Driving Into Georgetown
“Water Taxi!” a local shouted as we drove through Georgetown.
This is the biggest city on the island of Great Exuma, although the population of the entire island is less than 7,000 people. This statistic was particularly surprising to me, as this little island is bigger than the main island tourists go to vacation in The Bahamas: Nassau. Can you guess what the population of Nassau is? 266,110 people. That’s right, body to body on the sand; good luck finding a private beach.
Our AirBnb host, Norbert, had told me that the water taxis were impossible to miss and I certainly believed him as another man approached the car shouting, “Water Taxi!”
We drove past the waving pamphlets and over to the marina, easily finding a parking spot. Stepping onto the dock, we joined the crowd of five people waiting to hop on the next water taxi. I love Great Exuma. Looking down into the crystal clear water, I spotted a stingray the size of a Great Dane. This was the first stingray I’d seen on the island…that is, unless the unidentified blob I found in the morning while swimming with the sea turtles wasn’t a stingray.
Finding The Water Taxi To Stocking Island
I looked up, as the faint sound of reggae music began to overtake the dock. It grew louder and louder until the source finally rounded the corner.
“Water Taxi!” the captain shouted, as we began to jump one by one onto the nose of the tiny boat, finding a seat amongst the cushioned white chairs. I handed $15 cash back to the captain. This paid for a trip from Great Exuma to Stocking Island and back. What’s nice about The Bahamas is, even though they have a different currency than the United States, there’s an equal exchange rate. Every business would accept cash, whether it was from The Bahamas or the United States.
I chose a spot in the front, fully prepared to be splashed by any wave I could get–it was a scorching hot day. The ride was all of five minutes long, if that. However, I’d gladly pay $15 than swim that distance roundtrip anyday. I’ve seen the sharks in these waters.
“OKAY! WE ARE HERE! BAR IS TO YOUR LEFT AND FEEDING THE STINGRAYS IS TO YOUR RIGHT. LAST BOAT LEAVES HERE AT FIVE. DON’T MISS IT,” the captain warned us, shouting over the excited tourists and crashing waves.
Arriving At Stocking Island
I leaped off the nose of the boat and into the sand with bare feet. There was no doubt about it, I was parched in this heat and a drink was my first priority. I walked toward the bar as the smell of barbecue filled the air.
Every Sunday, both locals and tourists flock to this island for the famous Sunday Pig Roast at Chat N’ Chill. I watched as the grill master flipped the lid open and clouds of smoky meat filled the air. Okay, maybe I’d better grab a bite with my drink.
“I’ll have a piña colada and one ticket for the pig roast, please.”
The bartender passed an overflowing cup of icy goodness across the counter along with a pig roast ticket and pointed me over to the next line. It reminded me of the school cafeteria. You’d say what you do and don’t want, then the lunch ladies slop it on your tray and hand it over.
There was roasted pig and steaming carrots, cheesy macaroni and coleslaw. I’d never been much for coleslaw, so I scored some extra roasted carrots, then found a shady picnic table under a palm tree alongside the beach.
Enjoying The Sunday Pig Roast
My first bite, of course, had to be the main event–the pig. All I have to say is, I’m glad I went to the pig roast before I swam with the pigs. It was deLICIOUS. The roasted carrots pleasantly surprised me, as well. They had a taste I could only describe as Thanksgiving, a home cooked meal with bursting flavors. Last, but certainly not least, was the dish I had the most rights to judge as a Wisconsinite: Macaroni and cheese. Though I wouldn’t say it’s the best mac n’ cheese I’ve ever had (that would be an extremely difficult feat), it wasn’t half bad. I finished my entire portion.
Feeding the Stingrays At Stocking Island
Once lunch was over, I really did feel as if I’d just had Thanksgiving dinner. I was ready to lie belly-up under a palm tree and take a nap in the sand. However, I was in The Bahamas. There was no time for sleeping. I decided to take a walk along the shore and see what the stingray feeding was all about. Not that we have stingrays in Wisconsin, but I recalled a very public event with a certain Steve Irwin that did not end well.
