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Trip 28 -- Curaçao Walk

Day 5: Willemstad to Santa Catharina
Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Today: 33081 steps/24.65 km/15.32 mi/4h 56m
Total: 155194 steps/121.60 km/75.56 mi/22h 14m

"Ooh!" I said to no one in particular as I exited the Academy Hotel, for the morning was surprisingly cool and breezy.

I had a quick look around the floating market, which is something of a misnomer, as all the selling happens on land, with the boats anchored behind the market. There were a couple of fish vendors, plus fruits and vegetables brought from more-fertile Venezuela. And of course kitschy souvenirs. I started the day with a bacalao pastechi (cod empanada) and then began my walk.

Today's segment was everything I'd been missing in the previous four days. First of all, the weather was glorious. Whereas yesterday the clouds never found their way in front of the sun, today they ambushed it, letting it peek through for just a few minutes at a time.

Second, today's first hour was near the water. I walked through Pietermaai, past Rozendaels, and along a stretch of beach. I veered north into a suburban area with happy signs of life: people having breakfast on the porch, a teacher instructing young boys to garden next to a school, Caribbean band music emanating from a house. There were sidewalks and shade. Even the dogs were quiet. (One was ceramic, so that helped.)

I didn't love that I was following a road signed toward "MontaƱa," but the ascent wasn't bad. I stopped at one of the many roadside stands for an avocado-mango smoothie. The sidewalk briefly disappeared in a congested zone, but a shoulder good enough for walking soon manifested itself.

I reached the Seru Grandi area, which is about as far east as one can walk on Curaçao. There may be a trail by the old quarry, but I couldn't tell whether it was restricted to residents of the Santa Barbara Plantation. There's an Eastpoint, but it seems to be accessible only by boat.

I was content to get as far as I did. I strolled through the Den Paradera Herb Garden and saw the Laraha oranges, whose peels are used to make Curaçao liqueur, as well as various types of cactus and herbs used to treat headaches, eczema, hemorrhoids, and other ailments.

There weren't many lunch options, but I found passable Chinese food at Felis. I ordered a mixed nasi goreng (Indonesian-style fried rice with meat, topped with a fried egg) and received a polystyrene package so heavy I wouldn't have loaded it onto a camel. Bean sprouts exploded in my face when I opened it. I ate most of the beef and chicken -- I even found one shrimp (and one hair) -- and called it quits long before there was any noticeable decrease in the mountain's volume.

It wasn't until the last kilometer of the day that two snarling dogs ran after me on a side street. I had gotten complacent and wasn't carrying rocks, but batting my water bottle in the air and shouting "Go away!" in an unintelligible frenzy made them back off in bewilderment.

For a five-night trip, I've had a wide variety of accommodations: the Kunuku Aqua all-inclusive water park, the Marazul Dive Resort (where I met the Monahans), and Coral Estate. The Academy Hotel in Willemstad is a training ground for students in the hospitality business. And tonight's lodging, Amazonia Curaçao: The Jungle Experience, has me sleeping in a compound with macaws, monkeys, and snakes.

Kiwi gave me the tour, but first he asked: "Did I see you walking today?" He would have offered a ride if he hadn't been running late; I explained why I would have politely refused anyway.

Among the birds on the premises were the verbose yellow-headed amazon and the green-winged macaw, with its red lines around the eyes. I got to hold Luna, the dancing white umbrella cockatoo. The snakes included an albino ball python and a green tree python. The caiman lizard was like a miniature crocodile. Then there were rose-haired tarantulas, leopard geckos, squirrel monkeys, and golden-handed tamarins, the last of which looked like a combination of a musk ox, a chipmunk, and a monkey all scaled down to the size of a rabbit.

"None of the animals you have seen here will be on your plate at dinner," Kiwi said.

Dinner might have been the most challenging part of the day, because it was an all-you-can-eat Brazilian-style rodizio. I doubt they had more than 15 guests the whole night, but I was fortunate enough to meet two of them, a German couple named Alex and Ursi. When the pandemic stalled Alex's wellness-development business, they packed up and looked for somewhere to live.

"We can't go to Mars, and the moon is boring," Alex said. "So we came to Curaçao." And they'll move on when it's time.

He offered me the use of his wellness platform, the X-Test, should I ever run into trouble on my walks. The device uses a combination of specific human needs and prayer to foster healing. More immediately, he saw me scratching the mosquito bites on my ankles, and he gave me a small bottle of aloe-based bug spray. I used it and tried to hand it back, but he insisted I keep it.

They aren't staying at Amazonia, so we parted after dinner and are eager to see where our respective lives take us. I expect I might wake up to the sounds of macaws, but as long as the tarantulas stay out of my room, I'll be content.

Go on to day 6