Aruban Caves and the Little Car that Could

We got together with Drew and Patricia to rent a car for a couple of days, to tour the island a bit. The first morning, we were expecting to get our batteries sometime in the afternoon, so we figured we’d drive around for a while and wait for the call. Well, first, the guys threatened to drive around in the AC and leave the ladies in the heat.

We started off headed north, beach-hopping along the coast. First stop, Palm Beach, with its kite-surfing school, followed closely by the more barren Hadicurari beach.

Quick stops to check the spots out, then we moved on. Next stop, the California lighthouse, named after a ship of the same name that gave the locals an accidental windfall – check out the full story on the sign. We bought some mediocre, warm young coconuts from the juice bus; highlight, the macaw amusing itself by climbing up and sliding down its ring-shaped stand. Note the little blue car; that’s our ride for the duration of this post.

Having still heard nothing about the batteries, we turned south, and drove the rest of the length of the island. Passing through Oranjestad, we saw a tram car in motion, confirming that they are still running! We wound through San Nicholas, scoping out the closed bars and dormant red light district, and ended up at Baby Beach.

And almost the moment we sat down for an afternoon drink, we got the call that the batteries had arrived at the marina, and could one of us please come to the office and sign. Never mind that we’d asked them for advanced notice at least three times… Anyway, they agreed to leave the batteries and papers, and let us come in at our leisure. So we figured we’d stop for a quick lunch at a local place, and then head back. After some dithering, we settled on Ora’s Bar, and proceeded to drive there using walking directions, which led to this somewhat comical shortcut:

At Ora’s, we got a table outside right as they opened, and placed our orders immediately. And then proceeded to wait. And wait… and wait. The sun crept under our umbrella and we moved the table. After about forty-five minutes we moved inside, which was substantially cooler, and continued to wait and make awkward small talk with the barkeep, who assured us that our food was coming. And it was, just after an hour and a half delay; not at all the quick stop we had been hoping for. The food was actually pretty good, especially the homemade pepper sauce, but by that point it may just be the hunger talking. You can see the pain in everyone’s eyes.

Anyway, we got back, installed the batteries, and moved Villa out into the anchorage, where we were treated to a lovely sunset. (Picture taken from shore; Jazz and Andrew took the car to get eggs and pizza, as Nautilife had an appointment with a repair guy.)

The next morning we headed to Arikok National Park. There’s supposed to be a nice natural pool there, but we were told that our car wouldn’t make it there, so we would be limited to “the northern loop”. Admission came with a map, wristbands, and for some reason shot glasses.

We had not gone far along the permitted route before we were reasonably convinced that our car really wouldn’t have made it to the pool. Even this “paved” road was pretty lumpy, and gave way quickly to dirt. But we made it over the hills and through the now-familiar-feeling scrub forest to the beaches at Dos Playa and Boca Prins. Both are natural lagoons, with prominent signs forbidding swimming. Dos Playa had dos bodyboarders in the water, while a park ranger wandered the area looking unconcerned.

Fontein Cave was the next stop on the route, and proved a little more interesting. An insistent park warden took us on a tour, pointing out the various ostensibly native cave paintings.

As we emerged, the troop of safari tourist trucks we’d seen creeping up on us arrived at the site, and we decided to book it to the next cave to beat the crowd. We still stopped for a herd of goats along the road.

Quadirikiri Cave turned out to be much larger, with several chambers lit by small holes in the ceiling. Oh, and lots of bats, which makes this a little less of a healthy place to be than we’d like, though the little guys are adorable.

We had a lot of fun with the interplay between the dusty chambers and the narrow sunbeams.

The northern loop dumped us back out of the park, and we drove across the island to the ostrich farm. On the way, it started to rain. When we arrived, the sky was clearing, but we were told we’d just missed the tour and we should go check out the natural bridge to kill a few minutes. So we drove out that direction, until we decided that the car wasn’t going to make it on the wet roads, and turned back. We did find some ruins, though, and a wild tour group in its natural habitat.

The ostrich farm was definitely a tourist trap, but for all that it was still pretty fun. We got to feed the ostriches, which was interesting because they dip their heads to eat, and then raise them up to let the visible lumps slide down their long necks. We also got to let the babies nibble on our fingers. We question the wisdom of teaching animals with that few brain cells to do that, but it’s not our farm.

They also had a few other birds, like ducks and emus and peacocks, all slightly dampened from the rain and showing off their feathers as they dried off.

For dinner, we tried to visit the local craft brewery. We got there a few minutes before they opened, and had a drink at the convenience store next to the peak-tourism plaza to kill the time. We walked over to the brewery, and were informed that they were currently not allowed to brew, something something licenses, but that if we wanted to stay we could buy some cans from California for $14 each. We passed on this option, and had a decent Indonesian-Surinamese meal at Indo instead.

We got home, and “learned” that Captain has no interest in chocolate.

The next morning, we went shopping, and then it was time to give the car back. Note the automatic cart-wash, and the assortment of “American Cookies” at the surprisingly nice grocery store, Super Food.