It’s now May 1st and we are at sea appearing to be at a stand-still. The distance between Aruba and Santa Marta, Columbia is not enough to justify the usual 17 knots we often use so the ship is in a following sea at just over 10 knots. Since we are traveling the same path as the swells it’s almost a dead calm inside the ship; no rocking at all and the ship appears to be standing still in the water.
Yesterday we arrived at Aruba about noon and did not leave until 10:00pm that evening. I left the ship just after 1:00pm for my four-wheel-drive excursion around the north side of the island. There were seven of us in a monster 4WD truck with four rows of seating the guide said were: bumpy, bumpier, bumpiest, and airborne. 🙂 Three of us (myself included) sat in bumpy, two in bumpier, and the remaining two who were crew from the ship sat in airborne.
If you look at a map of the island, the south side is the populated side with the paved roads and the north side is largely unpopulated with rough dirt roads but that’s where a number of the interesting things to see are located. So, off toward the north we went.
First stop was at the Casibari Rock Formation in the middle of the island and a place where many tours visit as the roads are paved to that. Basically, this is a collection of rocks with a steep, narrow stairway to the top of the largest one. Since another large cruise ship was in town there were a number of people already there so I did not climb the rock but spent the short time there getting photos of different formations. One, photo one, looked like a large animal head about to eat something. A few folks were having their photo taken inside the formation but from a straight-on position where you can’t see the teeth so I directed them to where I took the photo so the animal could be seen. They were delighted. My good deed for the day. 🙂
Next stop was the Natural Bridge formation at the north coast. Getting there was via a well maintained dirt road and tourists often end up there as well. The original bridge, formed by ocean erosion, collapsed in 2005 so what’s left of it is basically a pile of large rocks. Next to it is a smaller natural bridge that some call the Baby Bridge but our guide said that’s incorrect and it should be called the Son of Natural Bridge. Why? You’ll know a bit later.
From there we started to head north along the rough coast and the roads started to get worse. Passed an ostrich farm without stopping and made our way to an abandoned building that used to be a gold mining rock crushing plant. When the Spanish claimed the island they did so thinking they would find gold (as they did with many other places). They did not find any. After the Spanish left, however, gold was found on the island and the Balashi Gold Mill was ironically built at the tip of Spanish Lagoon. This mill operated until the mine played out after quite a bit of gold was taken off the island. See the second photo (a panorama) of what’s left of the mill.
Heading north again on worsening dirt roads we made our way past the smallest beach on the island to another rather large and nice beach next to what the map now calls Baby Natural Bridge. So now you know why the guide said Son instead of Baby for the first bridge site.
We continued heading north, sometimes with no road at all, and found we were being followed (see photo three). An afternoon rain is common on tropical islands but this was not a gentle rain. The leading edge of the storm caught up to us at our next stop, the Alto Vera Chapel, the first Catholic chapel built on the island. It’s been restored and moved to its present location to be more easily accessed but is still remote. This is where I put the Sony camera into the UVTO waterproof bag I brought along and got out the Olympus TG-5 for the rest of the excursion. (Remember that we’re sitting in a vehicle that is covered on tip but not on the sides or front and we’re in the front row able to see over the cab so we’re getting the full force of the wind, rain, and dust.)
Finally, leaving the chapel, we traveled past a posh resort and golf course to the far north end of the island to see the California Lighthouse (photo four). This lighthouse was built to honor not the State of California but, instead, a wrecked ship called the California that ran aground and sank off the north coast of Aruba.
Finally, we stopped at Arashi Beach where we were given the opportunity to swim for 45 minutes. When we got there however the seven of us kind of looked at each other, asked if anyone had planned on swimming, and when everyone said no we just left early and came back to the ship. Turned out that was a good decision as some police activity was happening on the main road and traffic was completely tied up for a time so it took us quite a bit longer to get back to the ship than anticipated and the two crew with us needed to get back. They just made it (they had previously arranged to be picked up at the beach but canceled that when we all decided to leave early).
Back on the ship I took a badly needed shower and then had a broken supper at the buffet; broken because I started a load of laundry and had to leave in the middle to change to the dryer before finishing the meal. I will be quite happy on the next Princess cruise (probably September 19th for 60 days) as I will have only a short time before becoming Elite and have free laundry service on the ship. No more doing laundry; just put the clothes in a bag and have them washed and returned to me the same or next day at no additional cost (if I wanted to do that now it’s $1.25 per pair of socks as but one example of the prices).
Today I won second place in the raffle at the photo department, worth $50 in portraits. Since I have the package and have all the portraits I want they allowed me to select 20 photos from their stock of photos of places visited. I selected 20 from ports where I did not leave the ship for whatever reason and so, with some copying involved, I will be able to show some photos of those ports (I’ll identify those I did not take). So I don’t have to skip over the few ports I did not get off.
Not long now; just two weeks left.