Experienced Caribbean travelers generally prefer to avoid heading toward the equator in the heat of July. However, the timing of our visit was determined by our Bahamian friend from the States, who invited us to join her for a family reunion on the island. The event was scheduled for the week of July 4, so off we went, in planes that decreased in size and became hotter and more cramped as we traveled from Tampa, Florida to Miami to Nassau, and then on to Long Island. On our previous visit, we’d experienced Long Island in the heat of May, which is off season, where we had enjoyed the relative luxury of the Stella Maris Inn resort situated at the northern tip of the island.
This trip we looked forward to “Livin' Like The Natives Do”, discovering local hangouts and foregoing expensive resort amenities.Our destination was one of only two airstrips on the island- the one closest to Cartwrights, the settlement named for our friend’s family, where I hoped a rental car awaited us. Arriving on Long Island during a torrid summer mid-afternoon afforded a small taste of the heat and sun we were to endure for the week. But hey, we were used to the heat so we came prepared. Of course the (high-mileage, beat-up, standard shift) rental car had no air-conditioning but it did have fairly new tires, very critical to getting around on the extremely rough, boulder-strewn and potholed limestone roads that crisscross the island.
It is worth noting that the island is a bit over 100 miles long, with one major asphalt road (The Queen's Road, which our friend’s uncle developed the 1960s) that runs the length, along the leeward shore of the island. In places the island may be six miles wide. Rough roads that connect from the Queen's Road to the rocky, windward shore are few and far between, due to the cost of bush hogging and putting in a (typically very steep) road. A consequence is that the beaches are deserted. It also helps that less than 5000 people live year-round on the island, so the island is indeed sparsely populated.
After we collected our little Geo-type car at the tiny airport, we managed to make our way "up island" to hook up with our friend at the new Shell station, one of only two gas stations for many miles. Numerous family members had turned out to meet our friend at the airport, and at least five adults and four kids were piled in the family pickup truck, squeezed in the rusting cab and packed into the open bed. After hasty greetings in the broiling sunlight, we formed a caravan and headed down the road, looking like a vanguard from the Grapes of Wrath.
We soon arrived at the Cartwright family compound and the home that our host and his wife shared with their 2 pre-teens and Maw-Ma, the 85-year-old matriarch of the clan. The small, unfinished cinderblock house, like most homes on the island, was situated close to the Queen’s Road and surrounded by several acres of banana and fruit trees. Across the road squatted the little community store, which, during our stay, the clan cleaned out of chicken, soft drinks, bottled water and Vienna sausage until the next arrival of the island supply boat. Next door was an uncle’s house and down the road was Aunt So-and-So and Cousin so-and-so and on it goes.
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"Photo credit Destination360 Long Island Bahamas"