A Travellerspoint blog

MAR 2 WILLEMSTAD

Dutch Colonial Freeport

sunny 28 °C

WILLEMSTAD
We decide to head downtown. I had been here 45 years ago but what was a small town then has grown into a large city with traffic lights and traffic jams and paid parking in the core area. The drivers here are masters at merging and taking the slightest opportunity to get where they are going. We need lessons. Fortunately the old section of town has been preserved and is being restored and was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1997, depicting Dutch colonial architecture. Many of the old streets are now pedestrian only, which makes it delightful to explore. We check out the old floating market, where boats from Venezuela come over bringing fresh fruit and vegies and sell them from their boats. Some things haven't changed in 45 years.

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THE MARKET

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ONE OF THE SHOPPERS

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THE PUNTA

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DUTCH COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE

Posted by RDILL 20:56 Archived in Curaçao Tagged willemstad Comments (1)

FEB 28 MAR 1 GOODBYE BONAIRE HELLO CURACAO

From One Dutch World to Another

semi-overcast 27 °C

LAST DAY ON BONAIRE
Don and I catch a water taxi that takes us over to KLEIN Bonaire and we spend the day ssnorkelling. On our first drift we get ambitious and try to round a rocky point but the waves and current pick up and we realize there is no safe place to land, so we have to backtrack against the current and waves. It turns out to be a lot more difficult than going with the tide but we finally find a p,ace we can get to shoreand then walk a couple of kilometres over coral shale to get back to where we started. We round the corner and do another drift. It's amazing how immersed one can get in the underwater world. We head back, find our favorite gelato shop, and return hom for dinner and enjoying the last night on Bonaire. It's been a good time here.

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OUR LAST EVENING ON BONAIRE

HELLO CURACAO
A 25 minute plane ride and we are in Curacao. We have arranged to rent a car here, and a young couple pick us up and take us to our rental home where our rental car is waiting. The young couple are charming. The woman is originally from Surinam but brought up in The Hague in Holland, and recently returned to Surinam and fell in love with the jungles there, and is returning with her Curacao boyfriend and setting up a bubble juice business there. She was so excited, she had us sold on coming to Surinam for our next travels. When we get the car, there are no papers to sign, no credit cards required to guarantee payment, we can pay when they pick us up to take us back to the airport. I guess they figure we can't take the car anywhere but it sure is different than back home.

Our accodation is much more upscale than we have had before, and we have a great view, but now need to drive everywhere, rather than wak. We scout the neighbourhood, find a supermarket, with all the product info and signs in Dutch, or Papiementu, both of which leave us guessing what half of the things are that we are buying. Here are some photos of our digs. Its a curious place. Some very high end planning but then there is only hot water in my jacuzzi tu not inthe showers. The TV has a million channels and we can watch pretty much anything - Canadian, British, Iranian, Russian, Indian, Brazilian. You choose a country we can watch it. Unfortunately, other than the novelty of tuning in to el jazzera, or practicing our Dutch by watching an English show with subtitles we have other things to do that I terest us more.

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OUR HOME OUR VIEW

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OUR LIVING AND KITCHEN OPENING TO THE POOL

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EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT MY BEDROOM

Posted by RDILL 19:27 Archived in Curaçao Comments (0)

FEB 27 WORKING THE SALT FLATS

A Freak Snow Storm on Bonaire

semi-overcast 28 °C

USING OUR LEFTOVER SCRAPS
Kathy loves watching birds, and has been putting put fruit scraps out for the birds and the iguana and whoever else shows up. Today a pair of Troupial birds picked on papaya scraps and fed their young. It was good breakfast entertainment.

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THE SALT FLATS
One more day with our rental car, so we head south, stopping for an hour to do a drift snorkle along the way. It is great. Kathy drops us off and drives the car a couple of kilometres down the road, takes out her book and reads while we drift down to where she is waiting to pick us up. Then we hit the salt flats. Bonaire is famous for its salt flats and it is still a big export market. Wars were fought between the French, English, Spanish, and Dutch over control of the Island and its lucrative salt trade between the 1600's till the Dutch took firm control in the 1816. Salt was used to preserve food, and African slaves were brought over to work the salt flats. When slavery was abolished by the Dutch in 1863, the salt flats fell into disuse, but now Cargill operates the flats resulting in Bonaires only export market. Hopefully it's not genetically modified. There were a number of large condensing basins where they pipe the ocean into the basins, and then let the sun evaporate the water leaving salt, which they then scoop up, and place in large piles ready to ship off shore.

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SALT BEING STORED FOR SHIPPING

SNOWSTORM ON BONAIRE - WHO WOULD OF THOUGHT
Suddenly we were hit by a freak snow storm. It's been a long time since it has snowed in Bonaire. Fortunately it did not last long and the sun quickly melted the snow. Good thing we had our jeep.

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SNOW IN THE DITCHES AND COVERING THE FIELDS

Later on we realized it was just the foam from the basins blowing across our path. As a reminder of the harsh treatment the early settlers inflicted on the African slaves, a number of the Slave huts have been preserved. They consist of a 6 ft. X 6 ft. concrete shell. Nice view though.

