Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nassau. Bahamas Interruptus.

Posted by Scot

En route from the Berries to the Exumas, Nassau (on New Providence Island), is the natural mid way point.  For us, it also gave us an opportunity to duck into a marina for a few days to miss some strong North Westerlies, and to top up our groceries, water and fuel.

Nassau itself is probably not worth more than a day, though.  If it hadn’t been for the weather, we would have gotten out as fast as we could.  Don’t get me wrong; we didn’t do an extensive tour of everything Nassau has to offer, and there may well be some really nice parts.  It’s just that we didn’t see any.

The marina itself was decent enough, although a bit shabby by Canadian or U.S. standards.  The staff that worked there were pleasant and helpful, though, and were about the friendliest Bahamians we have met so far.  The area around the marina left a lot to be desired.  Nassau Harbour is definitely a working harbour, and we were right next to the huge industrial dock.  This meant that all day, we were treated to the sounds of cranes loading and unloading ships, the smell of diesel fumes, and the sound of fishermen yelling at each other.  And one night we got to listen to what we think was a Junkanoo rehearsal. 

Junkanoo is sort of like Carnival in the Bahamas.  It is a big festival that happens on Boxing Day.  Apparently Junkanoo groups practice all year for their one big shot to perform.  So we got to hear a Junakanoo band play full bore for 3 hours solid, from about 9 to midnight, right next to our boat.  And I mean solid.  It wasn’t one song after another – it was one single raucous, full band, full volume rehearsal without a break.  Impressive stamina.

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If you look closely, you can see Monashee right in the centre of the picture, with the yellow kayak on the front.

Interesting sidebar about noise in the Bahamas – Sara and I had an interesting discussion about the role of yelling in different cultures.  In Canada, yelling is almost always a sign of aggression, or excitement to some degree.  If you are walking down a street in a Canadian city, and you hear someone yelling at someone else, you tend to look up to see what is going on, and your danger red flags go up.  In the Bahamas, though (as well as in much of Florida, and apparently China according to my sister’s blog), yelling is a common form of daily interaction.  The fisherman yell full volume at each other all day long, and people commonly yell at each other up and down the streets.  It takes some getting used to.  As I remarked to Sara, I wonder how they communicate if they really get excited, or if something dangerous is about to happen.  They don’t really have anywhere to go in terms of additional decibels.

As for the rest of Nassau, we really only saw two areas besides the industrial part our marina was in.  A couple of times, we walked across the bridge to Paradise Island, to check out the big “Disneyland” style resort there, that takes up most of the island.  For me, the most remarkable thing about Atlantis was the stark contrast between the run down, worn out look of the rest of Nassau, and the gaudy opulence of this huge development.  Interestingly, though, even Atlantis is a bit worn at the fringes, with signs of poor upkeep and things getting worn down all over the place.  Much like the marina resort where we stayed in Bimini.

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Atlantis.  A bit gaudy, and slightly shabby around the edges, but good Starbucks!
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Hanging in Atlantis, pretending we belong there.
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Somehow Alexander, Christopher and I managed to get into the "guest only" part of Atlantis by accident, so we got to see some of the tourist attractions (your were supposed to pay).  Here we are in the underwater tunnel in the aquarium.

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We decided not to buy this sculpture for Christopher's room.

The other part of Nassau we checked out was the “downtown” core, around where the cruise ships docked.  This was the predictable collection of tourist oriented T-shirt stores, sprinkled with some expensive clothing, wristwatch, and jewellery stores.  There were also the requisite touts selling tourist trinkets from their market stalls.  After about 15 minutes, I had seen enough of that, and was ready to head back to the boat.

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For me, this picture sums up Nassau exactly.  Investments have clearly been made to make it a tourist destination, but somehow they fell short on the upkeep.
So, that was Nassau.  If you ever go, I can recommend the Starbucks at Atlantis, where you can get exactly the same coffee and banana bread you can get in Starbucks at home.  You can choose to hang out in the Atlantis casino, on one of the tourist beaches where you can buy a coconut,or check out the tourist stores in town.  If you find anything better to do in Nassau, let me know.

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