“They must be in a tank if we can feed them. Because they’d have to take the stingers out, right?” I questioned.
However, as we approached the site, I watched as tourists stood off the shoreline, petting the stingrays as they zoomed up from depths of the ocean. A woman giggled, as she put her hands under its body and it sucked the food out of her hand. I looked over in horror, as a child chased the stingray into the shallow end, trying to grab its tail.
“It’s okay, they don’t sting,” his father said, looking over at us and laughing while filming his crazed son.
I put my GoPro underwater and a stingray zoomed over, thinking I was giving him his biggest lunch yet. His skin was soft, almost like a newborn baby’s. He glided over my disappointing snack (the GoPro) and headed over to a woman sitting down in the shallows. After doing a 360 around her and receiving no snacks, he made his way to the next group. I wondered if cruising through the tourists for bites really was less work than finding its own food in the shallows. It sure didn’t look like an easy task.
Exploring Stocking Island
I continued down the shoreline to see what the rest of this small island held. I tiptoed past the sunken boat of conch shells. You could find these on every menu in The Bahamas. There were conch fritters for appetizers, conch salads for entrees and, thankfully, no conch for dessert…at least that I know of.
A women giggled in the sand, but it was hard to tell which one. A local was having fun completely burying her three friends. With hats over their faces and the rest of them in the ground, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. I think they found the coolest spot in the entire country to hide from the sun.
There were also games–lots of games. The beach volleyball was dead; I think the court didn’t have enough shade. The cornhole wasn’t being used either, but I think that was because someone took the name of the game too literally. There were holes in the bags of corn. I rested on the tree swing, finishing my drink until our water taxi appeared back on shore.
Catching The Water Taxi Back To Georgetown
“Where’ve you been all day, man?” an older guy with a balding cap joked to the captain, “We missed you. I’ve got about six more people coming if we can fit.”
“Yes, yes,” he said motioning, as we found a seat further back this time.
His first friend approached the boat. Now, there wasn’t a ladder or anything, but the nose wasn’t too far off the ground that we couldn’t hoist ourselves over. However, to be frank, his friend looked like he would have enjoyed the mac n’ cheese more than the carrots for lunch today. Rolling his body over the front of the boat like a turtle trying to get right side up, he landed belly-first on the floor with a thud. We looked up in concern as he lied there. Wiggling around, he finally found his footing and stood back up, looking around.
“My, that was much harder than it needed to be,” he said, with a deep laugh, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
The Worst Car On The Entire Island
The rest of the group hopped on much more gracefully and we made it back to Georgetown in no time. We filed off the boat and headed back to the parking lot together.
“Man! That car’s been here so long, its paint has started to peel off!” the jokester who’d grabbed the water taxi from Stocking Island said, pointing at our rental car.
“Oh my! And the tail light is broken, too!” his wife joined in as they hopped into their brand new Jeep Wrangler.
“We really do have the worst car on this entire island,” I said, laughing, “And according to the salesman this is better than the one he was supposed to give us.”
Not only was our car a wreck from the outside, but inside, it was even worse. The car charger didn’t work and the bluetooth didn’t either. We couldn’t even turn on the radio. We’d been sitting in silence for the past 24 hours. The good thing about vacationing on an island, however, is that the car rental business was just down the road.
Hello Again, Airport Car Rental
As I walked into Airport Car Rental, before I could even get a word out, the sales clerk said, “Yeah, we just fixed all of our cars so the system doesn’t work in most of them. We can give you one that has a radio working in it, though.”
And just like that, we had the second worst car on the island. However, with my phone charging and reggae music dancing into the wind, I was more than ecstatic. Coming from the United States, sometimes it’s easy to take things for granted.
In America, if we are unhappy with the service, then a lot of times it’s free, or at least discounted. Outside of the country, that is almost never the case. We may have had one of the worst cars on the island, but it was from the best rental car business on the island. This was as good as it could get without spending a fortune, and you know what we were? Grateful.
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