B is for Boat. C is for Car.

In case we get lost.

18th August 2022

Spanish Waters, Curaçao

After many years of sailing, we’ve found that the mode of exploration is denoted by the first letter of the name of the country. The Bahamas are best explored by boat, the secrets of the Canaries are unlocked by cycling and having a boat in Bonaire was invaluable. Curaçao’s name gave us a clue and so into a car we got.

Before the great idea of finding a car dawned on us Iain had a great idea that, as you’d expect, involved dawn. Overlooking the anchorage was a hill that ended in a precipice which would give a great viewpoint of Ruffian and a view of the rising sun. Expecting resistance to his brainwave, he found that Karmen was peppy, Fiona was excited and Tom, true to his superhero name ‘Tom Tarquin’, wanted to conquer it.

With the sun still very much below the horizon we quietly landed ashore and created a cacophony of sound as the sleeping dogs awoke and guided us up the hill. With our new friends in tow, we trudged up the road, switched to track, onto rock and finally across jagged sharp shoe eating, flip flop unfriendly, ancient limestone.

Perching on the top of the hill with our legs nearly hanging over the precipitous drop, the sun sneaked above the horizon and we were presented with a great view for breakfast. This view was only mired by the thought of ‘Tom Tarquin’ dipping apple in peanut butter for breakfast. Iain felt this was a great way of ruining both an apple and peanut butter.

The fun continued as Fiona had a very special birthday day. Her first gift was an exciting free shuttlebus ride to the supermarket and the shock of the grocery prices in Curaçao. She gingerly picked up peppers priced at $10, onions at $5 and packs of butter at the princely sum of $15. Relief flowed when she realised this was Florins and not dollars. Suddenly everything was half price.

Fiona’s birthday was crowned by cake made my Karmen and then an Iain instigated hike in the searing midday sun which beat down on the dark asphalt reflecting the heat back at us. The water at the beach never felt so refreshing and we could almost see steam coming from our feet as they were cooled in the shining water.

Even after the swimming the birthday treats continued. Our thumbs worked in soliciting a lift home and drinks flowed as the sun set and dinner started cooking. Thinking that dinner was nearly ready we checked on the rice and found that rice doesn’t cook with if the gas isn’t alight, and the gas doesn’t light if the solenoid doesn’t work; and the solenoid was resolutely not working, so crunchy rice it was for a big birthday dinner*.

Having explored by foot we were now about to explore by car and as usual we opted for the cheapest option. Handing over our dollars we were introduced to our car which was devoid of any mod cons (such as working manual windows, a reverse gear, matching wheels, effective brakes or tread on the tyres) but it did have an extensive collection of dents scratches and rust patches.

As the wheels wobbled uncontrollably and the steering wheel scarily shook under braking, we gingerly made our way around the island. After some exciting visits to marine stores**, boat workshops, pneumatic dealers and steel fabricators the POI’s could be checked off.

Ditching our car at the end of a dirt track we didn’t have to worry about it being scratched or dented and we set off on foot to find ‘The Blue Room’. Skirting around beaches, over hills and through scrub a cliff plunged into the water which we knew was above an enclosed cave where the water shines and turns everything blue.

Literally taking a ‘leap of faith’, hoping that we’d be able to scramble back up the sharp vertical surfaces, we flew into the clear water and searched for the cave. Diving down we spotted the entrance finned with all our might and hoped that we’d surface to air and not razor-sharp rocks which would puncture our heads and deprive our lungs of air.

Surfacing inside the cave we could breathe but our breath was taken away by the blueness of everything. All the light that entered the cave could only get in by coming through the water and with the water removing everything in the red spectrum we were bathed in blueness. The Blue Room was living up to its name.

The next big POI involved another dawn get up as we wanted to scale the highest peak on the island. Alarms sounded at 4.45 and climbing into our budget car we hoped that the lights would cut through the gloom. Thankfully one sidelight gently glowed giving us more confidence than it should and we made it to the base of the mountain just as the sun was starting to heat everything up.

It was all smiles at the bottom and as we gained height those smiles were replaced with sweaty brows and sweatier clothes. The walking changed to scrambling which morphed into climbing and simple footholds were replaced by foot, hand, elbow and knee holds. Reaching the top, the hills far below us, looked like they’d been covered in undulating green icing and the Caribbean Sea shone in the background.

With this view all around us we could initiate ‘Tom Tarquin’ and Karmen into our very special ‘Grapefruit point club’. There is nothing better than going through the zen process of peeling a grapefruit and then devouring if after a big hike in the sun with a view that stretches on forever. Peel and devour we did.

With our final big POI behind us nature was slowly taking over everything as we explored abandoned plantation houses, derelict magnesium processing operations and copper mines. These were very much off the trodden tourist path as we were left picking cactus needles out of our arms, thorns from our shores and dust out of our socks.

As we returned our car, we felt that it was almost time for it to be retired to Bonaire**, new squeaks emanated from places that shouldn’t squeak and worrying hot smells oozed from under the bonnet. Our trusty car had however enabled us to explore Curaçao and confirm that the ‘C’ in its name stood for car.

* Thankfully we had a spare in store and it was then just a question of fitting it and making sure that an explosive gas didn’t leak and blow the boat up.

** Where our superhero ‘Tom Tarquin’ nearly lost use of all his cognitive abilities at the sight of new plastic fuel tanks.

*** We learnt that the road rules in Bonaire are significantly looser than in Curaçao so when a car become too unroadworthy for Curaçao (if that’s actually possible) they get shipped to Bonaire.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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