Northern Tour – Sept. 4, 2012

Tonight I am catching up on a couple days’ blogs, as life has been very full with my sister being here. Right now, I’m sitting on the dive dock at the Divi Flamingo while Joanna is at home reading a book, most likely. It’s a beautiful evening, although the lights from the resort ruin the star gazing. The water in front of me is so clear. I can see the little minnows darting back and forth. A few minutes ago, a tarpon came cruising by. I also heard a large splash as he hunted. To the south, there is the occasional flash of sheet lightning from a storm off the Venezuelan coast.

 Photos here

Tomorrow is Flag Day on Bonaire, which is a national holiday. The studio and many other businesses will be closed while they celebrate the Bonarian flag. We’ll be meeting Jon Hilgers at nine in the morning (one of our former teachers), and then going diving with Dick Veldman at 2:30.

Joanna was able to do a Skype call with her partner back in Canada. It was surprising that the Internet connection allowed for video. It did work quite well, even if she had to reconnect a couple of times.

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In the morning, we decided to go for a drive up the northern Tourist Road, as we used to call it, and see Rincon and the wind turbines on the east coast. Our first stop was at the Tourist Bureau, right at the beginning of the one-way downtown section. The staff was very helpful, and gave us several pamphlets and directions to the various sites. When we left, we noticed a statue of Simón Bolivar immediately behind the Tourist Bureau. He was the liberator of much of South America and parts of the Caribbean, including Bonaire. The statue was donated by Venezuela back in the eighties.

We dropped off our scuba tanks at Wannadive, and continued north on the Tourist Road. It now has a U-shaped curve around a new housing development, which includes the STINAPA office on the far side.

Cave:

Joanna said the old caves we used to explore were right beside the office, but we couldn’t figure out where exactly, so we dropped into the office and asked. Sure enough, it was in the scrub brush, not a hundred yards behind STINAPA’s building. The area is marked with a 5-metre tall black and white pyramid.

We walked down the stone stairs into the cave (that we used to explore with our flashlights), and it looked much the same. There was a stone pedestal, ready for an inscription to be installed, but there was nothing there.

After the cave, we went across the road to the resort that includes one of the Buddy Dive shops. The staff was Dutch, and quite helpful. We wandered around a bit, and took some photos of the lovely landscaping that they have there.

Then it was on up the Tourist Road, and along the narrow road by the rock ledges.

Radio Nederlands:

I decided to stop at Radio Nederlands, and took several photos of their large shortwave curtain antennas. Their last broadcast will be on October 31st, after which the entire station will be dismantled and sold to the highest bidder.

I guess the bottom line is that this huge radio network, that rivalled that of the BBC, is now considered cost prohibitive as the listening audience to shortwave (SW) broadcasts has steadily dropped over the past decade in this part of the world. With online streaming audio and other forms of news media available, SW radio in the West is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Nonetheless, I was saddened to see these magnificent structures that will soon be dismantled.

Goto Meer:

Our next stop was Goto Meer, and I must say the outlook was as beautiful as ever. We got a few shots of parakeets on the nearby cactus, as well as an iguana up in a tree.

Further down the road towards Rincon, right at the edge of Goto Meer, we saw a huge iguana crossing the road.

A little further, we came across the strangest sight–two flamingos doing what appeared to be a mating dance. They were prancing around in the shallow water, splashing their beaks into the water, and then quickly withdrawing them. We got a good video of this rather bizarre behaviour.

Dos Pos:

The next stop was Dos Pos, which is a small oasis powered by an ancient windmill. It was there we discovered that honey bees had come to Bonaire! A pickup truck stopped and began filling two 55-gallon drums with water, so we struck up a conversation. Apparently this gentleman has been living in Holland for the past 22 years, but had now returned to his homeland of Bonaire. He said the bees most likely came from a bee keeper that had died a few years ago at a nearby farm. The Bonairians aren’t sure what to make of these new insects, which apparently were imported from Curacao in the eighties.

Rincon:

By the time we reached Rincon, we were ready for lunch, so stopped at the Rose Inn. This was a delightful local restaurant, with the tables under spreading vines and large trees. Joanna had goat stew, while I had some fish. They served some funchi, a corn-meal based paté.  It ended up being one of the best meals we’ve had on the island, and at a very reasonable price!

