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“The Wild Side” of Aruba

“The Wild Side” of Aruba

The West side of Aruba is populated with roads, towns, hotels, etc. The East side of Aruba is the opposite. There are no towns or hotels, for a section of the area there aren’t even roads. Those sections can only be accessed by four wheel drive jeeps that can power over the rocks.

Before traveling to Aruba, we talked to different people who had vacationed here before. Some had taken jeep tours, some had done horse back rides through the area, and some knew people who rented their own jeeps and did it on their own. We were in favor of the go on our own route while planning the trip. But there are several problems with this. Many of the car rental companies that rent jeeps actually say in the contract that you can’t drive them to locations on the wild side. Plus, several of the going on their own stories included blowing out tires and having to have the company come out and exchange them cars.

Once actually in Aruba, we decided to do a tour. I’m really glad we did. Our tour guides were excellent, filling in a lot of the background information on what we were seeing. Truthfully, I’m not sure we could have driven the East coast on our own. It’s not rocky like a gravel road in the United States; you are driving around and on top of boulders. Granted, our driver took the hardest route everywhere… we were actually sideways at one point! It was like tossing a salad, except we were the lettuce and the jeep was the bowl. Almost impossible to shoot photos while we were driving.

It was our second to last full day in Aruba and we chose the Island Safari by ABC Tours, because it went to everywhere that was left on my “to-see” list and more. We snorkeled twice on the all-day trip and drove the ENTIRE East coast. Our drives were excellent, the noon meal was OK (nothing fancy, but not bad), and it was nice that they provided cool water the whole day. They grouped the jeeps well after observing us. We were in a jeep with a younger family and two couples on their honeymoon; clearly the “young adult” group who got the wildest ride.

The day started out at the California Lighthouse and we admired the views from La Trattoria El Faro Blanco restaurant. From there, the jeeps drove over the sand duned area of the island and along the coast, giving us our first looks at the rocky coast line and the stacks of rocks that appear everywhere.

   

Our second stop was the Alto Vista Chapel. A chapel was originally built on the location by a Venezuelan missionary in 1750. It is said that was the first church on the island. After falling into ruins, a school teacher headed up the rebuild and the church as we see it now was completed in 1952. Weekly services are held here and a yearly pilgrimage is made by many of the island’s residents. In fact, while we were there a small service was taking place. The roads out to the chapel are not paved, but they are only dusty not rocky, so you could visit this stop on your own.

   

Gold was first reported on the island in 1824. Aruba has a long history with gold mining, many companies and countries have come through attempting to harvest the metal. The Bushiribana Gold Mill was built in 1874, but they still used old-fashioned methods to collect the gold. The Mill eventually shut down in 1915, due to the lack of materials available during World War 1 and the high cost of operation with low efficiency.

      

   

Every where on Aruba was SO windy.

While you’re at the Gold Mill, make sure to stop on the other side of the road too. This is one of the best places to observe the rock towers. Tradition is you stack at least 3 rocks up, making a wish on each one. If you can get the tower to stay, they’ll come true. This is not local belief, instead being started by tourists, who I’m sure also found the broad flat stones everywhere as crazy as I did.

      

Aruba has several natural bridges on the island. The largest one, however, collapsed back in 2005. The area where it stood is still considered a tourist site. On our trip we visited an actual natural bridge and the area where the old one stood.

The actual natural bridge was a fairly small one. The shore line next to the bridge was covered in crazy flat stones. We climbed up on top of the bridge and had a nice view of the shoreline from there. The area under the bridge was only a few feet taller than I am.

      

      

The area where the largest bridge once stood is now just a small area of sand along the rocky coast. Our drivers took us up on the mountain behind the bridge, instead of down along it. From here we were able to get spectacular views. I could not get enough of this coast line.

 

   

   

   

  

After the bridge, they took us back to their office for lunch. It was nice, but nothing spectacular. The frightening part was when they said the first half was the gentle part!

The Natural Pool is the center of a ring of rocks just off the coast. The ocean waves slamming into the rocks spray the water over and into the pool. With the water, fish and other sea creatures get thrown into the pool. It has created a small eco diverse world that is great for snorkeling! This is the main go-to feature of the Wild Side and it was worth it. Not as many fish when we went as some of my friends reported. Make sure to look up while walking to the pool too, the views were wonderful!

   

      

Coming off of the Wild Side was drove through the Arikok National Park. We made a quick stop at Fontein Cave. It was just an in and out stop, probably not a must see. Exiting the park you drive through a ton of wind mills.

