“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Travel Haven Journal — Family Trip to Aruba, Part 3

Wednesday

Another beautiful day in Paradise—sunny, breezy, gorgeous!

We ate breakfast at home every morning (there was no place close to us for breakfast),  but cooking in the house kitchen was fun for all of us anyway. This morning, we headed in to Oranjestaad (about 20 minutes away) to do some shopping. We hit several local touristy shops and saw pretty much the same things in each one. There was beautiful jewelry in the high end shops, but no one felt the need for anything like that, so we didn’t contribute to the local economy in that way.

We all met for a nice lunch at Iguana Joe’s restaurant and outdoor bar, overlooking the busy street below. It was on the second floor of an open air mall filled with shops on three levels. After lunch, we decided to go up to the north end of the island.

Alisa and I dropped the others off at Malmok Beach and went in search of Alto Vista Chapel. Our directions said to take Palm Beach Highway and turn left at the Aruba Rum Factory. We never saw a rum factory—I don’t think it’s there any more—but we just turned down a street that looked promising (remember—very few road signs and sometimes you follow one sign and then never see another until you reach a crossroad and have no idea which way to go). We were just about to turn back when, up ahead, Alisa saw a white cross. We went toward it and, sure enough, it was one of the Stations of the Cross that led up to the Chapel. I still can’t believe we found it.

aruba-alta-vista-chapel-exterior aruba-alta-vista-chapel-interior

The road leading up to Alto Vista chapel has Stations of the Cross on one side and the Hail Mary on wooden signs on the other —a few lines on each sign. Think of the old Burma Shave signs. It was a tiny chapel, very beautiful and well maintained, on top of a mountain. The view from the top is inspiring—you look down at the sea and it is very tranquil.

We retraced our route to the beach to meet up with the rest of the group. Malmok was a very small beach with some neat rock formations on the beach, but it wasn’t our favorite. We stayed until about 3:30 and decided to go up to the northernmost tip of Aruba to the California Lighthouse. What we found along the way was the best part. Miles of sand dunes and gorgeous rock formations with the waves crashing on the rocks! The terrain was so different from the other beaches we had been to—very rugged.

aruba-california-lighthouse

The California Lighthouse itself was nothing special. You can’t go up in the lighthouse any more because a few years ago someone committed suicide by jumping from the top. Probably would have been a great view from up there, but from the ground it wasn’t that spectacular.

I had wanted to see the beaches on the northeast side of the island. Even though they weren’t good for swimming, they are supposed to be good for windsurfing and sunbathing. So we set off for those. The island is only about 6 miles wide at its widest part and that is the center of the island so it shouldn’t take long to get across the northern tip, go a little south, and find the beaches, right?   Well, not so much.  As I’ve said before, signs and directions are few and far between.

To make a long story short, we never did find those beaches! But we did find one of our favorite places of the whole trip. We found the Natural Bridge. Now, we didn’t take a direct route. Oh, no. We wandered all over the place, seeing a lot of residential areas, places most tourists don’t usually see. We were on tiny dirt roads and were thrilled when we saw a sign to the Natural Bridge. Oh yeah—that was the only sign we saw on the whole drive. We finally asked a group of kids and they directed us. I’m not sure we ever would have found it on our own! We were way too south to find the beaches I wanted to see, but at least we were on the east coast.

aruba-natural-bridge

The Natural Bridge was awesome! Actually, the Natural Bridge collapsed back in 2005, so you can only see what’s left of it, but it is still really cool. The Natural Bridge was a formation of volcanic rock cut out by years of pounding surf, and was one of the largest of these types of spans in the world. It stands some 23 feet above the water and spanned more than 100 feet before it fell. It is still pretty spectacular. There never was a volcano on the Aruba island but a thousand years ago there were undersea volcanic eruptions which produced the rock formations here and on other parts of the island. Just when we were ready to leave the Natural Bridge, Arn wandered down a little farther and found another beautiful spot—a great swimming hole!

aruba-natural-bridge-swimming-hole-with-mike-kaley-torrey

There was a little cove-like area that was protected by large rocks and rock wall formations so that when the waves came crashing in, they were broken up by the large rocks and were pretty gentle by the time they got to the cove—well, at least most of the time. We climbed over the rocks and down about ten feet and sat on large rocks in the small pool (about twenty feet across). As I said, most were pretty gentle by the time they reached us, but every once in a while a rogue wave would come crashing in, knocking us off our pedestals. Great fun! We could not stop laughing at the wave action and us getting pushed around. We knew that this was not a typical tourist experience. We were so glad we climbed down that rock formation to the water.

Also in that spot, people had piled up small pyramids of stones. We think there may be periodic services there, because there is a small statue-like monument about two feet tall and all these “memorials” around it. Alisa made one for her Dad—very nice.

aruba-natural-bridge-memorials

After leaving the Natural Bridge, it was off to the grocery store to buy dinner. We found the best grocery store in Oranjestaad.  It was called Super Center. It seems all the grocery stores are owned by Asians and have names like Kung Lee or King Hong. The one we frequented had the best meats, but strangely no fish. This night we dined on steak, pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon, pork and chicken kabobs, wings, baked potatoes, asparagus and tomato halves—all grilled in the back yard of the house. It was a feast fit for queens and kings. Everyone took it upon themselves to do some part of the dinner prep, cooking, tending the grill, setting the dining room table, making the drinks, whatever was needed. It was delicious and loads of fun!  Oh yeah—there might have been some really strong ‘Ritas, some Cap’t Morgan and coke, and such, but we’ll never tell.