Thursday, February 23, 2012

Natural Pool Jeep Adventure (part 4)

A day in DePalm-adise on the Natural Pool Jeep Adventure (pt. 4)

While taking a break from the rough side of Aruba, where we make our way in and away from the coast, we head through what is called the “mondi.” Mondi is described as the tropical/desert-like vegetation in parts of Aruba that aren’t highly populated by people, but rather assortments of cacti, Divi Divi trees, weeds… goats, donkeys - you know, the usual. The goats on the island are not wild, but they are brewed for stew (an Aruban delicacy). Don’t worry; Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore is safe and sound. Donkeys were originally brought over by the Spaniards 500 years ago to support their means of transportation, but they have since been rescued and housed at the local donkey sanctuary since 1997. 

In the mondi

Everything is so colorful and spacious out here, especially the Aruban cunucu (coo-noo-coo) (meaning “country”) houses that are coated with shades of salmon and mustard topped with a splash of boysenberry tint on the roof and jade-colored doors with  sticks of purple bougainvillea flowering around the house. I spot a shack up ahead that’s called “Your Lucky Bet,” any guesses? A lottery hut. Yes, in the middle of nowhere – they have to have something to do out here. And right next to it is a mini-supermarket called Wing Wei Woo – I find it hard not to giggle at the name, but nice alliteration nonetheless. 

Getting rather used to the smooth ride alongside the countryside, I’ve thought too soon… The asphalt road turns from an ashtray grey to a dirt fusion of pumpkin orange and otter brown. The jagged coastline draws nearer, where I am welcomed with a faint misty spray from the crash of the Caribbean Sea alongside the rocks forming a blowhole. 

Saltwater kisses from the blowhole
Refreshing nonetheless, I feel like I am in the cool-off zone under a misting tent at an amusement park. Surprised that the last leg of the journey is not as brutal as I had anticipated, I am able to ease back into my seat. I guess I forgot that “off-roading” in Aruba doesn’t only mean rough and tough, just that there is no road period. Pieces of limestone that peek up from the ground catch the Sun’s rays, glistening as it reflects, portraying as though we are on an ice rink where the Range Rovers serve as our skates. The majority of the trip was confined to some kind of path, where now the lane of dirt road is more than six cars wide. Picking up more and more speed, it feels as though we are gliding across the Mario Kart themed level of Cheep Cheep Island. 

Ice skating rink on land
Cheep Cheep Island
Alas, we have made it to the, as I like to call it, Natural (not so anymore) Bridge. Made out of coral limestone and having stood at more than 23 feet above sea level with a length of over 100 feet, the bridge collapsed in 2005 from an unknown cause. “Nothing lasts forever,” Rocky jokingly mourns. “But don’t worry. We’re not going to bring you here for a broken bridge.” Two of six natural bridges on the island, we also caught a glimpse of the Baby Natural Bridge (how original). 

The Natural (not so anymore) Bridge
Seeing all this water makes me have to go to the bathroom; luckily I brought 50 cents with me, as the tourist trap charges per use – genius. Inside there is a batido stand, or a fruit shake bar, that quenches anyone’s thirst on a hot day such as today, like every day in Aruba. I go for the double banana and strawberry shake that eliminates the need for milk or sugar. Natural, healthy, and self-sufficiently sweet, the batido lady looks at me and says, “I have been serving batidos for over 14 years, so you can imagine the variety of fruit combinations I’ve been asked to blend. But never have I been asked for a banana, banana, and strawberry shake.” Try it. You won’t ask for any other wild, tropical, this, that, and the other combination.

The Baby Natural Bridge

Wish Garden
We pack back into the jeeps towards the Alto Vista Chapel, our next stop. Along the way I spot a display of stones towered on top of each other, as if people were playing Parker Bros. game of Jenga. This arrangement of rocks that spreads wide along the coast is known as the Wish Garden, where people stack rocks on top of each other and make one wish per rock. Rocky starts in on the history – “You have to place six rocks on top of each other and make a little wish for each. After placing a seventh rock on the sixth, one makes their biggest wish or desire before putting a $20 bill under the stack. If you leave it there for 20 minutes and come back to find the bill gone, your wish will come true. Who wants to try it?” Rocky laughs. The Wish Garden was actually a myth started by tourists taken from the fishermen’s tactic of stacking rocks to mark their fishing spots. 

So if I buy the rosary necklace, do chips come with it?

Alto Vista Chapel
Like a lizard picking up speed and running on its hind legs, so are we; fishtailing it to our next stop. Rocky is sure to embrace the experience even more when he swoops alongside the dirt hills, where I feel like Tony Hawk on a skateboard winding from ramp to ramp. We make it to Alto Vista Chapel, the first chapel on Aruba. A truck is parked outside with its back open. An interesting display of an assortment of beaded bracelets and rosary necklaces are complemented with Cheetos, Fritos, and Doritos… how enticing. Even more enticing is the boa constrictor I see laying upside down, as if he were surrendering. “Hungry much?” Rocky asks. These boas are not native to the island. Rather they were brought in from boats that transport fruits and vegetables from South America years ago. Everyone and their mother’s duty are to play bounty hunter when they see these heavy-bodied and patterned snakes because they are feeding off our indigenous animals. 

The California Lighthouse
Making it to our last stop of the day, the California Lighthouse, everyone looks exhausted. Talk about hair like Tina Turner – more like James Brown’s mug shot from 2004. The sprinkle of saltwater kisses that’s masked any revealing skin was instantly coated with dirt from the dust clouds while off-roading. The California Lighthouse was named after the California steamboat that crashed off the north coast of Aruba during its travels from Liverpool to Venezuela in 1892. As we secure ourselves back into the Range Rovers, we head towards the hotels to drop off all 16 (everyone is still on board) guests. What a day, what a journey. Ready to jump in the shower and rinse off the sun, sea, salt, and sand that’s caked on my arms, legs, and face, the guaranteed adrenaline-pumping tour was a mission accomplished. Thanks for experiencing it with me!  

Brianna Brown after the Natural Pool Jeep Adventure

Stay tuned for next week’s “A Day in DePalm-adise,” where I’ll be taking you underwater on a submarine adventure.


Anonymous said...

very very cool!!!! love the "mini-supermarket"...your lunch and your hairdo!!!

Brianna in DePalm-adise, Aruba said...

Thank you for the compliment! I try to keep it educational yet entertaining :)

Linda said...

You are an excellant writer! I saw, felt, tasted, smelled refreshed and sweated all through the blog!! Good job!