Caribbean Trip - 2005

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Brooklyn, New York

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Before leaving I investigated how much time it would take to get to Newark Airport, and through security. The car service said an hour. A friend said it would take 45 minutes to get through security. And I added on 25 minutes to get to the plane. The taxi was only 50 minutes to get from Brooklyn to the airport. Getting a boarding pass from a machine and security took only 10 minutes. And then more than 10 minutes to walk to the gate. A sign outside the building said Caribbean at the southernmost door of Terminal C, but my flight was at the very end of the northeast spoke.

We pulled away from the gate right on time. But then it was an hour before we took off! I don't recall ever having to wait this long! And this was mid week at 9 AM.

On the plane a fellow near me says that Curaçao has their Carnival on Mon-Tues. He didn't know about Bonaire. My plans were to be on Bonaire for those days.


I went to the BonairExcel ticket office after we landed. The woman says that Curaçao's Carnival was on the weekend, the same as Aruba's. And that on Tuesday night Bonaire and Curaçao have their final party (the burning of King -Momo). She went on to say that I could not pay for my tickets, as the system was down. And they were having some plane lease problem, and they weren't flying that day. But they should be flying again by Sunday (the day of my flight).

I walked out to the road to get a bus. The first to pass by was a jitney. I got in. A mistake I later learned. He dropped me off far from the bus depot. He pointed the way. When I got to the depot I found I had just missed a bus, and I would have a 50 minute wait for the next. The jitneys to Noord were more than a mile away. Probably if I waited at the airport for a real bus I would have made the connection to Noord. Anyway, I didn't feel like waiting. I walked across the road and hailed a taxi. $10 to get to Noord.

We found the Lagadishi Apartments. Muriel was still at work. I waited around writing these notes. Lots of noisy dogs when I approached. Hopefully not at night.

After a while Muriel shows up without a car. Her's was having problems and she got a ride home from a friend. In our e-mail communication she said she would drive me to get the bicycle. She goes off to call her boyfriend to borrow his car. She returns. She says he's not prompt. She told him Pablito's closes at 5:30 (we knew it closed at 6:00). I wait. And wait. At 5:20, and no sign of him, I ask the couple staying in the other apartment if he can drive me to Pablito's. Not getting the bike now would keep me from an early start on Thursday. He agrees. Off we go. On the taxi ride to Noord I learned the general direction of La Quinta, which Pablito's is next to. We drove down alongside Eagle Beach. No La Quinta. We get to the end. I jump out and ask a taxi driver. We passed it. He uses La Dome restaurant as the landmark. It wasn't too far back. And there was La Quinta behind it.

I find Pablito's and get a mountain bike. I bike back to Noord. I stop at a book store to buy a map. I had lost the little one that the Arubian Tourism in the US sent me, and when I asked for another they only sent me literature. Then I found a small supermarket. No bacon. Just eggs and a half of a papaya.

I make it back just before dusk. I rested a while. I put the light on the bike and headed off to Oranjestad. I had seen an Indian Restaurant on the bus ride in. I biked around. I found the street where the parade will be. The sides were lined with tents and plastic chairs. Bleachers at one spot. I biked around some more. I was considering an Argentinean restaurant when I found Maharaj. Not the one I'd seen before, but a less fancy one, which was fine.

The food was fine. On my way back I tried to find Quality Apartments, but not very hard. [At Lagadishi she thought she didn't have the last night for me. So I had to book elsewhere for one night.]

Thursday, February 3, 2005

I did not awake as early as I wanted. But Aruba isn't that big and none of my trips will be far. I had no oil for cooking the eggs (I later found some) so I hard boiled them instead. Six of them, and the half papaya, were breakfast.

I headed out at 8:45. I biked over to Palm Beach and headed north. This is the high rise beach. All rowed up next to each other. The biggest is the Marriott, and it was getting bigger. I hear how great the Arubian beaches are, but at the Marriott they are nothing but a narrow strip of sand.

I stopped at Arashi Beach for a panorama shot. I biked around the California sand dunes. Not much sand, mostly rock. Then I biked up to the California lighthouse. This is one of the main tourist attractions. Convoys of jeeps, convoys of 4-wheel ATVs, rental cars, and buses make it up here. And my bicycle. But you can't go up the lighthouse! So no panorama picture.

Leaving the lighthouse all roads on the map have you going back the way you came. But I could see dirt roads leading east from the lighthouse. I asked some people on horses if I could make it through. Yes, they said. But there would be some water.

Off I went. To the south was a golf course, but all fenced off. I came to the water at Druif/Salina Preserve. I could have waded across carrying the bike, but at one place someone had placed across a couple boards. So I gingerly walked across carrying the bike. Large 4-wheel drive vehicles were driving through. Smaller rental ones weren't sure. One woman was wading across to see how deep. (The smaller ones did drive through.)

A little further I started seeing piles of rocks. Someone is taking loose rocks and piling them up. I then walked up Ceroe Grandi and got a good 360 degree panorama.

I continued on. I made a stop at the Chapel of Alto Vista. Was I supposed to take a vista picture? I didn't. I biked on to the Bushiribana Gold Mill ruins. Another convoy of 4-wheel ATVs. But they came the easy way. Not the way I had.

I stopped along the way to eat the half pemmican muffin I'd brought. A place with some benches and palm leaf umbrellas. Possibly at Gatu. I should have brought two halves. But to keep luggage weight down I only brought a half per day. But some days I should be near civilization and not need them.

I then biked on to the Boca Andicuri Natural Bridge. Supposedly the largest in the world. [Now past tense, as it collapsed later that year.] Natural Bridge had a restaurant, but everything they had listed included wheat, or would have been contaminated with wheat in the deep fat fryer.

The map had the dirt road continuing. But not along the coast right here. I followed the map. The road was mostly rocks and I had to walk the bike. Looking down at the coast I see I could have biked, and walked the bike over a stretch of sand.

