If you’ve wondered if I dropped off the grid during the past week, it’s because I did! My sister recently got married in Cat Island, Bahamas and our entire family traveled to celebrate and vacation for a long weekend. I knew in advance there would be no cell phone service, but I did bring my laptop thinking I would be able to work. Well, spotty wifi and the distraction of being in paradise ensured that did NOT happen 😉
It definitely wasn’t your typical Caribbean family vacation, safely ensconced in an all-inclusive resort, but it was a trip that none of us will ever forget. I’m not sure that I can fully capture the magic of the experience, but I will do my very best…so here goes!
(the reason why you practically have the island to yourself)
When most people heard I was going to the Bahamas, their first question usually was “Oh, are you staying at Atlantis?” (A mega-resort in the main tourist center of Nassau). Not even close! Nassau is just the entry point to the Bahamas for this trip. The next leg is a mercifully short (and bouncy) ride on a small propeller plane to remote Cat Island. Only one Bahamian airline services the island, with one flight in the morning and one flight in the afternoon.
This was my first view of Arthur’s Town “Airport,” which really was just a strip of blacktop. I’m glad I didn’t know it was THAT tiny in advance or I would have been more nervous!
Did I mention the island was remote? This is the main (and only) that stretches from one end of the island to the other. It is mostly paved. There are houses scattered about (the island has 800 residents) but I decided against taking photos and being THAT tourist gawking at people as they went about their daily lives.
I think what surprised me the most was the feeling of being in the wilderness. It was both exhilarating and a little scary knowing that you are so far from home, America, hospitals, and everything familiar. This was the real Bahamas, not what you see in travel commercials.
THIS is what we came for! Oh, and a wedding! Three miles of pristine white sand and turquoise water was all OURS for the weekend. This view was right outside our front door for us to enjoy every day and the soft sounds of the waves lulled us to sleep at night.
The entire island was the stuff postcards are made of. This rock beach was across the street from the bank/convenience store. The natural, untouched beauty of Cat Island was mesmerizing– I could have just stared at it all day. The only thing that really detracted from the magnificence was the mosquito problem. DEET is your friend…100% DEET. I practically bathed in poison every couple of hours and still ended up with some very pesky bites.
“It’s an Island ‘Ting”
This became our unofficial slogan for the trip, an explanation of sorts for the countless adventures (and sometimes misadventures) we experienced.
We did almost all of our own driving, with rental cars that had been arranged through our hosts at the Pigeon Bay Beach Club, and our main taxi driver. It is entirely possible that they had paid residents to allow us to use their vehicles for a few days! I’ll admit to being a little sketched out by the “rough” appearance of the rental cars. However, I quickly figured out what was most important. Does a car get you from Point A to Point B? Can you hit a huge pothole that rocks the car and keep right on going? Perfect– that’s all that really matters!
Our so-called snorkeling excursion might have been the one big misstep of the weekend. There were many red flags that should have deterred us: the weather forecast which called for rain all day, the lack of masks/flippers for every member of our party, the battered old fishing boat that was waiting to take us out to sea, the complete absence of any safety equipment, and the obvious inexperience of our guides in all things snorkeling. But still we gave it a go.
Amazingly, no one took a photo of the full boat– the one above (of my mom, sister, and I after we called it quits and headed back to shore in the pouring rain) gives only a glimpse of the fiberglass tank with ten layers of peeling paint to which we entrusted our lives.
Just a few hours later, that evening gave us perhaps the most memorable experience of all (for those of us who did not marry our true love that weekend!) The rehearsal dinner was held at a local restaurant called Da Smoke Pot, a very casual wooden building set back a bit from the ocean.
We sampled Bahamian home-cooking: fresh fish, mac-n-cheese, cole slaw, sweet and sour fried conch (amazing!!), rice and beans. We were serenaded with the undeniably festive traditional “Rake and Scrape” music performed by a local trio. As you can see, audience participation was encouraged! Lilu got to stay up a little past her bedtime–this might have been one of the best nights of her entire life as she danced for hours with unbridled enthusiasm.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when we landed on that lonely stretch of asphalt after a wind-whipped flight, but I’m so glad that my sister picked somewhere off the beaten path for her wedding/our family reunion. It was a once in lifetime (well, hopefully not!) family vacation and I really really hope to return one day.
Here are a few of my favorite shots of the family: