Thursday, January 3, 2013

Aruba, Part 3

Warning: Lots of pictures today. I could spend the rest of my life documenting this trip on my blog if I only go 2 pictures at a time.

So our second day in Aruba, we woke up and drove to Bright Bakery to pick up one of my favorite treats of all time--pan keshi (cheese bread). It's got Gouda cheese stuffed in the middle of a loaf of slightly sweet bread. (side note: I'm glad we got it that day. We tried a day or two later, and Christmas Eve, and both days they were sold out by the time we got there.) Anyway, bread in tow, we headed to the Hooi Berg (which I had always believed to be the highest point in Aruba, until we went to Arikok National Park on this trip and found out that the highest points are actually within the national park. Boo.) There are stairs all the way to the top, and it takes about half an hour if you don't stop for breaks. It's worth the hike, in my opinion, because you get a good view of most of the island, including the shorelines, the refinery, all the red-tiled roofs, and the cactus. 

The Hooi Berg looks much less puny in real life. Bad angle, I guess.

A view from the top.

Another look from the top.

Made it!
After our hike, we decided to stop by "the Waf." I don't know if I'm spelling that right, because I've never seen it written out. The Waf is where you would probably spend a lot of time if you were a tourist on a cruise ship--it is a strip of little outdoor shops near where the cruise ships come in for the day. It feels just about like any other flea market with trinkets and souvenirs. We stopped by to pick up some gifts, but mostly in hopes that we would run into my dear friends Carlo and Jela, who I got to teach as a missionary years ago. And we were not disappointed! Jela and her son, Carl, were there running their shop. They sell beautiful hand-painted canvases. It was fun to see them again.

Across from the Waf, in front of a fancy shopping area.

with Jela and Carl! 
 We spent some time taking silly pictures and trying pastechi--a typical local food. A pastechi is basically a fried calzone filled with Dutch cheese, or sometimes with cheese and meat. Yum.

pastechi. tastes better than it looks here.

And finally, we headed off to do more snorkeling. As mentioned in an earlier post, we first snorkeled at Baby Beach, which is a fairly popular spot to snorkel. On this, our second time snorkeling, we went to the far west end of the island (before you reach Arashi Beach), which was a spot recommended to us by Bill (a native). Chad was more impressed with the snorkeling here than at Baby Beach, but I got kind of cold and my mask wasn't working great, so it wasn't my best day. But we also stopped by one of the shipwrecks on our way back to San Nicolas, and snorkeled there. It was pretty awesome to snorkel right around the ship, where lots and lots of fishes like to hang out. 

While I'm talking about snorkeling, I'll share what I learned about snorkeling in Aruba. Just in case you're ever in Aruba, or snorkeling in Aruba. :)

Where and How to Snorkel in Aruba:

1. Ask local people where to go. There are certain places marked on the map that attract a lot of tourists, that don't seem to actually be the places where you can see the most fish. A good example of this is Baby Beach. Lots of tourists snorkel in the cove there, and you can see a fair amount of fish. However, someone recommended that we drive just past the Baby Beach parking lot to an area where this is a narrow channel flowing towards Baby Beach. We hopped in and just floated down for half a mile or so. We saw SO MANY FISH. 

2. Sometimes, just stay in one place and stop swimming, but keep your head underwater. I'm not sure if the fish forget you are there, or decide you're not a threat, but sometimes they come out from their hiding places if you just idle for a minute or two.

3. It seems like you find more fish closer to the reefs, so if you are swimming in an inlet with a barrier reef, you might just swim along the reef. 

4. Our favorite places, in order: 1. The channel just east of Baby Beach (tons of fish, NO swimming required, but you do have to walk through some rocks to get to some deep-enough water). 2. Mangel Halto (feels like a neighborhood beach, big area to cover and plenty of fish in some areas). 3. Baby Beach (nice area, especially if you want to lay on the beach when you're done snorkeling). 4. The beach between the shipwreck and Arashi Beach, near the west end of the island (I can't remember much about this one, but I think there was a nice beach area to lay out on and plenty of fish).  

5. It would be so awesome to have an underwater camera. We saw so many amazing fish and we wished we could get pictures. Although, sometimes it is nice to just enjoy something without focusing on documenting all the time. 

6. Your experience could be totally different than ours depending on the time of day, the weather, or your personal preferences. Just explore and have fun!

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