The Banks - Half a World Away travel blog


Christmas Cactus in its natural environment

Which is suffering a severe drought

Botanical garden in Aruba

Are you sure that's a postbox?



Apparently Aruba is “the ‘A’ in the ABC Islands”…so that helps !

It is about 15 miles north of Venezuela, so about as far down the Caribbean as it is possible to be and not be in South America, and is now Dutch, having been French, Spanish and English at different times in its history.

You can forget all the ideas about it being a lush green Paradise Island….they have been having a serious drought. The wet season is October to February - but there was no rain at all during the “wet” season that has just finished – so they have had no rain since the end of the last rainy season, well over a year ago. Couple that with temperatures all year round of about 85 degrees, and you can see why all the grass is brown or dead, even some of the cactuses are dying. The only green spots are around the big hotels, where they use the “bathwater” for the gardens. It is very windy indeed – the “trade wind” blows east to west right across the island – and lately it has been quite cloudy at times, but none of the cloud produces any rain.

In the morning we had a “tour of the island”. Aruba’s Immigration Procedures off the ship were even more lax than Mexico (i.e. they didn’t even have a cute dog); basically, “we recommend that you carry your passport when ashore”, presumably as ballast to prevent you being swept away by the trade wind, because ain’t nobody gonna exert themselves so far as to bother wanting to see it….stroll off the ship, stroll down the Main Street…..

We started the day with a trip to the Ostrich Farm – it seems ostriches are happy to live pretty much anywhere which is just as well as most of their enclosures were dry and dusty. We were out of luck today as sometimes on a Saturday they cook up one of the “unfertilised” eggs that has been laid and make an omelette for 32 – we had to make do with a cold drink from the shop ! They also had some emus, who are apparently rather good escape artistes…..they don’t bother running after them any more (and emus can run very fast indeed for very long periods, allegedly 45mph for up to an hour, which gives them time to run right round the island about a dozen times as it is in fact very small) as they have found that, if they just let them go, when they arrive at the Farm for work next morning, the emus are waiting at the gate to be let back in, as they soon discover there is no food outside, and no water, so they remember where they are well off.

After that it was a whistle stop tour of the island – Rock Formations, Natural Bridges, California Lighthouse…..all very photogenic, and we took many pics as we got off the coach, back on the coach, off the coach……

Our driver Bert was a fountain of facts about the island; he was at great pains to assure us that he is not a “Carib” by descent, the indigenous people of most other islands in the Caribbean, and therefore he was not going to eat us, even if we were REALLY late back to the coach; apparently Caribs were cannibals. He is descended from Aruba’s indigenous Arawak Indians. Given most Cowboy/Indian films I have ever had the misfortune to see, this does not necessarily make me feel a lot better !

They also have a lot of roundabouts at road junctions, even quite small residential crossroads, and hardly any traffic lights. This is due to the Arubian approach to the traffic light system it seems: Green is Go. Yellow is “hit the accelerator a bit, you’ll get through”, and Red is “hit the accelerator a lot, you’ll get through”. Combine this with the Arubian tendency to drink rum 24/7 (this is called “driving happy”, in which condition they occasionally forget that they normally drive on the right), and you can see why they had a lot of fatal accidents. Fortunately Bert seemed to know what he was doing, even if the coach does have to go over the roundabouts instead of round, being too long …..I’m still not sure I understand why they don’t just have a lot of fatal accidents on top of all the roundabouts…?

We were delivered safely back to the ship, against all the odds, and came inside to leave some of our stuff, shower, change and brace ourselves for Oranjestad proper. It was HOT. Quite windy, and also quite cloudy at times, but very, very muggy. Drainingly so.

We looked at some shops, and admired the harbour, and the bar with a cow on the roof (yes, we took a picture) and the half dozen blue horses (yes, we took pictures, and no, we had not had any rum, honest), [I discovered later that they glow in the dark, due to special Blue/UV spotlights on the nearby lampposts] then found the “free wi-fi” in a shopping centre under a big hotel; this was interestingly situated right next to the boarding point for the motor boats to the Hotel’s private Island. While we waited for connection etc, we watched as a wedding party embarked – first, half a dozen men in matching suits in the first boat, a giveaway that it was a wedding as ain’t nobody gonna wear no 3-piece suit in THAT heat just for fun, never mind all matching – then into the second boat came the 7 bridesmaids in stunning shades of orange chiffon, the bride’s mother in gold spangles, and then the bride herself in several miles of white billows, all of which had to be folded up while she clambered into the boat in her white and silver 6” heels…..I am sure the Island Wedding itself was very elegant, but getting there was not a moment for photographers !

Excitement over, we meandered on, and found some interesting shops where we bought some small things to bring home (Don’t get excited, I said SMALL) but even at 6.30pm it was still 30 degrees and humid, which wears you out really quickly. The computer was also taking its time to do its stuff, so in the end we tottered back to the ship, and J went back ashore a couple of hours later to finish it off, while I tried to convince my feet that I WILL walk

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