Tuesday, July 9th.
Through the haze of sleep, I hear the rumble of rolling thunder. The percussive rapping of rain wakes me a little later, but only momentarily.
When I finally rise around 10 a.m., it seems to have stopped. But when you travel in July – during rainy/hurricane season – who knows what Mother Nature has in store?
We all move a a glacial pace around the condo, TV surfing, checking our phones for WiFi and whatnot – while casting wary glances at the clouds above to see if they’ll finally change colour.
They do, and we start our beach time earlier in the day, so we can get down to the Fish Fry district of Nassau for dinner and the sunset.
Just after 6:30 p.m. or so, we head to the bus stop just outside the resort …
And are almost immediately accosted by a woman wearing a ballcap, white v-necked t-shirt, jeans and flip-flops, inviting us to the resort just down the street for a free Independence Day lunch happening tomorrow …
And a “sneak preview” of the new hotel that’s opening next year.
Christine and Jen do most of the talking and “agree” to meet her the following day. We’re all too happy to see the bus when it finally arrives.
The buses here aren’t like typical North American transit. They’re more like minibuses, all marked differently, depending on whether you’re going into downtown Nassau, or are catching a specially-charter bus for one of the many excursions and activities at your fingertips.
The bus winds its way along the road, navigating the roundabouts and curves, until we reach our destination.
Arawak Cay – also known as the Fish Fry – is the section of Nassau known for its many seafood restaurants.
Of course, this means the smaller restaurants have to employ some, ahem, assertive marketing strategies to get people to sample their menus.
It’s in this spirit of competition that we’re stopped in rapid succession by two men carrying menus, trying to convince us why their restaurants are better than the bigger ones “geared to tourists”.
In the end, we wrest ourselves free of the aggressive salespitches, walk past the clusters of men and calls of “Miss! Miss!” and “Three ladies, out on the town!” and make our way down to almost the end of the strip, to a restaurant called Frankie Gone Bananas.
We order conch fritters and grilled lobster; all of them come with sides of peas and rice, shredded coleslaw and a square of macaroni and cheese. The fritters are okay, but not mind-blowing. The lobster and all the sides are SO tasty and filling.
Below us (we’re on the upper level), we can hear the not-so-faint strains of karaoke.
After we’re done, we eventually decide to to go below, grab a seat outside and take in the “show” and people-watch.
There are a few folks on vacation mustering up the bravery to sing or rap. But everyone else appears to be a local.
Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about Bahamians and karaoke: they love to sing. And they love to sing R & B ballads. So needless to say, a lot of renditions are, well, slow in tempo.
There’s one greasy-looking guy who keeps surfacing whenever a decent male singer musters up the motivation and courage to belt out a tune – trying to steal his thunder by singing part of the song – or whenever a female singer serenades the crowd, by not-so-subtly checking out her backside.
Christine keeps trying to get me to try my hand, but I refuse. Especially with that guy lurking. Even an older guy who keeps passing by our table keeps trying to get me out of my seat, but I’m a bit steely in my resolve. I just want to drink my beer and take things in.
Amidst the loud singing and nearby ambient sound comes the sudden – and sporadic – loud popping sounds of fireworks. Independence Day is nigh.
From that point on, the ambience changes. More locals fill the strip. Music from adjacent bars and restaurants seem to increase in volume.
We decide to check out of Arawak Cay around 11:15 p.m. But how are we going to get out of here?
The road’s bumper to bumper with traffic. The sidewalks are just as crowded. Families with kids in tow, or being carried. Others – young folks – are dressed for the bars and ready to wind.
Lots of people are wearing t-shirts and outfits festively decked out in the Bahamian colours of black, aquamarine and gold.
But we’re feeling a bit less festive. We ask a young bar employee about bus service. She tells us the buses stop running at 7 p.m.
At the nearby police station, we ask about grabbing a taxi. An officer goes in search on our behalf, but 10 minutes later returns unsuccessful.
We venture out towards the main road (West Bay Street) and ask an officer directing traffic. He tells us we’re better off catching a taxi not out here on the main road, but back from whence we came, and to look for any vehicle with yellow license plates.
We go to on of the passenger pick-up/drop-off spots and stand there, for what seems like an eternity. Christine, equally as frustrated, says if we can’t catch a cab, we should just start walking. Which, obviously, isn’t a great suggestion. But frustration can make you agree to crazy things, and I’m almost sold on that as an option.
As we’re talking, I spot a van with yellow plates, JUST as it’s passing. Christine takes off after it; I stride in hot pursuit. Despite the slow traffic, the vehicle’s still too far ahead to catch. Sigh.
Back to square one.
Again, we scan license plates in the dark, against the glare of headlights.
I spot another van with a yellow plate, and we take off running. This time, we catch up to the van, and the driver (reluctantly) took us on.
Turns out, the driver actually isn’t working. He and his wife (who’s in the front passenger seat) were going to meet their grandson for Independence Day celebrations, but their plans fell through. So he really was gracious enough to help us out of our transportation jam.
Back at the apartment, we sit out on the back patio. But I’m not going to go the distance – I’m out cold just after 12:30 a.m.