Friday, January 27, 2012

Aruba Report

Friday,  Jan 27, 2012

I finally have a little bit of downtime to create a decent blog post.  This morning I was supposed to fly fro Aruba to Curacao on an 8am flight.  I arrived at the airport at about 7:15am,  which apparently was not soon enough.  I've been booked on a 12:10pm flight,  so now I'm in the airport lounge,  which is actually a nice open air area,  it's warm,  but there's a nice breeze.  I'm wearing shorts and thinking that this is a nice break from Seattle weather.

The last two days have been kind of a fast blur,  but they've already produced some good stories.  The first of these is getting a car rental in Aruba.  I didn't have one initially reserved,  and didn't think it was a problem.  As I was walking out of the airport,  I was approached by a guy who asked me if I was looking for a car.  I said I was,  and he said,  "Toyota Camry,  $55"  I got his card,  told him I was going to shop around,  and kept walking.  I went into Thrifty I think it was,  and asked.  They only had large cars for $70.  I figured that was too much,  and planned to go back to the guy on the street,  but had the inspiration to ask the woman at Thrifty if she thought the guy on the street was reliable.  She took the card from me,  called the phone number listed on the card,  and said,  "sure,  yes."  A few minutes later someone from what appeared to be an entirely different car rental place showed up,  and the woman at Thrifty told me that they were there for me,  and that I should go with them.  So I did.  I ended up at a small little car rental place across the street from the airport,  ended up in some old beat up vehicle,  and paid $60.  Since I knew I had an early flight, I asked them how I was going to return the car,  they gave me instructions to park it at the airport,  leave it unlocked,  with the keys under the matt.  Which I did.  Hopefully they figure out where it is,  and don't charge my card for a missing car.  

Here's another story:  As I was getting my car,  the rental guys asked what hotel I was in.  I told them "Paradera Park Hotel,"  and none of them had ever heard of it.  I figured that was probably ok,  as I had a map I had printed from Google showing me the location of it.  What I did not realize is that google maps had in fact not recognized the address I had given it,  but did know the neighborhood,  so it gave me a map of the neighborhood instead.  The marker for the center of the neighborhood,  unsurprisingly,  was not the location of my hotel.  So I drove around for a while,  and discovered that the main street through the Paradera neighborhood had house numbers,  and my address was 203 Paradera.  "Easy."  I thought to myself,  I'll drive along this street until I find the address.  Unfortunately,  the last address on that street was 189 Paradera,  then it became a different neighborhood,  the street name changed,  and no hotel.  Driving around more I discovered that the back roads also all had similar addresses,  and that I could find 397 Paradera several blocks off the main drive.  About this time I also discovered that on the north side of the main road were odd numbers,  on the south side were even numbers.  That cut my search in half,  but still to no avail.  I finally gave up,  rolled down my window,  and asked a guy who was just arriving at his own home.  In broken English, he said, "sure, follow me."  and I drove around following him....directly to a small bar,  where he stopped and went inside.  I waited for him a little while in my car, then parked it,  and went in after him, along with my map and address.  The bar was tiny,  no chairs,  only a counter under a tin roof.  Animated discussion was happening in a language I didn't understand,  but didn't sound entirely like Dutch.  between the bar tender,  and the 3 older guys drinking beer,  what seemed like reasonable directions were communicated to the guy I was following.  

I should point out at this time that I never did get the name of the guy I was following,  but he was about 65,  had windblown blonde-but-moving-towards-grey hair, and looked like he might have been named something like Aalbers,  so I'm going to call him that.  

