Tigger Travels - Journal of Adventures. (not a travel agent)
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Day Four.2 and Five.
Panama Cruise January 2011 - Last Trans-canal trip planned for the Disney Wonder at this time.
At around 3:00 pm we were in view of Aruba. This was one day early due to the fact that we missed our stop at Castaway Cay a few days prior.
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Trudy Lampe, Oranjestad, Aruba, the artist who`s work we bought, shows off two of the items she created and now sits proubly on our travel shelf.
Docked by 4:00 we ventured into the port area for a walk. Unfortunately most of the shops were closed, but we did meet a local artist Trudy Lampe and looked over her hand painted items. As a part of our travels, we like to buy local art and have been able to get a photo of the artist for our travel shelves. Trudy Lampe's stall is in the market just to the left of the exit for the center cruise ship terminal. As you exit the customs controlled area, on the left is a small market of the usual local types selling common touristy items, many actually made in foreign countries. Follow the market around and Trudy Lampe is located near the end in a pink stall. There are not as many items in her stall as the others, but they are all her own art work. Catch her on the right day and she will be working right there in front of you.
Once out of the terminal, take a right to head into the downtown shopping area. Lots of the usual jewelry places and a place on the water front called The Paddock. This place has a stretch VW Beetle parked on the roof and the pavilion is painted like a black and white cow. The food is average, but enjoying a local brew with the sun setting over the harbor is a true island experience.
Farther down, just past the docks willed with fishing charter boats and yachts there is a market with both local and international locations. If you are missing a Subway or Taco Bell, even a Starbucks, this is where you
will find it. Walk all the way through the market toward the water and there is a stage for evening music to be enjoyed from one of the two adjacent restaurants featuring local fare.
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This was an interesting boat channel cut i to allow access to the adjacent hotel and shopping area, I presume.
When dinner is over, venture straight out to the water front. There you will find large crabs fighting each other for space on the rocks at the waters edge.
No matter where you enjoy the sunset, this is a beautiful place to watch. Sail boats and other small craft enjoy the evening cool breezes set to a backdrop of brilliant orange and red cast across billowy clouds on the horizon.
On day five, we joined a mid morning excursion for the Atlantis Adventures Sea Explorer. This is a boat with special seating and windows five feet under the surface of the water for looking below the surface. We rode a ferry to the semi submersible. Once on the vessel we ventured over coral reefs and the Dutch cargo ship the Antilla. It was scuttled by the crew and captain as World War 2 began to keep the Germans from getting control of it.
At the time, the ship burned for three days and sunk in 60 feet of water. The locals complained about it then but now they are thankful for the tourism that is brought to the most accessible and most visited ship wreck in the Caribbean.
The island of Aruba is a historically Dutch island. They have their own currency but American dollars are widely accepted throughout the port area. The island itself is just under 20 miles long and just under seven miles across at it's widest point. Dutch is the official language but you do not have to go far to find people that speak English quite well. Several that I spoke with are versed in several languages.
The island itself is located just off the western most peninsula of Venezuela. It is just out of the hurricane belt experiencing the effects of few tropical storms. The foliage of the island is mostly low growth not more than three to six meters in height. The one tree I found most interesting is the divi divi tree. It grows as a short tree with peculiar twists and turns throughout the trunk which is typical on islands that experience tropical winds. There are also a number of lizards that roam the brush. We saw both iguana and large numbers of chameleons and more. The colors range through brilliant greens and blues, hard to miss.
After our excursion, I opted for one of my walk-abouts. Normally, after the family is done with morning excursions I enjoy some time on my own walking and exploring the 'real island'. So often the area we see around the port is carefully planned and a bit superficial. The goal of my walks are to go find where the people live and shop and carry on with their lives.
Frequently on the walk-abouts I arm myself simply with a poor map, proper id, a little cash (in case I need a cab to get back), a small camera, a canteen filled with ice then water and my father's hiking compass. As long as I know which way is north finding my way back is not a problem. I studied the map of Aruba to get the since that there really were no dead ends so pushing forward should seldom result in having to turn around.
My goal was to power-walk to the far side of the island, less than 6 1/2 miles NNE and back. I left about 12:30 pm and the ship was leaving at 4:30 pm. With less than four hours to my adventure I decided that I should turn back by 2:00 pm. That meant if I walk for 1 1/2 hours, I will have 2 1/2 hours to get back. This is due to any possible turn rounds, injuries or the time to find a cab to finish the return.
I took off in a northeast direction and after about 10 minutes found I was traveling nearly directly north. In this situation I just take the next turn eastward but trying to make my average path approximately NNE. With all the twists and turns I
found myself at a market near the far shore but still too far to find it at 2:10. Heading straight back my path resembled a figure 8 with the top slightly tilted east like italics. At this writing I am not sure how close I got but it was not much farther judging by the absence of trees and structures on the north horizon.
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Disney? Really? I am not too sure about this one. Do you think they can check me back on the ship?