I found Andicari Beach. The map shows a second natural bridge, but I was unable to find it. I continued on. I was unable to bike much, and ended up walking the bike most of the time. I passed Boca Baimani. I passed Boca Ketu. I finally made it to the Natural Pool "Cura Di Tortuga." I did not go down to the pool. I just carried my bike up the steps to the Casibari Rocks. This is a somewhat popular spot. Not as much as the Natural Bridge, which is reachable by decent roads.

This was enough. Time to get to real roads and head back. But more walking the bike to get out, with some riding. Eventually I reached asphalt and headed back. I stopped at Cas Ariba for some orange juice. Nicer than water. Then through Santa Cruz and Paradero to get back to Noord. I was hungry. Along the way I stopped into three Chinese restaurants looking for food. But none spoke any English. I need a Chinese write up explaining I can't have soy sauce (as it has wheat in it).

I was exhausted. I showered and was going to take a nap when Muriel came by. She told me where a real supermarket was nearby. She knew of no closer Indian restaurant.

Just as it was getting dusk I biked over. No half papaya, but I was able to get OJ and ground beef. I was too tired to bike into Orangestad for Indian food. A pound of ground beef would suffice. Then to bed early.

Friday, February 4, 2005

This place is not the best for sleeping. The a/c, right next to the bed, cycles an and off every minute. I awake at 7:15. I was too tired to write my journal the night before. So 45 minutes writing now. Then an expanded breakfast. Some ground beef added.

I get off at 9:15. A rather late start. I decide to take the scenic route to Orangestad. I bike straight over to Palm Beach. And then down along the coast. I hug the coast through Orangestad, past some enormous cruise ships. (One was Carnival Destiny.)

My first stop was the airport. The good news was BonairExcel was flying again and I still had my reservations. The bad news was I couldn't bring my luggage over to the airport ahead of time. It was the main office on Bonaire that had said I could.

I had to bike along the highway a ways before I could swing down near the coast. [I later find the one way portion of the road through the airport is short enough that one can walk the bike through.] But even being near the coast was a pretty grim ride. I was not near the water, and the section was industrial. Not until I passed the desalinization plant could I get to the water. There was a yacht club, and a ferry to De Palm Island. I could have gone over and checked out the resort, but I figured I didn't have the time.

I continued on. Through some small towns and an occasional small beach. I passed the Flying Fishbone. This is a well regarded restaurant, which I now see is quite a ways out of town. (I later regret not taking a picture of it.)

I reached San Nicholas. This was a big town. I saw signs of the place getting ready for Carnival. It was past noon, and some shops were closed. I passed on though.

I continued on to Rodgers Beach. Few people. Then over to Baby Beach. Lots of people. The water is so protected and calm you can take your baby in. I ate two halves of a pemmican muffin. I biked up to the Seroe Colorado Lighthouse. Good for a panorama shot of Seroe Colorado with the refinery in the background.

I continued up the coast. Past the prison, which for some reason wasn't on the map. And then a picture of Boca Grandi. This is a popular wind surfing spot. I continued on, past a place where one could rock climb. I came to the artillery range. No red flag or lights. I continued on. I came to a dead T and pulled out my map. I saw that if I make the turn I could see the Tunnel of Love and not go too far out of my way. So I headed over. It was a self guided tour. They give you flashlights. The woman wanted $7. I said it was too much and started walking back to my bike. Five dollars she says. So I pay and climb inside the cave. I got one picture that I hope came out. I saw of couple of bats fly by.

I headed on my way. I passed Guadirikiri Cave. I figured one was enough. I came upon Boca Prins and the sand dunes. Another cave and Indian markings a ways off the road. I passed. I was now finally heading west, on my way home. I stopped for a second on a steep hill and saw a small lookout sign. I climbed up and got a panorama shot. I now have quite a few for Aruba. They should be good!

It was still a long ways on a dirt road until I reached a paved one. At Cas Ariba the road met the road I had returned on the day before. I stopped for some OJ at the same place. But a quart this time. Instead of a pint. Only 6 1/2 miles to the apartment!

Again I didn't have the energy to bike into Orangestad for Indian food. So again dinner was a pound of browned ground beef. With lots of OJ to wash it down.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

I'm not getting up very early. No incentive. Richard, the boy friend of the woman that runs the place, is to take my luggage over to Quality Apartments on his way to work. Around 9:30-10:00. At 9:40 I go out and look for him. No vehicle. The people in the other apartment say they have not seen him all morning. I wait until 10:10. Then off to find Quality Apartments myself. The address in my notes was not the address on their web site, but I remembered their web address. 20 minutes and I was near the beginning of Schotlandstraat. But the street numbers were too low. I biked over to the Arubian Tourism Authority for help. They were closed. I finally found a continuation of the street, not connected to the beginning part, and the numbers were getting higher. After a half hour of hunting I found them.

My room wasn't ready yet. She gave me the number of a taxi. I called and told her I'd meet the taxi in Noord in half an hour. I biked up and the taxi was waiting. A minibus. So he was able to put the bike in and I didn't have to bike back. The room was still not ready. I checked in and left my bags with her.

I learned that Carnival on Saturday was in San Nicolas. No way was I biking there again. I stopped by the bus depot to see the Sunday schedule to the airport. A bus was loading for San Nicolas. He said 45 minutes to get there. I locked up the bike and off I went.

I missed the parade beginning, but not by much. I had brought no pemmican with me. I had expected I'd be in Orangestad and would be able to find a restaurant. There was a Chinese restaurant near where I was watching the parade. The fellow knew English (it seems it is the Chinese women that don't). I said I couldn't have soy sauce. He went to the kitchen. He came back and said I could have the sweet and sour. It was tomato based. I did and it was fine.

At exactly four the parade ended. I was near the beginning, so lots of noise still from further along. I headed back to where the bus driver said to get it back. I must have just missed one, as I had to wait almost a half hour.

Getting back I studied the bus schedule again. To get to the plane I could either be there 1:45 or 0:30 in advance. The hourly schedule had a jump in it. I then went across the street to an Indian restaurant. Not the one I'd eaten in before. It was 5:20 and they were all set up, but closed for the afternoon period.

I had passed Wilhelmina Park earlier and wanted to go back and go in. So I did, and I biked around the Renaissance Ocean Suites. Then to Quality Apartments to see my room.

