The Rest of Our Vacation
Most of our days were spent lounging on the beach with plenty of food and swimming mixed in. Jerry and I were usually the first ones in the family to head over to the breakfast buffet. Nice and quiet that time of day with no
line for omelets and usually easy to secure a table close to the beach. For myself there is always that stupor for the first few days, just relaxing in a chaise lounge looking out over the gorgeous turquoise waters trying to
keep my eye lids from closing until the time I ultimately lose the battle. No book needed these first few days. My grandmother was very content watching the kids enjoy themselves as she watched from her chaise lounge under our palapa. The rest of the time she kept herself busy reading or doing a crossword puzzle. Walking just those few short steps from the patio to the chaise lounge was perfect for her. Dh does what he does best, reading under the palapa until he eventually dozes off. His idea, and mine too, of a perfect vacation.
On Christmas morning we awoke to waves. Well, waves in the sense of two to three footers on the western coast of Aruba which are far from the norm. These lasted for a few days and broke up the monotony. That is I suppose if you care about that sort of thing like the kids did. All in all the weather was a little wetter than average, but hot as usual. Wetter in that we had some rain showers overnight, but not every night and some early morning showers most mornings as well as a couple of afternoon sprinkles. The first half of the trip was a little cloudier than the second half but I guess that means the kids were a little less sunburned than they would have been otherwise. I can force my own kid to slather on sunscreen, but my teenage nephew and nieces were a little more difficult. The best I could do was
standby with the higher SPF for the next day, which they had “forgotten” to bring and the Benadryl for the itchy rash.
We did get out of the resort a couple of times. One day at lunch my grandmother announced that she needed to go shopping. Living in an assisted living facility she has many people who help to look after her and there were a few of her favorites for whom she wished to bring back souvenirs. I knew these could be had at the Tamarijn’s Mini-Market. We picked up a couple of nondescript items and I figured she was finished. She had it in her mind that she wanted to buy a guayabera for the kind gentleman who drives her to the beauty shop, bank and doctors. Nothing in the store could satisfy her. To her, they were not authentic enough. Where else to head in Aruba then but La Linda. La Linda is an Aruban department store in downtown Oranjestad. As a matter of fact a good place to go if, heaven forbid, the airline ever loses your luggage! I telephoned Bully and asked him if he was available to come pick us up. As considerate a person as he is, Bully felt his nephew Harold's taxi was easier for my grandmother to get in and out of than his van so Bully telephoned Harold to pick us up at the Tamarijn. In the meantime Bully was close by and the next thing I know, he pulled up at the Tamarijn in his taxi with his seven year old son riding "shot gun". They just wanted to say "hi" and help us to pass some time while we waited for Bully's nephew.
Harold was terrific. He was able to drop us off right in front of the store so that my grandmother did not have far to walk. He then came into the store and waited while she made her selection. After we had paid for the purchase, Harold offered to bring the taxi around front, but being parked right outside the back door my grandmother said she could make the walk. All in all the ride cost almost as much as the shirt, but I am happy to see my grandmother do her part to help the local economy. People are not happy about the BBO, the car rental situation at the airport, the rising price of gas (they are well aware it has fallen in the US in recent weeks) and it goes on and on and on...not to mention Riu.
Another night before dinner we had made plans to meet up at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort with Andrea (moderator from aruba.com forum), Cheryl from various bulletin boards and Eagle Beach Boy. A nice time was had by all and as always, it was nice putting faces with names. Andrea, nice person that she is, had actually come down with her husband to the Tamarijn earlier in our stay to say, "hi" and meet us. Imagine walking up and down the boardwalk at the Tamarijn looking for the kid in my computer avatar? What a lady!
Dh and I had worked it out so that about the middle of the vacation, when we thought there might be a chance that the kids would begin to get bored with the Tamarijn, we would have two SUV's for the 10 of us to tour the island for three days. We made the reservation with Royal Car Rental in April for late December for two Suzuki XL-7's. The day before they were to drop off the rentals, Royal called us to say that they would not have the vehicles the following morning, but could drop them off late afternoon. Jerry called them and said why not just make it the morning after that since we did not plan on using the vehicles at night anyway. The kids could have cared less about not leaving the resort. They were happy to continue doing what they were doing. A day after originally scheduled Royal appeared with two vehicles, one Suzuki and a Jeep Wrangler. The second Suzuki we had reserved had not yet been turned in. The Jeep Wrangler ended up being not in the best of shape, bottom of the barrel really. I can only imagine the amount of wear and tear those things go through. Jerry telephoned Royal at the end of the day and asked them to just come pick it up and we would just keep the one vehicle. After one day of touring, the kids and my parents had seen enough, so basically after that we just wanted the rentals to drive around to some snorkel spots one day and do something to be determined later on the third day. Royal was nice enough to come the very first thing next morning and switch out the Wrangler with a Lexus RX300 SUV at the same price as the Wrangler. After this we had no further vehicle problems.
