Rioting in Haiti led to all flights in and out of Haiti being canceled Saturday including mine from Cap-Haïtien on American Airlines. No one was willing or able to fly in or out due to the violent rioting in the streets of the capital of Port au Prince and the northern town of Cap-Haïtien beginning Friday after the Brasil – Belgium match and throughout Saturday. Roads blocked all over the country using iron chains, burning tires and semi trucks. People are stranded including me and a number of other foreigners from America and Switzerland, South African and Dominican, among others. Vandalism and looting is widespread as smoke billows into the Haitian sky. Buildings being destroyed including the Best Western and the Oasis and cars being set on fire. It was complete and total chaos here in Haiti on July 7, 2018. All have been advised to stay indoors and try to remain calm while fear permeates the air stifling all of us as we wait in anticipation as to what will happen next.
The flag flies high over Haiti but not the red and blue one! What flag was flying high yesterday? The green and yellow of Brazil. It’s FIFA World Cup time and the Haitian people believe in one thing and one thing alone and that is either 1) that Brazil is their team and their team is going to beat Belgium or 2) Argentina is their team and Brazil had better lose to Belgium!
The Brazilian flag is everywhere you look here covering the hoods of the cars, on the rear view mirrors of the motorcycles, on their helmets, flying high on their stores and over their homes! All business shut down and the locals clamored into the streets halting traffic to a stand still in front of any TV or radio they could find (and there are not many here due to the poverty in this country).
Because I couldn’t see over the mounds of people to watch the game and because I don’t understand French or Creole – my only way to understand who had scored was by listening to the cheers of joy or rants of disgust emanating from the locals.
When the game concluded I was standing high on a mountain overlooking Cap-Haïtien and I learned my first mistake of the day i.e. that I thought there were more Brazil fans than Argentina fans and, in fact, thought Brazil had scored in the last few seconds as the cheers were widespread and deafening down below; however, it turns out surprisingly that some Haitians were indubiously happy (but only for a moment) because Brazil lost as you can tell from the video. Like me with the Dallas Cowboys, when their team (Argentina) was eliminated from the “playoffs” or in this case the semi-finals, they celebrated their rival getting crushed and that celebration, I thought, had lasted late through the night into the early morning hours of the following day with drinking and fireworks. But I made my second mistake of the day. It was not Olé Olé Olé I was hearing the Haitian people shouting here in Cap-Haïtien at the bottom of my hillside hotel and it was not fireworks I heard after the match as the sun was slipping away and the darkness was overtaking the city. It was gunfire and violent rioting that had erupted in the streets last night. What started out as a fun exciting World Cup match turned to an elimination of Brazil at the hands of Belgium and turned to catastrophe here in Haiti. The next blog entry will show how the seedier side of human nature reared its ugly head here in Haiti on July 7, 2018 and how I got caught up in it.
If you have any questions or can add something about the FIFA World Cup or the outcome of the matches in other countries and how the local people reacted when it wasn’t even their country, I would love to hear from you so submit same via the form below. Then go unlock the Travelirvana in you.
God said the color “blue” is just not quite good enough for us here on earth and so on the 8th day he created The Bahamas. Here the color spectrum includes blues never seen by me before and I’ve been to the Maldives, Zanzibar and Belize so that is saying a lot! Here you get to swim in the divine – the water of the Gods themselves. It is so clear near the beaches you can see iridescent fish with the naked eye. Admittedly, the Maldives is either equal to The Bahamas or a very close second.
WHERE TO STAY IN NASSAU?
There are many ways to enjoy the hundreds of islands in The Bahamas but you will pay for this privilege unless you stay away from Tourist Highway also known by me as America’s Playpen i.e. the resorts. My choice, and I would make it over and over again, is BahaSea. It’s peaceful and relaxing here. Read a book in the hammock or lay out on the balcony, go for a delightful swim just down what seems like your very own steps to another world and while there, witness Nelly, her daughter and Akeem ready to step up and help you in anyway they can.
Shop for groceries down the street and cook your own culinary feasts in the kitchens provided for your use at BahaSea or stop at Marcos Pizza and enjoy probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had (the secret is in the crust this time not the sauce although that was delightful too); however, be wary of the cost of certain groceries i.e. a bag of pistachios costs $24 USD in Nassau. Although groceries can be expensive here too, they are certainly cheaper than any food you would buy at the resorts by a VERY long shot.
