2008 Solo Bahamas Trip Where: The Island of Mayaguana When: January 4 -14, 2008 Why: Exploration, desolation, loneliness, and a chance to experience the unknown Precursor: This trip was spurred from idiocy. I recognize this in hindsight. This is a true humorous tale of events that were sometimes enjoyable, frightening, lonely and often a culmination of the three. WARNING: This is 8 pages long. For photos please see my gallery, I can't figure out to put them on here Background: As I was about to graduate from Montana State University, I figured that I needed a little escape before my entrance into the working man’s world. So, I did some research into exotic fly fishing destinations. I studied the most remote and isolated places that I could find; from the Falklands to the Cooks and everything in between. I finally narrowed my choices down to two, based on locality, remoteness and affordability- Los Roques, Venezuela and Mayaguana, Bahamas. My research entailed the following statistics about this least populated Out Island of the Bahamas: Population: 300-400 Area: 112 Square Miles Once I saw that, I said, “I’m going there”. But seriously, information, especially fishing related, was hard to come by. Let’s just say I didn’t know what I was getting myself into… The Trip: Day 1 F It started with a bivouac at the Miami airport. The next morning, after a brief stop in Nassau(Na-Saw), I was touching down at the Mayaguana “Airport”. The first thing I observed were a multitude of burned out planes pushed off the runway, which I later learned where relics from the drug running era. As I got of the plane, I noticed the dilapidated airport had no computer, hence the reason I was clutching paper tickets. So I lugged my near 70 pounds of gear (A backpacking backpack and a smaller backpack) over to some locals*. *I should note that I had no set itinerary. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and planned to camp, which, from what I learned on the internet beforehand was highly frowned upon and in some cases, illegal. Basically I was playing roulette and hoped that it worked out. After a brief chat**, I managed to get a ride in the back of a truck to the community of Abraham’s Bay, a bustling metropolis of about 100 kindred spirits. On the way into town, I noticed a sign that said “Abrahams Bay-The Friendly Community”. I thought, “I like friendly people”. I did notice that the other people in the back of the truck weren’t very talkative, but I just figured they were a little nauseated from the bumpy flight in. **For those of you who have never heard Bahamian English…It can be rather trying to understand, especially when Bahamians speak fast, which is about every sentence. Oh yeah, I will try to stop with these asteri*** *** Plural for asterix I asked the driver where I could spend the night, because I figured he might know. He said there was only one house in town that offered guest rooms, so he dropped me off out front. A woman came out and the driver said hi to his mom, and she took my 85 bucks. I took a gander at my room and wondered if it was really an anthill with a bed inside. Ants were everywhere, and the bathroom left much to be desired. With a sigh, I deposited my belongings onto the bed and set off to see the sites. As I was walking down to the bay to get my first view of the ocean, I ran across a guy who I’ll call George (Name changed). He seemed friendly enough, and we discussed my situation, and he said to meet him at his shack in the morning and he would take me out to some good flats. I poked around the bay and caught a few Barracuda on streamers. I had some cracked conch for dinner, prepared by a lady in her house, it was pretty good. Day 2 S For those of you who have never been, I am told wild chickens inhabit some of the Bahamian islands. Mayaguana was no different. Those friggen’ roosters were cacawing at all hours of the night, and were notably absent at the traditional cacawing hours of sunrise. Must be a different breed. I gathered up my load, and trudged over to Georges place. He was ready to take me out to these flats. We departed and trudged about four miles up the beach and rock, before making camp amongst the palm and various scrubs. I was toting my 70 pound pack along with 3 gallons of water. George managed to muscle his three pound pack with no problems. George departed and said he would come and get me in 3 days. I said to myself, “This is what it is all about”. I was going to slaughter these poor bonefish. I tramped around for a bit on the flats and managed to catch a triggerfish on a small bonefish fly. Not a bad fight and pretty cool to sight fish to, since they tailed. I ran across another guy who was