At 8 a.m. sharp, we head to the lobby of the hotel and wait for the popular island safari tour jeeps to arrive to take us to Bathsheba. Two 4×4 Toyotas speed into the lobby. The tranquil sounds of the ocean waves were replaced by calypso music on the speakers. Our chests began to pump to the jumping carnival beats. The tour guides hop out and greets everyone. Our group leader identifies himself as Tony and the jeep as ‘Tarzan’. Yes – each vehicle has a name. One admires how the white and blue zebra striped vans are artistically splashed with mud along their sides and the excitement intensifies as we climb into the rear of the open-back. After ensuring that all the seatbelts were securely fastened, we were off!
Zoooooooom! We journeyed along the coastal road at a brisk 60 kilometers per hour. Only stopping every now and then when we approached potholes. The driver lets out a loud starboard warning as we make an abrupt right turn into an old cart road along a sugarcane field. We left the busy island roads and were instantly surrounded by 6 feet sugarcane stalks. Whilst the driver gives a history of the sugar plantations, he treats us to some freshly cut stalks of sugarcane to chew on. The stalks were slightly damp from the early morning showers that blessed the soil. The engine starts up and the adventure to Bathsheba continues.
The journey through the scenic East Coast was as if one travelled through a portal and ended up in a cool, damp jungle. Magnificent palm and coconut trees tower above and dew-stained flowers brush against our bodies as the jeep squeezes its way through. As we absorb the surrounding flora, we had reached the East Coast of the island called Bathsheba – this is where locals come to watch the first sunrise of the year.
However, as it was now midday, our group headed over to Dina’s Bar and Restaurant where we were plated a healthy serving of macaroni pie, rice and peas, flying fish and a side of coleslaw. Caw’bleh. My belly was full.
After lunch, I decided to venture towards the reef with my camera. From a distance, I discern a figure farther out than the rest of individuals on the beach. I watch in awe as his arms immediately transform into powerful tools and am simultaneously enamored by the way in which the fishing net seemed to suspend in the air. The wet, silver scales glisten in the sunlight as their bodies squirm and thump. The old man smiles as he makes a successful catch from what appeared – to me – to be a very small and unoccupied, shallow water pool.
When I made it to the reef, I asked the fisherman what type of fish he caught and if he minded my company. He told me it was not a problem but I had to keep up. As we maneuver amongst the rocks, I disguise my “oohs” and “aahs” from the pressure against my tender feet as my determination to savor this moment overcame all others. As he speaks of his catch in the morning, I peer into the bucket. He tells me that he caught a nurse shark earlier and had left it at the bar up the road if I wanted to have a look.
It was low tide now so he was only able to catch one slimy eel and many sprats. Fresh fish does not have as strong of a smell as you might imagine, more so like concentrated salt but this bucket had a stronger, much more certain character to it. My gaze leaves the bucket and I slowly studied his appearance from his feet upwards while following his voice. As I was admiring this old man with the youthful spirit… Splash!
A tremendous surge of water crashes, breaking my gaze – and soaking my otherwise sunburnt body from head to toe. The old fisherman starts laughing uncontrollably. I cannot tell you if it was my J Crew straw hat that now flopped its ears that made him laugh or if it was my shock that I would get wet while standing near open water. I watch him take in his final catch and then we leave the bank towards the shoreline, he directs me to the shark’s location in Bajan directions:
“When you get on de main road, you gine see a black and white cat by de bus stop. Don’t stop there, keep going pass Maybelle’s house on the right and count two houses. Mek de next lef’ and you gine see Tony. Just tell he dat I sen’ you fuh de shark.”
Desperately trying to keep his words in my head, I collect my things from the restaurant and herd my family. Unfortunately, I believe the directions I received are only meant for locals as there were two bus stops on either side of the main road and the cat decided to stay at home…
ALL PHOTOS TAKEN AND OWNED BY AUTHOR UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.