It is New Year’s Eve and we arrived here before breakfast ready to see as much as we can during the day and to celebrate the arrival of 2016 some 4 hours after we would have done back home. Aruba is famous for its New Year’s Eve fireworks, we had hoped to see these from the harbour but unfortunately our schedule was changed and we are scheduled to depart at 2200 on New Year’s Eve.
Google Maps: Aruba, a tiny Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela, has dry, sunny weather, blond beaches and gentle surf. Constant trade winds keep things cool and cause the divi-divi trees to slope southwesterly. European influence shows in both its architecture, in which Dutch gables mingle with tropical pastels, and language, with English, Dutch and Spanish spoken alongside the local tongue, Papiamento.
Currency: Aruban florin
Continent: North America
Best of Aruba Island Tour
The sight of Aruba’s colourful capital Oranjestad gives way to the scenic southern coastline. As you drive from Frenchman’s Pass through the districts of Aruba learn about the island’s first inhabitants. See the collapsed Natural Bridge and the Baby Natural Bridge before passing through a landscape shaped by the Casibari Rock formations – boulders the size of small houses, and punctuated with unique divi-divi trees. Admire California Point Lighthouse – an island landmark and take in the beautiful views of the sandy beaches, rolling sand dunes and rocky coral shores along the island’s western coastline. Upon the return to Oranjestad you have the option to remain in town for shopping making your own way back to Minerva.
Upon awaking, we looked out of our window and observed this quite close to us.
In fact we were one (the smallest one) of four cruise ships in port that day
and hence the port area was heaving with tourists.
As usual, as we drove around on the tour my first interest was in the houses we saw.
The first sets of houses were what I expected to see on a fairly well developed island
and then we passed what was said to be a “traditional house” with the oven (beneath the chimney) on the side, a water tank etc.
Fireworks and Aruba go hand in hand and here fireworks are sold from a metal shipping container (presumably for explosive reasons). During the afternoon there was the constant sound of thousands of fire crackers going off in anticipation of the evening’s main event.
One of the tourist spots is one of the higher points on the island - Casibari Park.
Really this is a group of boulders up which a set of steps
have been carved so that you can climb up
and see around the island.
This is a view of 189 metre high Jamanota Hill from the top of the rocks.
There were two travellers in the park whom we had met before on our travels somewhere. We keep bumping into them throughout the world.
There were also Christmas Cacti trees,
a close-up of their leaves shows them to be very similar to the plant we have growing indoors at home - however our Christmas Cactus flowers at random times of the year including Christmas.
The Divi Divi (or Watapana) tree is a natural compass, always pointing in a southwesterly direction due to the trade winds that blow across the island from the north-east.
Elsewhere in the island we came across a perfect example of the Divi Divi tree growing in a field of Aloa Vera, a plant which is grown and harvested here for use in a wide variety of ways.
Cacti thrive in the somewhat arid landscape
and flower of course.
The northern coastline is beautifully wild
and is where one of the few natural attractions no longer exists
namely a sandstone bridge which collapsed in September 2005.
Nearby is a smaller bridge (they are the remnants of caves) and close to this, a building is being constructed to house a large photograph of what would have been there had you come before September 2nd 2005. It seemed to us that they were somewhat desperate to sell you the attractions of something you could not now see!
The Alto-Vista Chapel, bult in 1952, stands on the site of a chapel built in 1750.
it is said to be the site where the conversion of Aruban Indians to Christianity started. the view over the coastline is very beautiful and it is easy to understand why a chapel was built there.
Souvenirs are available to enable you to remember your visit.
The California Lighthouse (named after a ship which sank nearby in 1891) was built in 1916 to mark the rocks on the north western tip of the island.
A thriving trade in coconuts is carried out here.
You choose your coconut and the top is cut off with a machete
so you can drink the contents.
Then it is chopped open
and you are given the flesh to eat. Mrs Harvey has maintained ever since I first met here that she hates coconut but she felt she had to try it just because it was available. Surprise, Surprise - she quite likes it !
This area of the coast is near the hotel strip
and the coastline is lined with numerous hotels and resorts. It was not for us and we would not want to go there for a holiday.
Walking into town
Having toured the island, we nipped into Oranjestad to see what it looked like and to see what the average cruise passenger might buy.
The town was heaving because of the numerous ships in port. The main street seemed to us to exhibit the worse kind of tackiness
and the general tourist souvenirs on sale were not necessarily those we might like!
The tour buses were very colourful and showed their origins as US School Buses now without windows.
Do we love Aruba? We like the isolated coastlines and do not really like much else and hate the hotel strip. It might be alright for many we prefer a different type of place for a holiday.
Sailing towards Midnight on New Year’s Eve
We set sail at 10 pm
leaving the big ships in harbour.
Some fireworks were being let off early as we headed out to sea
and at Midnight as we drank a glass of Champagne, the youngest and the oldest person (23 and 93) on board rang the ship’s bell following the Captain’s countdown.
And in our cabin we found
a New Year’s present from the Minerva.