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.
|Saltwater kisses from the blowhole|
|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|
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|
|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.