Saturday, January 2, 2010

Junkanoo!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010
Happy New Year's, everyone! We hope you all had a fantastic New Year's Eve, whether you went to bed early or partied til dawn. For us, New Year's Eve ended up being much quieter than expected. We had a terrific dinner with Nicki, Larry, Babette, and the kids at Green Turtle Club. With a big dinner and a couple of glasses in our bellies, we were all yawning soon after 10pm. Not a good sign! The club had a man playing a steel drum in the courtyard, but there was hardly anyone out there and no one was dancing. Brendal had come by to say hello, and hearing music in the distance, we all decided to go across the anchorage to the Bluff House. The ladies joined Brendal in his speedboat and Rene followed in our dinghy. We found a dinghy dock at the Bluff House, but soon realized that the music we heard was from a stereo and there were almost no people at the bar. Hmmm...where to now? We decided to ride into town, meaning a longer ride in the dinghy for Rene. However the ride over was magical with enough moonlight to show the sea bottom which allowed for a number of ray sightings. Pineapples looked dark when we passed, so we headed to Sundowners. It felt like a rave with all of the neon bracelets sported by the partiers, and the five of us probably doubled the average age when we walked in. VERY strange vibe. We stayed to ring in the new year, and headed home soon after. There were two great things to come out of this decision: 1) with a full moon and a low tide, we were just able to get the dinghy off the dock and into deeper water as boats around us began grounding, and 2) we were fresh and ready to go this morning for...JUNKANOO!!!

Junkanoo is a festival that is celebrated throughout the Bahamas on Boxing Day and on New Year's Day. According to Wikipedia, the word "Junkanoo" derived from a African slave master and trader named, "John Canoe" in the 17th century. These slaves were not allowed much freedom and would hide in the bushes when they had the chance. While in the bushes, they would dance and make music while covered in costumes that they made from various paints that they made and leaves that they found. This festival represented the slave's freedom from slavery. Modern Bahamian Junkanoo is a parade: a showcase for Bahamian Goombay music and new Junkanoo costumes. Junkanoo groups "rush" from midnight until shortly after dawn, to the music of cowbells, goat- skin drums and various horns, in costumes made from cardboard covered in tiny shreds of colorful crepe paper.

Although we hear Junkanoo is traditionally held from midnight til dawn, Green Turtle's festival is more family-oriented. The parade is supposed to start sometime after 2pm, although that's Bahamas time...in reality, it'll probably start sometime between 1:30pm and 3pm! We get to New Plymouth an hour before the parade is scheduled to start. The street vendors already have the tents up, and the smells of chicken curry get our mouths watering. You can also get conch salad, conch fritters, fried chicken, hamburgers, and lobster salad, plus Kalik beers and fruity drinks with names like "gullywasher", "tipsy turtle", and "goombay smash". We finally decide to share some conch fritters and jerk pork from Laura's Kitchen, which of course comes with rice & peas, Bahamian mac n cheese, and coleslaw. We're stuffed by the time we're done, and manage to bypass the table full of cakes and pastries. After making a couple of circles through town to say hi to friends, we finally settle on a good vantage point: the town's administrative and post offices are in a pink building with a balcony, set on a slight rise. We can watch the parade come through from the balcony so Rene is able to get some good pictures. The "pace car" (i.e. golf cart) comes through, trailed by a massive float in the shape of a winged man in a white gown. The image is sort of a cross between Jesus, an angel, and a winged Rastafarian. We never quite figure out what it represents - we just enjoy the parade! He's soon followed by a group of kids, ages 2-12; the girls are sporting wings and fairy-like face paint, and the boys have big drums strapped over their shoulders to beat on. They all wear colorful Junkanoo crowns, and they're absolutely adorable. Next up is the king of the parade (we think), a guy wearing a green and white wing-like contraption that goes 10 feet in the air. He and the crowd that follows him rattles the cowbells like crazy, and another troupe beats their massive drums in time. The entire parade is only 1-2 blocks long, but they have the energy to get the spectators moving. How can you stand still with that beat?? As soon as they pass, we make our way around the waterfront to a spot ahead of the parade to watch them a second time. (The parade stops every few feet along its route, so it's not hard to get ahead of them.) This time we're on the sidewalk at street level, up close and personal with the parade. Whether it's us being closer or the bell shakers have gotten louder, the cowbells going by are positively deafening! Our ears ring from the "kalik kalik" sound and our chests pound from the drum beats. It's like being on a carnival ride - let's go again! By now the parade has grown in length thanks to a few tipsy spectators. We make our way past them to the staging area, and find Nicki and Babette dancing to the reggae band. Nicki's daughters decided to march in the parade, and now she's lost them and her husband. Off we go in search of the trio, and almost immediately run into Tracy, Seann, and their friends. They've come down from Spanish Cay to see the parade, and barely make it before the lead float comes by. We get to visit with them for a few minutes and wish each other a happy new year before they head back to the boat. A storm is on its way and they want to make it back before the ride gets any worse. We say goodbye to them and wander down to join the rest of our group. Nicki and Babette have found Larry and the girls, and we realize that the parade is coming around the block one more time before ending at the basketball court. We dance with them for a fourth time and take a shortcut back to the b-ball court to watch them end the parade. As we join Nicki and Babette, they point out a tall, slim, long-haired woman wearing a straw hat. "That's Elle Macpherson under that hat!" Seriously?? Yep, the supermodel and her family have come to Green Turtle to join in the fun. We try not to stare, and the crowd lets them enjoy themselves like any other family on holiday. Junkanoo really does attract everyone to Green Turtle Cay!

The party kicks into high gear as the parade makes its way to the basketball court. Everyone involved has done a marvelous job at making this year's Junkanoo a huge success, and the mayor (minister?) of GTC (dressed as a 500-pound braided ballerina) coerces everyone to make a donation to next year's Junkanoo fund. How can you not? The Gully Roosters take the makeshift stage and get the crowd dancing some more. They really are a great band, but there's no way we could've stayed up on New Year's Eve to see them play at the Rooster's Rest! (They were supposed to get started around 1:30-2:00am. We were fast asleep by then.) Before we know it, it's 5pm. The winds have kicked up and the sky is beginning to darken with rainclouds. Time to go home. There's another front coming through, and we're expecting 30-40kt winds and squalls. Rene wants to get home before dark to put down a second anchor. We head to the dinghy dock and meet Betty, a single-hander cruiser who needs a ride back to White Sound. She's anchored near us, and we're happy to help out another sailor. Unfortunately the waves have already picked up, and there's no way we can get the boat to plane with three people. We all end up drenched on the ride over...welcome to the cruising life!

Back on the boat, we get the second anchor set and change into dry clothes. The smell of the chicken curry in town is still calling us, so Stacy opens a jar of Patak's korma curry sauce for dinner. It's not quite the same, but with some extra veggies and spices, it'll do. Our dinner is soon interrupted by the booming of fireworks. The Green Turtle volunteer fire department was supposed to have a fireworks display in town at 8pm tonight, and they've managed to get a break in the rain long enough to start the show. We weren't about to brave the weather to make a second trip in the dinghy to town, so we're glad we can enjoy the fireworks from the cockpit. Unfortunately this means no "Full Moon Party" at Sundowner's for us tonight, but we're ready for a quiet evening anyway. Not that we're really expecting it to be very quiet with 40-knot winds howling through the rigging... :-)

Anyway, here's to a happy and healthy 2010!

Pictures for this Blog chapter:
http://picasaweb.google.com/Rene.Foree/2009BahamasIII?feat=directlink

1 comment:

sit75 said...

Where are the pictures of Elle! :)
j/k! Glad to hear from you guys!