During my walk it rained three times. The second time I was very concerned when a particularly dark cloud covered the north horizon. I took a brief rest under a large divi divi tree but the storm quickly moved more easterly and the sun came right back out. I kept my hat on for the first two rains, but by the third I went bare headed and enjoyed the fresh cool water on my head and neck.
The canteen, I have found, is very important. I pack it with as much ice as it can hold then finish it off with water. I like one that is not so insulated, this way water condenses on the outside and provides a start to my water supply without even penning the canteen till late in the walk. Also, I like to carry the cold canteen rather than use some sort of strap or put it in a backpack. This way, my hand gets chilled and every time I switch hands I rub my neck or face with the icy cold condensation. It looks strange in the beginning, but I drink all the condensation off the outside of the canteen, too. The ice melts soon enough but the cool start helps extend the whole adventure.
Walking through Aruba, the variations in the homes reflect that of any other area. Throughout the parts I walked, the poorer homes and more elaborate homes were much closer than some I have seen. At one point, on one side of the street was a rather dilapidated shotgun house with a stacked rock wall and on the other side was this beautiful well kept home with high security fencing.
Nearly all homes sported some sort of canine pet/security system. In many such places pet dogs are kept less as a pet and more for an early warning system against intruders. In the hot air, most of these dogs seem rather lazy, just watching me walk past. I dared not adventure past any of the various fences and walls, though. That invariable brings an abrupt change in attitude with a lot of snarling and barking, earning their keep.
On rare occasions this day, a dog would let out a few warning barks by generally stay in their preset spaces. A pair of them saw me coming at a distance and they prepared to leave their yard with early warnings. This is the time to keep in mind that dogs chase those who run. This day was no exception, one of them bravely approached my heels as I passed. Don't let a dog get too close. Turn, stand our ground and give a firm and loud command. Some people yell a short 'HEY!' but I prefer a few barks. I think that surprises them more when I speak their language. Throughout the years I have used this more times than I could possibly count and it has never failed. (There is a small footnote here; sometimes a dog will not turn away immediately. Do not turn away until after the dog has turned away. If you are on a clearly public space, they will leave you. I have seen this take up to several minutes of standing still, growling softly and keeping eye contact but it has never failed with a little patience.)
Half way across the island I began to notice an increase in oriental markets and restaurants. Past Parada there was as many as a dozen such places.
I have always enjoyed comparing the appearance of schools to those back home. Not only the design of the building, but the decoration of a building and how the students linger (or not linger) around the school yard both during and after school. Upon passing the largest school today, there were nearly a hundred students hanging out in the parking lot and just across the road visiting and carrying on as much as any school back home. It would seem to me that the longer they stay, the more the students feel comfortable being there. It would result in more of an 'at home' environment.
Across from this large school was an aloe vera farm, acres of aloe vera. A small stone wall ran along the near edge. The stones were old coral stones held together with small amounts of mortar. This was very common on my walk.
The front yard I passed varied greatly, too. From sterile, uninviting spaces to friendly walks lined with places to sit and visit with neighbors. A few times, people sat out playing cards or dominos and cast a friendly wave and 'howdy' as I pass.
Upon my return, I first saw the stacks of the Disney Wonder about 2 miles out. It was a welcome site! By then I had a few new blisters forming on my soles. The very last mile was the longest 48 miles of my life. I slowed my pace to about half speed and ended up hobbling aboard. I had saved a few breakfast pastries and some apple juice for my return and finished them off in no time. A couple hours later (and drained blisters) I was off to dinner ready for more.
I don't recommend these walk-abouts for everyone. You should be in pretty good shape, not in danger by heart and breathing difficulties. This was the longest walk-about I have ever attempted, they normally range to a few miles at most.
Have a clear route (or direction) planned and stick to it. Also, make sure someone back aboard knows your plans and return time. Always plan to arrive back at least an hour before departure... my last mile may have been tough, but walking that last mile while watching your ship disappear would be far worse! With someone on board, they can help coordinate your retrieval in the last hour of port.
Also, before you venture out, know a little about where you are going. Is the location safe? Is there social or political unrest? If it is not safe, do not try it. Getting mugged and ending up in the local hospital is a terrible way to end a vacation.
Finally, dress appropriately. Do not wear fancy and expensive workout gear or clothing. Your shoes say a lot about you. Walking around in $200 Nike's may draw attention you may not want. Fancy back packs or watches don't help. Even your sunglasses get draw the wrong crowd in the right place. Personally, I find that Timberland hiking shoes are pretty common around the globe. Simple design and few frilly labels go well anywhere.
In one thought, be smart about it. You can prevent many problems with just a little thought you can prevent a plethora of potential problems.
In comparison to other islands, I felt very comfortable in Aruba all day. This island has been on my 'list' since I was a teenager. It has remained on our list of place to stay for a longer period, maybe as much as a month. Of the dozens of islands we have been to, there are only a few that have rated our return in such a way. We both look forward to coming back and discovering the whole island, not just a sliver of the north west end of the island. Aruba is very nice and like their license plates say, "One Happy Island."
2011 Disney Wonder Panama Canal Cruise Index
Daily Navigator/Iwa Published Schedule