My worst fear about an all inclusive vacation has always been that it would turn out to be my personal version of Groundhog Day. You know, the Bill Murray movie where he is a weatherman sent to Punxsutawany, Pennsylvania to report on Groundhog Day and every day, he wakes up to relive Groundhog Day.
I feared that if I was confined to the resort for the entire duration of our stay, I would, in very short order, morph into Bill Murray's character, albeit a much more pleasant incarnation. I was on holidays after all! I expected my daily routine to vary only to the extent that I would change my T-shirt every few days and that I would alternate my breakfast selection between pancakes and French toast.
It was this fear, among other factors, that led me to choose Curacao as our holiday destination. In addition to its wonderful weather, scenery and culture, it was safe. One felt comfortable leaving the resort to travel about the island independantly and experience its marvels first hand.
When my wife and I felt ourselves falling into a predictable routine, we would shake things up a bit and head off the resort. Although I must say, that contrary to my original trepidation, those predictable routines were not as disagreeable as I had initially imagined. In fact, much to my amazement, there were times, and they became increasingly frequent as the holiday wore on, where the fear of the"predictable" actually became the much "sought after".
By the end of the holiday, I had shamefully succumbed to the Patron Saint of Indolence so that it would not be unheard of to find me lying, on or off a recliner, under the shade of some tropical vegetation, peacefully napping with a drink to one side and an open book strategically positioned over my face.
Having laid aside my various fears and concerns, I can now move on to highlight some of the more memorable things we did and saw when we felt the urge to purge the hedonism of the resort and simply fend for ourselves off the resort. The result was an interesting holiday which combined island exploration with increasingly lengthy bouts of indolence on the resort.
One particular morning, we attempted to arrange a rental vehicle for 2 days through one of the car rental agencies in the lobby of our hotel. Both agencies advised that no vehicles would be available for several days. Since we were scheduled to leave in several days, and since I had resisted taking an "organized tour" up to this point and since they had now all sold out, there was suddenly an urgent need to seek alternative arrangements. With the help of our hotel concierge, we were able to obtain a car through a rental agency not affiliated with those on the resort. And it was cheaper!
The whole procedure to get the car seemed a bit clandestine. We were required to wait at a predetermined pick up point, actually the middle of a driveway leading to a competing resort, a short distance, but visually screened, from our resort. The reason for this, of course, was to evade detection by and avoid confrontation with our resort rental agencies because we didn't rent a car through them. This, of course, disregards the fact that they created the situation because they didn't have a car for us to rent in the first place. Notwithstanding the nuanced Seinfeldia in all of this, the rental went well.
I had great plans to tour the north and centre of the island as well as a neighbourhood closer to our hotel on the south west coast. And so, we set off for our first stop - Shete Boka (Seven Inlets) National Park.
Curacao is a very arid island replete with a variety of cacti. There were times when I felt like I was driving in Arizona.
Shete Boca National Park is located on the North West coast of Curacao. The drive through the centre of the island to get there was pleasant and the roads well maintained.
After a pleasant hour or so drive, we arrived at Shete Boca National Park. There were several sights I wanted to see. The following photos show two of these. The first photo shows one of the giant splashes at Boca Pistol. The configuration of the coast in this location and the speed and size of the waves coming in results in huge splashes, in some cases resembling geyers. The second photo was taken near a cave and plateau adjacent to the ocean in another part of the park.
From the National Park, we drove south-west to the opposite side of the island because I wanted to visit a unique beach that is frequented by divers as well as snorkelers. The drive was pleasant, although we did notice several abandoned dwellings and other buildings including this house which I found picturesque.
The main attraction of the beach that we were going to, besides the crystal clear waters, is the sea turtles. They show up to feed on the cast offs of the day's catch thrown into the sea by the local fisermen. The place is called Playa Piscada and it is truly idyllic. Unfortunately, we were running late and I didn't get a chance to swim with the turtles. Here are two photos which capture the setting as well as the fishermen at work on their catch.
From Playa Piscada we meandered our way south-east towards the centre of the island in search of the Jan Thiel Salt Flats to see the flocks of pink flamingos and other wading birds in their natural environment. The following photos have been taken from my previous Curacao post:
On the second day of the rental, I drove south-east of our resort to visit another part of the island. The beaches and resorts there were beautiful, too. However, I did find two images intriguing. One was a derrick of some sort out at sea near Caracasbaai Beach which, although off shore, still took away from the beauty of the beach. The other was another beautiful wall mural on a blank wall near a beach parking lot where I stopped.
There were many other sights we visited with the rental car, although there was plenty do do within walking distance of our resort. I've already posted about the Curacao Sea Aquarium and won't do so now. There were a few other interesting areas just off the resort and in the vicinity of the Aquarium which was about about a 15 minute walk away.
(Top left) Here is a photo I took of an osprey on the seawall off our resort with a fish it had just caught. (Middle photo) A short walk beyond the south-east end of our beach was a scuba diving shop which also offered excursions and lessons. The photo shows a couple of individuals in a group getting a lesson before venturing into the nearby coral reef. The shot on the far right is of a Curacao Coast Guard Helicopter patrolling the south coast of the island. These helicopters and their seabound counterparts could be seen at various time of the day offshore. Venezuela is a mere 40 miles to the south and with the political upheaval going on in that country along with on-going drug smuggling, they are taking no chances.
Closer to the Aquarium there was a shopping complex along with a wonderful beach (Mambo Beach) and several secluded resorts. Here are some photos of this beautiful area:
Our most frequented destination off site was, of course, the beautiful capital city of Willemstad whose historic centre and waterfront were designated a World Heritage site in 1997. For this, we did not need a car. There was a shuttle from the resort into town two times a day. We went several times and stayed the whole day.
The following photo was taken with my cell phone as we were driving over the Queen Juliana Bridge. It provides an overview of the main parts of the capital city. On the left side is the city centre and waterfront. The right side of the photo reveals a small portion of the north part of the city called "Otrabanda, and, in the centre spanning the water, is the floating Queen Emma bridge, which links the south side of town to the north side.
One of the pleasures of Willemstad is simply walking around and taking in the beautiful architecture, historic sites and the wall murals which adorn the sides of many buildings.
Above are some of the colourful wall murals to be found within a few blocks of the waterfront.
Below are a few photos of some of the architecture that makes walking about so pleasant.
Willemstad also features a floating market. The market stalls themselves are on terra firma as you can see below and feature a wide assortment of fruits, vegetables and fresh fish. The market get it's "floating" descriptor from the fact that the merchants arrive from Venezuela by boat which they "park" in the water behind the stalls. The merchants often stay for several months and create a little "Spanish" community in the heart of the city. The merchants provide a valuable service by supplying many types of fresh fruits and vegetables which are difficult to grow in commercial quantities on Curacao due to its very dry climate.
Willemstad has the oldest Jewish congregation in the new world. The Jewish community in Curaçao dates back to 1651, when Sephardic Jews from Portugal settled in Punda and established the Congregation Mikve Israel.
Here are a few other photos taken in the heart of Willemstad.
All in all, my wife and I had a wonderul "all inclusive" vacation in Curacao. It is a destination that we will definitely return to and would highly recommend to anyone.
So as they say in Papamiento - Mashi Danki (Thank you very much) and Ayo (Goodbye) until next time.