Thursday, June 19, 2008

First Trip To The Abacos, Bahamas (Day 1-2)

Hopetown, Elbow Cay

The first full day of our vacation we ventured out to Elbow Cay, the island with the candy cane striped lighthouse. The settlement of Hopetown on the northern end of this cay (pronounced "key") has a beautiful harbor with restaurants and shops and quaint homes. We rented our snorkel gear, had lunch at the Harbor's Edge restaurant, then climbed the 101 steps to the top of the lighthouse. We love lighthouses, and always try to include them in our vacations when possible ... this one was a beauty!

The light is still fueled by kerosene and a lighthouse keeper sleeps at the top so he can crank the mechanisms every two hours to keep the light running. During the day the light is covered so that the hot sun doesn't shine through the prisms and burn the town! There were great views from the top, you could see everywhere: Parrot Cay, the Hopetown harbor, the Atlantic Ocean beyond that, and the edge of Marsh Harbor off in the distance. After we came back down, we took a stroll on the beach on the ocean side then headed back to our little island for the night.

That evening we wandered around Lubber's Quarters, walked the dirt roads and explored some of the beaches. On the way we ran into a resident artist, Pam Webb. She and her husband built a spectacular house called Oceanview Cottage on Lubber's Quarters and they spend part of the year there. They live the rest of the year in Grant, another neighboring town in our part of Florida. She warned us about the poison wood tree that grows wild in the Bahamas while we walked with her and her dog along the "street". Later that week I purchased two of her paintings which are sold in local shops all over the Abacos, a wonderful underwater scene and one of our cottage, a beautiful reminder of our trip.

Man 'O War Cay

The next day we decided to explore another island, Man 'O War Cay. It was fairly close to our island so it took us less than an hour to get there. This cay is the shipbuilding hub of the Abacos. The two shipyards are a major employer on Man 'O War, along with the ferry service and also home construction. We found some very well stocked grocery stores on this island where I got a wonderful coconut pie that I enjoyed the rest of the week.

It's a beautiful island, filled with tidy homes and gorgeous flowers everywhere. The flowers didn't stop when we got to the beach, there were vines in the sand with pretty purple flowers on them. The beach was rocky and rugged, and there was a car driving along part of it, just like back home on Daytona Beach .... well almost like that! This terrain is a lot rougher than Florida beaches are.

As we walked the beach, we stumbled upon a huge vacation house and the man who was on the porch waved and invited us up. Turns out he was the full-time painter and handy man for the house (he's on the left, my hubby is on the right, intently listening to the painter's story!).

The owners show up a few times a year and, in between, the handyman paints. He said as soon as he finishes the entire house it's time to start over again. Now that's what I call job security. He grew up on the island and told us that, although some of the young people go away to school, most stay on the island and live out their lives there just as he had. Sounds like a great life to me!

We ate lunch at the Pavilion Restaurant, along with some of the local school children, then snorkeled a little later in the protected marina before heading back to Lubbers for the night.

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