Finally the tour ended on Baby Beach. They handed out snorkeling gear and gave us time to explore. This beach was right by our Air bnb, but we didn’t go snorkeling on our own, so it was still nice to experience it in a different way. They also brought bread for us to feed the fish. Not exactly sure on the fish health ramifications, but they sure did gobble it up.

Bon Bini a Aruba!

Bon Bini a Aruba!

Ocean Memories

Aruba is a funny little island. It’s a lot of desert and sand surrounded by the Sea. I have never seen so many cactus in one place. It’s also an island of friendly people, colorful houses, and a diverse culture. The island stays a constant 78-88 degrees year round, but doesn’t even feel that hot thanks to the constant trade winds (although your hair will look ridiculous in every single picture).

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Today it is owned by the Netherlands and the primary language is Dutch. Although most locals also speak Spanish, English, and Papiamento (the local little-bit-of-everything language). We were there over King’s Day (4/27), which is the Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander’s birthday. All the shops were shut down for the holiday.

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 I’m assuming this is the King and Queen since their picture was everywhere.

It’s slogan is “Aruba, one happy island.” It’s pretty easy to be happy there. A normal day was beach all morning, then some cultural/island sights in the afternoon. We rented a house through airbnb and it turned out great. The house was bigger than we thought, bedrooms with air conditioning, wifi, and a porch to eat our meals on overlooking a slice of the ocean.

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We used our car A LOT since we were staying on the very southeastern tip of the island and most restaurants and hotels are located on the northeastern side. It was a 20-50 minute drive anywhere. I’m not one for crowds though, so I enjoyed staying in the less populated area. Baby Beach and Rogers Beach were both 2 minutes driving from our house. We were the only ones at time during the weekdays. On the weekend it was us and Arubans. Plus Rogers Beach has wonderful shaded cabanas we made great use of.

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We cooked one meal and ate out the other meals. The food we ate was pretty fantastic the whole time, although it had better be for the prices. I know I’m a mid-western girl and it’s more expensive elsewhere in the world. I expect my meal to only cost $8-10. Meals in Aruba that were rated “cheap” online were $15-20 a plate. We did not go to any restaurants that were rated more expensive.

Some of the places we ate at were:

  • Bavaria – delicious German food. I had fantastic chicken schnitzel, Donovan tried the special of stuff beef, and we shared a gooey cheese soup appetizer.
  • Red Fish – I had great shrimp, Donovan had a delicious cheese stuff chicken dish, and we shared a fried rice covered in cheese appetizer
  • B-55 – fun views of the center of the island, good food, bad service
  • Ritz – sort of has an old fashioned diner feel, but local food. I had orlog fries. I had no idea what they were just picked something and ordered it. They were fries, covered in peanut sauce, mayonaise, and chopped up onions. Mayo and onions were a great idea. Peanut sauce… not so much.
  • La Trattoria el Faro Blano – only disappointing place we ate at. They have pretty views at sunset, so everyone goes there around 7. Charge $18+ a plate and neither Donovan nor I liked our meals.
  • Iguana Joes – touristy place in downtown Oranjestad, good food

 Fried Rice  Shrimp  Cheese Soup  Orlog Fries  Donovan Dish

Things we did in Aruba (broken up by my [soon to come] posts on them):

Bon nochi! (Good night!)

Señora de Los Ángeles

Señora de Los Ángeles

“Why does she have wings? So she can fly.” – Sarah Dessen

The first day trip I took out of Costa Rica led to Cartago, the capital of Costa Rica until 1824. The city has been damaged by earthquakes several times, leaving ruins in the city. The building below was in construction during an earthquake. After the progress was destroyed, they abandoned the plans and today it has a garden inside the walls.

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Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Angles Basilica) is the city’s main feature. This Roman Catholic basílica is dedicated to the Virgen de los Ángeles (Lady of the Angles).DSC_0540c3

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Every year on August 2nd, there is a national pilgrimage to the church. The sick come in hope of a miracle from La Negrita, the Black Madonna. The legend goes a young girl found a small statue of La Negrita on a rock and brought it home with her. The next day, the statue was not at her house, but rather back on the same rock. She tried bringing it home several times, but each day it was found back on the same rock. The little girl took La Negrita to a priest who locked it in a box and yet the next day it was again back at the rock. They attempted to build this basilica several times, but each time it was destroyed by an earthquake. It was finally moved to where the rock was found and construction was completed. Today, the rock is kept in the back room of the basilica, supposedly in the same spot it was when La Negrita was discovered.