A Pitstop in Aruba
Aruba, Aruba… you’ve heard of this place. It’s a favorite vacation stop in the Caribbean, particularly for U.S. Americans, but we stopped here just because I think Lito was tired or we needed gas or something. Could there be a place more completely the opposite of Los Roques in the Caribbean? I think not, but I probably also didn’t give Aruba the chance that it deserved. I think there’s plenty of beach stops with tiki huts and once we found the nice marina I could imagine hanging out there for a fair amount of time. But that’s not how we arrived…
A former Dutch colony, Aruba now plays host to an ‘indigenous’ population of former slaves, who speak a mixture of Dutch-Portuguese-Spanish-French, and a never ending stream of cruise ships. The Chufa drifted into Aruban waters close when it was too dark for us to see anything besides an enormous factory and the warning beep for shallow waters kept going off almost everywhere we tried to steer. Lito had been here once before, but flying in, and only for a day. Finally, after going far down the coast and back up again, we gave up the hunt for a good spot and dropped anchor the first place with enough other boats to qualify it as possibly a marina. We left the exploration for morning.
When the sun came up we hopped in the dingy boat and cruised off towards shore, taking in an air full of noxious fumes. Aruba doesn’t have the fresh scent of Santa Lucia or the pure air of Los Roques. Even in daytime we had some difficulty and, in hindsight, we could have easily reached the good marina–Carpe Diem–with the dingy, but in the moment we were simply in search of a dock. We tied the dingy up at the crappy marina, close to the airport in an area called San Antonio, and I managed to get us two hitchhiking rides just for kicks… one to the airport where we were going to change some money — to Florins, though the U.S. dollar is accepted everywhere — and another to the center of town with some preacher who first asked me for $20 and then changed his mind for some reason. I can only assume it was to give a long lecture about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which became really uncomfortable when he insisted that God had given the land to Abraham and the Jews… I did not agree with him, but wasn’t really sure where to insert myself since Lito was already doing a decent job defending the Palestinians. Thankfully, the drive to the center wasn’t long and I was happy to leave that mis-informed man’s vehicle behind.
Anyway, the center of Aruba is all hotels and shopping… a colonial version of the Grove in Los Angeles is how I would describe it to friends at home. There seems to be nothing to do, but go into pastel-colored castles and colonial buildings to buy ‘duty-free’ items you can buy in the States for half the price, hang out at the classy Carpe Diem marina, or go to Starbucks to use the Internet. We were practically starving when we got to town, not having eaten anything in the morning, so we had lunch at a joint run by a Colombian guy who said he’d give me a job washing dishes if I wanted to stay. Haha… too bad I don’t like Aruba. Next stop, Starbucks, where all the cruise people were chilling — they don’t have internet on the boat?? The excruciatingly slow connection was enough to have a few FB conversations, upload and email a photo or two, but during that time I became increasingly more and more land sick. Having spent the past couple days accompanied only by wind, water, and the constant momentum of the Chufa bouncing up and down, my entire world was basically spinning. I was also developing a horrible headache from all percussive noise entering my head. It was like someone had stuck a pot over my head and was now beating on it with full force. The sensation only stopped after we made our way to the boardwalk down to the marina, where we ate ice cream and asked for the boat gas station.
We stayed for one more evening since getting back to where we had docked the boat proved enough to take up the rest of the day. It was quite another annoying adventure to fuel up at the gas station we’d discovered. There was so much wind it was almost impossible to parallel park the boat — you think it’s difficult with a car try this! And the people were just super rude and also angry that we’d ‘forgotten’ to go to customs… oops. No stamps from Aruba, unfortunately, and I’m not sure there’s anything to come back for. The crazy winds we picked up there, however, carried us quickly away and out of the nauseating smells and into the open ocean where we meant to take on the violent waves of the Colombian Caribbean.
I wonder if all the smelly stuff in the sea around here is why I spent the past 2 full days cleaning the Chufa in the Cartagena Club Nautico…