The woman was still there (I already had my key.) It was past the office's 5:00 closing. I found my room. She gives me a slip of paper emphasizing the 12:00 check out time. This place is very much run like a business.

I wrote my journal and showered. First stop was the Indian restaurant across from the bus depot. They were closed on Sunday. They said the other one was open. That being Maharaj, the one I had eaten at a couple nights before. So I headed over there. They are normally open on Sunday they said, but not on Carnival. But someone would be there in the back preparing and I could ring the doorbell and leave the bags. And being a ways from the bus depot I'll end up taking two taxis. (To get them there and to take them away.)

So I ate dinner there and chatted. Not that much business. Just some take out and a Floridian fellow that came in.

After dinner I biked the parade route. I learned which direction it went. And where it started and ended. I'll try to watch near the beginning.

I biked back to my room. I'm starting to get the hang of the back roads. Quality is much closer to things.

Sunday, February 6, 2005

I awake before 7:00. Early for this trip. It's raining outside. The first rain of the trip. Hopefully it will be just a shower. (The lack of fenders on a mountain bike can make things messy.)

Sleep was much better at this place. The A/C did not cycle on and off every minute. And when it did it was quiet.

I eat some hard boiled eggs and papaya strips left over from the day before. I shower. At 8:15 I'm ready to go. It still looks wet outside. I go out. The rain has stopped, but there still are puddles. I walk around and look at the pool. All is quiet this early. The place is filled with rental cars. This place, being a bit isolated, does require a car, or a bike. :)

At 8:45 I finally leave for the area on the other side of the airport. I get there. I find a small yacht club and a couple restaurants. The view of Renaissance Island is unexciting. I bike back through the airport and stop at BonairExcel. I'm supposed to check in two hours before, even though my 9:30 PM flight won't be leaving until 11:00. 8:30 latest she says. That's when the ticket counter closes. I bike back to my room. I only got lost a couple times. With no sun I lost my sense of direction. (I forgot to bring my new bike compass.) Round trip took 1:45. I check out, leave my bags, and head back to the parade. I arrive at Fergusonstraat and Vondellaan at 11:00. It hasn't started yet. It is supposed to start at 11:00 AM and I'm a half hour from the start. I walk around. At 11:30 I head for Chinese food.

I was back in a half hour. I only missed a little. I was right at a bend. I could see the floats coming towards me, then turning. It rained some. After a while, I get up on a dump truck, and have a better view, over the umbrellas and people running out into the road to take a picture.

2:45 and it was over! I biked over to the Renaissance to see it over there. But it hadn't reached there yet. Finally at 3:30 the beginning reaches the end. I saw the few floats I missed at the beginning. Then it started raining again. So I left to exchange the bike for my bags a half hour early. The desk woman calls a cab and a few minutes later I drop off my bags at Maharaj restaurant. Then back to the parade. I wasn't able...

[Somehow I lost a page of my notes. The handwritten journal was on both sides. I discovered this when I got home. I didn't try to fill the gap until a couple months later when I got around to keying these in. So follows is a later reconstruction.]

I got some more parade pictures. I walked across Wilhelminastraat to the same Chinese restaurant as I ate lunch at. A couple was sitting next to me. I chatted with the fellow. He was telling me that there is a lottery for Arubians for the spots along the sides of the parade route. They were in the middle.

I finished and headed back to the parade. It was over. In the dusk I got some pictures of the aftermath and some buildings. I walked to Maharaj to get my bags. I then walked to the bus depot. It wasn't really that far. I sat down to wait for the bus. There were many others there. I could see which bay the bus was going to pull into. I positioned myself. Despite my good position dozens of people pushed ahead of me to get on the bus. Mostly kids not yet old enough to drive. I finally stuck my arm across to the bus to keep one girl from pushing past.

I get off in front of the airport. I check in and wait. The flight leaves a little before 11:00.


Having no checked luggage I'm the first one out at the taxis. There are only two. Both are booked. The island is small. One says he'll run me over to the Bonaire Inn and can get back before his scheduled fare makes it through. It is a little after midnight. Fares go up many dollars. He drops me off in front of the Inn. He tells me to knock on the window to the right of the door.

I knock. No answer at the door. No answer at the window. Only a phone number to call. Some non-English speaking drunks arrive and hang around. Then an Argentinean fellow shows up alone on a scooter. (His girlfriend was asleep in their room.) He speaks English. He tells me the men are Venezuelan workers over for work. They have been Carnival partying. To check in he says I have to call. He has no phone card, but knows that the phones in front of the phone office take coins. He rummages around his room to find some. (I only have some Arubian coins. I was now in NAF country.) He puts my bags in his room. We take his scooter over to the office. He calls and I speak with the owner. He says he will be over shortly. We go back to wait. He arrives

[end of reconstructed section]

and checks me in.

The place is okay, but the room reeks of cigarette smoke. This is a shared bath room. No sink or mirror in the room, which is unusual. And only one sink and mirror in the shower stall area.

Monday, February 7, 2005

The sleep is okay. I am out for breakfast a little after 8:00. They have bacon for me, but not the fruit I had ordered. I'm paying US$12 for breakfast, instead of the usual $6. For $6 I could have had just hard boiled eggs and juice.

I can't find a laundry on the map. One of the women says there is one, but they don't know where. She gives me the name and phone number.

I go off for a walk. The first bike rental place I come to, Rent-o-fun, is all out of mountain bikes. I walked a little further and come to De Freewieler. His regular price is what Rent-o-fun is after the discount given to hotel guests for the hotels promoting them. I ask the fellow about the laundry. He says the name on the paper is their address. He tells me how to get there.

I bike over. They are closed. Almost everything is closed. But they will be open tomorrow. No problem.

I gather my things from my room and decide to do the southern route. 24 miles according to the map's caption. It's 11:00 when I finally set off. I have lots of time.

