A wave of excitement ripples through the crowd, as the joyous cacophony of drums, whistles, cowbells and horns commences. A riotously colorful parade of school children approaches, wearing fanciful costumes fashioned of cardboard and crepe paper. Unwieldy floats, propelled by hand, veer ominously toward the spectators, as the youngsters at the helm struggle to return the bedecked platforms to the center of the street. Parents, teachers and townsfolk cheer, snap photos, and follow behind the procession to retrieve lost headdresses and other random costume parts.
We have stumbled upon the annual Junior Junkanoo celebration on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. A small island, about 110 miles long, and just over two miles across at the widest point, Eleuthera is a place where everyone knows everyone, and visitors are welcomed. There are no casinos, but every little village has at least one church. No cruise ships come to call, but if you post yourself at the ramp in Governor’s Harbor in the afternoon, you can see the fishing boats return with the day’s catch.
On Eleuthera, your wake-up call is likely to be the crow of a rooster. You would not be considered neighborly if you passed a pedestrian on the island’s only highway without offering a ride, and you’d better factor some extra time into your commute to allow for the goats who routinely nap in the middle of the road.
There is not much to see on Eleuthera, except some largely deserted, pink-hued beaches. Well, there is the Preacher’s Cave, a place of refuge for shipwreck survivors in the 1600’s, and the Glass Window Bridge, a one-lane vehicular crossing with a view to the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. Mostly, the draw of Eleuthera is about something you do on, or under, the water: sport fishing, snorkeling, surfing and diving.
As a destination, the Bahamas is pretty bipolar. There are the glitzy, insulated, all-inclusive, duty-free worlds of Nassau and Freeport. Then, there are the low-key, unpolished, almost innocent, Out Islands, like Eleuthera. If you have a firm sense of self as a traveler, it is easy to decide where your time is best spent.
When You Go to Eleuthera:
Set on a hillside overlooking Governor’s Harbor, the eight stylishly restored historical houses and cottages of the Squires Estate look like a page straight out of Coastal Living Magazine. The Squires Estate is a haven of relaxation, a place to read – or write – a novel. Opt for a house or cottage with a kitchen, as restaurant prices are sky-high in Eleuthera.
Eat and Drink:
Da Perk Coffee Shop, Governor’s Harbor, functions as a coffee house and communal gathering spot; The Buccaneer Club, Governor’s Harbor, serves well-prepared Bahamian staples in a colorful café or alfresco under a giant shade tree; The Rainbow Inn Restaurant and Bar, Rainbow Bay, steak, seafood and sunsets prevail at this friendly restaurant with live entertainment four nights a week; Friday Night Fish Fry, Governor’s Harbor, an end of week celebration featuring barbecued chicken, fried fish, potent ‘Rum Bubba’s’ and live music; Ronnie’s Hi-D-Way, Cupid Cay, a no-pretense, locals’ bar; The Beach House, French Leave Beach, tasty tapas and toe-tapping tunes