We then drove around Rincon, and found a statue of Julio A. Abraham. Apparently, he was the president of the Democratic Party on Bonaire. The street the guest house I am being housed in is named after him.

There was also a monument to what appeared to be a large rock. We still don’t know what the significance of that was. Further up, there was another rock on a pedestal.

Museum: Mangasina di Rei:

We then started heading south out of Rincon, and came across a museum up on a bit of a knoll. Neither of us had ever been inside, so we decided to check it out. While it was interesting, our two-hour stop was a bit longer than I had figured on. The entry fee was $10 each, and the staff was very friendly and helpful.

We first toured an old storage house from the slave era, and then had a drink of tamarack juice and lamoonchi (lime) juice. They showed us how to erect a cactus fence. This was followed by a lesson in local music, which included a little ratchet device, and lids of tin cans you shook, as well as blowing on a conch shell. The gentleman who gave the music lesson was extremely chatty, and ended up being hurried by his staff for the next exhibit. The facility was attractively landscaped. Although the pace was a bit slow for my taste, it was still a very interesting experience.

Boca Onima and Windmills:

We headed further south, and could see several windmills in the distance, but had to go more than a kilometre down an extremely rough road to reach them. Before we got there, we stopped at Boca Onima, which is an inlet. We strolled out over the lava rock, and were again impressed how jagged these wave-splattered rocks are. There were actually two fishing boats out on the rolling waves.

I wanted to go further and actually touch the base of the windmills, but Joanna didn’t think we could make it. However, I won out, and we ended up standing right at the base of these giant wind turbines.

As we got out of the car, we could hear the swishing-whistling sound of the huge blades turning overhead. I’ve had a lifelong fascination with windmills as a source of endless power. The blades were actually turning very fast, and we got several good pictures.

There were also some donkeys wandering around in amongst the windmills, and one actually came up and sniffed my hand. Joanna’s comment was that they seem to have been very well treated, and used to human contact. We have noticed that the donkey population seems to have exploded on the island, so they must be under some kind of protection now.

Indian Inscriptions, Boca Onima:

The next stop was the Indian inscriptions near Boca Onima, which were also quite interesting. Apparently the Indians used to be able to use the stars to track various calendar events.

Fontein Plantation:

We tried to visit the Fontein Plantation, but found that it is now in private hands, and has been for some years. Both of us were rather disappointed, as this natural spring that comes out of the caves had been the focus of a few school trips for us.

Seroe Largo (Lookout Mountain):

As we headed further south toward Antriol, we took the road to Seroe Largo, or Lookout Mountain, as I call it. I must say, while the road was paved, it was still very rough. We ended up stopping at the large cross structure at the top of the mountain that seems to be about 12 years old. I tried taking some 360° photos, and we’ll see if I can stitch them together when I get home. The view is not as good as the old Lookout spot where we used to have Easter sunrise services with Trans World Radio.

By the time we got home, there was not enough time to go scuba diving, so instead, we went for a short swim in the pool at the Divi Flamingo. Then it was time to shower and get changed before Jon Hilgers picked us up.

When Jon arrived, I was surprised to see him driving a full-sized Dodge Ram pickup truck. We told him that he could pick the restaurant where he wanted to go, and he chose the Bistro de Paris. It appears Jon suffers from some leg ailment, which has swollen one of his legs to over twice its normal size. As a result, he is not nearly as active as he used to be.

It seemed that everyone in the restaurant knew Mr. Hilgers, or Mijneer Hilgers, as we used to call him when he was our gym teacher in high school. While he was actually born in Holland, he has spent his entire life on either Aruba or Bonaire. In fact, he was one of our favourite teachers when we were in the HAVO high school system down here.

We were both rather surprised to find out that he is now practising some form of Eastern Yoga. Apparently he adopted this new faith about twelve years ago, and spoke for almost two hours on the subject. We had pressed him for his opinion on the recent political changes, but his interest was more in his new spiritual awakening. Then it was time to go home and recharge our batteries.

And so ends a very full and interesting day!

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