6 – 8 February 2013
Lynn was working early so I got a ride to the airport at 7am – which was good since check-in wanted to charge me for 3 kilo excess luggage. I said I wanted to throw some stuff away but I just moved some things to my carry-on which they didn't care about (it ended op being 9 kilo too heavy...!). Funny with announcements over the speakers for all passenger to go through security and afterwards the boarding call – we were only 4 people on the plane (and in the departure terminal) so she could tell we were there. We were in a small 9 seater and at take-off the wind almost pushed us of the runway into the gravel but the pilot saved the day last seecond..... My second near plane accident – the other was years ago in the Philippines during a thunder storm where the first landing attempt was aborted, fuel was dropped and then an interesting touch-down... aqua-planing down the runway that felt like soap.
Again immigration took a while - this time because I didn't have a flight back to Denmark (only an ongoing flight to Cuba). And again no public transport from the airport and ridiculous taxi faires. I walked out to the main road and while waiting for a bus I tried hitchhiking – to my big surprise I got a ride with minutes in the back of a battered parcel van. The driver Peter told me many interesting things about the country, but mostly how dangerous it was and how careful I should be..... as always I listen to the locals but I felt sure Bahamas was not the most dangerous place I've been to, and so no real concerns.
Bahamas was only the fourth city since Summer 2010 that I didn't find a couch to surf on. I had written 4-5 people (avoiding all the party freaks) but no luck... So I stayed at Mignon's guesthouse right in the centre and run by an 86/89 year sweet old greek couple - they still do the majority of the work themselves and shared a lot of great stories. Bahamas is one of the biggest cruise destinations in the world because it's so close to the US – not really my kind of place/people so 3 days were more than enough. The area outside the cruise docks (town centre) is one big shopping area where they sell all kind of souvenirs – everything from cheap t-shirts and straw hats to liquor and expensive jewelry (also drugs seemed to be abundant - at least they were offered everywhere). The beaches in and around town are filled with restaurants and bars and everywhere the noise level is high. After a short walk in the centre where most tourists prefer to stay I walked some blocks away where it was fairly peaceful.... amongst other I visited Government House, Graycliff Cigar Factory (where I spoke to some of the Cuban cigar makers), Fort Charlotte and Fort Fincastle from where there is a nice view of town. One afternoon I walked across the bridge to Paradise Island – another terrible tourist trap especially the Atlantis... a huge entertainment compound with hotels, casinos, countless shops, a marina, etc. Navigating my way through the hotel I finally found the public beach where fortunately all the tourists stayed in the hotel end while the other end was practically deserted.... so I stayed for some hours before heading back to town.
With tourism being the primary (and almost only) source of income, Nassua is widely affected by the economic downturn in the US. Many people addressed me while I was walking around town (directly or indirectly begging) but a couple of times I saw some people and sat down on a bench to hear their story. One guy was a 61 year old accountant who had lost his house and was now looking for any new job - without much luck.... another was a former homeless guy now working to improve conditions for other homeless people. While the first guy just needed someone to talk to for an hour, the second guy ended up asking for a donation which he didn't get. I never give money – only my time and work effort which he wasn't interested in.
Bahamas has a similar history to most other Caribbean islands. The Arawaks came in the 9th century and Columbus in 1492 after which the Spanish shipped the Arawaks out as slaves. Pirates like Blackbeard established a pirate's paradise during the 16th century until the British officially colonised the islands in 1718. American loyalists settled in the late 18th century making fortunes on plantations and during the American Civil War the islands were a safe heaven for Southern blockade runners. After Castro took over in Cuba in 1961 investors moved to Nassau which made tourism and finance boom. Bahamas became an independent country in 1973 after 325 years of British rule. Recent years many hurricanes and US' financial downturn has reduced tourism making it hard times for Bahamas.