Helpful lineman dude takes our bags into immigration and customs and we notice how spartan the setup is. There are a couple customs people there, mostly listening to their ipods and reading magazines. One immediately jumps to help us as we arrive and ask if we have the correct forms already filled out. We don’t, so she shows us the ones we need and answers our questions about them.
Both are pleasant and capable and we find ourselves quickly out the door. This was a pleasant surprise because we’d been warned a few days ago by our buddy Chris that clearing customs and dealing with other airport related activities had been a major pain in the ass with waits for customs and hours of waiting for departure permission.
Our rental car was a piece of work. Rentals on Eleuthera are an absolute rip-off. I have no idea how the economics of the deal end up being so messed up, but a poor condition 15 year old car ended up costing us about $55 a day. The staff was awesome. They were pleasant and eager to help, but Beth spent a bunch of time looking and that’s just what cars cost there.
In any case, we take possession of our car and head down the road toward the house. The island is 110 miles long and only a few miles wide. There is a single highway going down the middle of it, but there is very little traffic and few stores. We stop at the grocery store for some supplies, but they don’t have booze. We stop of the liquor store and find that we can’t get booze because it’s Sunday. Disappointed, we get back in the car and drive the rest of the way to the rental.
Arriving at the rental we’re happy to see the place. We mostly rent from private parties, and this trip is no exception, but the prices on the island were super high, so Beth booked us at what we thought would be a good compromise. We find a note on the door welcoming us and letting us know that the owner had to run into town, but to go ahead and make ourselves at home. We bring in the bags and start settling in.
The beach is white sand and no one is on it. There are a couple houses nearby, but I guess with 220 miles of coastline and a population of only about 10,000 people there is plenty of beach for everyone. We decide to head over to Chris’s house and see how things are with them.
We get there and are greeted by people we haven’t met before that speak very little English. Concerned we might have the wrong house we introduce ourselves at the same time I remember that Bruno and his family, including his parents from France, are also down for the week. I introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Rich and this is my wife Beth” and we go inside to say hi to everyone else. Like our beach, this one is empty except for our friends.
The house is a large one, three couple plus kids are staying here, and very recently remodeled. The new furniture and nicely appointed kitchen (with industrial ice maker!) are much nicer than our house, but I suppose that’s one of those “you get what you pay for” things. We meet Bruno’s wife and kids and get things setup for a campfire on the beach.
Though breezy, the campfire is warm and the stars glimmer in the sky. A bit of moonlight graces the scene and Chris and Bruno were able to get booze prior to our arrival so we have adult beverages to sample. This is when Bruno decided to tell me that his parents thought I was an ass when they first met me. Apparently, when I introduced myself they initially thought I was telling them I was wealthy! They mentioned this to Bruno, who laughed and clarified the situation. Sitting around the campfire we have a great conversation and everyone made new friends.
The next morning we have to run over to Nassau to get the plane Chris and Bruno flew down in. They attempted to leave Nassau a few days prior and had to abort a landing. On taxing back, they found that they had lost a tire. It took several days to get the tire identified, located, shipped and installed. Now the plane is ready to go, so we pile into my plane and head over.
The skies are much more clear than when Beth and I arrived. The seas are even more vibrant now with the sun shining on them. We pass the time commenting on various small islands and notice that for the majority of the trip it looks like if we had an engine failure we would find ourselves in water only up to our knees.
We land at Nassau and find it to be the same mess that it was when Chris and Bruno had previously been there. There are simply too many airplanes trying to use the airspace and it’s a 30 minute wait to get through to clearance to get a taxi approval, then a 45 minute wait on the taxiway before getting a chance to get on the runway and take off. None of this is because of the local controllers. They are doing their best to manage a congested situation. It’s just a fact of life when the airport is as busy as it is.
We fly back to Eleuthera and are happy to be at a much less busy airport. Chris swings around in front of my bush plane and I land behind him before we both do a 180 and taxi back to the tarmac.
As we’re going through town Chris sees some guys selling grouper on the beach and we get a couple for dinner. Chris cooks the grouper and Bruno cooks some side dishes. We end up with an amazingly good dinner, more great conversation and another campfire.
The next day we decide to again take advantage of our aviation skills and fly up to Treasure Cay and a ferry to Green Turtle Cay for lunch. The scenery and oceans are beautiful, as usual, but the skies are choppy and Beth isn’t happy. We also end up flying through some pretty thick smoke, which makes her even less happy. Lunch was pretty mediocre. It would have been better with a beer.