flyfishing, a friendly chap from Canada. We chatted for about thirty minutes, and I picked his brain on Mayaguana, as he had been here the previous year. I asked if this was a decent locale for my virgin bonefish trip, and he sorta chuckled a bit and said that this was a rather challenging destination. He had fished these flats the previous year for a few days and only seen two fish. He said that Curtis Creek would be my best shot at catching a bone. We said our goodbyes, while he left me pondering if I had made the correct choice to come to this island. I ate some raisins for dinner and read part of my book. I had brought five paperbacks to give me something to do in the evenings, and I was rationing them. I ended up taking a few Tylenol pm’s and hit the sack at about eight. Day 3 S I awoke with a fierce itching. Somewhat confused, I looked at my legs and saw they were covered in bites. I realized the culprits were ridiculously tiny sandflies(Different from the New Zealand sandfly). I had inadvertently left the bug screen on my tent slightly open and the sandflies feasted upon me. I decided to take a walk up the beach a ways to the western side of island. Another very windy day today, and I didn’t come across any bonefish. Saw one huge ‘cuda and a few large sharks. I turned back at a U.S outpost that had been abandoned years ago. I managed to finagle a few smaller barracuda and some triggerfish. I also thought I saw a permit, but wasn’t a hundred percent sure. After watching the great stars for a while that evening, I hear the rumble of a helicopter. Somewhat perplexed, I see it near some boats a few miles away out past the reef. All of a sudden it flips on its large spotlight and continues towards the beach. I jump up like a spooked trout and make a mad dash to my tent. It searches the beach and my vicinity for the next half hour, while I am hunkered in the dark somewhat petrified hoping it doesn’t see me. I realize that the chopper is probably looking for smugglers… Day 4 M I awake and ration out my water for the day – 3 32 ounce nalgenes, for I had grossly underestimated the amount of water that I would use. I decided that I would fish back towards Abrahams Bay today. After a snorkel in the morning out to the reef, I began fishing. Continuing my streak of not even seeing a bonefish, I decided to target some ‘cuda and maybe shark. I caught a few small ‘cuda, and then I saw a fin on the reef of a large shark. The shark then came towards me and I plunked out a cast with a large streamer and wire leader. I managed to tempt him into some shallow water, but he didn’t commit. It was a large, 7-8 foot shark, which I would later learn may have been a bull shark. What a rush, though I highly doubt I would have been able to land him on my measly seven weight. I run out of water and notice that I am pretty dehydrated. I slurp a few Tylenol PMs and hit the sack at a record 7:30. Day 5 T George comes early in the morning to get me. For some reason he thought I needed an escort and it dawned on me that he was doing it for money. I shoved a couple twenties to him to keep him satisfied. He asked if I had found any “keys”. Not sure what he meant, I asked. “Coke, mon” was the reply. From our discussion I learned that Mayaguana and Inagua are large “ports of call” for smugglers from Jamaica, Columbia, and other Carribean coastal countries. It seems that some locals search the beaches for washed up or stashed coke. George explained that cocaine and marijuana were the two primary drugs on the island. Somehow, I failed to notice the “runner” in the bay, with a pocket pair of 250’s on the back. I decide to take a rest day in town and interact with the locals a bit. Easier said than done I suppose, as I found most of the locals to be very standoffish and hard to engage in conversation. George said that many locals view “white men” as suspicious. As I wandered throughout town and tried to relax by reading my book, I was asked for the first time, “You want some powder, Mon?” by a somewhat sketchy individual. Took me a while to realize what powder was, as I had never been offered Coke before. I was slightly taken aback and courteously denied. Throughout the day I was offered the powder a few more times, as well as numerous offers for “chronic”. In fact, I ran into 3 guys smoking almost right next to the police station. Later that night, I made my way over to the bar, “Club Thunderstorm”. As I nursed my Guinness, which at 7.5% is much more potent than the US version. I noticed a rather raucous game of dominoes occurring. I watched the play for a while, and conversed with the dredded barmaid about play. I was invited over to the table and quickly caught the hand of it, and was soon slapping the domino onto the table as hard as I could, just like the locals. After a while, my partners departed and were replaced with George and two girls about my age. George introduced them as his cousins. We played for a while, and I left. George followed me out, and said “Which one do you want?”