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Trip 30 -- Bonaire Walk

Day 4: Rincón to Tera Kora
Sunday, February 6, 2022

Today: 42650 steps/31.17 km/19.37 mi/6h 27m
Total: 118618 steps/90.71 km/56.36 mi/17h 19m

I couldn't leave Rincón without stopping by a couple of places Emma had mentioned: the Lourdes Grotto and the viewpoint over the town just behind, reached by a staircase. She had also invited me to the town museum, where she suggested I arrive just before nine, so I could enter after she dropped off one of the staff members but before the tour bus from today's cruise arrived.

I waited until nine, watching a pair of donkeys have their breakfast and approach me for a handout. No one appeared, so I packed up at the Rose Inn. I was standing near the exit when someone sitting on the bench addressed me in words I didn't understand.

"English, English!" the woman next to him said. "He was telling you to be careful standing under the tree. Maybe there's an iguana up there and it will poop on you."

I moved to the side. Then Emma appeared.

"Do you want me to take you to the grotto?"

"I was just there! And I went up to see the view."

"Ah! You got up early. Were you at the museum?"

"Yes, but there was nobody there before nine."

"I didn't drive the lady because I didn't have the car."

"Ah, yes, you told me your niece needed to borrow it."

"So she didn't get there until nine-thirty."

"It's OK. Something to see next time! I'll go find the cave drawings now."

The cave drawings near Boka Onima date back more than 500 years and are associated with the simacan or astrologer of the time. He would study the celestial bodies' position relative to the stalactites in the cave and the rocks along the coast in order to calculate dates and predict weather patterns and eclipses. The drawings are his notes, with stars and planets of varying brightness represented by crosses of different styles.

Bonaire's east coast receives the wind blowing toward the west, and therefore diving is more challenging and swimming in the chop is pretty much a non-starter. Some of the cave inscriptions likely are ancient maps showing currents and safe landing spots for fishermen.

I reached the Arawak lodges, where I'd initially booked until I was notified that they were out of service. An hour's walk from Rincón, they would have been most inconveniently located for my purposes, and while the spot looks lovely, I'm glad things turned out as they did.

At Arawak I turned onto the dirt road that parallels the eastern coast about 200 meters inland. Google Maps didn't recognize this road, and so I had no proper estimate of its length but knew it would take several hours. The plan was to follow it east, roughly parallel to the coast, to a point where the land juts out into the sea. Then I'd follow the coast south, around a lagoon that interrupts it, and past a blowhole until I found a road that headed inland to my lodging at Red Palm Village.

For the next few hours I could see the coast, with occasional splashing of the waves over the line of rocks, but I was never directly by it. This long stretch was arid and dusty, but it had its variations. The rough road -- passable by hardy vehicles -- was sometimes a dirt surface, broken by the cycle of rain and sun. Sometimes it was sharp rock, which slowed me down. And sometimes it was made of dirt and small stones. Sometimes the track forked, but the branches usually came together, and the recommended route was marked by blue blazes.

The wild donkeys here didn't care too much for me. When they noticed me, one would usually huff a sigh, and then they'd stare at me until I was almost out of sight. The goats usually whinnied and scampered away from close range, going about their business. The lizards often darted across the path in front of me frantically, in an extended "S" shape.

As for people, I didn't see many. Maybe five cars passed me. So did two cyclists. But for long stretches all I heard was the wind, the distant waves, and the slithering of lizards.

I knew it would be a long, hot day, and I carried two and a half liters of water, plus a liter of juice and food. I was eager to have lunch and reduce my load, but I also wanted to make meaningful progress before the break. I'd hoped to get to the point where the path veered south, but at 1:15, having been walking since before ten, I had to stop. Eugeline's sweet bun was an excellent compliment to my salami and cheese, and when I put my bag back on, I noticed the reduction in weight.

It was another half-hour before the shore curved south, and another hour before I reached the lagoon. I had trouble finding my way around it, and when the path deposited me at the road heading inland I decided to keep going toward my lodging, a few kilometers to the south. The blowhole will have to wait.

Google Maps would have had me continue on this road almost all the way to Kralendijk, but on the satellite view I could see a network of back roads that would keep me on the east side and shave a couple of kilometers off the estimate. A snack bar called Cha Bela was open, and a Coke was a lovely refreshment before I entered the web.

This place wasn't far from Lagoen Hill, and on my mind were the pit-bull attacks that Todd and Mimi had told me about. I wondered whether the incidents' having happened "in Lagoen Hill" meant the few streets of Lagoen Hill proper -- I wouldn't be going there -- or implied the dirt roads surrounding that neighborhood.

There were a few dirt roads I could follow south from Cha Bela, and I picked the one farthest from Lagoen Hill's main area. I carried a few rocks and followed the numerous turns on the map. The blue blazes continued -- it was as if they had been put there specifically to get me through the day. I scarcely saw a house, let alone a dog, until near the end of the journey, where a couple of fenced-in dogs announced their displeasure at my presence and a couple of others were shooed back into their quarters by their owner.

A bar called Happy's was just short of my lodging, and it looked to be a good place for dinner. I asked how late they were open.

"Until eight," she said.

"With food?"

"No. Food stops at seven."

It was just before six. I checked in with the friendly couple at Red Palm Village, where I was assigned bungalow 12B, half of a building with an outdoor kitchenette and a hammock I have to duck under to enter. When I'd made the booking, the confirmation message had warned me, "Bonaire is not an island to explore on foot!"

I settled in briefly and returned to Happy's at 6:40.

"The food is over," she said. "There were very few people, so they put it away early."

"Happy's is not my happy place," I said.

There wasn't much in the area. I could have eaten at Red Palm Village, but I would save it for another time. Ten minutes away was another bar that also had no food. A minute or two past that, across the street, there was a Heineken sign and lights were on.

It was the snack bar of a miniature-golf course. The menu wasn't much, but I made a meal of a couple of their Dutch treats: bitterballen (sort of like croquettes in spherical form) and a frikandel (a kind of fried hot dog). The snack bar was up a flight of stairs, so there was something of a view of the road at today's last light.

Red Palm Village is practically the extension of the airport's runway. The walk back gave me the eerie experience of having a jet fly over me at night about five seconds after leaving the ground. Between the air traffic and the couple in 12A, this bungalow may be shaking all night, 15 seconds at a time.

Go on to day 5