Long Island Revisited
2-6 February 2010— Four days of bicycling and touring Long Island, Bahamas with Arrington McCardy and John Birtzen, while Barbara Langworth drove the SAG wagon (sports & gear)–a clapped out, righthand-drive Mitsubishi wagon that didn’t let us down. We stayed at Arrington’s cousin Marvin’s “Bistro Garden” at Deadman’s Cay, a little B&B with nice accommodations if occasionally spotty on hot water. Delicious omelettes or Bahamian grits and whatever (including sardines, if you insist) for breakfast and our choice for dinner. We opted for grouper, seafood pasta, one night out (our anniversary; mutton and steak at Harbour View in Clarence Town) and more of Marvin’s wife’s seafood pasta Saturday night, made with garlic and oil and piles of crawfish and conch. Transport, accommodations and food cost the two of us under $800.
The Tropic of Cancer runs through the northern end of the island, so for most of the time we were in the Torrid Zone–and torrid it was. Blazing heat all four days, and we were beat at the end of each day, sleeping ten hours a night. Saturday wound up with a cold front that brought a torrential downpour (unfortunately it did not extend as far north as Eleuthera). Next morning we flew LI-Nassau-Governor’s Harbour via Bahamasair, and landed in cool breezes which are with us yet. (The bikes returned a week later via the Island Link to Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera, and home. We don’t need to see a bicycle for a few days…)
Tuesday 2 February: Up at 4am to catch the sturdy wood-hulled Current Pride at Current, Eleuthera, four hours to Nassau, complete with the usual pea-shucking, hymn singing and non-stop chatter from Bahamian wordsmiths. In Nassau, a four-hour layover, then the overnight Island Link to Simms, Long Island, sixteen hours. Both trips on smooth seas. Note: the first shed on the right on the dock at Potter’s Cay dispenses large portions of $9 conch salad, made with live conch while you wait. Bought baked chicken for onboard dinner. “The movie” was Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in “It’s Complicated” (recommended). Slept the rest of the voyage in cozy bunks.
Wednesday 3 February (45.5 miles): Arrived Simms, L.I. at 9am with barely enough water under the shallow-draft “Island Link” to nudge into landing. Marvin arrived with the SAG wagon for Barbara and we biked north twelve miles to the Adderley Plantation, whose walls, hearth and window openings mostly still stand. Local historians have done a great job cleaving away the bush and labeling all the surrounding plants with common and Latin names and listing their properties as bush medicine. Adderley began in 1790 and is still in the hands of descendants, who hope to keep the remains as they are for history. Back down to Deadman’s Cay in the afternoon against a stiff headwind blowing unnaturally from the south. Only one potcake encounter, and we outran the mutt.
Thursday 4 February (43 miles): Long Island is much flatter than Eleuthera, a lot less traffic, only 4000 population, less spectacular scenery but far more handsome architecture, especially churches. Not as much scenic vistas or shoreline visible from the road, but very friendly locals. We rode south to Dunmores, looking for another plantation lost in the bush, then back to Clarence Town, the “capital.” After lunch, we swam in Dean’s Blue Hole, a giant funnel, the deepest blue hole in the world, with sapphire blue water in the middle. It goes down 663 feet in the middle of a shallow cove no more than wading depth.
Friday 5 February (15 miles): A morning trip to the Blue Hole, of which we couldn’t get enough. Found many tellin shells unscathed by the surf, including rare sunrise tellins. Back to Deadman’s, then rode south to Hamiltons, about seven miles away, to meet Leonard Cartwright for a guided tour of Hamiltons cave, which is on his property. This is three times the size of our own Hatchet Bay cave and virtually without graffiti or other human destruction, unlike ours—incidentally, this is true of Long Island generally. People take more pride in their houses, however humble. The cave must have been a walk-in condo for the Arawak Indians, with huge galleries and “ceiling holes” open to the sky, giving plenty of light and ways for fire smoke to exit. There’s a freshwater spring, spectacular stalactites, and some stalagmites have formed benches and tables. See photos on the Long Island website.
Sat 6 Feb (20 miles): Arrington visited a friend up north while John, Barbara and I stowed bikes in the car and rode to the end of the island. A stiff southwestern wind was blowing across the beach, and it was too early for Susannah Martinborough, an island character, to open the “Goat Pond Bar.” We drove back to aptly-named Hard Bargain; while Barbara found another cave, we unloaded the bikes and powered north, thinking we’d have the wind behind us. What we got was the wind off our left flank, gradually working around until it was in our face again. No nasty potcakes this time. What kept us going was the prospect of another helping of conch salad, which we’d had the day before, from roadside vendor, Sean Cartwright, who uses all the right stuff: live conch, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, goat peppers for zest, sour and sweet orange and lime juice, $10 for a big foam bowl. Just superb. We logged 125 miles slowing down from last year’s pace, making more time to take in the sights. Still we didn’t do all we wanted to do, like exploring the causeway and outer banks road on the eastern side.
Click here for last year’s visit.