November 8 2014
We were up early on Saturday and filled with anticipation. We were planning to rent a golf cart and explore the island of North Bimini. There are three towns on North Bimini – Alice Town, Bailey Town and Porgy Bay. Our visit last year only included short walking trips (since we had a crew with a few physical limitations) so we had not really seen anything north of Alice Town. Brown’s Marina, where we are docked, is at the very southern end of the island and, as such, is pretty far from ‘town’. The north end of the island has been developed by Resorts World International and includes a 1000 foot long pier out into the ocean for docking the Bimini Superfast cruise ferry that runs day trips out of Miami and Port Everglades. We were curious to see what that was all about.
We had a conversation with our dockmaster, Cordero, about things to do and places to go. He named a couple of restaurants including one on South Bimini (which would require a ferry ride – not the superfast kind) called The Square Grouper. The name is a reference to a slang term for the occasional flotsam that washed up back in the days of serious marijuana traffic back in the day. But, we were committed to a golf cart for the day and staying on the north island. Cordero had mentioned that he could hook us up with a golf cart through a friend/cousin/this guy he knew. The going rate for carts on the island is $50 a day for electric and $80 for gas-powered. We took the recommendation to get the gas version. A few minutes later Jason, from M & M carts, delivered our coach to the marina and off we went!
To put this into perspective, the island of North Bimini is about 6 miles long. There is one main road that runs the length of the island. There is one road that runs along the ocean parallel to the main road for half that length. There are 4 cross streets that connect the two roads – the longest of which is, maybe, 300 yards long. It was not yet 9:00 am so the traffic, mostly other golf carts with workers moving about, was light. The Bahamas retain their British characteristics so they drive on the left side of the road. That always takes some getting used to. Even though the US is very close, most of the products and automobiles are uncommon brands.
Everybody either greets you or, if you greet them first, responds quickly. Even the scariest looking dreadlocked person you met would break out that dazzling smile when you said hello. The typical island greeting is “Mornin’, mornin’” and you find yourself adapting to that. Junie insisted that we stop and offer a ride to a young woman walking along the street. She gladly accepted and we took her half a mile or so to the market where she was headed to work. And got more restaurant recommendations.
But one recommendation remained consistent. If you want fresh conch salad, go to Stuart’s. That was number one on Junie’s food hit list for the day. It was only 9:30 when we pulled into the sand parking lot of the little building stuck out over the water. There was no one around but we found a couple of guys hammering on the conch shells, busting loose the slimy little critters, on the dock beside the open wooden building. ‘Come back in about an hour.’
We drove north to the resort and found it to be, pretty much, what we expected. An ostentatious entry gate, construction in process, nice enough, some nicer homes up on the ocean side. Not unlike several other developments we have seen and, like most, not without controversy. The Bimini Superfast brings a lot of tourists to the island (good and bad), the development has impacted the environment (mostly bad) and the survival record of developments in the Bahamas is abysmal. So, not everyone is excited.
And, with that, we had traveled the length of North Bimini. We drove back south past Stuart’s where they were still cracking conch and turned up one of the side streets to the ocean. The view is just breath-taking. The ocean, looking west back towards Florida 50 miles in the distance and out of sight, drops sharply to several thousand feet deep right off shore. The color changes are very cool.
We ended up almost back at the marina and stopped at ‘A Taste of Heaven Bakery’ for a Guava Cinnamon roll. The traffic was starting to pick up by the time we went back to Stuart’s and pressured them into making us their first conch salad of the day. All fresh ingredients – conch fresh out of the shell, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, some seasoning and lime juice. Simple and delicious. We had a great conversation with Matthew, one of the Stuart brothers, as he prepared the salad in front of us. It is a pretty small place so everything is in front of you. They are very proud of the new establishment which, apparently, is much nicer than the previous place.
As the afternoon progressed, the road got busier and more exciting. We drove up and down the island many times. So many, in fact, that an old man in a wheel chair along the road started shouting, ‘There you go again!’ every time we passed. A few more cars were moving about and were in a hurry – although I don’t know where they might hurry to. It seems that beer drinking – Kalek, here in the Bahamas- starts in late morning so the driving skills go downhill fairly early. The narrow streets with people walking everywhere, tourists that had shown up from the resort and all of the cars practically guaranteed that we would see an accident by the end of the day. And we did. Thankfully a minor incident with a golf cart running up a stone wall and no one hurt. We went back to the marina and parked our cart. Turns out, a 2 hour cart rental would probably have been enough.