On my last day in this beautiful place, I’ll be going solo. Erika is working most of the day so I decided to make my way this morning to one of Bermuda’s oldest treasures: Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse. After a mile hike uphill, I arrived at the 162-year-old landmark. About $2.50 gains you access to the spiral staircase of 182 steps, so I set off (sans inhaler) and crossed my fingers.
Once I reached the summit, I was floored at the breathtaking views of the island. One can see almost the entire stretch of Bermuda from the Royal Naval Dockyard at the far west to just a hint of St. Georges parish at the far east. Phenomenal can hardly describe the scene. A lush landscape of palm trees and hibiscus flowers was set against a breathtaking backdrop of expansive blue ocean. I was all alone up there except for a pair of Mormon missionaries, but stayed there for a long time reflecting on the awesome scene in front of me.
After exploring the lighthouse, I decided to spend my last sunny afternoon solo in the sea. An hour later I was lying starfish-style in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, drawing in deep breaths of salty air when I failed to notice I was floating straight into the path of a Portuguese Man of War.
Even though we’d seen signs posted around the beach warning tourists about the potentially deadly creature, neither of us had spotted any in the days leading up to this. Thankfully, a Good Samaritan couple shouted a warning before I backed right into the jellyfish’s camouflaged tentacles. Disaster averted.
Once evening fell, Erika and I made our way to the Bermudan commissioner’s home for the conference’s closing cocktail reception and gala dinner. That’s where we met the Gombeys, an Afro-Caribbean dance group who perform to the sound of drums and whistles. Think tribal rave. These guys were decked out in elaborate masks with colorful costumes and wore peacock feathers atop their heads as they made their way through the crowd.
The commissioner’s “home” is actually a museum dedicated at the time of our visit to the slave trade. Hundreds of thousands of West African slaves were brought to Bermuda in the 17th Century and those slaves, seeking respite, organized the Gombeys. When the men were granted rest from work on holidays, they celebrated their short taste of freedom with dance. It was a pretty amazing thing to see in action.
Later that night, we did a little dancing of our own back at The Cellar in celebration of our last night in Bermuda. I was sad to leave our hotel the following morning, but also ready to be back on the right side of the road again after the tumultuous car ride to the airport and subsequent delay. As luck would have it, a Bermudian security guard steered us away from U.S. Customs and into the wrong terminal, where we sat unknowingly for an hour before someone pointed us in the right direction. Thankfully, a few hours later, we were back on American soil. And ya know, no matter where in the world you travel, there’s something oddly comforting about seeing that uniformed American official welcoming you home.
One more stamp in the passport. And as I think back on the trip, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from “Eat Pray Love.”
“I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby. I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine. Because it looks exactly like me.”