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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bahamas - Day 7 : Lucaya National Park

After an exceptional day scuba diving on Treasure Reef, the Tremendous Trio decided to take the "little shitbox" for a journey to the Lucaya National Park. And, if time permitted, a snorkel trip to Paradise Cove / Deadman's Reef. 

After the long ride to the east end of the island, we arrived at Lucaya National Park and pulled into the dusty dry parking lot. We paid the $5 per person admission and picked up a trail map. We started on the cave side of the park and first entered Ben's Cave, which was exposed when the roof of the cave collapsed. A small spiral staircase allows visitors to descend from the surface to viewing platforms just above the water line.

The next exposed case is the Burial Mound Cave, so named for the skeletons of the indigenous Lucayans found on the floor of the cave. With a larger mouth this cave had wooden steeps leading down to more viewing platforms where visitors get the opportunities to view how expansive the caves are. Both caves are part of a larger network of caves of which only 6 miles have been charted. While they do not allow swimming in these caves visitors certified in scuba diving can explore a short distance beyond what is visible. 

After completing the loop of trails passing the two caves, we made our way to the other side of the Grand Bahama Highway and followed along the mangrove swamp trail, where we encountered a variety of flowers, fauna, and ground pockmarked by land crab borrows. With the help of my flash, I was able to capture one of these land crabs inside his proactive borrow. It wasn't long before we crossed over the sand dune and were treated to beautiful views of Gold Rock Beach. While we didn't wear bathing suits or bring our snorkel gear, we were tempted to take a dip. 

We left the sandy shored and followed the boardwalk across the Gold Rock Creek where we saw more fish and a few kayaker's enjoying the tranquil waters protected by the sandy beach and dunes. After watching people kayak and the nature tours pass by, we were all getting a bit hot and sweaty and decided to head back to the rental car. Once in, we cranked the air conditioning which kicked in really quickly for such a small car.

Hot, sweaty, and hungry we decided it was time for lunch. We swung by the resort to pick up Chris and head for our usual dining destination of Port Lucaya. Today, we opted to repeat the Chipotle Steak Fajitas we had enjoyed earlier on the vacation and the happy hour half price drinks at Agave. While we were finishing up, the rain started to come down and we were thankful to have done the hike earlier in the day.

 With our appetites satisfied, Dan and Grace wanted to pick up some discount fragrances before heading back to the resort to drop of Chris and pick up our snorkel gear. Once back at the resort, we changed into our bathing suits, picked up new towels, and headed out. Sadly, the weather didn't improve as we made our way back to the East End of the island. When we arrived we decided it was our last day and even with the rain we should do it.

We went to the check in counter and discovered two things that changed our mind. First it was 4:30 and we had to be out of the water by 5 since they closed at 5:30 and second because it was low tide we would have to go out past the reef to snorkel since it was too shallow on the inside. With those two negatives we decided it just wasn't worth it and jumped back in the car for the long ride back to the resort.

Along the way we decided we would stop by the International Bazaar. While the tour books raved about it being the center of the islands tourist trade our multiple trips by it appeared more run down and mostly abandoned. Since there wasn't much more to do we pulled in and took a picture underneath the huge sign before venturing in. At the entrance their was a small Asian trinket shop followed just behind it by a smoke shop. After perusing the Chinese made novelties we spoke to the locals outside the smoke shop. They indicated that there wasn't much left after them. We carried along to explored and found abandoned shops and decaying signage. As we returned passes we spoke to them again and they shared their beliefs as to what caused the downfall of the International Bazaar.

Political corruption and the resulting re-routing of the main highway around the now closed Princess Hotel, Tower and Casino drove most of the tourists away and many of the shop owners to Port Lucaya Marketplace. They further discussed their belief that the island as a whole wasn't likely to recover for a very long time and that many of the original staples like the International Bazaar would never recover.

We also talked about the fires that we had seen burning and he told us that we shouldn't believe what we have read about their intentionally being set to control the grasses. The truth he shared is that the islanders as a whole are heavy drinkers and that they little by throwing those bottles to the side of the road and that these discarded bottles are the true culprit to the smoldering forest fires. 
We thanked him for his time and conversation and wished both their businesses and the island a hopeful recovery before heading back to the resort to relax before dinner. After a couple of hours relaxing and enjoying the resort pool and hottub we got ourselves showered and ready for dinner one last time at Port Lucaya. As planned we dined at Cappuccino's Italian restaurant. For our last dinner on the island Dan and I had the chicken francese while Grace and Chris had veal Marsala. While very good we are spoiled with the many suburb Italian restaurants at home. Nevertheless we enjoyed our meal and left satisfied.

Back at the resort we settled in for the most disliked task of traveling, re-packing. While it took some effort we consolidated and packed up all our clothes and vacation purchases leaving just a change of clothes for the next day's daunting trip home. 

We all turned in early knowing we would have a long day traveling the two legs home to Hartford to the cold nearly freezing weather.

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