Hope Town Birthday
With its narrow paved streets, a maze of pastel clapboarded houses and a profusion of flowers, Hope Town, Elbow Cay, typifies the heart of the Abacos. One has a feeling of having stepped back in time, of bringing the glories of the past together with the comforts of the present. The village is lovely and endlessly fascinating, packed tightly along its sheltered harbor, overshadowed by the much photographed candy-stripped lighthouse. A village in miniature, Hope Town possesses a unique charm of its own, a blending of hardworking New England ethic with a Bahamian flair for enjoyment in life.
Getting to Hope Town, our first Abaco destination, involved more than the usual amount of intrigue. First there was the morning water taxi back across the harbor to Eleuthera where we were met by Tom in his infamous pick-up. Then the bone-jarring, bottom-searing trip up to Quartermoon, where we learned our departure had been delayed a day because he had another group he would be flying on to the States. Little alarm bells went off in my head, a sense of disquiet that was reinforced when two particularly large men drove up, apparently to arrange for tomorrow's ride. Obviously, it was going to be one crowded flight.
Arriving at the airport the next morning, we pulled up alongside Tom's plane to be met by not only the two menwho were looking even bigger todayand their copious baggage, but also a massive black Labrador. "Oh God!" moaned Tom, even he momentarily taken aback. "I forgot about the dog." So there we were, five adults, two teenagers, a baby and a dog, all poised to pack inside a delicate aircraft. At least it had two engines; otherwise, we'd probably still be there. Our baggage went in the back, the other guys' gear in the nose. Then everyone squeezed in: the two heavyweights in the back, Tristan, Colin, Gwyneth and me in the center seats, dog on the floor, and Tom and Kevin up front. This had to be the first and last time I'd ever fly with a baby at my breast and a dog drooling on my feet.
Landing at Marsh Harbour, we caught a positively glamorous taxi to the ferry dock, a presentable station wagon with no obvious defects, driven by a sprightly lady in black pants, white shirt and black tie. Bahamians taxi drivers take their role very seriously and are proud of their status as vehicle owners. Vehicles in the Abacos in general, we noticed, were definitely in improved condition. In fact, everything about this northern Out Island group smacked of prosperity, the result of a heritage that sprang from displaced American loyalists rather than a defunct plantation economy. The Abacos possess a charm of their own, one totally unrelated to the remote, self-sufficient, developing life-style of islands like Cat and Long.
We had a final half-hour wait for one of the numerous Albury ferries before crossing to Hope Town where we landed at a small dock in front of a village grocery store. As we would be staying in a villa, buying food was a top priority before the final harbor crossing to Hope Town Hideaway Villas. Little did we know that our quest for food, and bread in particular, would require a call to arms before Easter weekend was over.
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