First a stop at the airport to confirm my flight to Curaçao. It will be leaving on time she says. Then to the route. I stop at a couple beaches. I get pictures of the salt flats. These go on and on for miles. I hear the noon whistle from the salt factory. At the first slave huts I stop for a pemmican lunch. Then on again. I tried to get some pictures of the flamingos, but the sanctuary is way out in the middle of the flats. People can't get near them. If I waited until later afternoon I could see them all fly away to Venezuela for the night.

I came upon the Willemstoren lighthouse. The door was open. Up I go. A beautiful panorama of the salt flats. Hopefully the pictures come out. A couple from Dusseldorf comes by in a scooter. Seeing me up there they decide to come up. I tell them about my Carnival pictures. They are the third person I've given my web address to.

I head onwards. It starts raining steadily. It ended up raining for hours. The longest duration rain I've encountered in the Caribbean. Usually in the winter they are just brief showers during the day.

I pull into Lac Bay. This is the big windsurfing spot. They are still out there sailing! I bike on. It starts raining harder. I try to hitch, but no open and empty pickup trucks pass. Then one does and turns around for me, but I saw stadium lights. I have reached town I thought. So I turn them down. Turns out those were not the lights next to my hotel, but ones still a couple miles from town. I should have taken the ride. The streets are now puddly. Cars splash me. The rear wheel throws water up my back. I'm thoroughly soaked.

I reach the Inn. He wants me to leave the bike outside. So I do. I shower and change to dry clothes. It is still raining. I put on my rain jacket and wander around town. I find I can get a full English breakfast for much less. At the Inn all I had were two pieces of bacon and three eggs for $10. It was supposed to include fruit and be $12. A bit expensive for what was included.

I look for Chinese restaurants. The main one is closed. I see the Argentinean fellow that helped me the night before. He and his girlfriend were on their way back to their room, and then to the airport. I stop at some KFC tables and write these notes. I find a Chinese restaurant on the map. I wander there and I find the restaurants are different. The map must be old. There is a new pan-Asian restaurant. Possibly some of the curries I could eat. But more $ than I wanted to spend for that kind of food. The woman was lighting candles. The power was now out. The day before one of the island's three generating stations burned up. They were rewiring the island so the two remaining could carry the load. And they were cooking with candle light.

I wandered up and down the promenade. No restaurants were taking on new customers. But the lights should return shortly. My first choice was It's Raining Fishes. I chatted with another restaurateur. A couple that had just sailed from Curaçao said It's Raining Fishes is famous.

After about an hour the lights slowly came on, working sooner were lights towards the center of town. The place where I was chatting included a salad bar with the meal. With the lights back on I took a look.

I headed to It's Raining Fishes. It was filling up. He could only seat me at the bar. All the tables were for reservations. (Or at least for couples.) Apparently this is the place. I can't have the soup, but I could have wahoo with French Fries. Nothing else goes in the frying oil.

The dinner was fine. I wander back to my room. The Inn still has no lights, though the building across the street does. No problem. I have the bike head light. I'm close enough to the front door to use the moonlight to get to my room. Then I grope for and find the light. I'm in bed at 8:30.

At 10:15 I notice lights. I turn on the A/C. Mostly to dry things out. It rains most of the night.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

I'm up early. I'm at the breakfast table at 8:00. Breakfast was better. More bacon, more eggs, and three pieces of fruit. After breakfast I take my laundry in. I take everything that I'm not wearing. I learn that because of the Carnival parade that night they will be closing early, at 4:30. She's in the Carnival.

I get the bike. I stop by the tourism office. He says Carnival is from 7-11, ending with the burning. I'm going to start the route called Coast/Rincon. Trying to hug the coast I turn into the development at Santa Barbara Crowns. I get a bit lost. But it did get me to see where the better off live.

I continue on. I stop for pictures along the way. I reach Playa Chikitu, the end of the road. I turn around and my chain starts giving me problems. No doubt worsened from the lack of oil. Bicycling in the rain the day before, plus the bike standing outside in the all night rain, would have washed it off. I had thought about stopping and getting it oiled, but didn't.

As I was rounding the oil bunkers a pickup truck passes. I stick out my thumb. They stop. They are going to Rincon, where I want to go. We put the bike in back. Going into Rincon there is a very steep hill. Good that I got a ride over it.

I bike around Rincon looking for food. The only place, attached to someone's house, has only sandwiches and hamburgers. I buy water.

I head to Kralendijk. On the way I see a sign for Indian inscriptions. I take the turn towards Boka Onima. As I'm stopped for a picture, a group of bicyclists pass. When I get to the inscriptions they are already there. I ask the leader if he has any chain oil. He does. He also straightens up a bit the bent chain wheel. They are on a cruise. They brought their bikes along on the ship. I was aware of Bike N Cruise, but this was not them. I tell them when Carnival starts. But their ship pulls off at 8:00.

I pass a sign to Seru Largu, the tallest point near town. I have enough time before laundry pickup. I bike/walk up. Stunning views. Many panorama pictures to stitch. [Unfortunately the set looking off the hill not in the direction of town were all ruined, so none in that direction exist.]

I bike back to my room. I walk to the laundry. I have a half hour to spare. I return it to my room.

I haven't yet eaten. I didn't bring enough pemmican to have as lunch every day. I head to the Great China restaurant. The Chinese always serve straight through the afternoon. The owner knows a little English. The young son knows more. He doesn't have a white sauce. But he does have a sweet and sour one. That had been okay on Aruba, so I order it. It comes. I take a bite. The chicken is crunchy. I ask what it is coated with, wheat flour or corn starch. He doesn't understand. Finally he shows me the bag. It is flour. I leave. I stop by the Churraschia place, but they don't start until 6:00.

On my way back into town I had passed the Peking restaurant. So I biked out to it. The fellow knows English perfectly. He says there is also flour in the sweet and sour sauce to thicken it. He says he can make up a white sauce. It comes. It is brown. He says that's the oyster sauce. Is oyster sauce gluten-free? I gamble that it is okay. (It was.)

I biked back to the Churraschia place to find how late they serve. It was now 5:30. They had already started serving, and they will serve until 10:00. I biked around some, heading along the water towards the airport. Then back to shower.

