Wednesday, September 5, 2012

There's This Rum Bar on the Blue Hills Road...

(Courtesy of Nimrod Studios)
It's at the far end of the coral rock island of Provodenciales, among locals' homes, not sprung from the imagination of any real estate developer but made by hand.  The parking lot sits behind a wall made of giant pink conch shells pasted together with cement.  Three of the many "potcakes," the area's homeless beagle-like dogs, take shelter from the sun under the shade cast by toasting cars. You could easily throw a ball into the shallow blue-green edge of the ocean, across the strip of simply pure white beach.  Enter under the arch sporting the sign with pink lettering:  Da Conch Shack and Rum Bar.  It is, the cheerful bartender Rayon tells you, one of the Travel Channel's "21 sexiest beach bars."  OK, there are some pretty people here, but on first impression it's surely one of the funkiest.  I find out that Prince was just there last week, sipping on a Pepsi which he paid for with a $20 bill.  He had recently bought a home on the undeveloped south shore of the island, which I'm sure he can afford. Keith Richards was here recently also, standing in the shadows; he has a home on nearby Parrot Cay. 
Miss Nancy and I have arrived in the slowest of the slow weeks of late summer, and instead of celebrities and the usual packed house, there are only a few couples and two tables with all men or all women.  Lively reggae music breaks out on Thursday nights, and we decide right away we must (1) come back next year, and (2) definitely make that on a Thursday night.
The quiet midday has its charms, though.  A fellow is collecting a conch or two from the big piles of them stored in the shallow water; he will bonk it hard with a heavy hammer, cut out the mollusc inside and separate out the half that is all white muscle, then turn it over to the cook who will have it on your plate in one of several different ways within ten minutes.  Add to that "rice n' peas" (rice and beans, actually), and either a Turk's Head beer or Jai's Rum Punch, cast your gaze over the impossibly blue water and sky, and consider yourself one lucky duck.
The bartender at the raised, tiny bar seems to find everything hilarious and everyone who comes by an old friend.  I decide to go all Hemingway, and ask for the most interesting rum among the collection on the wall.  He says the Zacapa is the "best in de worl'."  It's from Guatemala, of all places, and pours slowly and thickly  from the handsome bottle at 23 years of age, having started as the first press of sugar cane (most rums are made of molasses, the dregs of the cane).  I admire the copper/mahagony color in the filtered sunlight, and inhale an aroma which reminds me of Christmas at a gourmet's home.
I later learn that this unlikely spot is in the book One Thousand Places to See Before You Die and was called the "greatest bar in the British West Indies" by CNN.
Let's just keep it between you, us and Keith, though.       


  1. Dude, you've got to cut your ties to the Penn State and follow your warm dreams. Do pirates sit in the snow taking care of litter boxes? Follow your dreams and sleep in the sand and wear the same jams for weeks.