Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 4: Aruba... the Happy Island

We went with Lorne and Gail for a quick breakfast at 7 AM, and sat down at a table not knowing Elmer and Darilee Sakala were eating at a table next to us. Darilee recognized Shirley's voice and spoke up, "Is that Shirley?" which Shirley responded, "Is that Darilee?" ...and there was an amazing joyous reunion, with promises to get together later... which happened numerous times. Darilee, Lorne, Shirley and I were all classmates at CUC about 46 years ago and haven't seen each other since the early 1970's at Loma Linda. Elmer was also at CUC, a few years ahead of us. The photo above of the Sakala's at "Afternoon Tea" was taken in the Provence Dining Room on our last day at sea.

We arranged our own tour today and lucked out getting a small tour bus and driver with a great sense of humor, spoke excellent English, and shared a lot of local information as he drove us around. On the way to our first stop he pointed out buildings along the way in the city of Oranjestad.

He asked us, "Which is the ugliest building where we live?" We didn't get it until he told us the ugliest building on his island was the Tax Office. Just then we drove by it, and it was pretty ugly all right! ...but never thought to take a photo of it from the moving bus. Above is the Royal Plaza Mall, which reflects the Dutch influence on many buildings in the old part of this city on Aruba.

Our first stop was at this mini "Ayres Rock" which took us less than three minutes to scale and gave a great 360 degree view of the countryside.

To climb up and down this "Ayres Rock" the path went thru and under the boulders, which was kind of cool.

Once on top it was easy to see the volcanic formed mountain the Dutch named Hooiberg, which means Haystack Mountain. There are 562 concrete steps to make the climb to the top of this 541-foot rock easier. They say on a clear day Venezuela can be seen from there.

the oldest cactus tree on aruba
Our driver told us that this cactus was the oldest cactus on Aruba... estimated to be 160 years old. In several places he also pointed out fences that were made by planting cactus in a row on the property line. No painting or maintenance required and no trespassing.

The oldest church on Aruba is the chapel of Alta Vista. Originally built in colonial times by Spaniards and Indians, it has been remodelled and repaired several times over the years.

It may be small inside, but with all these outdoor seats, it provides an ideal setting for weddings or other meetings of larger groups. We took turns taking pictures of each other in front of the church with Lorne and Gail.

Inside this tiny church the decor is modest, yet beautiful and very attractive. They say it is the most photographed attraction on the island.

The lighthouse is another very popular viewpoint for tourists. Situated high on the eastern side of Aruba, this landmark guides the ships.

There was a restaurant close to the lighthouse where we stopped for a cold drink of water. Our guide told us that if we wanted to eat there we needed to make reservations, as it was so popular it was often over book-ed... and he pronounced book-ed as two words, not one word like we would. We stopped on the patio there for this photo with the view behind us.

The color of the water was amazingly inviting, don't you agree? They say the snorkelling is incredible here.

We could see coming back to vacation on this happy island when we could spend a little more time... and do a little more exploring.

There is a natural bridge on the south side of the island that would be fun to photograph and walk around.

One cannot do it all when you have to be back on board the cruise ship by 12:30 noon. Aruba is about the same size as Salt Spring Island near us, but with 110,000 people... about ten times more than Salt Spring.

There is no problem keeping the kids in school here. Our guide told us that if there are any kids wandering around town during school hours they get picked up and taken to the police station. The police then call the parents to come pick the kids up, and they are fined 500 guilders (about $300 USD). So, very few kids try that trick more than once. There were no kids on the streets at all when we were there.

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