I walked to where the parade was to be. I was there at 7:00, as that was when the tourism fellow said it started. It didn't. So I walked back to the room for water. Finally at 8:00 it starts. Not knowing I would be seeing a night parade I had not brought along my external flash, though I had thought about it. I took pictures anyway. It looks like they came out okay.

It was a small parade that went around in a circle. So I took a break and headed to the Churraschia place. It was all you could eat salad and five meats. One was sausage. So four. He says the meats have no sauces on them. The salad bar was unexciting. But I was able to make a basic salad. I discuss with the fellow my dietary restrictions. I tell him about soy sauce. He comes back and tells me they started marinading the meats in soy sauce. (I guess with all the soy beans grown in Brazil soy is becoming Brazilian cuisine.) So I order a steak. Way too salty. And a baked potato, but it wasn't a baking potato, so it didn't absorb the olive oil and the pieces slid around in it.

I go back to the parade. I chat with a fellow. He says everything has to be over at midnight, then it is Ash Wednesday. It ends with the burning of Momo, the king of the Carnival. I get some more pictures. I wait around. When people head to the stadium parking lot I'm in the forefront. More waiting. Some speeches with lots of dankes. Finally a few minutes before midnight they light him. And some other fireworks. He burns and fireworks are exploding from his arms and head. It finishes just at midnight. I walk back to the room and go to bed quickly.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

I'm up early enough to be at breakfast a couple minutes after 8:00. The same Dutch couples were already there. While eating the electricity goes out.

I don't get off until 9:45. Eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, and putting on suntan lotion, seem to take some time. I plan two trips today. With a lunch break at the Peking restaurant.

I head out to Lagoen. At Lagun the paved road ends. A couple on bicycles also gets to the end. They then head back. I ask at the house at the end where to continue. The point to a dirt road a little ways in. I take it. It leads into the area called Bolivia.

Which road to take is confusing. There are more roads than shown on the map. I make it to the Lighthouse Spelonk. I walk up and take a panorama picture. I leave hugging the coast. In places it is too sandy to bike. The map shows the road going way inland. Eventually I find a road that gets me over to the one I should be on. It is rocky. Very rocky. It is slow going. I worry about getting a flat. I have seen no one since leaving the paved road. I am miles from help. Three hours after I left Kralendijk I reach the paved road again. I now have the wind on my tail. In 30 minutes I am back in Kralendijk again. I had planned on taking a side trip to the Seru Grandi, but I was hungry and it wasn't clear which road I was to turn off on. Bonaire has marked none of the bike routes their map recommends.

I reach the Peking restaurant at 1:15. A different fellow is on duty. He speaks no English. I leave. Back at my room I eat half of a pemmican muffin.

My afternoon trip is first to Kaminda Lac, which is the north side of Lac Bay. Then to circle it and return to the windsurfing area on the south. This time to see it in the sun.

I head out of Kralendijk on the wrong road. When the pavement ends in Yatu Baku I know I'm wrong. A women tells me how to get back on the road. But dirt roads to get there. Which are often mud roads. I go slowly, but mud cakes the tires. When I speed up it dries and comes off flying at me. Of course rental bikes never spend a little extra to put fenders on their bikes.

I turn off the road to Kaminda Lac. More mud. I pull off the road a ways to watch some flamingos. After a long ride I get to the end. I look around and head back. I try to hitch. The only pickup that passes doesn't want my bike on their SCUBA gear. Hauling SCUBA gear is the main reason people have pickups here.

I bike around to Sorobon, the name for the windsurfing area. I park my bike to get a picture of the beach. About the only beach with sand on the island. When I get back to the bike I find the front tire is flat. Good thing it happened here!

The first vehicle is a fellow with a couple daughters. He stops and stuffs the bike in the back. He is just driving around. School is off for the entire week, so he also took off. He drops me off at De Freewieler. They also sell and repair bikes. So no problem. He finds two thorns in the tire. Possibly from trying to get around the mud holes, and getting too close to plants. He puts in a new tube.

I bike around town and get a few pictures. Then off to Peking. The fellow that knows English is now on duty. I get the same lunch as the day before.

It's now 5:50. I have an hour of light left. I pass the cemetery. So I go in and get a couple pictures. I bike around downtown taking some pictures. In a Bonaire dining guide I had seen a place touting local cuisine. Closed on Wednesday, today. So I hadn't been considering them as a place to eat. I do find Gibi's Terrace, but the plants were enough overgrown I question whether it is still open.

Heading back to my place I pass the adjacent church. People are starting to arrive for service. I get a picture of the inside and outside.

I shower and head to the promenade for a walk. I pass the church. The service is on. It is now full. Every seat is taken. People are standing at the back. Some are sitting outside listening.

I walk up and down the promenade. I return to my room. I'm not really hungry, but with all the energy I expend bicycling I don't want to skip a meal. So I get my bike lights and head off to Peking.

I had been planning to watch the news. American news was on there before. It took me a few minutes to realize why the TV was off. There are rotating blackouts. and where they are lost it from eight to midnight. But they have backup lights.

In the afternoon the fellow said he knew English well as he just got back from the states studying. Turns out he had been living in Brooklyn, about 1-2 miles from me. I finish and head back to my room, where we have electricity.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I'm up early. Before 7:00! I'm ready for breakfast at 7:30, just as the women that prepare it were arriving. But it was ready soon enough. At 8:15 my teeth are brushed and I'm off to the museum. It was small and typical of the Caribbean: inexpensive admission and filled with local old artifacts. This one also included a lot of local shells. Only a little on the original Arawak Indians. I walk back to my room.

I now have an hour or more to kill before I have to leave for my flight. I will need to call a cab. Hitchhiking is a possibility. I do have to return the bike. So off for a ride. I ride through town. I stop at Oranje Fort and Museum. I see the youth exhibit. The kids did some excavations of the grounds there, learning proper excavation techniques. I return the bike and walk to the room.

The woman is in the office. She could call for a taxi. But I have time to spare. And the road to the airport runs just a block from the Inn. So I'll hitch.

