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Trip 28 -- Curaçao Walk

Day 3: Westpunt to Coral Estate
Monday, November 8, 2021

Today: 34280 steps/27.06 km/16.81 mi/4h 53m
Total: 87498 steps/70.78 km/43.98 mi/12h 12m

"Another day in paradise!" David Monahan proclaimed as I took a morning stroll over to the fossil-lined underwater coral cave, admiring the iguanas perched on the fence that separated the Marazul property from the sea.

"Can't complain!"

Their wicker seat was back in place, the cushions restored. As I walked back to my cottage, he had a surprise for me: a choice between two of their other books. I picked their newest, "The Breda Madonna," the story of a mysterious painting that takes place largely in Boston. He signed it and offered to mail it, but it wouldn't be too much for me to carry it for four days.

"You really did make our day. We're not flocked with visitors," he said. We agreed to stay in touch.

I departed. There were a few other walkers, and very little car traffic, until Westpunt fizzled out and I was on my own again.

I thought about why yesterday's segment had been so taxing. On previous walks I'd gone far longer than 33 kilometers in a day -- sometimes one and a half times that amount -- and been ready to resume the next morning. Today I'd gotten out of bed moaning. My feet hurt and my legs were sore. What was different?

I suppose I'm out of practice. It's been almost three months since Malta, and I usually do a couple of long walks around New York to get ready to reenter Abecedaria. I didn't think to do that this time.

Maybe my shoes are wearing through. This is their third or fourth walk, and the stony roadsides haven't helped. I could use more padding.

There have been mental challenges, too. Since I left the airport on Saturday I've been mostly on one road, with few features between towns. There haven't been turns to look forward to or many communities along the way. And where is the water? The road to Westpunt was inland, with only a couple of sea glimpses.

And sometime yesterday MapMyWalk went silent. She was no longer counting off the kilometers and keeping me on pace. I don't know why she became so reticent, but I missed her.

Today she was feeling verbose again, and that helped immensely. I might have preferred a more distinctive voice -- Bernadette Peters's, perhaps, or maybe Judy Sheindlin's -- but at least I could anticipate her encouragement. And today there were partial cloud cover and wind, which made walking that much more comfortable.

A shortcut off the main road brought me up past the Landhuis Knip, one of many yellow mansions scattered around the country that used to be the domiciles of slave owners. Knip has been turned into a museum on the revolt led by a slave named Tula, who, inspired by a similar revolt by the slaves of Haiti, encouraged those around the island to join his rebellion in 1795. An example was made of Tula: His bones were broken and he was publicly beheaded. Slaves on Curaçao wouldn't be free for another 68 years. Today many of the mansions' premises contain a statue of a fist and a broken chain.

Today's walk was much hillier than I expected. I'm sure if you plug Westpunt and Coral Estate into Google Maps, it will tell you that their altitudes are but a few meters apart. But I can assure you that is not the case. Hills surprised me at nearly every turn, always sloping upward. If I walked back to Westpunt tomorrow, I'm sure it would be uphill in the other direction as well.

I stopped at the Santa Cruz mini-market for a liter and a half of water and some aloe-pomegranate juice, and I stopped at the next mini-market, maybe an hour later, for another liter and a half of water and a quart of limeade. When I stopped, I was sweating. Around ten minutes later, I was chilly. I'd forgotten that aspect of exercise. Runners wind down by walking. What are walkers meant to do?

One thing I did, finally, was apply sunscreen. I'd let the wind and the cloud cover fool me into thinking it wasn't necessary, even though I know that's not the case. I just couldn't deal with the cream running down my face. But by mini-market number two, I felt how red my forehead had gotten -- a hue that would later stun the receptionist and my server at the Coral Estate resort.

I left the main road and made my way the four kilometers to St. Willibrordus, where someone with a sense of humor had erected a "Williwood" sign in the style of the giant Hollywood sign. This is the site of a saliña or salt marsh, which was used for salt extraction until the 1960s. The saltpans remain, and the saliña is now used by foraging flamingoes. Opposite the saliña and the "Williwood" sign was a restaurant, where I had a sandwich of spicy meatballs and gave my feet a long rest before the final four kilometers to Coral Estate.

Those four kilometers, to my dismay, included a mountain. The Coral Estate resort was on the beach, but the checkpoint was near the top. There were two gates for drivers, one beside the security booth for visitors and one on the side for residents. I might have walked around them, but the guard wanted my credentials.

"I have a booking here tonight," I said.

"Do you have some identification for me?"

I produced my passport and he wrote down the information.

"Follow the road all the way down," he said.

"Are you going to open the gate?"

He laughed.

I didn't. "You're not going to open the gate?" I saw no reason why I should go all the way around, even though it would have been an extra ten steps at most. It was out of my way. They couldn't accommodate walkers?

He opened the gate.

It was two kilometers downhill to the front desk, where a friendly receptionist gave me a drink voucher and showed me to my room, on the ground floor next to the pool.

I swam in the sea, letting out moans of bliss, and then in the pool. The sunset was poor because of clouds, but it was pleasant to sip my complimentary boozy punch on the terrace.

Dinner was on the beach, at the Karakter restaurant. There was a printed menu, but I took a chance and had the five-course surprise tasting menu. Pumpkin featured in most of the dishes: pumpkin salad with bacon, shrimp, and curry chili; pork belly with parsnip and tomato salsa; tuna with Spanish rice, edamame, and pickled pumpkin; and hanger steak over diced stewed pumpkin. Dessert was a sgroppino, a drink made with vanilla ice cream and prosecco.

I was getting looks from the couple at the next table. They had seen me walking, twice, as they drove along from the beach. "The first time, I thought, wow, it's hot for walking!" he said. "And the second time, I thought, wow, that's the same guy and he's still going!"

They weren't staying at Coral Estate, just having dinner before finishing up their 12-day trip and heading back to the Netherlands tomorrow. They worked in social media, but he had the unfortunate timing of having opened the Big Belly Bar & Garden a month before the pandemic started, and he received no help from the Dutch government. The place survived, though.

Coral Estate is lovely but I'm not sure what I'd do after tonight -- maybe try snorkeling again. Or stay by the pool and read the latest D.C. Monahan novel. I'm sure my feet would approve of that plan.

Go on to day 4