Aruba
 
  
  "The air was warm and the promise of another bathing-suit-kind-of-day rose with the sun.  It was a little odd carrying our fleeces, gloves and raingear but we weren't alone ..."  

    

Dec 14

Our flight from Bonaire took us back to Curacao for a scheduled short layover before boarding another plane to Aruba.    Landing immediately after us at the Curacao airport was a Boeing 747 ... not an unusual occurrence except this 747 was plain white ... any markings it had were not visible with the naked eye at a reasonable distance.   Alongside the runway were a number of U.S. gun-barrel grey military planes including a E-3 Sentry AWAC communications aircraft. 

For nearly ten years the U.S. has stationed military planes at the Willemstad airport for multinational counter-drug missions in the Caribbean.   For Curacao it boosts their local economy by $25 million a year.  

Venezuela also has long ties with Curacao; Venezuela's state-owned oil company runs Curacao's Isla oil refinery and is the island's largest employer.  Venezuelans rank 2nd in Curacao tourist visits (between Netherland in first place and U.S. in third). 

 

Tension between the U.S. and Venezuela has risen in recent years with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who called President Bush the "devil", accusing the Bush administration of covert activity and strong-arming United Nations members to protest its bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council.  In May 2008 there was a kerfuffle between the two countries when a U.S. anti-drug aircraft strayed into Venezuelan airspace.

Our short layover turn out to be much longer than expected.  We struck up a conversation with a nice couple.  He is from Venezuela.  They met in her hometown of Edmonton, Alberta where they both currently work.  He was taking her to Venezuela for Christmas and to meet his family. Again we had to face the fact that Christmas was now only days away.  Perhaps when we reached cold, snowy Nova Scotia the reality of it would set in. 

It was dark by the time we landed on Aruba and finding information at the airport was difficult. 

We stumbled our way across the parking lot and a highway median to wait at a bus stop not knowing when a bus might come ... if it might come.  Our wait was pleasantly short.
The bus got us into the capital, Oranjestad and, with guidance from a helpful local, we secured a taxi for a 15 minute ride north to the Arubiana Inn. 

The Arubiana Inn's shutter style door was closed and locked.  A piece of paper had been taped to the door telling us they had expected us earlier and if we arrived, to give them a phone call as no staff were on site through the night.  That would be great ... if we had a phone.  A couple of fellows had watched our arrival from their car and when they saw our reaction to the note they got out and used their cell phone to call for us; explaining they were also guests and had had the same thing happen to them.  The pleasant owners arrived in a matter of minutes.

We settled in quickly and asked directions to a local restaurant.   It was only a couple of blocks along a the dark road to Yami Yami Asian restaurant.  We sat in the dining area ... next to the take-out area with it's own 'in tables'.  People were ordering take-out and then eating at the 'in tables' ... at much lower prices than we were paying.  Lesson learned.  The food was good.

Dec 15
- a day totally dedicated to 'limin'.
Yami Yami Chinese Restaurant - Aruba - A Travel Tales photo
Dec 16

Auto licence plates describe Aruba as "one happy island".  Their official website says, "Welcome to Aruba, our special island full of sun, perfect beaches and 90,000 friends you haven't met yet."   Maybe the laid back, happy, friendly attitude is the reason that more people visit Aruba from New York than anywhere else in North America. 

We set out walking.  Aruba is only 31.5 km long and 9.7 km across at its widest ... not that we were going to walk the whole island ... just a portion of it.   The nearest beach to the Arubiana Inn is Eagle Beach; a kilometre-plus away.  When we reached the water we looked south and saw lots of people in front of resorts playing in the surf ... so we turned north. 
We had a pleasant time peering into tidal pools, watching the surf splash up against the irregular formations created by the island's volcanic base and the remains of limestone reefs (which once held life under the sea), while surge channels ending in blow holes entertained us.
We had to be careful where we walked on this broken, somewhat dangerous, shoreline between Eagle Beach and Palm Beach.  
One rock breakwater near the south end of Palm Beach had been claimed by pelicans.

The tide was high; for two fellows that meant good fishing opportunities as the ocean surged up into a small stream and brought with it dinner possibilities; for us it meant we had to turn inland to the road before returning to the beach.

On the road a billboard showed an artist's rendering of the "newest beachfront timeshare".   We walked around the building site and back onto the beach.    
  

We soon arrived where the rich play in luxury on Aruba ... The Westin starting at $449 US per night; the stunningly beautiful RIU Palace starting at $816 per night(inclusive); and the Radisson offering a hot winter rate of merely $374 per night (or $504 for an ocean view).  Admittedly the sand was powdery white and the ocean a wonderful shade of turquoise; particularly when viewed from the shade of a grass roofed bar on stilts.
 
 
Westin Hotel, Aruba - A Travel Tales photo
RIU Palace Aruba - A Travel Tales photo 
View from Bugaloe - A Travel Tales photo 
The bar with the grass roof over the water is called Bugaloe.  It's on the water end of De Palm Pier.  Frank, the Dutch fellow with the happy grin on his face, runs the place ... talk about a corner office with a view!  The painting of a woman with cigar was done by a friend of his.  Excellent.   
Frank from Bugaloe - A Travel Tales photo 
 
 
We walked inland where men were hard at work on buildings which will encourage more tourists to come and enjoy Aruba's hospitality and take back home more souvenirs than just a tan and a relaxed smile.

We strolled farther into the 'untouristy' areas, stopped for lunch and eventually made our way back to the Arubiana Inn. 

It was our last full day in the Caribbean ... what better way to show we had learned to live on island time than to spend the balance of the day around the pool 'doin' some Caribbean limin'.
 
 
 
 
Dec 17

It was still dark and pre-bus service time when the prearranged taxi picked us up and drove to the airport (about 20 minutes at that time of the morning). 
 

The air was warm and the promise of another bathing-suit-kind-of-day rose with the sun.  It was a little odd carrying our fleeces, gloves and raingear but we weren't alone with such apparel as others waited for planes to northern destinations. 
 
Our trip to the Caribbean was very different from our times in Africa and China.  It didn't possess that breath-taking 'Wow!' factor, however, it gave us a much better understanding and appreciation as to why so many people head to these tropical islands of warm breezes, hospitable people, stunning scenery, swaying palms, soft sands and warm clear water; where the only good use for a watch is to let one know when happy hour is about to start, where dinners are fresh caught, not wrapped and frozen and where learning to do nothing ... 'limin' ... is an art form you are never too old to learn.    

  
"Travel ...
it's worth going for."
                                         - Travel Tales  






 
    
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