The second car to pass stops. She didn't seem so thrilled when I said airport. Not sure what she was expecting with two bags on my shoulders. She drops me off in front of the terminal. While waiting for the flight I chat with a fellow from Bonaire. He was into bicycles. He had invented a bicycle that converts to a wheel chair. He was telling me there was this bike path along the cliff's edge leading out to the Spelonk Lighthouse. It was so the lighthouse keeper could get there. (When I get home I find the path on the pictures I took from the lighthouse.)


After arriving I confirm my flight to Aruba. Then the information woman tells me where I can wait for the bus. After about a 10-15 minute wait it comes. It gives me a grand tour. Going every which way before reaching Punda. I have a short walk to my hotel, the Mira Punda. [Now completely redone as the Hotel Scharloo] I check in. No bike. They say the fellow is stopping by at four with it. So I go off wandering about town. The information office I found on the map tells me the only bookstore in town closed, so maps are only available to buy in Salina, a town nearby. She directs me to where I can buy a memory card for my camera. I wander around. I see a lot of men around doing nothing. No doubt some of them are homeless. Willemstad is not considered safe after dark. I pass a Chinese restaurant on my way back to tourism to ask about Indian restaurants. A policeman there translates for me. I ate there and had a fine and inexpensive chicken curry. He says the only Indian restaurants are in Salina. A short bike ride away.

At 3:45 I get back to the hotel to wait. And wait. It starts to rain. At 5:15 I talk the hotel guy into calling for me. Turns out he was waiting for my call. He tried to drop off the bike in the morning, but the hotel didn't want to be responsible for it. He said he gets off work at 4:00 and I was to call. In 15 minutes he arrives with the bike. We chat. He says a large hotel will have maps. The rain has stopped, but still wet. I won't bike until the next day. I go back to wandering around Punda. The pontoon bridge is now open. I buy a map at the Plaza Hotel. I go back and have the same chicken curry again at the same place. Then back to my room.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The bed was springy and sagged. The pillows were way too thick. But the fan did keep most of the mosquitoes away. The owner wants to sell the place, so he is investing no money in it.

No breakfast here at the hotel. I either have to use my pemmican for breakfast, or see what Punda has to offer. I eat half a pemmican muffin.

I head out. I meet José Rosales, the hotel owner. We chat. He remembers my phone calls. One in the fall, the other a few weeks prior. He didn't want to accept the bike, as he wanted me to be around to be sure it was okay. We discuss pillows.

I bike into Punda. My plans had been to just stay close to town. I head east along the water. I stop along the way. The road ends at the Sea Aquarium. The map shows a dirt road continuing. I try to find it. I ask a security guard. He points to a road. I take it. It goes much further inland than the one on the map. I ended up near a prison. I asked for directions. A fellow points the way and says to go straight. I take it. At some point I turn left. I get a lovely view of the Lagun Jan Thiel. But the road eventually ends. In trying to get to the one along the coast I end up going around in a circle. I have to backtrack all the way out. Almost to where I had gotten the directions. The road is not good. Many places I have to walk the bike. Eventually I get to the Lagun mouth. I can carry the bike across. I see bike tracks in the mud. I'm not the only one doing this.

I make it around some gated resorts. I pass an American fellow biking in the other direction. The giveaway? He said "hello" when I waved and he was wearing a helmet. Only Americans wear them in the Caribbean.

I bike through Jan Thiel. I biked to the Caracasbaai Beach. I stopped for some water. A fellow suggests I make it up Midden Seinpost (104 meters) for the views.

I bike through Brakkeput Abou. Then through Brakkeput Ariba. I try to get lunch as Sarifundg's Marina, but for lunch she only has sandwiches, pizza, and breaded chicken nuggets. I move on. I get to the Curaçao Yacht Club, but can't get in. It is on a former island now connected by a causeway. The older houses are very modest. The new ones are quite grand and fill the lots. Of course, for each new one an old one was torn down.

I bike over to Jan Sofat. A gated community. The guard lets me bike around. I now bike to the main road. I find a supermarket for juice. I try a Chinese restaurant. There are four Chinese inside. None speak any English. The fellow that suggested the mountain view said the problem is they stick together socially and never bother to learn English.

I make it up to the top of Midden Seinpost. The views are stunning, but the panorama is marred by antennas and transmitter buildings. I get some pictures to stitch.

It is a fairly quick bike ride back to Punda. I stop at the same Punda Chinese restaurant I'd been eating at.

I bike around Punda some. I ask a restaurant about a full breakfast. Yes he says, starting at 9:30. He says that's early for him, as they close a 1 AM.

Then I bike around Otrobanda. I look at the cruise ship that is still there. The other left at 2:00. (This one leaves at 5:00.) I stop at the tourism kiosk. When I arrived and was asking about maps I had stopped at the main tourism office. She gives me a map. It is the same one I paid 10.50 guilders for! She gives me another map. It has three walking tours. I had already done all of Punda, and I had found the Scharloo one, as that is where I'm staying. But the Otrobanda one gives me a tour for later.

I stop back at the hotel. I ask about getting up to Fort Nassau. The map shows a road nearby, but it doesn't connect with the rest of the road system. Following the other roads would take me way out of the way. The fellow that works at the hotel says I can take it. Off I go. To get to it a guard has to open a gate for me. He does. It is the ports property. At the other end cars can't get through (without a key), but a bike can. I walk my bike up to the fort. Fort Nassau is now a restaurant. One with stunning views in all directions. I get some pictures.

It is not yet getting dark, so I bike around some more. Then back to the hotel to wash up. Then out for another chicken curry at the same Chinese restaurant.

But I first stopped at the place that had breakfast. I wanted to see their menu. It was what they call a Dutch breakfast. Everything is on bread. But they could make up something special.

At the Chinese bar/restaurant (all the ones on these islands are also bars) the TV is back to the Chinese channel. In this bar the TV is for them, not the patrons. And they were so engrossed in the program.