. Somewhat confused I said, “What are talking about?” He disclosed that he was the town pimp, and he pimped his cousins out. It was very awkward, and he got slightly upset at me stalling, so I said I had a woman back home. Luckily, he seemed to accept this. Needless to say, that evening my mind was clouded from the days events as I tried to bag some shut eye. Day 6 W I told George that I wanted to go out to the Curtis Creek area that day and camp out for a few days. I had inquired the day before and found that a vehicle rental was over a hundred a day plus gas at 7 bucks a gallon. One guy kindly offered me his son’s shoddy bike to use at a staggering 40 a day. George ended up lending me his old, rusty cruiser and he guided me out there on a little boy’s bike. Curtis Creek was about 5 miles away from Abraham’s Bay on a complex of dirt roads. It is very challenging to ride a bike with two almost flat tires, 5 gallons of water, and a seventy pound pack. After we arrived, George insisted that I stay in a half finished abandoned house courtesy of the developer who was caught for smuggling 6 years ago. George left and said he would get me in four days. The house was in a nice location, on the north side of the island right near the beach. I spent the remainder of the day snorkeling, walking on the beach and fishing for barracuda. The evening was rather creepy inside the old house with no windows. I had set up my tent inside to deter any flies or mosquitoes from getting to me. I consider myself and experience backpacker (both in groups and many solo trips), but before I went to sleep, as in the previous evenings there was a bit of paranoia present. What would stop a druggie or someone else from robbing me or worse? I’m used to backpacking the forests and national parks, where the only person who could cause me injury is myself. Day 7 T I decided to check out Curtis Creek flats in the morning. It was near high tide when I arrived, and I saw a canoe, which I realized must belong to the Baycaneer Lodge, used for guiding fisherman at the lodge. I had yet to even see a bonefish, and I figured that this would probably be my best chance. The water was high, but I noticed that these were some nice flats. I did some deep water wading to reach some mangroves on “Treasure Island” as George called it. Caught a few ‘Cuda and one triggerfish. Windy like usual. I crossed to get back to the flats when I noticed a guide and a guest in the canoe. I talked to them for a bit, and it was Trevor from Baycaneer and a guy from Virginia. They had fished Curtis Creek the day before and had seen 2 but landed none. I talked to the guy about my trip, and lamented about the general lack of bonefish. He I had a good chance at seeing some here, but they could be picky. As it turned to low tide, I waded off. These flats were great, with mangroves and nice sand. As I shuffled along, looking for fish, I thought I spotted my first bone. I started casting, and as I got closer I realized it was a stupid trumpetfish. I continued fishing when I saw it, a flash of silvery gray glinting in the sunlight. My first bone, and a large one at that. I made as good as a cast as I could with a seven weight into the wind with the bonefish bitter. Though it was choppy, I could see the fish, my was he big, come over and inspect the fly. I could almost here him utter a “hmmph”, as he departed. Dissapointed, but excited about seeing a bone, I continued fishing the flat. An hour later, I spotted another big bone amongst some grass. After a few casts, I thought he had gulped the fly, so I set the hook, but alas, I had lined him and he spooked. Nothing else for the remainder of the day. I did see three sea turtles of varying species, as well as a monster bull shark in shallow water. Day 8 F Since I was lonely and the fishing hadn’t been treating me very well, I walked into town and made arrangements over the phone to depart 4 days early, from the original two week trip. It had been a cloudy day and windy, so in the afternoon at low tide, I just fished around my camp and caught a few ‘Cuda. Day 9 S I knew this was my last chance at catching a bonefish. So, after walking up the beach to the west looking around in the morning and not seeing much, I arrived in camp in early afternoon set to go out to Curtis Creek for low tide. I arrived to wind and clouds, pretty challenging conditions. I