Beyond the beach in Aruba

When we arrived, I thought we might spend two weeks making our way from beach to beach around the island of Aruba. We have been happily distracted along the way. My sister Paula and her guy Wayne are with us and wanted to see the California Lighthouse at the north end of Aruba. The lighthouse is on most tours for the view out over the blue, blue water to the west and crashing waves to the east. We got a kick out of the tour vehicles that drove up. One minute there would be eight tiger-striped jeeps with whooping passengers. Next came four wheelers on balloon tires and then The Party Bus, a retired school bus with a hippy paint job. Whether they screeched to a halt or eased slowly into the parking lot, every group had their own personality.The sky was brilliant blue and the guys cutting the tops off drinking coconut were very busy. All this tourism wore us out, so we headed home to rest up by the pool.

The east side of Aruba is honeycombed with caves. Many of these are part of Arikok National Park. We stopped at Fontein Cave to see the rock art.   Some of the stone is twisted in fantastic shapes. We also visited Quadiriviri cave, where an interior room with a hole to the surface is reached by walking down a dark path. A bat emerged from among those sleeping on the ceiling.

On our way out the south entrance to the park we passed the island’s wind farm, a row of turbines that catch the strong wind coming in from the east. Driving back to Savaneta we passed a number of houses with decorative painted trim. Houses range from tiny cottages, workers housing from the oil refinery days, to large walled compounds with beautifully landscaped gardens.

The hotels are a world apart in Aruba. Just north of Oranjestad is a signpost to the “low rise” hotels and beyond that, another sign to the “high-rise” hotels. These face Eagle Beach and the adjacent beaches and are the center of the Aruba tourist industry, where all-inclusive resorts, package tours, and destination weddings are held. Guests sign up for one day adventure tours, parasailing, kite surfing and other activities. When we went snorkeling at Boca Catalina, along the tourist coast, we saw all this going on just off the beach all at the same time: jet skis, kite surfers, windsurfers, parasailers, catamarans full of snorkelers, a two-masted sailboat, and a flat dredge-like boat leading a group using self-propelled devices to motor through the water in their snorkeling gear.

The cruise ship terminal is in the middle of Oranjestad and traffic slows to a halt when ships are in, up to three at a time moored and looming over the small downtown. One day on our way back from birdwatching, we saw three ships of very different sizes, from a Tradewinds vessel that holds about 200 passengers to a Fortune of the Seas that holds 4,000. We met a two men at the birdwatching site who had arrived that morning. Their ship was leaving again at 3 pm and they were trying to squeeze in some birdwatching and a trip to the beach. When I said we were only in Aruba for two weeks, they laughed at “only,” as their stop was “only” seven hours.

Oranjestad is mostly a single main street along the water, though we found interesting stops a block further inland as we searched for parking. The largest lime kiln still standing in all the Caribbean is the feature of a now-neglected park. The walls are almost two feet thick. A lot of coral was turned into lime for cement here.

Not far away in a restored colonial building is a shop called “Cosecha,” which means “harvest” in Spanish. They carry items made locally and of local materials. There were some lovely things to see and the young woman managing the shop was pleasant and able to talk about the artists.

No trip to Aruba is complete without a visit to one of the fish restaurants, and we decided to give Jonathan a break on cooking to go to the Flying Fishbone. Not only is it down the street from our house, it was part of the directions to get here. I didn’t realize that the tables in demand at the Flying Fishbone are the ones in the water. Yes, the tide comes in and surrounds the legs of the tables up about 12 inches. The restaurant provides racks to hold shoes, though part of ours was submerged–it was high tide at 8 pm. Since Aruba is very warm, even at night, sitting with my feet under water resting on the sand was not uncomfortable. The high tide tables are not the only feature, our seafood was delicious and generous. We had another meal at home of the shrimp, fish, mussels, and scallops that we carried off when we were done. We only had room to share one creme brulee among the four of us. During dinner there was a bit of disturbance at a nearby table when a crab scuttled over the diners’ feet. As we got up to leave, a circle had cleared around another table and people were peering into the water at the base of a post. A waitress told us that there is a moray eel that’s become habituated to the diners and comes out to scrounge. The diners are not used to the eel, however, and there was lots of eek-ing and peeking.



Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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