Then a walk to the Plaza Casino to break one of the US 20's into small bills to have exact change to pay for the bike. Then back to the room and bed.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

I'm up early. I eat a half pemmican muffin and am ready to leave at 8:00. Today is my coastal ride to the west. I find the road along the coast is now broken by the Holiday Beach Hotel. So I have to take the main road around it. For a long stretch this road has been turned into a jogging, pedestrians and cyclists path. I stop in the middle and walk out a jetty for a view. I continue on. Then a bunch of resorts hog the shore. Unlike many of the Caribbean islands, beaches here can be private.

I bike down to Hook's Hut at Awadiplaya. Then back towards the highway. But not to it. I take some side roads trying to get around Piscadera Baai. I made two tries. But each time I was stymied by a massive puddle. But I did get a bit of biking in the wilderness surrounding the bay.

I tried to get down to the sea by Blue Bay Golf & Beach Resort, but it was all gated off. Possibly the dirt road to the side would have gotten me to the water, but not the beach. So back to more primary roads to get around it.

I then bike down to Boka Sami. A cute little bay with a waterfront restaurant, De Octopus Bar. I buy some water and enjoy the views. No food yet at the waterfront, it was only 10:45, but I smelled food at a nearby place. They could have made up some fish, but she claimed she was busy and I'd have to wait until 12:00. I headed on.

It appeared I could have a much shorter route, if the dirt road went around Bullenbaai, a large oil bunkering depot. I gambled I could get through.

I stopped at the beach at Vaersen Baai. There was a concession there, but all he had was fried food covered with batter. He did say I would be able to get through. So I headed on.

I made a stop at Pest Baai, which was just an overlook. Supposedly a diving site below, but it seems you have to get there by boat. Then onwards. It was a long haul around the oil bunker. Finally I reach a paved road again by Landhuis Daniël. I head west to Jan Kok. I stop at the Jan Kok landhuis, but it was only an art and souvenir shop. She did sell me some water. Excellent views from the house.

Then onto St. Willibrordus. The village has a large church on a hilltop, and it can be seen shining in the sun from miles away. But just a clustering of houses around it. Nothing to eat. The one restaurant was closed on Saturday.

Two beaches are below here. I first headed to Porto Mari. A sign said admission was obligatory, though it included a free soda. It would have been an expensive water. So I headed to the other, the Deaibooi baai. Here there was no admission. Money was made selling food, charging for the rest rooms, and renting chaises. The food was either fried or sandwiches. I bought some water and ate my half pemmican muffin to tide me over until I got back to town.

This is as far as I want to go. It is now 2:00. So six hours to get here. I head back. All on main roads. Not fun. The roads are narrow and people drive fast. Most pull away. A few don't. One obviously was trying to see how close he could get to me.

After two hours I'm back in town. First a stop at the tourism kiosk. A new woman. I get some things from her. Then to my regular Chinese place for chicken curry again. The TV is on. It's a Chinese station again. Same entertainment show as before. People singing, dancing, and lights flashing. Very engrossing to these Chinese.

I decided to do the Otrobanda walking tour. I have been down all the streets in Punda, and staying in Sharloo I found the mansions there. I ended up walking most of it, as they have the walk going against the one-way streets. (Doing it backwards would have been fine.) At one place the signs had one going on a longer loop than the map. It led to a courtyard where a woman was sweeping. We chatted. She says most people take the tour with a guide. She didn't know there was a map. In chatting about my rental bike she said she knew Brian Kooistra, the fellow I rented the bike from, quite well. She suggested I rent a car for the day, and suggested a route. She told me there is an Indian restaurant in Riffort. I had passed by, but not yet gone into Riffort. She said it is reasonable, like 15 guilders.

I wander back to my room to wash up. I call Brian. He has cars to rent for $20/day, but none the next day. He gives me a number to call. I call. It is busy. I wait a while. Still busy. I call back to Brian. He says they are on the Internet.

I wander over to the Indian restaurant in Riffort. They were having a buffet for 35 guilders. That is seven of my Chinese chicken curries! Besides, I had eaten lunch only 2 1/2 hours before, and didn't want to eat all that much. So back to the Chinese place.

This time TNT was on the TV. A Chinese action film dubbed in English. Far too much violence and explosions than could ever happen in real life. And the family running the restaurant was still very engrossed in the TV.

I wander back to my room. I try the number again. This time I get an answering machine. I have no idea what the message said. I leave a message with the hotel's phone number. I head to bed.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The sleep was not good. There was a very loud classic rock band playing outside my window. Or at least they seemed that close. And old mansions like this don't have windows, just louvered shutters. They played until at least 2:30 AM. And the ceiling fan is as squeaky as ever. And I'm coming down with a cold.

I have decided to take the bus to the airport. I could have gone for the 7:30 bus, but the 8:30 allows for a leisurely getting up. I have half a pemmican muffin. All that is left now is for the flight back.

Since the bus from Otrobanda is so much quicker I walk over there. I'm early for a big bus, but a minibus is there. She takes off and I'm at the airport a little after 8:30.

There are four rental car companies at the airport. All the major ones. Only Budget has a car. A cute little Toyota Yaris. I start off taking the dirt road to San Pedro. The car gets a little dirty. I then head to Christoffel Park. I pass a mob of people at a place called Ascension. At the park I see Brian. In addition to bike rentals he has a concession stand there. As I pull out I miss the turn into the mountain route, so I decide I will first check out the northwest of the island. I stop at Playa Kalki. A charming little beach, mostly for diving. She has French Fries I can eat. Had I come later she would have had barbecue. Then a trip out to Watemula, the northwestern tip. Then a check of the view at Westpuntbaai and Playa Forti.

On my way back to Christoffel Park I make a side trip to Boka Tabla Cave. I took some of the several walk options they offer. Then to the park. First the mountain route, then the coastal one. Many stops along the way. Now to head back and figure where to go next. I see a grand landhuis on a hill. I turn towards it. It is Ascension. I speak with the owner over the intercom. Closed now. It had been the first Sunday of the month open house, when it is open and admission is free. Now the 13th isn't the first Sunday, but I gather it was pushed over Carnival Sunday.

I decide I will stop at Landhuis Daniel. This is a place people recommended I stay, but it is in the middle of nowhere. You would need a car. I wanted to see it, but I also knew it was run by a chef.