Venture by public bus safely to downtown Nassau or anywhere on New Providence Island for a mere $1.25 each way because the taxis are not affordable here. This way you can perhaps afford to catch a quick day trip to Exuma Cay and swim with the pigs or, if your budget won’t allow it, Akeem at BahaSea will let you swim with his two piggies. Also, bless yourself with a trip to Eleuthera and Harbour Island to swim with celebrities if you prefer them to pigs or try dolphins or sharks – it’s all here in The Bahamas – a bucket list trip for anyone I assure you.
BELOW IS A QUICK LIST OF MY TOP 7 SEVEN THINGS FOR A FIRST TIMER IN THE BAHAMAS:
1. Swimming with the pigs in Exuma.
2. Glass bridge in Eleuthera.
3. Pink sand in Harbour Island.
4. Dolphins at Atlantis.
5. Day at the beach in Bahamar.
6. Conch salad, Sky Juice and junkanoo dancing at Arawak Cay a/k/a Fish Fry.
7. The Queens Staircase in Nassau.
If you have any questions or can add something about The Bahamas, I would love to hear from you so submit same via the form below. Then go unlock the Travelirvana in you.
Wrench yourself from the beaches for a half or full day and meander around the small downtown of Nassau. Finish the day at Arawak Cay a/k/a Fish Fry and you will see the pastel colored buildings which decorate this souvenir filled corner of the world and you will take notice of how the kindness and charm of the locals will refresh you in the heat. Be aware though that here in Nassau there are a number of dilapidated properties as of late. Admittedly, it made me a little sad to see them looking so forlorn and lonely until I saw what some of the locals want to do with the buildings 😉 (See below.)
So without further ado, stop in the following few places on your day into town and you will get a much better feel for what Bahamian life is all about and pick up a little history lesson or two.
THIS LITTLE PIGGY MAY HAVE GONE TO THE MARKET BUT YOU’LL BE THE ONE SQUEALING ALL THE WAY HOME AFTER SWIMMING WITH THE PIGS IN EXUMA CAY, THE BAHAMAS WITH EXUMA WATER SPORTS.
A short trip to Exuma Cay from Nassau will bring you snout to snout with enormous swimming pigs and no matter how you get there – by plane by powerboat by Bahama car ferry by catching a ride with Superman or by swimming if you have too – you get there! Exuma was the highlight of my trip to The Bahamas and while terribly expensive -like EVERYTHING in The Bahamas – it is worth every minute of your time and every penny in your pocket.
Not only will you swim with gargantuan pigs, you can feed and swim with sting rays and hang out on the beach and share grapes with ginormous iguanas.
But that is not all I assure you. You will see new colors of the ocean you didn’t think could possibly exist and white sand beaches created for the Gods and that is coming from someone who has been to the Maldives, Thailand, Belize and Zanzibar. I didn’t think I could be shocked anymore after 83 countries and given the unimaginable scenery I’ve been privileged to lay eyes on but boy was I wrong. The white sands and turquoise, sea green, cerulean, clear and blue waters that wrap even Nassau itself cannot compare to those of Exuma. You will be stunned. Here you can swim in water so clear that iridescent fish are visible to the naked eye so you can only imagine the rewards of snorkeling here.
To top it off you will get the luxury of making the short climb to the top of Bonefish Bay and see rock structures and arches carved out by God’s second greatest carpenter after Jesus himself, and that is the ocean. While you are straddling this hill you will see the deep navy blue of the Atlantic to one side and the Windex colored (both blue and green) of the Caribbean to the other.
And, if you are curious like me, you will also want to know how Eleuthera got its pink beaches. Well, according to several sources including, BudgetTravel, the light pink sand “gets its hue from thousands of broken coral pieces, shells, and calcium carbonate materials left behind by foraminifera (tiny marine creatures with red and pink shells) that live in the coral reefs that surround the beach.” While they are not the bubble gum pink that some Instagramers would have you believe, they are pink nonetheless which is in and of itself rather awesome and an important thing to see when in the area.
Before you leave Exuma, stop at Big D’s for a conch salad (pronounced “conk”) or conch burger to die for that blows Nassau’s conch out of the proverbial water and be dazed by swaying palm trees with a delicious Bahama Mama or it’s non-alcoholic sister – fruit punch – in hand.
