Saturday was our last day in Bonaire. Scuba divers call this the “surface interval day,” as you need to allow at least 24 hours between your last dive and flying – so, you have to come up with something other to do than dive!
We piled into one of the trucks and began a day-long loop around the island to see some of the topside sights. It was sunny and gorgeous as usual, with just enough wind to keep it comfortable.
Our first stops were at some dive sites along the coast north of town, just to get some photos of the sites with our cameras outside of their clunky underwater housings. We checked out 1000 Steps (there aren’t actually a thousand, but I’m sure it feels like it when you’re in full gear), and then went back to Karpata. Karpata has a nifty little snack shack right at the top of the stairs now, though it was never open while we were there.
Next we headed east along the southern edge of Washington Slagbaii Park. You drive past a lake which is home to most of the island’s resident flamingos, but there were only a few in evidence today. The big excitement came just past the park, where a few little farms were set up. A sow and her furry little piglets went dashing by the truck, and then we spotted a donkey in the road just up ahead. Naturally, we insisted that Jeff stop the car and roll down the window so we could photograph it.
He came a little closer than we expected!
We followed the road back through Rincon to Kralendijk, and then headed east to Lac Bay, a big windsurfing spot. It’s a huge shallow area, only a few feet deep, protected by a large sandbar. We could see enormous waves crashing at the edge of the bay, but inside the water was flat and calm – except, of course, for all the windsurfers swirling around on it.
There’s a terrific little beachside bar there, so we grabbed lunch and enjoyed the view. And by “the view,” I don’t just mean the gorgeous beach and the windsurfers – I’m also referring to all the European guests in various states of undress. There’s a popular nudist resort at Lac Bay, and although it’s shut off from public view, the laid-back attitude towards clothing doesn’t stop at the borders of the resort! (No pictures of naked, sunburned people – sorry.)
As we drove south along the eastern coastline, we were absolutely amazed at the size of the surf pounding on the shore. On the west (diveable) side, you might occasionally see a wave up to your knees. Over here, with the full brunt of winds slamming into the island, the waves were constant and powerful, sending enormous sprays thirty feet hight.
There were also lots of these driftwood piles – I guess you could call them art. People had stacked up wood in different formations, with various bits of trash attached as decorations.
At the southern tip of Bonaire, we stopped to look at the lighthouse. Sadly, you’re no longer allowed to climb up inside.
There was a neat little crumbling building there which we were able to clamber around in, though. I think my favorite part was this “shoe room”:
On the southwest part of the island are several clusters of old slave huts. They’re exactly what they sound like: huts that were used to house slaves brought here for the salt trade. Even I had to crouch down to get inside these tiny concrete structures, and I couldn’t stand upright once I was in. I’d like to say we pondered the bleak history of these places and took a moment to reflect on all the suffering that people had experienced there… but frankly, they’re gorgeous photo opportunities, so we were mostly thinking about that!
Up next was one of our favorite Bonaire sights: enormous piles of salt! We’d gotten a pretty good glimpse already on our southern dives, but now we were here to photograph. There are some really amazing color contrasts by the salt piles: brilliant white salt, crystal blue water, and bright pink salt pans in between.
Sadly, there are big signs warning you that it’s a crime to crawl up the salt piles, or we’d have even cooler photos.
By this time we were all pretty tired and sweaty, so we decided to stop in town for some ice cream and shopping. The ice cream was better than the shopping. But, we all found the various knick-knacks we needed for ourselves and friends back home, so we were happy enough.
More topside photos from Jeff here.
Back at the condo, we all retreated into our rooms to get started packing. No small chore when everyone has camera gear and all the associated trinkets to keep track of! Carol officially wins the prize for slowest packer, though; the rest of us were all packed up and lazing around (or napping) while she was still laying things out into neat piles. And I thought I went crazy organizing while on travel!
We polished off our day with dinner at La Guernica, a tapas restaurant, where we consumed a frightening amount of food and booze. Then it was time for bed… in preparation for a painfully early rising the next day: 3am in order to get to our 6am flight.
I get up pretty early for diving sometimes – 5am is not uncommon, and 4:30 has been known to happen. But anything before 4am just feels like the middle of the night to me. 3am? That was just ridiculous. We all trudged down to the trucks with our bags, and managed not to drive off the road on the way to the airport.
Carol and I were dropped off with our bags while the menfolk went to return the cars to the rental agency – which had mysteriously moved from its on-airport location in the previous week, and was now across the street.
When Jeff finally showed up, he was in a foul mood – apparently, the rental folks wouldn’t check in his car until 4am. They were checking in cars for another, earlier flight, but not our flight. Jeff grumpily left the keys on the counter, said maybe he’d come back later, and joined me for the airline check-in.
So, after the painfully slow crawl through the line to get our boarding passes and pay our departure tax, Michael and I went back to the car place to check in. We got there around 3:55, and our counter wasn’t open. But there was a crowd of employees who’d just gotten off a shift, sitting around drinking beer and smoking. They waved us over and offered us drinks from the (closed) bar, on the house. We thought this was a fine way to start the morning: free beer at 4am on a Caribbean island.
Pleasantly buzzed, we finished off the check-in process that Jeff had aborted with no further problems. (In fact, they waived a fee for our returning a truck with a half-empty gas tank, because of the issues we’d had with the battery.) We rejoined Carol and Jeff at the airport, who seemed pretty bemused at our tipsiness.
So that was how we finished off our trip – sleepy and slightly drunk. The ride home was long but uneventful; I’m officially a fan of Continental’s new Bonaire schedule. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to take advantage of it again soon!