The woman upfront does not understand me when I ask about a gluten-free meal. I said the chef would. He comes over. He knows exactly my requirements. He goes off to see what he has. He comes back and gives me the option of fish or meat. He will use a tomato sauce. I pick fish. It was shrimp over sea bass. All very nice.

I still have time before it gets dark. There is a scenic route on the map leading to Brerengat. I get lost trying to find the start of it, but following the sun I get there. (A dashboard compass would have been nice.) I stop for a look at the landhuis. Very nice. Then a ride to Playa Kanoa. I circle around the dirt road. Looking at the map now I see I missed the Ronda Klip Landhuis. I head for the airport.

When checking in the car the woman says I can keep it until morning and return it to Riffort. But it is a hassle to get from the airport to where I'm staying. And a hassle to get from where I'm staying to the Riffort. I decline. So I go wait for a bus. A minibus passes but doesn't stop. It was going to Otrobanda, where I want to go, but that was covered over by the windshield wiper. Then a big bus comes. They drive oh so slowly. On the ride back I realize I could have very simply driven directly to Riffort and parked it there. It would have saved me 45 minutes. When I get to the bus depot I see the minibus I could have flagged down.

I walk to the Chinese place. The three family members are again glued to the TV set. It is mounted high on the wall. They sit close with their necks craned up. Back again to the grand entertainment program, with large stage, cheering audience, solo singers, and lots of dancing.

I head back to my room. I turn the fan on. It only squeaks for a few minutes, then silence! One of the things I do on vacation is to keep track of what I spend. I find I'm short $40. Because of the reputation for crime that Curaçao has, I had been leaving money in my room. When taking it all with me on Sunday I had noticed that the money I had stashed away was not as I had put it. And other things had been in disarray. Like Kleenex, which for the entire trip had been under my shoes, was on top of them. Apparently the thief figured I wouldn't notice two $20 bills missing out of the dozen bills in the envelope. There was only $120 there, but it had all the small bills for paying for the bike.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sleep was not good. Despite being relatively quiet. The mosquitoes get me despite the fan, and I was thinking about how I was going to confront them over the stolen money.

It was early and Brian would not be by for the bike until 9:00. (I should have had him pick it up Saturday night.) I go for a walk around the Scharloo mansions. I return on the sidewalk along the water. I pass a sailing ship, the Negrita, that is a restaurant and souvenir shop. I ask if they serve breakfast. Yes, and they can make up something that is wheat and dairy free. I tell them I'll return after I return the bike. I walk back and wait for Brian. He comes. We chat. He leaves. I go looking for José, the hotel owner. I find him returning from his store in back. He's annoyed that I did not report the theft on Saturday night, instead of waiting until Monday morning. I did not tell him then that I didn't discover it until Sunday night. He will investigate. I go off for breakfast. I did learn while waiting for Brian that two fellows work for him, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Breakfast was very nice. They are not normally open so early, but a large cruise ship is in and they are expecting many bus loads of tourists. But not until 10:30. I stop by the tourism kiosk to try to get some literature in English. None left of what I want. (Next season.) I go for some more pictures. Then back to my room. José isn't around. The afternoon fellow isn't due for work yet (and who was on Saturday morning when I left for my bike ride). I get my stuff and leave, telling the other guests why I'm not enthusiastically saying goodbye to them.

I have time. My bags aren't heavy. I walk over to the police station to file a report. Then over to Otrobanda for a quicker bus. I'm at the airport at 11:45, 15 minutes before they asked that I check in. I first want to inquire about the departure taxes I paid when I bought my tickets. So I go to the ticket window. Good thing I did. The 1:00 flight is now 3:00. I tell her my flight back to the US leaves Aruba at 3:30. She checks and moves me to a 2:00 flight.

While waiting to check in I learn that a jet had crashed in Aruba the day before. And that airport was closed for many hours. No one seemed to know here what jet crashed there. (Later I learn it was a private jet owned by a rich Venezuelan. The wheels wouldn't come down. Only the owner and a pilot were on board. No one was hurt.)

I check in, go through immigration and wait. The departure lists a flight to Aruba at 3:00. So I don't know what flight I am getting. Very possible I'll be spending the night in Aruba.

At 1:30 the plane from Bonaire arrives. It was to be non-stop to Aruba, but they added a stop in Curaçao. Mostly to pick up people that couldn't get to Aruba the day before, due to its closure. At 2:00 it takes off, with me in the last row to be the first off. (But wasn't, as some fellow forward pushed to be first.)

In Aruba I have to completely exit, and then reenter another building. We see my plane already at the gate. As I get to immigration a mob is starting to arrive. It is the people from that/my plane.

I run across to the check-in building. She takes me, but only as I have no baggage to check. Then the security checkpoint. Quick. Then Aruba immigration. Again quick. Then a very, very long line to get through security. I walk to the front asking people the times of their flights. All later than mine. I slip in at the front. Then I approach US immigration. I realize I've lost my boarding pass. I go back to security. They have it. Then back to US immigration. Or was it customs? I think it was both. Anyway, she asks me about bringing snacks on board. I fess up. She calls for an agriculture inspector. Busy. She asks me to go over there and wait. After a few minutes I ask her the status, showing concern. She says not to worry. The inspector is busy checking someone else. Besides the plane can't leave yet. She has its paperwork, which she shows me. After a few more minutes she takes me to the inspector. No consideration that the pemmican came from the US. I said it was cooked for two days. Oh, jerky he says. He lets me go with it.

Then I pass some more customs inspections, but not sure what they were. Then another security line! A second time of removing belt, shoes, and emptying pockets. Why? Something about you now having your baggage from another flight that became a carry on?

Somewhere a little before this I looked at my boarding pass and see my flight is 3:40. Ten minutes later than the schedule when I booked. I arrive at my gate at 3:15. It took 45 minutes to get from my incoming flight to my outgoing gate. They are already boarding. My row number has already been called. I walk to the front. When he starts letting people on again I'm next. Finally I'm in my seat headed for home.

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