So the big day comes and we finally have our "wheels" and we are off to tour the island with our "newbie’s." With myself as tour guide in the Suzuki and dh as tour guide in the Wrangler, off we went heading south towards San Nicholas. We missed the turn as we do, nine times out of ten for Baby Beach. Next thing we know we are at the Seaman' s Memorial and then continued on into Arikok National Park from there. Everyone was excited to see the herds of wild goats and the few wild donkeys. Lucky for us the donkeys were nice enough to pose.
The next stop was Quadirikiri Cave. Dh and I had been to the cave at Fontein before and with the Indian's drawings, thought it interesting. Why would Quadirikiri be any different? It was much different and definitely not for the faint of heart. This is a much larger cave. The ranger from the park service warns you before you enter, that if you have respiratory difficulties or fear of bats, that this is not the cave for you. He was correct on both accounts. It was a tour of 20 - 30 minutes and probably the hottest I have ever been in my life. This place is virtually a sauna. The further back into the caves we went, the tighter the spaces, the hotter it got, the more bats, and those were the ones pointed out to us. Indian drawings, fossils, stalagmites and stalactites were all very nice. The kids loved it and now we have done it so now can say we do not have to do it again.
From there just continued on the path towards Boca Prins stopping a few places along the way for photo opportunities. The kids soon began complaining that we were showing them nothing but rocks and the rough ocean so once at Boca Prins we headed straight out of the park rather than making the right hand turn past the sand dunes to get over to Dos Playa. It was their loss for sure. We headed back to the resort and grabbed some lunch. When it came time to venture out again, everyone was enjoying themselves on the beach so dh and I headed back out on our own.
This time we retraced our steps to Boca Prins to pick up where we had left off. A few years back, Arikok National Park had set up a visitor's center a short ways before heading north and reaching Boca Prins. In the back of the visitor's center was Fontein. This is the only fresh water spring on the island. Literally an oasis in the middle of the desert and a lovely little spot with fresh water fish and turtles inhabited the water pond and it was a nice tranquil spot. In 2006 when we drove by the place was closed off and shuttered tight. Curious what had happened to such a wonderful spot I asked the ranger at Quadirikiri Cave what had happened and there was evidently a dispute of some type over the property so it is now closed to the public. I was a nervous wreck and got a lot of briars on my socks and sneakers, but we were able to figure out how to sneak in for a few pictures. The spot is virtually unchanged, though overgrown and we did not spot any turtles.
Once we arrived for the second time that day at Boca Prins we stopped at the bar and gift shop, for some bottled water and a bottle of, my favorite, Amstel Bright. Dh figured it was the least he could do to try to sooth over the rough morning. We continued onto Fontein Cave right around the corner, but by this late in the afternoon it was locked up tight. Yes, the caves are locked at night to protect the drawings from graffiti artists. Undaunted we continued out stopping along the way for some pictures of the white sand dunes at the base of the beach at Boca Prins. It is a long drive around the sand dunes, to get back over to the coast line to head to Dos Playa, but I am all for it if it protects the dunes, flora and fauna. We finally arrived at Dos Playa and took a couple of quick pictures. A squall was racing in off the ocean so fast you could literally see it pushing the waves ahead of it. We got back in the Jeep and headed back inland towards Santa Cruz.
Our next target was the collapsed Natural Bridge via the Ayo Rock Formations, but we missed the turn and ended up all the way north in Bushirbana. Heading back towards the eastern coastline we passed by the Bushirbana Gold Mill Ruins. The dirt paths here were horrible. Sharp pointed rocks were everywhere we looked and dh was worried about getting a flat tire so with darkness soon upon us anyway we decided to take one last quick detour up to Alto Vista Chapel. From there we just went back to the Tamarijn through the island route through Noord. This time I did not get us lost and much to dh's relief we did make it back to the hotel before dark.
The following showery morning, dh, my brother, myself and the four kids set out after breakfast to snorkel. We started off at Catalina Cove. Imo, this is the best spot, but also the hardest. There is a lot to see once you get out into the four or more foot deep waters, but before that there are many rocks. It is difficult at best trying to walk over them with fins on and extremely painful in bare feet. The kids were getting tired and it was getting cloudy. Yes, yet another shower was heading our way. By the time we got out of the water and toweled off, it began raining. The kids decided that they had seen enough and were not interested in being in the water in the rain. Dh and I on the other hand, are used to diving in the rain so snorkeling is not much different except for the funny sensation on your back. My brother took the kids back to the Tamarijn in the Suzuki and dh and I hopped into the Lexus and headed down to
Boca Catalina. Very strange snorkeling here. There is a very sandy bottom. The difference entering the water here was like night and day. For the best of both worlds, enter the water here and snorkel northward, it is not that far before you
eventually reach Catalina Cove. Consider it one large snorkel area with just so-so coral up towards Catalina Cove, a lot of fish, and a good place for beginner snorkelers.
