Long Island Revisited

Long Island Revisited

Deans Blue Hole (Bahamas Min­istry of Tourism)

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.

Hamil­tons Cave

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.

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