waded around for two hours before I saw it. About 20 feet away was a fish, a bonefish, grubbing in the sand. I made a delicate cast, and I saw the fish move to the fly. I set, and the fish rocketed out to my backing, and then, in an instant was gone forever. I stood there, knowing that was my last shot, for a thunderstorm was about to come in. I walked back to camp, happy to of hooked up, but dismayed to have been skunked. After all, this was supposed to be a bonefish trip wasn’t it? Day 10 S George came to camp in the morning. As I walked (I returned his bike a few days before, since it’s tire was completely flat), George spoke about his life. He had been a coke dealer in New York, was caught and excommunicated back to the Bahamas. He served four years in a Nassau prison. He had three children, whom he hadn’t seen in years. He still sold drugs, alcohol and women. He also professed his hatred against George Bush, who in his judgment had personally sent him to jail. He worked at the airport in Mayaguana 10 hours a week and made five dollars an hour. I listened and realized just how different our lives were. We got a ride at the pavement into town with a crazy eyed Bahamian driving an old army truck with no brakes. He dropped us off in town, and I found some shade under a tree to read my book. An hour later the driver came back looking for George. “Where’s he at mon?”, he said, along with some explicitives, and some fast words I didn’t understand. I stuttered “I don’t know, I haven’t seen him”. He stormed off. George came later and I told him this guy was upset. He told me it was alright, and left. The crazy eyed driver returned with a screwdriver, got in my face, and proceeded to scream at me in incoherent English (I did understand “Kill George”) while motioning with the screwdriver in stabbing motions. Luckily, he must have understood I knew nothing, so he left. George came back, went into his house, and crossed the street. The army truck came by, and he tried to run George over. George dived into the bushes, and walked back near me clutching a gallon Motts apple juice. Then it hit me, I remember seeing this apple juice in the back of the truck. George had stolen it from this driver, and the driver had become enraged. I went to the bay to find some beach and quiet under a coconut tree. I noticed a small zodiac coming towards the bay. I approached the guys, and they were running a sailboat from North Carolina. We went over to the bar, and I bought em’ a few rounds. They were making their way to Columbia. When asked how long, he said indefinitely. We played some dominoes, exchanged emails and I stumbled back to the abandoned house I was staying in. Day 11 M Roosters and hangovers don’t get along so well. After giving George some cash, I departed that morning. Conclusion What a trip. I arrived back in the United States to my first regular bowel movement and my first real food in a week. I ended up losing 10 pounds and managed to take my first shower in 10 days. Now, a look at a few questions I have been asked: What did I eat? In Mayaguana, there are no “shops”, just people who sell a bit of food out of there own homes. Mostly canned goods and some crackers. I managed to survive the ten days on 2 pounds of raisins, crackers and canned fruit. On the island, the most common meats are conch, fish and chicken. I spoke to many who had never had beef. What did you do at night? Ha. Not much to do when you are by yourself and it gets dark at 5:30. I usually read books until 8:00, took a few Tylenol PM’s and hit the sack(Don’t worry, I’m off of them pills now). What was the weather like? The high was typically in the low eighties to mid seventies. It rained a few days, and was very windy every day except for the day I left. Was it expensive? Not too expensive, but keep in mind I camped most nights. I ended up spending around 600 dollars. Most went to George, one night accommodation, food and the bar. Bahamas are quite expensive, and the one lodge on the island, Baycaneer Resort is actually quite reasonable. Though, I didn’t have the funds to stay there. That being said, a resort experience would have been drastically different from my experience. I don’t believe that people in Abraham’s Bay get very many tourists that actually hand around. Was there any development? Yes, the I-Group/Mayaguana Company is currently improving infrastructure on the island before it starts developing condos, homes and resorts. The locals I spoke to are somewhat split. Some feel it is just going to bring problems, while others feel it will bring jobs. Props to my Patagonia Marlwalkers who were extremely comfortable and held up with large loads, coral and a ton of walking.