Trip 28 -- Curaçao Walk
Day 1: Airport to Tera Cora
Saturday, November 6, 2021
Today: 12352 steps/10.38 km/6.45 mi/1h 40m
The driver of the 107 bus to Newark airport -- the first run of the day after the overnight hiatus -- seemed determined to beat the schedule. Signed lane closures outside the Lincoln Tunnel were merely encouragements promising no traffic immediately ahead. I had cartoon visions of the bus rounding the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike with its right tires in the air.
The plane's wheels took longer to rise; our routing was revised twice as we waited to depart. According to the captain, all the Caribbean-bound flights were taking different paths today, no doubt due to some wind or otherwise undesirable weather. Once we reached our relatively high cruising altitude of about 40,000 feet, he assured us, it would be a smooth flight, albeit an unusually long one of almost five hours. New Jersey never looked so good under bright sunshine and a cloudless sky, so of course most everyone kept their window shades closed.
I opened my copy of "Enjoy Curaçao," the guidebook -- there aren't many covering the island -- that I had ordered hastily on Wednesday, when I realized that my only printed matter was four pages of a pocket Caribbean guide given to passengers on a Hapag-Lloyd cruise I worked a few years ago, and those pages were in German. The Curaçao guide had about as many reroutings as my airplane, but it finally left Staten Island yesterday and reached me by the evening.
It was one of those books that promise an abundance of everything: "In most restaurants, the cuisine is international and includes most types of food" and during carnival time, "Everywhere you look you can eat, drink and enjoy the music and the joy being had everywhere." Much of the text read like a third-grade research project: "One of the places on the island to meet each other at the weekend is Caracas Bay. It is a meeting place for many families. Until late in the evening they make music and enjoy food from the grill." And much like our captain, it invited me to "sit back, relax and get to know Curaçao." Why does everyone want me to sit back and relax? It's harder to get a good view out the window that way. I'd rather hunch forward in excitement.
Yet through the fluff were facts that started to distinguish Curaçao from the other ABC Islands. It's the "most authentic and largest" of the three, and it's the most diverse, with more than 100 represented nationalities. After the Dutch formed the West India Company and defeated the Spanish in the early 1600s, they traded in salt and slaves -- a dark period with which the country must still reckon -- and built forts. The proximity to Venezuela meant a long industry of oil refining, which, as in Aruba, petered out in the second half of the 20th century. Aruba was the first of the three islands to become independent after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010; Curaçao was second, and Bonaire remains a Dutch municipality.
When the plane touched down, almost an hour late, some people applauded, including the group wearing "Curaçao Vibes" T-shirts. A flight attendant announced, "You should all be clapping, because that was the longest flight ever. Welcome to Curaçao -- I'm sure I've been pronouncing that wrong all this time. It's my first time here. We're jealous because you're all going on vacation and we're going back to Newark. I had a fun flight. Did you guys? See you back here next Saturday, if you're flying with us." United goes just once a week; I'll go back on American, but with a connection in Miami.
The Curaçao Vibes group had enough carry-on bags to mount an Amazonian expedition, with corresponding sluggishness. Eventually the walkway toward immigration widened such that I could slither by them, and after a couple of minutes I was outside, relishing the tropical heat that I had longed for after nearly two full days of winter-coat temperatures in New York.
Like Aruba, Curaçao is oriented from the northwest to the southeast and has its main city -- really its only city -- midway along the southern length. Whereas I walked Aruba clockwise, I'll go counterclockwise around Curaçao. The airport is on the north side, and I proceeded along the scruffy access road toward the main highway heading northwest. There was enough of a shoulder for walking, albeit a rocky one. A shrill bark reminded me of the dogs in Aruba, and I palmed a few rocks for security.
I reached the highway (simply named "Way to the west point" in Dutch) and turned right. There were occasional restaurants and snack bars, one of which, "Super'b," brought to mind the disapproval I feel whenever I see "Super Bowl" written as one word. I took a picture of the sign, incurring the wrath of someone sitting behind it. He followed me for a few minutes, shouting, but, encumbered by half a bottle of rum and the effects of the other half, he eventually gave up.
Somewhere around here would have been a snack bar called the White Dog, patronized by a main character in "The Navigator's Treasure." I didn't see such a snack bar, but I did pass a white dog, who approached me and barked until I raised a rock and it cowered down a hill away from the road.
I was walking in the same direction as the traffic; to my surprise, there was always just enough of a margin and often quite a wide one. This was the only road west, and when I come back the other way, I want to return on the other side, so as to complete as close to a loop as possible and not retrace or cross my original path.
After an hour and a half I turned left toward the Kunuku Aqua Resort, a Wyndham hotel. I'd chosen it because it was one of two places within walking range of the airport toward the west (the other required a prepaid, nonrefundable rate, which turned me off) and because a few months ago -- perhaps around the time I finally came up with a scheme to assign each of my logins a memorable and specific password and remembered I had not only a Wyndham account but a Wyndham credit card -- I realized I had three nights' worth of Wyndham points set to expire in early 2022. The Kunuku happened to be an all-inclusive, which might have meant a watered-down experience as far as culture was concerned -- but then again, I found myself at a Russian all-inclusive on Zanzibar, so perhaps it would still have some character.
Just before the entrance a quartet of dogs emerged from their premises and proclaimed my unwelcomeness. I crossed the road and held up a couple of rocks. The dogs stopped their approach but didn't back away. I was next door to a resort that could easily be accessed from a bus stop across the Weg Naar Westpunt. Were the dogs really that unaccustomed to people walking past?
I checked in and assured the receptionist that she had given me a proper amount of information -- directions to my room and the pools' locations and the food hours -- leaving me to read the rest at my leisure. My room key was an electronic sensor on my wristband. This was a system I could get behind. I hate hotel key cards -- they're far less reliable than real metal keys -- but this one worked and there was no chance of forgetting it.
Many of the pools could be entered via snaky waterslides. Those weren't my thing, but I approved of the "robot bar" just outside my room. I'd scan my wristband (there was no charge, but there was a limit of two drinks per 20 minutes) and the giant white machine would activate the necessary dispensers and present me with a fresh Bacardi and Coke. I wondered whether it expected a tip.
I had a swim and then the buffet dinner -- lifeless salads, cold seafood drenched in cream, chicken cordon bleu, smoked sausage, stewed catfish, excessively salty mussels -- and joined a group of four Dutch visitors for after-dinner drinks. One of them had also been put off by the four dogs near the resort's entrance, and they had arrived by car. I'm excited to be heading to Westpunt tomorrow, but no doubt I'll have to start the journey armed with a handful of rocks.
Go on to day 2