Anyone who knows us, realize that we are never without our dd. With my brother's offer to look after dd back at the resort, we decided to dry off and head off for some more fun. What could be better than a long relaxing lunch? Next decision was where to go. I was thinking Bugaloe on De Palm Pier, but couldn't be bothered with trying to figure out a place to park. Instead we settled on
Salt and Pepper. We hadn't been there in a number of years and it ended up being a really great choice for a relaxing leisurely lunch for two. The sun had finally made an appearance so we decided to eat outside. There was a table that would soon be available so we decided to wait at the bar. Dh was dying for a good espresso and I ordered an Amstel Bright.
About five minutes later, our table was ready. I suppose we were starving from all the exercise that morning because we ate like little piggy’s. You have to love tapas, being able to order all those small portions of everything that appealed to us. We started out with an appetizer of nachos, good but more like the Aruban version, followed by delicious: Greek salad, marinated olives, salt & pepper dip (kalalu-spinach and cream cheese with nacho chips), seafood wrap and garlic calamari. The service was on Aruban time, but dh and I were in no rush since we never ever get out alone
together. Too full for dessert we just stalled our departure over a cappuccino and espresso before heading back to "the family". Ending our peaceful interlude, dh and I headed back to the Tam and picked up my Mom and
Grandmother to drive them back up the north coast to see the California Lighthouse which they were gipped from seeing the day before.
That night at 10 p.m. was the Ling & Son's firework display. The front desk
told us that there was an office building's parking lot across the street from the Tamarijn which would be perfect for viewing the fireworks. This fireworks display was one of the things which we told my grandmother would
make this trip to Aruba worthwhile. She admitted later we were right. She had not seen fireworks like that in her entire life. Dh drove my grandmother over to the parking lot in the Lexus and she had a seat and a stupendous
display. Our family thought they were just as good, if not better, than 4th of July at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. They had a 15-20 minute delay due to technical difficulties, but worth the wait.
We held a roll call for the family for our last day with the rental cars. Anyone who wished to snorkel again was more than welcome to join. Another showery morning and dh, dd, my brother and I headed out to snorkel at
Mangel Halto. It is right past the Spanish Lagoon and usually a very picturesque spot. This time though with the clouds, the colors of the water were just not as bright. We snorkeled for a short time and quickly became cold so headed back to the Tamarijn. By the time we reached Oranjestad, as every other day, the sun came out and the rest of the day was beautiful.
Topping off our day was New Year's Eve! After another wonderful dinner we went back to our room and awaited midnight. The day before a barge loaded with fireworks had been moored just off shore between the Divi and Tamarijn Resorts. We lined up a bunch of chaises to face the fireworks where the palm trees would not block the view. Steps away from the fireworks, again, they were everything we had hoped for. No disappointments for us.
Vacation wound down after that and before we knew it was time to head home. We ended the vacation the same as it began, shared a final beachside lunch with my parents and grandmother at per Tutti. Bully made two trips
transporting my brother and his family and then dh, dd and myself to the airport. Bully’s nephew Harold picked up my parents and grandmother to take them to the airport, again because of the ease of my grandmother being able to get into the car. Our flight was later than everyone else. We asked the Tamarijn for a 1 p.m. check out rather 12 Noon and they nicely obliged. We always spend every last moment on the beach, leaving on enough time to
shower and dress before leaving.
We did not know what to expect as far as long lines at the airport and I
would say they were about normal. The line for US Immigration was non-existent. First time we have ever seen this. People complain, rightfully so, that there is no where to eat once you pass through US Customs and Immigration. At the gate area, unless you like Sbarro, essentially you are out of luck. If you fly first class you receive a meal, but otherwise flying Delta you receive a snack pack and then a snack. Next time, we will bring tuna or turkey sandwiches with us to eat on the airplane for our dinner. Our flight boarded on time; however we departed about an hour late. Some excuse was made about flight control. From what I have been able to piece together, air traffic control which is actually located in Curacao, had computer problems, so we were unable to depart. My parent’s flight on American was supposed to depart over an hour prior to ours and they were still at the gate as we were taking off. They eventually took off about 15 or 20 minutes later.
The only other downer which we already knew was that when we arrived in Aruba. We had just purchased new hard sided luggage and one piece arrived in
Aruba with one corner so dented it was no longer there. Knowing that the personnel in Aruba were contractors, dh figured it was easier to get the problem straightened out when we arrived back in Atlanta. He was right. Upon
retrieving the luggage from the carousel back in Atlanta we headed over to the baggage claims office to report it. They filled out the paperwork and gave us a pre-paid shipping bag in order to send the suitcase, after I had
emptied it, on to Delta’s baggage repair center. They telephoned us a few days ago to say that the bag is not repairable but they could ship another new one as a replacement. Only problem is that the color is black, ours was
orange and part of a set. We purposely purchased the color orange because it is so easy to separate from the others on the carousel. Even in preparing to go through US Customs in Aruba there was a wall of luggage lined up and ours
just popped right up our of the mass. Delta left it that they will have their claims department contact us so they could arrange reimbursement. That is fine, as long as they make good on it. Dh is persistent, they will
make good on it, and they will not have a choice.
Now we are home and in the midst of an extremely cold winter counting the days until the end of the school year for dh and dd and our return to the Tamarijn.