Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 5: Aruba

Land ho!!! At long last we reach the island nation of Aruba, which a member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And technically we dock in the capital city of Oranjestad, but who's keeping track?

Aruba's motto is "One Happy Island" and it seems fitting. People seemed pretty happy!

Someone in our group (yeah, that was me) suggested a jeep ride without first realizing that Aruba is a oddity; Aruba is a desert island. According to our Aruban tour guide, Aruba receives 18 inches of rainfall annually, and the weather is mainly sunny and warm all year, about 82 F degrees. Very nice weather, let me tell you what! The north/eastern coast is plummeted with tradewinds from Africa at about a constant speed of 30 MPH. Most of our jeep tour featured this coast. It doesn't have the pretty white sandy beaches, or resorts. Just... dirt. And jeeps know how to kick up dirt!

We visited a few cool places. First we saw the California lighthouse. It it at the far northwestern corner of the island and named for the steamship California which sunk not far from the spot. It's a popular snorkeling/scuba diving attraction. The lighthouse itself was a cool sight, definitely a photo op. I also saw a pretty cool looking golf course, which is called Tierra del Sol or ("land of the sun").

After the lighthouse, we took our jeep (although it was really more like a Land Rover) off the main road and down the dusty north/east coast. We were jeep #2 in our group, but we still got a decent amount of dust. The jeep was covered, that definitely helped prevent a repeat of the jeep sunburn I got in Cozumel! Did I mention the dust? Along the coast we stopped once for some pictures just along the side of the dirt road. People have put stones on top of each other for good luck and fertility. Well I'm all for good luck at least!!

Our second stop was a little higher up and away from the coast at the Alto Vista Chapel. This Catholic chapel was built in the 1750s, and then rebuilt in the 1950s. It was kinda neat, very small. It was the first church built on the island, and is still used today.

We continued south and east along the coast and stopped briefly at a natural bridge. The sea eats at the rock limestone leaving a hole, or creating a land bridge out of the remaining rock. We also went to another natural bridge.

Another place we stopped was some sort of ruins. I have no idea what they are or what they were, but they appear to be made out of little pieces of rock!

Our jeep tour took us to De Palm Island, a private island where they have food, bars, water sports (snorkeling, snuba, swimming, beach, a small water park for the kids), and... that's about it. Lunch at De Palm Island was on the slightly disappointing side of "just okay." There wasn't a whole lot of selection, almost no seating, and it was well after 1:00pm before we got to eat. We ate, and lounged under a covered area near the water park for about an hour. I think I might have fallen asleep once or twice. Finally, we decided to skip the rest of De Palm Island and see if there was any interesting shopping back in town by the ship. My dad needed a camera battery, and my grandparents were looking for table runners.

The De Palm Island people called us a cab, a really nice van that was 4 days old, plastic still on the seats. It was $15 to head back to the ship, maybe a 20-25 minute drive past the airport back to the port. We checked out the shopping scene, and I really didn't find a ton that I liked. They had some nice touristy stuff, that was cool. We found a camera shop, they wanted about 1.5-2 times the price for anything so we said no thanks. I did pickup a few small things, magnets, a cool little surfboard.

We made it back to the ship in time to get cleaned up for dinner. I established a routine where I'd shower every day at around 4:00-5:00pm. You'd be outside in the hot, sweaty steamy weather, and the evening shower felt nice.

Dinner was back in Parrot Cay for a Caribbean theme. Here was the dinner menu:

We skipped the dinner show that night. I don't remember why. But I'm sure we had fun!

We did have a deck party that night, Tropicalistexpliadocious or something. Deck parties mean food, dancing, Disney characters, music, and more food.

Up next we have a sea day before the voyage through the Panama Canal!

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