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Date: 03 Dec 2013 21:41:00
Title: Geets and shoaps in Bonaire

Phil, the Tulu's and I went to explore. The first step was getting a hire car. Unfortunately, enquiries in the town centre were fairly fruitless - they wanted $80 US a day and they didn't have one anyway so we trekked off to the out of town shopping area where, fortunately, we found, not one, not two but four different hire car places! Unfortunately, all of them were closed. It was about 1pm and it seems lunch time lasts 'till 2 so the four of us sat on the pavement outside Budget, hunting some shade and feeling that breakfast had been a long time ago. Fortunately, Sara Tulu (Yes, I know, it's complicated, but read Sarah for Sara and take up the spelling issue with Sara Tulu's Mum, it's not Sara Tulu's fault!) came to the rescue! In an excellent Mary Poppins type move she produced: rolls, cheese and onion crisps and gherkins from her bag. So sitting on the dusty pavement we constructed sandwiches and made a new discovery: unfortunately gherkins and crisp sandwiches make you very thirsty when in the tropics soon after midday. I was designated the task of finding water, and, as I'd left my dowsing stick behind (not much use on a boat) I set off in the direction of a sign that said 'Mini Market'. This was an excellent place, but unfortunately only sold cheap clothes, fans and suitcases. I was tempted by the fans but as I was unsure of where we would plug it in I continued on my quest. Fortunately, a few stores down there was a rather big man sitting on a table which had a rather big motorcycle leaning against it. Motorcycles, I thought, that's a good sign so I asked him if he knew where I could buy water. This kindly gentleman sent me in a workshop to look for his wife who unfortunately who only spoke Du-ish (or was it Span-uch? Papiamento the mix of Dutch and Spanish they speak here). She didn't seem to understand the situation so he came in and filled a pint glass with water from the tap, added some ice and gave it me. I downed it and begged for more "For my husband" gesturing in the general direction of Budget. So, triumphant, I crossed the streams of traffic returned to the parched pavement dwellers and distributed aid.

In this way we survived the terrible wait for the Budget Manager, who delighted us by saying: yes! He had a car, but it was a big one, a pickup truck, a brand new one, but we'd want a pickup anyway wouldn't we? Unfortunately, it was at the airport. Fortunately, he would drive us there.

The wondrous brand new pickup truck

So, over the next few days, with the help of PocketEarth on my iPhone, we set out to discover the island. South of us there are a series of salt flats where the main industry of Bonaire, salt production, takes place. Flamingoes hang out here because there are little crustaceans that can survive the brine. It's eating these that make the flamingoes pink. 

Surreal salt mountains and pink lagoons to the South


In the past it was slaves that worked the salt and the huts they had to live in, too small to stand up in, are still there. Going down the coast there are different coloured obelisks marking the old loading stations. They used to hoist a coloured flag when a ship approached, showing which coloured obelisk to go to.

  

You can see in the obelisk pic just how clear the water is and how close the reef drop off is. All around the island are over a hundred dive and snorkel sites, simply marked by yellow painted rocks at the side of the road. You can just drive yourself around and stop anywhere to explore.

To the West we found a big sheltered lagoon, a haven for wind surfers. We stopped for a Corona (with lime of course) and drank in the colours as we watched the waves break out on the reef.


To the North of the Island is land set aside for a National Park with quite wonderful landscapes. They vary from dense thorn and cacti to barren lava shelves on the Northern coast. We were lucky enough to see a white breasted hawk, one of only two nesting pairs on the Island, along with a curious bird called a Caracara ( http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caracara_cheriway_-Brevard_Zoo-8a.jpg ) with a great hairstyle.

   

Green tailed lizards and stripy tailed Iguanas were everywhere, skittering out of the way as we walked. Some visitors were throwing grapes to the lizards who were very keen to eat them but unable to get their mouths quite wide enough so an impromptu football game ensued until one of the bigger ones managed to break into the ball.

   
Sara Tulu makes a friend.

The map told us that in the North East there were caves and Amerindians rock paintings to be seen, Sara Tulu and I were quite keen to see them so we set off. I should explain that there are only about 4 tarmac roads out from Kralendijk, all others peter out to dirt roads as soon as you leave the town. These are marked as grey on the maps and can be quite exciting to drive on. The ones we were headed for weren't even marked as grey, they were just dotted lines. It wasn't so much a matter of following the road as dodging the rocks, holes, cacti, donkeys and goats. Well, we think they were goats. Here in the Caribbean we have found it quite hard to figure out which are sheep and which are goats as the sheep look very goaty and the goats look quite sheepish. Sara Tulu has it sussed however: tail up, it's a goat; tail down, it's a sheep. As anyone who has raised children knows, when driving it is obligatory to shout out whenever one drives past an animal (as in "Look horsey!"). I was conscientiously fulfilling this role when a mid tail situation occurred and I called out, in a moment of confusion "Geets!". From then on they were geets or shoaps to us. Chris went on to propose a complicated system where upon we varied the vowel sound depending on how many we had seen but, although an admirable proposal, it fell by the wayside.

Chris trying to find the road. I think.

Phil, having spent part of his life in Africa and most of his life in the wilds of Scotland, is totally unfazed by off road driving so we bounced off on our hunt, feeling encouraged by the occasional tracks of other cars, and back tracking now and again when there seemed no reasonable way forwards. Our brand-new-pickup did wonderfully: leaping canyons, scaling rocks and breathing in past thorn bushes. Listen out for the nails on blackboard type sound effects:


We did eventually find some caves, which were quite magical with stalagmites and stalactites, however we failed to find any ancient inscriptions. 



But we all agreed that the pleasure was in the journeying as much as in the arrival.





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