A glimpse of the other Bahamas

One of the greatest things about traveling in our sailboat in the
Bahamas is that we have had access to remote islands that no one
else goes to except for adventurous sailors and megayachts. A
strange combination, it’s true, but these have been basically the
only other people we’ve seen in the Exumas. (actually, we haven’t
seen much of the megayacht people, as they seem to operate in their
own separate universe even though we shared many of the same
anchorages.) We haven’t been in any really “touristy” places, as
the islands we have visited are out of reach of the average mass
marketed tour. Sure, all the sailors are technically “tourists”,
but tourists of a much different sort than the mobs that get off
the cruise ships in Nassau.

Today we spent the day in Nassau and we decided to venture to the
tourist center of the city, the Straw Market, which is right next
to the cruise ship docks. While the historic district of downtown
Nassau was charming, the Straw Market itself was a disgusting
assault of hundreds of tiny stalls in a big tent covered
marketplace, staffed by somewhat desperate looking Bahamians who
tugged at your sleeve and practically begged you to buy something
from them. The problem was, they were all selling the exact same
crap that we didn’t want. I mean, who wants this stuff, really?
Lots of straw bags with the Bahamas printed on them, straw hats,
gaudy cheap jewlery, and other random tourist stuff that has no
real use. Sure, the straw things are made my the local women and
they do a very nice job making the same things over and over. I
couldn’t help but feel that our version of bringing dollars into
the local Bahamian economy was actually just an insult to the local
people. I don’t think they really want to be there hawking stupid
stuff to drunk sunburned tourists. So why did we go there? Well,
actually, there was a locally made item that I wanted — a straw
mat to put on the floor of the cabin in Wee Happy. My friend Mimi
had bought one at a small town in the Exumas, where the women were
also making straw items. It was a perfect size for the boat, and
we really need something like that. So I figured they would have
them at the Straw Market. But no, they did not. Out of a hundred
vendors making straw stuff, none of them had mats. They all just
had the same baskets and bags and hats. How do they stay in
business all competing against each other selling the exact same
stuff? Come on, people, diversify a little bit!

Anyway, it was an experience to check it out, but we were fully
ready to get out of there after about 10 minutes. To recover, we
had to stop for a drink at the famed “Senor Frog’s”, where we got a
Bahama Mama drink for a staggering $14, while cruise ship partiers
with balloon sculpture hats hooted and hollered drunkly all around
us.

Last night after we arrived in Nassau after a long, slow sail
across the Exuma banks, we decided to go check out Atlantis, a
giant hotel/mall/casino complex that is a “recreation” of the lost
city of Atlantis. We putt putted our dinghy past a bunch of
imposing, impressive megayachts until we reached the towering
columns of Atlantis, each column with a big sculpted seahorse on
it. Then there were waterfalls coming out of big shells, and
arched gateways leading into a castle like tunnel that we magically
rode our dinghy through. Impressive! There was no dinghy dock, so
managed to tie up our dinghy on the side of a concrete wall and
climbed up a ladder to the lower level of the complex, where we
found an unmarked door and entered it. Immediately we felt like we
were tripping, as we found ourselves suddenly in the middle of an
upscale, busy, loud bar filled with well dressed people. And then
there’s us, looking pretty salty with sand from the Exuma beaches
still between our toes. We walked through the bar pretending we
came there all the time, and ventured out into the casino.
Blinking lights, dinging noises, people who look like they came
from another planet than us…..were we really tripping or was
this real? We blew $5 on a game we barely knew how to play, then
blew some more money on a slice of pizza, and decided to find the
real reason we came there — to check out the Aquarium. Atlantis
has a famed aquarium that numerous people had told us about with
rave reviews.

Atlantis


To get to the Aquarium we had to go into the hotel portion of
Atlantis, where there was a fabulous, and I mean fabulous lobby
filled with delightful murals on the walls, giant marble
staircases, and a gorgeous wall of elegant windows.
Below the
lobby was the huge aquarium. The aquarium had a LOT of fish in it.
Whole schools of big and little fish swam around. The aquarium
looked like it was in an underwater ruined city. But, even though
it was fun to see such huge fish, and they had a stunningly huge
manta ray and some gorgeous spotted eagle rays, I have to admit
that the fish we have been seeing while snorkeling in the Exumas
were more spectacular than even the fish of Atlantis. So there you
have it. We didn’t pay thousands of dollars to stay in the lap of
luxury and have experiences handed to us on a sugarcoated platter,
and in the end I think we had a better experience than the tourists
whose only view of the Bahamas is Nassau. Although I had moments
being surrounded by the beauty and wealth of Atlantis that I wished
desperately I could afford to stay in a place like that, when it
really comes down to it I wouldn’t trade the experience we had on
our wee humble little sailboat for anything.

One thought on “A glimpse of the other Bahamas

  1. Pam

    Congratulations!
    You have past the test! You have made it to the KIS Life! Keep It Simple!
    I agree with you totally. You have had a thousand times better experience than the people with the money. They had everything handed to them. You went through the good and bad times and came out of it better people. They come out of their travels, the same way they went in.
    God’s Speed to you Both!

    Reply

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