How do you sum up something so amazing in a couple paragraphs in an internet ready description? I think I really need to learn sonething about poetry or songwriting to make my explanations more succinct and memorable with less Jay-typical rambling. Well, we'll give it a shot anyway. Exuma is a magical place. The colors of the island are more vibrant and subtly varied than you can imagine. I finally started to understamd those classic island pastel colors looking on the blues and greens of the waters, the light golden and white sand, pink shells and orange sunsets. Looking out on the ocean, you can see a half dozen different hues of blue and green, and an hour later they've all changed. It is all nuanced and subtle, but like many things in nature all you have to do is give it a moment of attention.

The most amazing thing of the islands for me are the expansive sand flats. Literally miles of 6" deep crystal waters that emege as perfect solitary white beaches surrounded by water at low tide. The marine environment was also like nothing else I have seen before. Something you have to know about me before we begin is that snorkeling and free diving is pretty much my favorite thing in the world. I'm sure if I actually had money, scuba would be my #1 hobby. But as it stands, I roll with my $20 mask and fins. The snorkelling was the best I have done. Dozens of species of fish, giant starfish, sting rays, great coral reefs. Walking the flats, we had sharks and bonefish swimming at our feet, and cruising in our boats we saw dolphins and sea turtles.

Everything else about the island is close to perfect as well. The people are genuinely nice, friendly, and cheerful. And as usual, the people are the best part of the trip. Our Camino parents and Camino Sister were there for the reunion in addition to 2 others caminoers that we hadn't met on the Camino, but obviously bonded with immediately. Also in attendance were some of Dean and Tracy's other friends--some of the most humble, well traveled, thoughtful and interesting people I've ever met. Like the Camino, our ragtag group ranged 46 years in age but only made our experience richer. Ken was celebrating his recent retirement from being the oldest person in America doing rappelling lifeflight helicopter rescues. We learned this on day 5 of our week--let me tell you about humble and interesting.

We started as 11 and finished as 12. In some sort of Camino-karma, we met a Frenchman named Frederic who walked the Camino in 1979. Of course, he was immediately assimilated into our group. Many amazing stories ensued, most memorably about being chased by men with shotguns through Basque country. He fit right into the group as if he had come with us. It just continues to amaze me how people who have walked the Camino, and people who travel a lot are just so easy to get along with. I have a sneeking feeling that it is the act of traveling that tends to make people more introspective and open minded, which in turn makes them so much more interesting to talk to. Especially after a couple of beers and rum drinks.

Just a side note about beer (weren't you just wondering about Bahamian beer?), I just have to give a mention to the Guiness Foreign Export Stout that they brew in the Bahamas. It is an amazing beer and has created a special kind of situation there. Pretty much everyone from laborers to bankers drink either Kalik (standard tropical weather super light lager) or Guiness, seemingly in equal proportions. Understand that this Guiness is 7.5% alcohol, and super dark. At the same time though, it is crisp, clean, and refreshing. When I first heard about this beer, I couldn't understand how someone could crave that in the hot, humid air with the tropical sun burning down on you. But after trying it, I was kind of blown away by how appropriate it was. Someone at Guiness is doing it right there. And while we're on the topic of alcohol, Ole Nassau Rum is awesome and $10 for a liter. I really don't want to speculate on how many dozens of bottles our gang of 12 knocked back in a week.

I want to leave you with a description of our trip from the true poet of our group, Chris Orrock:
Turquoise waters lapping countless white talcum sand atolls, flats and pristine islands; graceful manta rays, curious lemon sharks and diaphanous silvery bonefish slicing the clear shallows at the end of a flyline; a full moon that, night by night, rose rounder, fatter and yellower until it looked like Jupiter rising; twelve new friends for life who watched out for one another, danced themselves silly under the stars, floated bathwater currents, sans bathing suits, cocktails aloft, past coral grottoes to the open sea; conchs pulled from the shallows and, with tomato, green pepper, onion, jalapeno and hand-squeezed lime juice, were chopped by a smiling, ebony skinned young man with a giant gold chain and crucifix around his neck into a salad you will crave forever; navigating two rented Boston Whalers all week across expanses of multi-hued blues, along impossibly clear shallows, and up to hidden island shacks where fresh fruit juices were being squeezed and mixed with dark and light runs into sweet reasons for being alive; swimming and dancing naked on an isolated island, only to be told later that it was James Taylor's island, that we might not have been alone as we supposed, but that "He don't mind."; listening to '30's French jazz, Beatles and Led Zeppelin each evening while Deano grilled ribs or chicken under the bright Big Dipper and the heavenly smoke mingled with the flowery fumes of night blossoms; unending laughter, stories of successes, losses, epiphanies, monasteries, regret and redemption, things held tight and things let go; today is our last day in Exuma, Bahamas. I will pack my bag and wander back to an alternate reality. I will return home, for home is where the heart is. But if I'm leaving a piece of my heart here with this place and with my friends, then I suppose, I may call this a home, too.
P.S. As usual, uploading pictures on the go is a pain in the ass. Never fear, there are pictures a plenty, and we will upload a few of the more worthwhile ones when we're back to a more permanent dwelling.

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