I'm a bad blogger! :)
On to Day 2!
When we got up the next morning, we were pulling into Freeport. Kevin and I had booked an excursion ahead of time to go on a kayak nature tour in the National Park there. We gathered outside the ship with all the other folks who had excursions. After a short wait, we were led to a bus that was taking two groups to their kayaking destinations. One was not a "nature" tour; I'm not sure where they went.
There were 5 couples altogether: Kevin and me, an older-than-us husband and wife and their adult son and his wife, newlyweds, and a couple (who reminded us of Katie and Christer) and their 1 1/2 year old daughter.
Our tour guide was Chadwin, and he was FANTASTIC. He explained features of the countryside we were driving through, telling us why certain areas of trees were dead (the saltwater from the hurricane) and even stopping alongside a specific plant to explain its features. He also talked about the Lucayan Indians who used to live there, who were completely wiped out when Christopher Columbus came along and made them all slaves. It was also a great pirate-hangout back in the day. He also told us about this millionaire, William Groves from Virginia, came and bought a bunch of land for use in his lumber business. He was granted 50,000 acres of land with the directive to make it prosper, which he did. Chadwin had a few stories about this man and what he did, but I can't remember the specifics anymore. They were very entertaining, though!
When we got to our site he unloaded the boats and then had us grab paddles and line up as we would be sitting in the double kayaks. The newlyweds were standing with the guy in the front and Chadwin called him on it and then told us the men were the steering part of the boat and if we ended up in the bushes it was all the man's fault. :) He also warned us not to both lean to the same side at once and tip over the boat!
He then went through how to put the paddles together and take them apart, how to go forward, turn, and go back. He asked us who had kayaked before and everyone raised their hands. Then he smiled and said when he has groups with people who don't raise their hands, he never has any problems with them, but the people who DO raise their hands are the troublemakers. :)
We then got in the boats and headed out. Chadwin was in the lead and he was setting quite a pace! My shoulders started burning right away. But then we came to an open part of the river and everyone stopped. Chadwin explained more about the vegetation and the root systems and the wildlife in the area (no poisonous snakes or spiders, no crocodiles or alligators or any dangerous wild animals). Then we set out again at a more leisurely pace; the newlyweds were in front, followed by Kevin and me.
The river reminded me of Pigeon River in Mongo: very smooth, shallow, calm. It got as deep as four feet in some places but in most you could see to the bottom. It did get very narrow, though. In many places it was just wide enough for the boat and a paddle on one side, and it was very twisty and turny. It was surrounded by mangroves and very quiet and still and peaceful.
Whenever Kevin and I started to pull up to the newlyweds and had a chance to pass them, the guy would put on the speed to get back in the lead, like it was a race. They did have a lot of trouble getting stuck in the trees because of his leadership. So did the older couple. The only times Kevin and I had trouble was where it got so narrow you kind of ended up in the trees through no fault of your own, but we were always able to get back out right away.
When the trip ended, we came up to a white, sandy beach surrounded by pine trees, with the ocean out in the distance. The tour group in front of us was loading their boats and the guides helped pull our boats ashore so we could walk along the beach for a while waiting for the others to come in. It was so pretty! The sun had come out while we were boating and it was warm and bright and beautiful. I did get a sunburn on my shins and the front of my lower right arm, and, of course, my face below my sunglasses line. :)
When everyone was back, Chadwin loaded the boats and we headed to a little beach area. We walked through the woods to get there and Chadwin pointed out this very poisonous tree that makes you break out in hives and get swollen, and then a tree that has the cure for it, and other various trees and plants that they used in healing (one that helped tremendously with diabetes) and beverages (one called the 21-Gun Salute, which he referred to as the island Viagra).
We had a picnic lunch and there were sort-of tame raccoons that came up to the edge of the enclosure and begged for food. Chadwin told us we could feed them by hand and several people did. It was funny because they were trying to have their spouse take a picture of them feeding the raccoon but each one would just miss the photo op. :) Then one man was going to try to feed the raccoon from his mouth and one of the other tour guides was like, "They're still wild animals, man. You don't want to get your face clawed!"
After we ate we wandered to the beach, which is rated as one of the 100 most beautiful in the world. Kevin wanted to take a walk but there was a guy laying on the sand and I was like, "That's what I want to do!" So I plopped on the sand and just laid there in the sun for a while. It felt soooooo nice! Kevin came back and went into the water, wading around. I joined him after a while; it was pretty cold between the beach and the sandbar, but after the sandbar it was a decent temperature.
When our time was up we got back into the little bus and drove back to the pier. Chadwin was telling us about the fauna. The pine trees there are very tall and have pines only at the very top. They are basically fire proof because they do not have limbs along the bottom for fire to climb and they also have an exploding sap that drenches any fire that starts. You could see evidence of burn marks but it only went about ten feet up the tree before it was extinguished. There were also aloe plant, which are filled with liquid, and palmettos which, he explained, have a fire extinguisher-like white powder on them that prevents them from catching fire. It was all very interesting.
He talked about the hurricane that came through and the lasting effects of that and then went on to tell us about his children, of whom he is very proud. He said he grew up in Nassau and moved to Freeport as an adult. His oldest daughter is in New York doing a residency at a hospital; his second daughter is just starting veterinary school; and his son is 16 and the Head Boy at his school and wants to double major in neuroscience and something else - some kind of engineering - that sounded ridiculously difficult. Chadwin said the school systems down there are wonderful.
He also talked about Junkanoo, which is apparently the Bahaman version of Mardi Gras, sort of. Here's a brief description from the Internet:
Then we got back on the ship. We felt so bad because we had not thought to bring cash along to give Chadwin as a tip! We're planning to send him a check or gift Visa or something with a picture of the two of us, but we need to find out which tour group he was with so we can make sure it gets to him.
The Carnival Sensation was in dock next to us when we got back to the ship. We grabbed some pizza and went out on the deck and watched the sun set, and then waved goodbye to the folks on the Sensation as we pulled away.
After, we had a real dinner in the dining room, where our waiters danced for us. Then we went to The Palace Theater for trivia, Battle of the Sexes, and Bingo. Battle of the Sexes was hilarious - I laughed so hard my jaw ached. They had three couples come up on stage: one was newlyweds who had been married for 5 days; one was a couple who had been married for 54 or 57 years, I can't remember which; and the other was a couple who had their three young daughters with them. They had them sit back to back on the stage and the MC, our cruise director Paul, asked them questions.
For example, one of the questions he asked was directed to the men - you are going to Victoria's Secret to pick up a bra for your wife. What size do you buy? Now, the newlyweds were pretty young, in their very early 20s. Paul was walking behind the couples reading their answers and making comments and laughing. When he walked behind the young man he started laughing and said the young man put "medium" on there and then said he had to pick a real size. Then when they were giving answers, Paul read off the young man's and he had put "push-up."
Most of the questions were kind of risque, and the answers they gave were funny amplified by Paul's comments. It was a good time.
After that there was a game called 60 Seconds or Less where they called two people at a time up to the stage to perform silly tricks. Like one was cup stacking. The one that was the most funny was where they had to hold a coin between their butt cheeks and walk it over and drop it into a cup. :)
Then we went to bed, very sleepy. It was a great day. :)