So you will want to know how you get to this paradise of all paradises and see this’ be all end all’ of ‘be all end alls’ of beauty and experience this adventure that will leave you with a smile stretching from ear to ear right? Most definitely read this then as the information out there is presently a bit scarce. I highly recommend you get online and look up Exuma Water Sports and book a half day tour with them. Whether you get Peter Pan, Justin Timberlake or MJ as your chauffeur, captain or first mate, you can’t go wrong. In fact, Peter, Justin and MJ (all of whom were nicknamed above by me) are just to name a few of the wonderful tour guides at Exuma Water Sports. Also, you will need to get online at Bahamasair (or perhaps Sky Bahamas) and buy a round trip ticket to Exuma. I warn you in advance that these are the islands so be flexible as planes run on island time. In fact, Bahamasair has some ‘not so good’ publicity i.e. an unintended slogan – “If you have time to spare, fly Bahamasair”. While funny no doubt, some of you might not find it to be so hilarious while you are waiting at the airport but be patient as it is so worth it. For me, each flight was only about an hour behind and it did not affect my tour. The cost for the flight round trip was $150 and the cost for the half day tour was $150 for a total of $300. Your beer, water, sodas, snacks, snorkeling gear, transport to and from the airport and one of the best days you’ll ever have in your life are included in that price.
What do you need to take with you? A towel, camera, sunscreen and a hat and simply wear your swimsuit and shorts and t-shirt, or sundress/cover up and flip flops in route. The wind from the speedboat ride will blow you dry for your return flight.
So $300 may seem like a lot but let me tell you your other options:
You can make my mistakes i.e. 1) not book in advance and find all tours are sold out; 2) trust HiddenBeaches when they say you can go but not respond to your emails to confirm departure time and date leaving you without options because everyone is sold out; 3) take a 2 hour powerboat (each way) with Powerboat Adventures (for $219 for full day tour) or one of the other operators (for anywhere from $319 to $399) on what can sometimes be tumultuous waters leaving your trip either canceled due to weather or leaving you sore and nauseous and beat down exhausted; and/or, 4) really screw up and think “hey there’s bound to be a local Exuma tour operator able to take me last minute upon arrival at the airport or a ferry boat who goes from Barraterre to Major Cay a/k/a Pig Island so I’ll catch an early morning flight, catch a taxi ($60/each way to the dock – no way) or rent a car from Thompson’s Car Center (a lot better but still $75/day) and see what happens ”. DON’T DO THIS! I was only saved by the pity Peter of Exuma Water Sports took on me as his tour passengers boarded one by one on his magical carpet to unimaginable beauty and playful adventures a/k/a his shuttle seeing me standing all alone in front of the tiny little airport in Georgetown as my own much sadder version of Charlotte’s Web danced in my head. (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU PETER AND REBECCA FROM EXUMA WATER SPORTS!! I am jumping for joy in gratitude for you!)
Finally, be aware of the following cautionary tales for this adventure because I personally hit the trifecta today in the mistake department.
1) I was head butted in the stomach by Squealy the Pig and stepped on by Blackie. Perhaps my orange swimsuit wasn’t the best choice given their drug of choice is carrots and I looked like one today! So while funny, perhaps, you shouldn’t wear orange on this tour. Maybe they can see color. Also, remember to feed the pigs the whole carrot and if you are going to hold onto some in your hands to disperse at your leisure, be aware they know you have them and they are wild animals so be careful and hide them.
2) Lay your hand completely flat when you are feeding the sting rays their hot dog. Let the stingray swim over your hand and sort of roll it off your hand into its mouth. My stingray got a little frisky with me and tried to suck on two of my fingers. It didn’t hurt but surprised and scared me; however, it was completely my fault. No matter what, keep your hand absolutely flat.
3) An iguana actually drew blood! It bit my finger and bit it hard. Why? I think he thought it was a purple grape. If your toe nails or fingernails are pink or purple or a shade somewhere in between, watch out! And, again, remember, they know you have food. Don’t kneel down on the sand with food in your hand which is within reaching distance. Otherwise, next time, you could be the one responsible for changing the blue colors of the Caribbean to red.
Now that you are fully armed with the necessary information, trust me and go on the half day tour (1/2 is good enough) with Exuma Water Sports and swim with them piggies and enjoy the rest of my recommendations in Exuma. And, if you adhere to the above instructions I provided, you can return home exhilarated like me but with all your fingers and your toes.
If you have any questions or can add something about Exuma or The Bahamas, I would love to hear from you so fill out the form below. Then go unlock the Travelirvana in you.
Quick lunch and a Red Bull with one of the nicest people – Shakira (not that one lol) – in Turks and Caicos a/k/a TIC before catching an 18 passenger prop plane to Country 84 – Dominican Republic – with Intercaribbean. Turks and Caicos doesn’t count as an independent country on my RTW “list” but it counts on every other list i.e. it gets a big OLE WOW. Just take a half hour prop plane ride out of TIC to wherever or even back to TIC so you can see an unimaginable spectrum of the color blue.
Below is a half hour out by plane. Look at the colors change!!!
If you have any questions or can add something about Turks and Caicos in general, I would love to hear from you so submit the form below. Then go unlock the Travelirvana in you.