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Bahamas: Columbus Point

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Columbus Point | Bahamas | Americas

[Visited: June 2014]

When the small propellor plane touches down on New Bight airfield, I do not have a plan. it turns out to be relatively easy to get hold of a car that would allow me to explore the island. There are several places that I want to visit scattered around the island, but since Columbus Point had been one of the reasons for me to pick Cat Island in the first place, I decide to head south first. The drive to Port Howe is as easy as it gets, and I suppose that the trail mentioned in my travel guide at the end of the village is easy to spot. But a short while after driving north, I realize I must have missed it, and visit the Healing Hole first, just a little north of Port Howe. Back to the entrance of Port Howe, I drive slowly, and see several dirt tracks, but no one to ask, so I continue driving until I reach a small restaurant. Closed. When I get off, a woman from across the street calls me. She turns out to be the owner of the restaurant, tells me to get back to an old school building past the cemetery, from where Columbus Point can be reached. According to my guide, it is just 2 miles, so I guess she is right.

Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): The empty beach just north of Little Winding Bay

The old school building is easy to recognize, and I park behind it. According to the lady, I can walk the beach, but the tide is high, and I have to turn back at a stretch where mangroves reach the beach. I walk back, and find a clear dirt track leading in the right direction. 2 miles - that should be an easy walk to Columbus Point. Many on Cat Island still believe this is where Columbus first stepped ashore in 1492, even though research has shown that he actually landed on San Salvador, an island south-east of Cat Island. I would meet someone who claimed that the names of the two had been swapped, giving even more confusion in the debate. Anyway, the point is still called after the 15th century European explorer who would change history by sailing west in search of a route to India. After a while, the track gets overgrown by vegetation, which gets higher and higher, and a little later, it ends altogether. But there is a clear trail continuing, with markers (empty cans and plastic bands) here and there, so I continue, also because the direction is correct. After half an hour, I assume being close, but the trail gets vague, and I do not see how it continues. I retrace my steps, try to find other trails, but they, too, turn out to be false trails. There are moments where I do not see any trail at all. I get trapped in the vegetation, fall and bruise my wrist, the trees and bushes being too high to see where I am, and with the sun being blocked by the clouds, it starts to be tricky. What had seemed like an easy walk, now turns out to be a challenge. What is more: I have been looking for Columbus Point for more than two hours now, and am not even close. Actually, I realize I now have to focus on getting out of here, back to Port Howe, and give up on Columbus Point. It takes some searching and cursing before I even find the dirt track back to Port Howe. I am relieved I am back.

Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): Trail on the way to Columbus Point

At the same time, I do not wish to give up on reaching Columbus Point, so I drive to Greenwood, and walk down the beach from there. This is the south-eastern point of Cat Island, the beach is beautiful and empty, and at least there is nothing easier than just follow the beach south until I reach my destination. There are stretches where the beach is so narrow, I cannot walk on it anymore, and I climb up the steep and sharp rocky cliffs above it, or I wade through the surf. At one point, I am so sweaty, I take off my clothes and take a refreshing dip in the sea. I reach a semi-circular bay with a particularly beautiful stretch of white sand, with a rocky cape at the end. I have been walking almost an hour south of Greenwood, and assume that this must be it. I pass the wreck of a yacht, and when I am at the southernmost tip of the beach, walk through the bushes, expecting to see the open sea. To my dismay, there is yet another bay, and beyond that, more bushes stretching even further south. I still want to visit the highest hill on the island for sunset, and have to decide to turn around. The walk itself is great, I take another short dip in the waves, before I return to Port Howe and have a very late lunch at the ladies place. Talking to her, I realize she does not know where Columbus Point is, and probably mistakes it with the much closer point jutting out into the sea, visible from Port Howe. But also my established travel guide is wrong. Even as the crow flies, the distance is well over 2 miles. But I decide that, despite the fact that I have not reached Columbus Point, and that my legs are full of small wounds from the thick vegetation, I still had a great day exploring the way to the point where one of the most famous explorers once landed - or not?

Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): Bushes on the trail between Port Howe and Columbus Point
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): Empty beach until the horizon leads south from Greenwood
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): Narrow stretch of beach between Greenwood and Little Winding Bay
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): Shallow pond close to Port Howe, on the way to Columbus Point
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): Looking west at the beach of Port Howe
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): The thick vegetation between Port Howe and Columbus Point, with cactus
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): The rocks and pinkish beach between Greenwood and Columbus Point
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): The communal building of Port Howe, formerly a school building, right at the coastline
Picture of Columbus Point (Bahamas): The Deveaux mansion in Port Howe is in a state of disrepair

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