At breakfast we learned from Velma that it would only take about an hour to make it out to Salinas Point. We grabbed our hats, some bottles of water, and the dive gear.
The rental car was a Honda and built for driving from the right side like a British car. I sat in the front seat on the left. Walter kept forgetting he was to get in from right side of the car. He would open my door and then catch himself. He fidgeted and then pretended he meant to open my door as a courtesy. I looked in his eyes and giggled as I got in the car and he chuckled, knowing I had him figured out.
We were headed to the east coast of Acklins to the beach. We made it to the red pitcher pump, which is where we were to turn left.
“Stop the car. I want to see if it works.”
Walter pulled over and I got out and tried pumping it. I could easily see into the well. There was definitely water in it. But it seems the pump was no longer connected. (click this link IMG_2463 )
We made the left turn to head to Salinas Point again today. There were no construction workers, as it was Sunday, so we had the brand-new, freshly paved, blacktop road all to ourselves. We drove to the east coast and, before turning south to Salinas Point, we parked on a sand trail that led to the ocean.
Acklins is about 100 miles long and the extensive coast is mostly unpopulated. We had the entire expanse of beach all to ourselves for untold miles. We were looking forward to beach combing, but were sad when we saw the masses of plastic trash strewn as far as the eye could see. Seaweed was also piled high and the red berries from the seaweed had turned the surf reddish brown.
“Even if you could clean this beach, there would just be more and more trash to come here every day. And the seaweed piles would be miles high, if you could even get it scraped up!” Jason observed.
We three walked up and down the beach looking for anything interesting. Walter found a few rubber fishing floats, although he really had hoped to find some nice Japanese glass fishing floats. He also found a hardhat from the University of Miami, probably from the R/V F. G. Walton Smith. There was a name on the hardhat: C. Brown. Walter happens to know Captain Shawn Lake who operates this vessel, as he has worked as the project manager at two shipyards that have serviced the Walton Smith. Walter sent Shawn a text with a photo of the hardhat. Shawn is going to look through old logs and let us know how long ago C. Brown was on the boat. Pretty amazing!
I looked really hard for something interesting amongst the sea of plastic garbage. I did find a very cool, very massive braided line. I would have loved to have brought that back to display on our pirate ship tree house, but it was too huge. Walter salvaged a couple of stainless steel Ganzet clips used to connect fishing floats to lines. We tired of looking for anything special and the day was a scorcher, so we moved on south toward Salinas Point.
The road to Salinas Point was not as smooth as it had been on the fresh blacktop, but we were used to the bumpy roads and Walter is now a pro at dodging potholes. As we drove we sang, we talked, we stopped to pee on the side of the road, we drank water, and, finally, we pulled into the colorful little village.
Salinas Point is a small village of pastel wooden buildings and homes situated on the beach. The deep ocean comes in very close to the coast, which is why the government is possibly considering this area for the location of the Bahamian Defense Force base, as well as a possible yacht basin. It will be interesting to see if these are developed in the near future.
We took the car to the very end of the road, past all the houses and various other buildings. We were surrounded by sand and sand spur plants with not a soul around. Walter and Jason grabbed their dive gear and jumped in the water. It’s amazing how close the deep ocean is at this point. You can see four colors from the beach out to the ocean: whitish blue, turquoise, marine blue, and midnight blue. It is truly beautiful.
After they donned their dive gear and jumped in, I could hear them talking to each other – Walter’s lower voice and Jason’s higher register.
“Hey, Jason, look at that mangrove snapper!”
“I see it! What’s the yellow and blue fish, Dad?”
“Those are yellow and blue tangs. Jason, Jason, look over there! Mangrove snapper!”
“Where? Oh! Isn’t that a lane snapper behind him?”
I loved watching them swim around on these pristine reefs and taking pictures of them. They went out to the edge of the blue water where the ocean met the reef. On the reef’s edge they saw lots of other fish. But we were getting hungry and soon it was time to pack everything in the car again and head back.
“Jason would you like to drive? This is a good place. There’s no one on the road.” Walter had been encouraging Jason to drive.
“Um, what? I’ve already had two learners nearly kill me. Can’t you teach this one?”
“Aw, he’ll be fine. Go ahead, Jason.”
Jason was clearly giddy with delight. He got in the front seat and I gave him the basics. And lots of pointers along the way when he threatened to terrify me. After he’d been driving for a while he was feeling pretty pleased with himself.
“So do you think I”m a good driver, Mom?” he asked.
“Well, we have no lines on the road, no traffic signals, no other people on the road, and no intersections. I’d have to evaluate you based on that, I think.”
