After seeing the first two kayak groups return from their 8-day kayak adventure a different skin tone and their hair a couple shades blonder, I was hopeful for the day I would come back, looking as beautiful as they did. However, on the third day of kayak, K4 quickly realized that we would not have the same, sunny experience.
The day started out daunting with our leaders of the day informing the group that we had a long, twelve-mile paddle ahead of us. We needed to get so far because the following day’s forecast was not as good for kayaking. So we put on our life jackets and spray skirts and launched our kayaks. The weather was dark, but fine until the last mile of paddling. Out of no where, the rain fell like a sheet.
As we pushed through the water and weather, we kept a tight pod and chanted a tribal song that then turned into yelling, then screaming. It was hilarious, magical, and miserable all at the same time. I noticed a huge grin across my face, as well as maybe a few tears.
When we finally made it to the beach, we were so ready to relax from our hard day of kayaking. The beach in front of us awed us. It looked like a different island, something more tropical and mountainous. Once we hauled up our kayaks, we all ran into the massive turquoise waves and body surfed in the rain. I couldn’t believe where I was, the warmth of the waves that surrounded me, and the amazing friends that tumbled with me through the water. It was crazy and exhilarating and an experience I will remember forever.
The first kayak group finishes their 8-day today. As we prepare for their return to campus, student Jessa VanderWeide took a moment to reflect on the moment she learned which kayak group she was in.
At about 5:00pm on Thursday afternoon on the Island School campus, the girls’ dorm was in the midst of our 2nd deep clean. As clothes were being thrown across the room, and brooms were gliding across the floor, a high pitch scream came from Girls Dorm North. Although you may think this is bizarre, it’s truly not: just your average day. Music was blaring from the common room as we continued to clean and clean and clean (oh, and clean). Our usual song was playing-Stolen Dance by Milky Chance- as we continued to prance around, removing all existence of dirt, sand, and hair that builds up as the weeks go by. Quite possibly, this deep clean was needed.
All of the sudden the whole dorm erupted in a loud scream. Girls were running around like maniacs- also not unusual. But something was different this time. A second later a loud voice echoed through our humble abode: “KAYAK GROUPS ARE UP!” This was a moment we all had waited for. Several girls threw their mops down and sprinted out the door, only to be brought back a minute later by the news that we had to finish our deep clean BEFORE we saw the groups. At this news, we completely changed into beast mode. The floor was being swept in half the time, and mops were flying around the dorm like they were magic- and everyone was lending a hand. The fact that we would soon find out our kayak groups excited us so much that we then worked as a well-oiled machine to finish the remainder of the deep clean. Teamwork like never before. As the last beds were made and towels hung, we all sprinted out the doors, down the stairs, and to the dining hall. Once again, screams were heard, and excitement was more than present for the kayak trips and next 50 days of this Island School adventure.
This video consists of footage from free diving earlier in the semester, paddle boarding during exploration, and an ocean hole that we stopped at during our Down Island Trip. Free diving is one of my passions so I knew I wanted to include it in this week’s blog and share it with the world. The footage is of a site called “tunnel rock” that is around 30 feet deep. The paddle boarding footage was taken during exploration time and we were lucky enough to find six eagle rays in boathouse cut! That was the first time I saw eagle rays and I had been waiting the entire semester to find one, so it was exciting. Our Down Island Trip was fun overall but the highlight for me was definitely the ocean hole. I love to jump off cliffs into water and so doing that at the ocean hole gave me a rush.
On the 31st of October, everyone who was not on kayak or a down island trip woke up and prepared for a normal run-swim. To our surprise, we got handed three palm fronds to tie around our waists. We separated into groups and began our planned run-swim as normal. We turned the first corner and saw our English teacher, Olivia, standing before us in full zombie apparel, and quite in character. When we got closer, faculty members sprinted out of the woods, attempting to get our fronds. The only sanctuary that we found was when we burst into the clearing ready to once again get in the water. However, looming across the cut stood more faculty zombies waiting for us. In the end, it was probably the most intense workout thus far, and undoubtedly the most fun. That night, the caciques had prepared a Halloween surprise. Firstly at circle, we all showed up in our Halloween apparel. Then after dinner and an hour of study hall, we all went into the kitchen for a cake that they had made for us. The second surprise was that we all went into the presentation room and watched The Shining, however we only got half way before we had to go to bed. It was an exciting Halloween for all, and I couldn’t think of a better location to spend it than in the Bahamas.