Aalbers then offered to buy me a beer, but I was wanting to find my hotel at that point,  so I declined as graciously as I could,  and we continued our search,  me following him in his car.  We drove straight to a place that was not correct,  but was oh,  so very close,  which we did not know at the time.  We got out,  walked around,  scratched our heads,  and he said, "okay,  follow me."  We then drove next to a Mexican restaurant,  which was south of the main street,  so now I know we're not in the right place.  Again he stops,  goes in the restaurant,  and asks,  and by now he's also been calling his wife and other friends.  After waiting a while,  I follow him in,  and shortly after that,  he realizes that he's supposed to be looking for 203 Paradera,  not 230 Paradera.  "Ooooh!" he says in a particularly Dutch way,  "on one side of the street,  2, 4, 6,  on the other side,  1, 3, 5."  I agree with this,  and we hop in our cars and take off.  I think he had bought another beer at this point and was drinking it as we headed back north across the main street,  and drove pretty much straight to the hotel.  


I thanked him profusely,  and he took off.  Total time looking for hotel, 2 hours,  half of which was spent with Aalbers,  who in retrospect,  I probably should have had a beer with.  

My final story for this post:  Searching for the damn Divi Divi Tree. 

I really only had one thing I wanted to accomplish for my day in Aruba,  and that was to get a nice shot of a divi divi tree.  If you don't immediately know what this is,  google it,  and you'll immediately recognize it,  as photos of this tree are pretty much the classic shot of Aruba.  You've seen this tree,  and you'll recognize it as soon as you see the pictures of it.  (or,  actually,  see my previous blog post,  since I did eventually get my shot of this tree)

I knew that this tree was on Eagle Beach, and I knew mostly where Eagle Beach was.  When I was checking into my hotel though,  and getting a much better map of the island,  the woman in the office gave me wrong directions to Eagle Beach.  I had probably an hour of sunlight left,  so I headed there,  found the beach she had told me to go to,  and not a single damn divi divi tree in sight.  "Fine,"  I thought to myself,  "a good photographer looks around and sees what interesting things there are to shoot,  and focuses on then,  despite disappointments."  Which I did, and got a handful of nice sunset photos.  Then sun disappeared below the horizon,  and I got in my car....and decided to keep looking.  This took me to 3 more beaches,  some unmarked,  none of which had a single divi divi tree.  By now I was getting hungry,  and nearly ready to give up.  I finally stopped at one last place,  and I found the damn divi divi tree.  And I got my photograph of it.  So take that, you stupid tree.  I found you and got my photograph of you.  Booyah.  

A few last thoughts.  Before I left home,  I was pretty nervous about this trip.  I find myself still very nervous,  but have been focusing on the following things to help: (1) Take things one thing at a time.  Only worry about the one thing I need to be doing now,  and worry about future things in the future.  (2)  Realize that I've been adjusting to a ton of new stuff in a very short period of time,  and that many travelers doing this sort of thing feel this kind of anxiety at the beginning of their trip.  (3) Think about the fact that I'm loved by many people.  In particular,  this last one was what finally helped me fall asleep last night,  and I want to thank everyone who has been supportive of me for this trip,  and who have helped me along the way.  


  1. Rockin post Rod! Aalbers is my favorite part, particularly " I never did get the name of the guy I was following,...and looked like he might have been named something like Aalbers, so I'm going to call him that." I snorted and hooted over that one! Also loved the bits that help carry you forward (and off to sleep). Love of adventure is paramount, so long as you can share it with people, right? You GO dude!

  2. Thanks Cricket. :) That helps a lot. I do like adventure, and I guess I'm in the process of finding out if I've bit off more than I can chew. So far so good. :)

    Probably Aalbers is back with his friends at the very first bar, talking about the American he helped, and laughing about how they don't know their own neighborhood as well as they thought they did. :)

  3. The pictures look great! And the stories are awesome ;-)

    I'm glad the camera and the netbook seem to be working for you!

  4. Thanks Arren, the netbook is turning out to be indispensable. I haven't been near a single internet cafe yet, being able to update this from my hotel and while on the road is really wonderful. Thanks also for the camera, when I use it I can just expect it to work, rather than worry about what it will look like when I try to use it. Now, Canon did a dumb thing with the ISO button on this camera, but other than that, it's working great. :)