8th June 2022
As Tarquin and Jemima stand outside their school in Chelsea, they’re pleased to see the hulk of their family SUV negotiate such hazards as potholes, drains and even sleeping policemen before they’re enveloped in its safe insides. This urban environment is no place for such a car which is designed for the rough and tumble of offroad driving, for arid rock-strewn plains and to take its contents to far flung unexplored corners of the earth. We’ve taken Tarquin and Jemima’s transport and gone offroad, through plains and into the hinterland.
Climbing high up into our steed with Norbert in the driving seat and Sabine navigating, we bumped our way south. We left behind Tarquin and Jemima’s sanitised suburbia and were quickly in another worldly landscape. The salt pans stretched into the distance which glowed pink, green and blue while the harvest from them was a brilliant white and sat in huge salt mountains that towered above us.
The wild colours were not confined to the waters and they seemed to be migrating into the local wildlife. Flocks of flamingos were feasting in the pink waters, which in turn transformed their once white bodies pink. Iain was intrigued what would happen if they were to roost in the green on blue water, he had visions of flocks of pastel-coloured birds filling the skies.
Having a reputation for seeking out very random POI’s we zoomed across Bonaire’s wild eastern plains where rocks pinged off our chassis and clouds of dust flew high into the sky. All around us was desolation and a boat breaking coastline, where, in the middle of nowhere sat a monument to the last resting place of a raft that had bravely crossed an ocean, got things a little wrong and ended in disaster.
The randomness became even more random as we then happened across Bonaire’s longest tree. Only standing 5 feet tall it was long in the extreme, blown flat by the prevailing winds instead of growing up it grew along. Its valiant fight for survival in this harsh environment showed that adaption is the key to longevity.
Now in full on offroad mode we were seeking out ancient caves, covered in ancient. With Iain taking over navigation we drove past signs threatening ‘danger of death’ and along roads which were road in name only. Next to us a plateau rose out of the flat plain where the erosion had, over millennia, hollowed out the base. This was ripe cave hunting grounds.
Finding an entrance that was as black as night we inched our way under the plateau to be greeted by stalagmites and stalactites that had fused together forming columns that seemed to support the roof. In the silence and darkness that enveloped us bats flew around and then to add to the haunted feeling of this place our torches started picking up ancient cave markings. The more we looked the more we saw, every surface was covered, every surface was marked, ancient man had been busy leaving messages that we couldn’t understand in a place that we couldn’t fathom.
Venturing into the national park the landscape changed from an unforgiving barren plan to an unforgiving barren plain covered in unforgiving vegetation. Every surface spawned cactuses of every shape and size. The only thing they had in common was their aggressive spikiness threatening to pierce any extremity that happened to touch them.
This barren landscape however was far from dead. Iguanas, which looked like they would have been at home with ancient man, and the size of small cars, either sauntered around in the undergrowth or sunned themselves in the open. In the air birds with talons bigger than the cactus spines rode the thermals and swooped low looking for any form of sustenance.
As the sun was setting Iain was happy that he’d managed to cross off all his random POI’s and Sabine and Norbert now had the measure of him. With the road in full bump mode a sign pointed us to a ‘tower’ that wasn’t on his list and from the front of the car screams of delight and excitement rung out. Norbert and Sabine were sure it be would be the best ‘tower’ ever, this ‘tower’ is sure to be ancient and epic, the ‘tower’ would give monumental views. All Iain’s language but not coming from Iain. (The tower did happen to be the best ever, it was epic and the views were monumental).
Finally getting back to the joy of smooth tarmac Bonaire proved to be as amazing inshore as it is off. It has given us a glimpse into its ancient culture, its modern wildlife and all this is a far cry from the sanitised school run that Jemima and Tarquin have in their Chelsea tractor.
Some photos credit to Norbert and Sabine @sy_altimate
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