Our 8-Day kayak trip will be one of my favorite memories of my Island School experience. It started off with Courtney and me in a double kayak with the sun shining. But quickly, the sun hid behind the clouds and we all saw a wall of rain waiting for us before our next campsite. Then it poured. It was a complete downpour for the first three days of our trip. While passing Princess Cays, we were in 15 minutes of strong, persistent wind while buckets of rain dumped down on us. I seriously considered paddling to the cruise ship offshore to ask for a room, but Alexa and Courtney kept screaming “The Climb” and my mood lifted. Once we got to Lighthouse beach on day three, a day earlier than planned, some of the engineers in the group created a type of shelter to stop the rain from hitting the fire that Jack was furiously trying to build. No one wanted to have cereal or tortillas and peanut butter for dinner, but we did. After dinner, the girls found out that one of our tents had collapsed and was sitting in a puddle of mud. In a spot of gloom, Téa lifted our spirits and recommended that all 7 girls fit into one tent. It worked okay for a little, until I felt the raindrops hitting my forehead in the middle of the night. At around 10:30 I couldn’t take it anymore, so I got out of the tent (at that point it had stopped raining) and was going to set up the other tent myself. But Alexa couldn’t sleep either, so she and I got up with only one working headlamp, and set up the tent. All five of the other girls were stuck in a tent piled together, while Alexa and I spread out, just the two of us in a four-person tent. The sun finally came out by day four. With our soaking tents and soggy food, we pressed on to turn this kayak trip around. The group as a whole explored the different caves and cliffs of lighthouse beach, spending our last 24 hours together before we would spend 48 hours alone. The next day, the sun was shining and it was time to take our oaths of silence on the cliff looking down the beach. All 13 of us walked down the beach silently, waiting for our turns to be dropped off. I was third, but could see Hendricks to my right, and Hugh to my left. They kept me entertained for most of my solo, but sometimes I would spend my time huddled in the corner of my self-made shelter, hiding from the sun and journaling. On the morning of pick up, I woke up early to pack up and watch the sunrise. As soon as I saw Glenn leading the group down the beach, a smile hit my face. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself for doubting my ability to last the 48 hour solo. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to survive 48 hours alone, but I did. I did it and am so proud of myself for accomplishing it. It was a major milestone in my Island School life. At the cliff, when our oath of silence was broken, it was so nice to see everyone and hear about peoples’ journeys. Our last few days of kayak went by like a breeze. The sun was shining and we could see for miles. That night around the campfire, K3 bonded about our solos, and I will always remember everyone singing along to Eliot’s bucket song and just how happy I was to be with everyone. The time that I spent with this group on kayak will always be one of my favorite memories from my Island School experience. It has helped change me and shape me into a better and stronger person.
After a nice sleep-in post-kayak, I was woken up to a loud “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” from all of girls dorm. I was so psyched to be spending my birthday with my friends on day one of the Down Island Trip. We had all heard the other groups rave about how much fun it was and I couldn’t wait to get going. On our first day, we visited a ruined airport and resort, a horse farm, and Harbour Island. It was fascinating to see the remnants of Eleuthera’s past through the overgrown runways and the disintegrating Venta Club resort. Oceanview Farm had many beautiful, healthy horses that we were able to see, and a very knowledgeable owner named Angela. She told us so much about the history of Eleuthera and how it has developed and changed over the past years. Harbour Island is a quaint island where the most common form of transportation is via golf cart. As we walked up and down the streets looking for people to interview for our Histories class, we stopped at the beach and saw the incredibly soft, pink sand that stretched on for miles. After conducting a few interviews, we split up to find a place to eat dinner. My group and I walked up and down the same street for hours looking for Avery’s, a small family-style restaurant that serves amazing, authentic food. We took a water taxi back, set up camp for the night by Preacher’s Cave, then made a fire on the beach where I was surprised with scrambled birthday cake (warm, half cooked cake batter made in a pan over a small fire) and Oreos. It was by far the best birthday I’ve ever had and there was no place I would rather have been. The next day I was woken up to a loud “HAPPY HALLOWEEN!” from the girls in my tent. We packed up camp as fast as we could so we could arrive at Spanish Wells, a 3-mile island just off of Eleuthera, in time for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more amazing breakfast sandwich or milkshake in my life. Afterwards we walked around the island, which also used golf carts for transportation, and stopped at a thrift shop where many of us found Halloween costumes for later that night. We took a boat back around lunchtime and made our way to the blue hole. I looked down a 20ft drop into a natural pool of ocean water in the middle of a field. Jumping into the brisk, salty water was one of the most exhilarating leaps I’ve ever taken. We then made our way to the Hatchet Bay where we ventured deep into the dark abyss of a damp, rocky cave. The writing on the walls of the cave added an eerie Halloween effect. By the time we finished our adventures, it was the late afternoon so we headed out for a late lunch and Harkness discussion (because yes, this was an academic trip although it felt like a vacation). As the sun started setting we went to set up camp at an old Club Med. The beach there had some of the softest, pinkest sand I’ve ever seen and acres of falling down buildings and destroyed swimming pools. After some exploration, we all put on our wacky costumes and left for a Fish Fry in Governor’s Harbour. There was a DJ, limbo, and great food all night. By the time we got back to our campsite, we were all knocked out from too much singing and dancing in the streets. The following morning we had a Harkness discussion at the library, stopped at the mouth watering Governor’s Harbour Bakery, then made our way back to campus. The Down Island Trip exceeded my expectations, and I was lucky enough to have all my great friends with me to experience it. I can easily say that this has been one of the highlights of my Island School experience.