A Wreck and a Rock

The Natural Bridge, Aruba (2000)

For many visitors to tropical islands, the favorite activity is “none”.  These guests are content to sprawl out on the beach or by the hotel pool day after day until their skin is a deep shade of maroon.  Sally and I like the tropics, but our approach is to slather on sunscreen and keep moving.  Often that involves being in the water (as opposed to beside it), or exploring the island.  Here are a couple of examples from our April, 2000 visit to Aruba:

We boarded a small boat and were transported to the site of a shipwreck.  It was a German ship called the Antilla, which had been scuttled by its captain at the outbreak of World War II.  The fish population was impressive there, and included the biggest parrot fish I ever saw.

Unfortunately, the waters around the Antilla were also teeming with human beings.  The cruise ship Majesty of the Seas had docked the night before, so there were presently a lot of tourists in Aruba.  There were 5 dive boats like ours picking up moorings around the Antilla, which meant there were probably 150-200 snorkelers in the water.  It was difficult to swim without bumping into someone…

Later that day we negotiated with a taxi driver to take us to the other side of the island to see the so-called Natural Bridge.  Incidentally, the official currency of Aruba is the Florin, but in every instance, prices were quoted in U.S. dollars.  We piled into the cabbie’s battered old Toyota station wagon.  There were no seat belts, and it had almost 180,000 miles on the odometer.  That’s a lot of driving on an island that is only 19 miles long and a few miles wide.

It took a little over 20 minutes to get to the Natural Bridge — the last couple of miles were on a dirt road.  Along the way we saw thousands of little stacks of rocks which had been piled one on top of another.  We later heard that these stone piles are called “cairns”, and are put there as monuments or tributes or wishes for good luck.

The Natural Bridge appeared to be volcanic rock which had been undercut by the sea, forming an arch about 100 feet long.  We spent a few minutes checking it out and taking photos of it.  Our driver was tacking on $3 for waiting time, so we admired the Bridge as quickly as we could.

We met up with the driver in the nearby snack stand.  He more or less insisted that we should buy something.  We bought smoothies, which we drank on the ride back to town.  At times it wasn’t easy to get the cups to our mouths while traveling at a high rate of speed on an awful road.

When we returned to the dock, I gave the driver $40, even though the previously agreed-upon price had been $35.  He was happy to get the extra money, and after the way he drove, we were happy to be alive.

Unfortunately, the Natural Bridge did not survive much longer:  It collapsed on September 2, 2005.

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