Still on the Road
29 March 2008 | Thompson Bay, Long Island
Time for some more exploring by car. We rented a cute little white Suzuki from Fox Auto ($65.00 for the day - $10 less than the usual because the air-conditioning doesn't work) and set off for fun and to cross off items on the ToDo list. First stop, propane. That done, we headed for Stella Maris Airport, Customs and Immigration office.
As Jim puts it, we were due to expire on March 30. The boat is here on a one-year permit from the time we entered, Dec 9/07. No problem. Our personal permits were for only 90 days. When we returned from Canada to the Bahamas on Dec 30 we were given 90 days from that date which takes us to March 30th. None of the immigration offices will renew a permit any more than a few days in advance of expiry so there is a bit of scheduling necessary to be near a port of entry around about that time. Long Island is one, and so is Georgetown. The next closest ones are in Nassau or the Abacos.
Our experience was excellent at Long Island. We went on the 27th and got a 60-day renewal - exactly what we asked for. We now know that permits can be given for 8 months on the initial application. Initially, we checked in at Green Turtle Cay where there is a Customs agent only - no immigration one - who has limited authority around timing. We would go to an Immigration post next time and try to get 6 months right away.
Next stop, the Columbus monument up at Cape Santa Maria. It is a bone rattling 20-minute drive in from the Queen's Highway and we were sure glad to have the Suzuki with its extra few inches off the ground. Waves were crashing up on the rocks, the water was brilliant blue and the monument paid tribute to the original Lucayan inhabitants as well as the landing of Columbus and his fellow explorers in 1492. It was quite moving to gaze out at the sea, contemplating the voyage these men had taken and the discovery of this new land, while also understanding that it was devastating for the native population. Whether they were killed through firepower or the introduction of diseases from which they had no immunity, the gain for the Europeans meant loss for North Americans - the destruction of a people and a way of life.
After rattling back out to the Highway, we visited Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort for lunch. This was an absolutely beautiful resort - Canadian operated and part of the Oak Bay Marine Group based on Vancouver Island - www.capesantamaria.com. Lunch in their lovely dining room was delicious - conch chowder and salads, the beach beautiful and the atmosphere friendly with lots of families coming and going.
From the top of the island, we roared down to Buckleys where I visited the Museum. Long Islanders are noted for their straw work (hats, bags, baskets, table mats) and I bought a couple of placemats. I tried to see if my theory about the larger white population here was accurate but I still don't know. The really helpful woman said that there was a larger white population in the 60's and 70's, but more black Bahamians have been moving back. There is also a lot of intermarriage. In many other cays and islands, Haitians have been moving in to take agricultural jobs. She said that Bahamians here do that work themselves, and unless there is a lot of expansion of resorts, there will probably not be immigration (much of it illegal) of outsiders. If we were staying in the area
I'd love to have come back to the Bahamian festival on Fri and Sat.
We continued on down the road to Clarencetown as viewed the Catholic and Anglican churches, both built by Father Jerome. I had expected more of a community here, but once again, it seems to be a series of houses and small businesses strung out along the roads near the harbour. After a quick tour and a drive by the old salt ponds - which would probably have been more interesting at low tide - we headed back to Max's Conch Bar because I had been lusting after their conch salad ever since I saw Gary making it on our first visit.
He made up a fresh batch as I watched; Jim ate grouper fingers and checked email. This salad was the best I've ever eaten - and I've tried lots of it. It is always a hot and spicy concoction of chopped conch, tomatoes, onions, celery, peppers and limejuice. This one had a complex sweet/sour flavour along with the heat. He squeezed in key limes and oranges, added a dab of sugar and I could swear I saw a bit of apple going in there too. The conch was chewy, the vegetables were crunchy, and the heat was high but not so much that it wrecked the tastebuds - a great combo, and of course Kalik beer was a perfect accompaniment.
By the time we made it back to the boat, the sun was down and we spent a relaxed hour or two in the cockpit making plans for the next few days.