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SLAVE HUTS

WILD MEN AND DONKEYS
We round the southern Cape and are buffeted by big wind and waves. It is why no one lives of this side of the Island. It is however a prime spot to do para sailing and we stop and watch these young guys catch the wind and lift off the water in flight.

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PARA SAILING WITH THE WIND

We do some exploring of the mangrove swamps, and run into wild donkeys, Bonaires only wild animal and the result of domesticated donkeys escaping into the desert centuries ago.

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WILD DONKEYS AND MANGROVE PETS

We hit downtown for a gelato. Downtown is just a couple of blocks long and a lot of the buildings have a distinctly Dutch flavour.

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SOME DUTCH ARCHITECTURE

There is also some whimsy in our neighbourhood. Here is the lost and found tree and the bureau of motor vehicle licenses.

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Don and I do another drift snorkel in the late afternoon and we arrive home for a relaxing evening on the deck.

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EVENING TWILIGHT FROM THE KITCHEN

Posted by RDILL 18:24 Archived in Caribbean Netherlands Tagged the salt flats Comments (2)

FEB 26 BONAIRE CACTUS ADVENTURES

Exploring the North West Half of Bonaire

sunny 30 °C

THE CACTUS TRAIL
We rent a 4 passenger jeep from next door and take off exploring the northwest half of Bonaire. Taking the scenic coast road, we stop off at two dive sites along the way that are also supposed to be good snorkel sites. The first is 1000 Steps, named cause it feels like that many steps to get back up carrying diving tanks. It is really only 64 steps and no problem with snorkel gear. Don and I spend a half hour drifting the area but it is not that interesting. Nice view though.

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VIEW FROM 1000 STEPS

We are spoiled after yesterday. 5 minutes later we arrive at Karpata, and putting on our gear jump in again. This is a really nice site with some shallow coral formations and a really nice deeper section. More turtles but the sea is really rough and it is hard getting in and out. We then continue up into the edge of Slagbaai National Park, and check out the pink flamingos on Gotomeer Lake.

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We then ascend up into the high hills. Bonaire is basically a desert Island and the high hills, like all the rest of the IIsland are covered in all kinds of cactus and desert plants.

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We check out cactus fencing used to contain goats and wild donkeys.
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Cactus Lined Backroads
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Modern Technology Peaks Through
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We end up at Rincon, a small historic village located in a valley far from the sea. Story is that it was located far inland to keep it hidden from maurading pirates and colonial ships wanting to exert dominion over the area. We had to drive every street to find a place to eat, but finally were successful and had a great lunch of wahoo steaks. Back home for dinner, and another evening under the stars. Tomorrow we head south to the salt flats and the mangrove swamps.

Posted by RDILL 19:15 Archived in Caribbean Netherlands Tagged cactus trails Comments (0)

FEB 25 SNORKEL KLEIN BONAIRE

A Fantastic Day of Snorkelling

sunny 30 °C

KLiEIN BONAIRE ON THE WOODWIND

We are picked up at 9:30 and by 10:00 are on our way to Klein Bonaire on the Woodwind, a 30 foot sailing catamaran. Klein Bonaire is a small Island about two kilometres off shore. It was spared damage from the two big storms so, so the coral is still intact and flourishing. It is almost swimable with our snorkel gear but we wisely decide to go over in style. The day begins with an hour trip to the west tip of Klein, 3 stops for snorkelling, lunch and a return around 4:00 pm. After yesterday's disappointing snorkel we have higher hopes. There is a strong wind and we tuck in around the back and drift snorkel with the current for an hour or so passing 3 dive sites. The visibility is good and we swim along the drop off witnessing a wonderland of coral and fish. Then we head around the south east side for a second snorkel in more shallow depths with fantastic fans and elk horn corals and schools of fishes. The wind is very strong but only a few of the whitecaps break over our snorkel vent. Our last drift is with the turtles and the current is so strong we get swept along quickly. We see turtles at all three sites, but most on the last drift. Finally the Woodwind puts itself in position so we can grab onto a rope trailing behind it and pull ourselves up over its back end and climb aboard. Our smiles are as wide as can be. A fantastic day out. The snorkelling is as good as it gets, equal to the coral gardens in Tonga, the reefs of Belize, and equal to but different than Isla Coiba. There are more fish and big sea animals (sharks, rays, tuna) on Coiba, but much more variety of corals here on Kleine Bonaire, and the drop off is much more dramatic. The crew on the Woodwind are top notch. Good equipment for those who needed it, including googles with different lens for those who wear glasses. Lots of juice, water, beer, snacks and after 4 hours of snorkelling, we are treated to a wonderful lunch on our return to the big Island of Bonaire. A little waterlogged after all that time in the ocean, and a little more scorched from the sun, but a day that ranks up there with them all.

Here are a couple of videos from my Go Pro.

Posted by RDILL 20:03 Archived in Caribbean Netherlands Tagged on bonaire adventures snorkel klein Comments (0)

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