed Stephanie down the beach to explore.
exploring the beach on rose island
She disappeared on one of the secluded beaches down the shore; I decided to head back and lay in the sun. A couple guys from New York were swimming nearby, but otherwise we had the whole thing to ourselves. Right as she got back, it clouded over, and even rained for a few minutes. We gathered our things and wandered around the island for a while, then finally decided to hang out in hammocks. A bunch of the older people from the boat apparently spent the afternoon on the deck drinking the unlimited free wine, which seemed kind of silly to me when there was ocean and palm trees and hammocks to be had. You can sit on your own porch and drink cheap wine whenever you want, really.
in a hammock
The sun is out in full force until around 3:30 or 4 in the Bahamas, and then clouds start to come in the closer it gets to dusk. Stephanie insisted on riding on the top deck of the boat again on the way back, even though it was cold in the wind, without the benefit of the sun. I was wearing my bathing suit, tshirt, board shorts, hoodie, and I had wrapped myself mummy-style in my beach towel, but I was still cold. I demanded to know why we always have to be hardcore (even though I already knew the answer). We didn’t go downstairs until it started to rain.
The entire group of 25 or so were down on the first deck. The female half of the couple who had given us snorkeling advice was beyond drunk, presumably on unlimited free wine. She was demanding loudly that her husband get her another beer, that she needed help in the bathroom, and that she really really wanted to hold one of the New York couples’ babies. She sounded like a loud, whiny four-year-old, and it was something to behold. New York guy came and talked to us for a while, and he was drunk on unlimited free wine, too. There was a dad dancing in a really frightening way with his teenage daughter at the back of the boat. So, boat ride back to Nassau? Quite a spectacle.
We got back to Paradise Island, and everyone shuttled back to their hotels, saying bye to everyone else as they left. All the old people were pals, and as each couple got off the bus, the others would review their life stories out loud. I was glad we were the last ones off the bus.
We hurried to change at our hotel, because we wanted to go back to Paradise Island, but we weren’t sure how late the ferry ran. The sign said 6, but that was Bahamas time, which meant ‘whenever we feel like it’. My hair was turning blonde, and was completely straight from swimming in the ocean, but it looked awesome. It’s unfortunate that I cannot reproduce that look at home, but there is sadly no ocean about.
We walked down to the dock and waited for the ferry. It was about 5:45. At ten after six, we gave up and walked up to Bay Street to get a taxi. It costs $8 plus the $1 bridge toll to get from downtown Nassau to Paradise Island. The fares are set by the government because they used to have so much trouble with tourist-overcharging.
We planned on exploring Paradise Island the next day, so that night we were just in search of dinner. There were four or five restaurants in Atlantis, but they were all really upscale and we were underdressed. We walked the length of the resort, then followed signs pointing to restaurants that were located outside; they turned out to be located in Marina Village, a cute little walk lined with shops that really, really reminded me of Downtown Disney.
We picked a restaurant called Bimini Road, and it was exactly the right choice. I fell in love with our server right away, an older woman who called us ‘honey’ and ‘baby’ (of course, everyone in the Bahamas calls you ‘honey’ and ‘baby’, but from her it was actually charming). She put a basket of plantain chips on the table, and we ordered drinks: I had an orange mojito I’m still fantasizing about to this day, and Stephanie got the pina colada she’d been wanting since we got there. I had a mushroom wrap with taro chips that was awesome. We stayed there a really long time, for once appreciating the fact that everything moves at such a leisurely pace there. I had a drink with rum and tamarind that I could barely touch, so Stephanie played wounded soldier: no one left behind. We tottered back towards Atlantis, weaving through a bunch of women dressed like showgirls, representing the Junkanoo Parade later that night.
crazy glass sculpture at the atlantis casino
I wanted to play video poker in the casino for a while, because I’m totally cheap and $20 lasts forever in that game (in Vegas, you can sit there for two hours playing $20 and get $25 worth of drinks, just FYI). The machines didn’t take Bahamian dollars, so I played the $6 American I had on me. I while later, I cashed out with $10. Oh, I am a high roller indeed. IN YOUR FACE, ATLANTIS!
We went out front of the resort to get a taxi back to Nassau. Our driver introduced himself as Gilbert, and proceeded to ask the usual questions: where we were from, how long we’d been there, first time in the Bahamas? By the time we got to the other side of the bridge, he had cranked the music as loud as he could, and announced that we were riding in The Party Taxi. For a minivan-taxi (as all taxis are in the Bahamas), it was pretty pimped. He even had XM radio.
Gilbert next announced, “Did you know that it’s legal to drink and drive in the Bahamas? We never have any alcohol-related accidents here because they don’t test for it!” He asked if we wanted to party, and made a move to pull over in front of a liquor store. We said no, no, we were tired and going back to the hotel. He tried to convince us otherwise. Gilbert liked to party. Everyone in the Bahamas liked to party. He had a cold six-pack of Kalik up front, and a case in the back. Gilbert was prepared for ANYTHING.
His conversation got more and more suggestive, and I could tell Stephanie was about to throw punches. I, however, was in hysterics. Gilbert was trying SO hard. He had his routine down. And as long as he got us to our hotel and didn’t take us to an alley to rape us, he could talk about it as much as he wanted.
I asked him a bunch of questions to try to distract him. We talked about the clubs downtown. He said they were frequented by an equal mix of tourists and locals; he liked to go there because he preferred white women. He then made some statement about why he preferred white women, but luckily it was drowned out by the music and I missed it. He tried his best to convince us to stop somewhere with him, but I told him we weren’t up for partying. Stephanie said she wanted to go to bed, so he announced that he could hear her bed calling his name. Gilbert was AWESOME.
We got to the hotel, and he opened the door for us. As I handed him his ten bucks, I went to shake his hand, because every shuttle-and-taxi driver there shook hands. He grabbed me instead and hugged me; I moved to allow him the least body-contact possible, and as I did so, he swung around and kissed my neck. He handed me his card, and told us to call if we wanted to have some fun tomorrow.
And that, my friends, is the last time I saw Gilbert. But if you want to have some fun in the Bahamas, he’s your man.