Sat 7 Dec 2013 20:41
When we were in Trinidad we ordered some more solar panels (having realised that in the tropics a fridge is a necessity not a luxury!), some months later they finally arrived in Trinidad and about 10 days later the company we ordered through extracted them from customs to find - they were smashed. It looked like they'd been hit by a forklift. I was in the Uk at the time, so Phil phoned up asking if I could ship some back with me on the flight. A morning of calls to airlines and lots of helpful advice from Wind and Sun (owned by the lovely Steve Wade) later and we concluded that it wasn't going to be possible. Meanwhile Phil had sourced some that could be shipped to Curacao, so here we are, and, surprisingly, here they were too, waiting for us. It's another of the Dutch Islands, with a similar feel to Bonaire, but much more populated (about 10 times) and built up.
We went to check in by bus the afternoon we arrived and found Willemstad had a busy city feel. It's actually the twin cites of Punda and Otrabanda, one each side of the river. They are connected by a huge road bridge, a floating pedestrian bridge and a ferry. The pedestrian bridge is on what looks like a sequence of little boats, with the furthest one having an outboard motor to swing the whole thing across the river in order to let boats up the river. When this happens the ferries take over and get the people across.
Floating, swinging pedestrian bridge and giant road bridge.
You can see the pedestrian bridge swinging here:
Customs is on one side and immigration is on the other so one needs to leave plenty of time to check in. The customs were very friendly and had computerised systems. They scanned in our passports and boat documents, all very efficient. One is used to the customs and immigration people being armed in these countries (good job too considering they have to deal with drug smugglers) but I found the 'useful box' left on the desk we were sat at a trifle disconcerting.
In contrast the immigration needed hand written forms filled in in triplicate and they hadn't seemed to have heard of computers. It was a bit frustrating as we were giving the same information to both, if only a fibre optic cable had been strung over the river perhaps the information could have been sent from one to the other, saving us a journey and much writing.
Colourful buses and a secret not-to-be seen sculpture on the way to immigration.
So far it feels more Dutch here, but however hard you try, you can't stop the Caribbean being Caribbean...