A big grin was plastered on his face. He giggled. He sang. He was thrilled. In a few more minutes he asked another question.
“I know I’m not in a normal traffic situation. But do you think I’m driving good, Mom?”
“Yes, I think you’re doing fine, Jason. Good job. Looks like you’re having fun, too.” I smiled at him. He grinned some more. And sang some more. And then we were getting close to the main road. Time to switch drivers. He was still on a high from driving even after he was settled in the back seat. I still have three more years before he’ll be able to get his learner’s permit and scare the bajeebers out of me.
It’s a long way from one end of the island to the other, but we were getting used to it. Before long we were back in familiar territory.
“I’m starving, Walter. Let’s find something to eat, soon.”
Just then we saw a small wooden building with a sign out front which read, “The Tamarind Tree.”
“What about this place. Looks like we could get food here maybe.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, I don’t know but we could take a look.” He pulled in and parked.
Inside we met a woman who was very busy cooking all sorts of things. Her kitchen counter was littered with a menagerie of pots and bowls full of delicious smelling food. She looked a tad frazzled with all the things she was doing.
“Hello! Is it possible we could get something to eat? It looks great! What are you making?” We were the only ones in there besides her. We sat down at the single table with three chairs as she worked on large bowls of food.
She flashed a tired smile, “I’ve got so much to do with the Reunion party tonight. I have peas and rice, peas and rice with crab, spicy jerk chicken, green peas and rice, fresh conch….”
“Wait. You have fresh conch? Can you make me a conch salad?” I asked.
At this point her husband walked in. She had taken a shine to us by then, I could tell by her beautiful smile.
“Norma, they are waiting for you at the beach. You need to get the food down there.”
“Oh, I can make money here same as I can there. They can wait a minute while I dish this up and finish the other things I’m making.” She sent him on with a few things for the evenings festivities while we settled down to a real feast.
I had to wait a bit as she already had the food cooked that Walter and Jason wanted. But she makes the conch salad from conch in her pen on the beach behind her store/restaurant. She had just cleaned several of them for the party that night. While Jason and Walter scarfed down their food – I had to try some of it – she hand-made a tropical conch salad for me and decorated it with flair. She presented it with a flourish – a huge portion of gorgeous conch salad. I shared it with Jason and Walter, as well.
She had several gallons of tamarind juice that she uses in her cooking. She boils it down from her own tamarind tree beside her beach kitchen and adds other ingredients to it. She gave me a sample of it.
“Norma Cox, this is GOOD!”
“And you’ll never be constipated if you drink that every day!” She giggled mischievously. “I have a friend on Crooked Island named Willie. I need to get over there so I can give this jug to her. She uses it in her restaurant.”
“Willie? Wilhelmina at Gibsons?” I asked.
“You know Willie?”
“Yes, I’ve eaten there a few times and she made some Johnny bread for me and a conch salad, too. I can take it to her for you. I’m leaving in two days and can take it right to her.”
“Oh, that’s great! I’ll give it to you tonight when you come by the party later.”
She had talked us into coming to the Beach party after the Chester party. We were going to be busy tonight!
After tasting her homemade tamarind concoction, I now want my own tamarind tree. The thickened juice would lend itself well to pork or chicken or any one of a number of dishes. It’s very unique, and both sweet and sour, and really delicious with many potential applications for cooking.
It was time for us to head out, and for her, too. She made a strained smile and asked for $29 when I knew it was $34. We gave her the full amount. She works hard and her food is truly special.
Back in the car we headed back to IVel’s to drop Jason off to watch cartoons. We weren’t sure what the atmosphere would be like or if children were welcome. Jason was very happy to get back home and watch TV and we knew he’d be safe there.
We were told there was a party at Chester Bay, but we drove all over creation before we finally traveled down the last possible road that could lead us to this event. We made it. Walter ran into a few guys from Virginia who love to dive and go fly fishing in Acklins. They chatted with Walter and then headed back to their lodge in Chester. We drank a few beers, mingled with the locals, and entertained ourselves by taking pictures of the full moon off the tip of our beer bottles. The moon was glorious and so was the sunset that preceded it.
On the way back we saw the beach party where Norma was. We parked and I ran right over to get another conch salad from her. Once again, she made it by hand fresh while I waited. Walter ordered conch fritters from another woman. They were good, too. We stayed long enough to talk to several people, all of them friendly and sporting big toothy smiles. It’s hard not to be happy on these beautiful islands.
We had put in another long, eventful day. It was time to head back to IVel’s and our big comfy bed once again.