Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Thousand and One Arubian Nights

Having just dug one of two cars out of the driveway, I want a couple of Advil and a plane ticket back to Aruba. A few highlights to warm your day:

This is my favorite view. I just unpacked the last suitcase this morning. It was just my summer sandals, but seeing the sand leftover in the suitcase made me wistful.

We did manage to get into Orangestad one morning. The public bus system is great, and cheap. The city itself is something of a disappointment, at least with only a few hours to dedicate to it. It's where all the floating islands of cruise ships dock and disgorge thousands of sunburned Americans to pick over the duty-free jewelry, liquor, and tobacco. We played along, though our only shopping mission was the hats. Russ loves his Panama Jack. I'm generally not a hat person, and in the Arubian breeze you need to find one that REALLY fits, but I did like the look of this el cubano fedora. The straw didn't hold up well on the airplane ride home, but now I know what to look for. This one is made by the same company that made Indiana Jones's famous hat.

The iguanas are native, and everywhere. It can be a little off-putting to have one of these eight-pound dinosaurs cross your path, but they generally ignore the tourists.

We managed a half-day Land Rover tour of the far side of the island. It was great to leave the manicured, watered, fancy side of Aruba and see everything else. Including what our tour guide called Arubian deer. Of course they're goats. They wander freely during the day, then they all know who belongs to whom and go back to their own keepers for feeding, milking, etc., every evening. They look generally clean and healthy.

Aren't they cute? They climb on top of one another to glean whatever greenery they can reach from the local trees. There are also feral dogs around the island. Our guide called them Arubian lions. Our favorite was the one on the beach who adopted Russ.

On the grill of our Land Rover: an Arubian hood ornament. Note the licence plate. Everybody we met who lives there, native or not, agreed that it is truly "one happy island."

This is an unwelcome non-native boa constrictor. Our tour guide said somebody likely set one free and now they proliferate without any natural predators. They have wreaked havoc on the native fauna. I also heard a theory that the eggs came to the island in sand that was imported. I was very close to this bad boy. Our guide told us that the island government used to pay a bounty for dead constrictors, but that they don't anymore.

The snake was in trees just outside of caves on the windward side of the island. The caves are carved out of the coral by thousands (maybe millions) of years of hard surf and strong trade winds. There is thousand-year old indian art, and slightly newer graffiti.

Can you see the "1830" below the names? I love that these artists at least took the time to use some sense of artistry in leaving their marks. Too bad it has destroyed more of the indian artwork. Indians and sailors alike probably hid in the caves to avoid pirates.

The Arubian government had these 10 wind turbines installed, expecting them to produce about 30% of the island's electricity needs. Turns out they produce about 60%. Ten more are due to be installed. I don't have a picture here, but the land around this part of the island is very desolate. All cactus and very thorny trees that look a little like mesquite. The wind is so strong and constant, the trees grow perpendicular to the ground on this side of the island.

There used to be seven natural bridges around the island. This is one of the last. The biggest, and most famous as a tourist destination, collapsed a couple of years ago. We didn't climb down, but you can see a fisherman who did.

O.k., back to the touristy side of things. Russ really wanted to do the tube thing. I don't have a death wish like he does, but he prevailed. I made nice with the boat driver and he did take some good pictures. People looked at us funny when we finally made it back to shore. Turns out everybody on the beach could hear me screaming. My hands were frozen into claws from holding on to the hand grips so tightly, and the muscles in my arms were so traumatized I could hardly lift a beer for the rest of the afternoon. The bartender offered me a straw, but I managed to avoid that embarrassment by just tipping the beer glass toward me and leaning in. Shut up.

Sunset from our hotel balcony. Watch out for the pirates!

These finches came to visit our breakfast table every morning, but not until the last day did I manage to have the papaya juice and my camera at the right time.

We really did enjoy ourselves. For future reference, we particularly enjoyed our meals at Simply Fish (on the beach at the Marriott-- get the seafood bouillabase), The Old Cunucu House (in a 150-year old Arubian house), and Madame Jeanette's. On a sad note, we just heard that the chef at Madame Jeanette's was killed last week in a car accident. The restaurant has been closed for the near future.

Aren't you ready to go yet? I'll help with the luggage. . .


kathleen said...

That looks so fun. I want a goat. Think the dogs would mind?

Kathy said...

I think they would coexist quite nicely, but maybe only after a head butt or two. Your dogs are bigger than some of the goats I saw.

Just for the record, I want chickens. Actually, what I want is a set up like your friend the soapstone lady.

Kathleen said...

Sounds fun. I have a picture in my mind of soapstone lady's place. We really do need to go and pay a visit.

ADG said...

I'm ready to be anywhere south of here.

Dan said...

What a lovely blog - found through Kathleen.
Thank you for the reminder of Aruba, we went there three years ago! You've jogged my memory - now where are the photographs?
Best wishes