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Trip 30 -- Bonaire Walk

Day 5: Tera Kora to the airport via the south
Monday, February 7

Today: 40151 steps/31.12 km/19.34 mi/5h 48m
Total: 158769 steps/121.83 km/75.70 mi/23h 7m

All three ABC islands -- Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao -- are oriented the same way, from the northwest to the southeast. All three have their capitals in the middle of the leeward (west) side, and Aruba and Bonaire each have their airports just to the south.

Bonaire's angles are more pronounced than the others'. While Aruba tapers off at the top and the bottom and Curaçao is a bit squished in the middle, Bonaire is shaped more like a gun or a backwards lowercase "r." The angle of the "r" is where I walked around yesterday. Today it was time to loop around the bottom of the "r," or the handle of the gun.

I woke up early and, having showered last night, was able to get out just after eight. After an hour I detoured for a few minutes to reach Sorobon Beach, a tiny peninsula jutting north from the south side of Lac Bay. Sorobon has a few businesses geared toward windsurfing.

It was also the only place I was going to find food for the next seven hours, so I had a meal at the bar of Jibe City. They offer watersports, yoga, and massage and, more suited to my needs, sandwiches at 9:30 a.m. I had a pita with chicken and Gouda (that's "khow-da" in Dutch -- it rhymes with "chowdah") and watched the windsurfers.

From here the clockwise loop around the southern peninsula and back to the airport would take about five hours, along a paved road not quite wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other, or even one full-width car and a pedestrian. There was always a dirt shoulder, though, and for the most part the traffic was light enough that I seldom needed to use it.

I could see that a rainstorm was blowing in from the east. It seemed to be just ahead of me, so I waited 20 minutes or so and watched the curtains of rain march across the southern horizon. When I saw a break, I hastened through, but the storm caught me on the way out: first a refreshing rain, then a moderate one. But it was never a downpour, and it lasted only a few minutes.

Southern Bonaire is so flat that I could see Willemstoren, the white lighthouse with red vertical stripes, from miles away. It was built in 1837 as the island's first, and it stands at the point where the road starts to loop around the southern extremity. Before the lighthouse's construction, sailors' main clue to the presence of land was the bell-like sound of finger coral being rolled up and down by the waves.

I paused for a moment at the southern end to contemplate the presence of Venezuela only about 80 kilometers away. Then I began making my way up the peninsula's west side.

This side had more features and landmarks. In addition to numerous dive sites, it has two sets of slave huts, each containing about 20 buildings. These were built by the West India Company in 1850, 13 years before slavery was abolished. Before that, slaves -- most of which lived in Rincón -- had to walk several hours to get between their homes and their work at the saltpans.

I reached the yellow huts first (the white ones were a few kilometers farther up) and entered one. The entryway was only about half my height, and there was just enough space for me to stand upright inside. At the back was a small window for cross-ventilation. Each hut was usually used by two people, sometimes more.

Also poking out along the western shore were four giant obelisks, in orange, red, white, and blue (the former colors of the Dutch flag). Four grades of salt were sold from these saltpans; the obelisks represented the different grades, alerting ships where to anchor to collect the salt they had purchased. Women would carry the baskets of salt on their heads. They were said to resemble mermaids, and their working song was sung as a lullaby.

As I walked north, I noticed giant white conical structures. From a distance, they seemed to be a setup in a fairgrounds. As I got closer, I realized they were enormous mounds of salt. For 25 years the saltpans have been operated by the Cargill company, whose facility takes up more than an eighth of the island. Many of the pans are bright pink, from the pigment of a kind of single-cell organism that thrives in brine with high salinity, which is created as part of the crystallization process.

I was only 20 minutes from the airport when the second rainfall came. It was heavier, and I was unprepared. But the wind was such that I was able to duck in front of a restaurant's sign, which shielded me from the worst of it. The traffic was heavier, too, and with the dirt shoulder now muddy, I walked in the road while shrugging and flicking my wrists. "Where do you want me to go?"

I reached the airport and turned off MapMyWalk just after Katie made her only announcement of the day. (I have no idea why I decided her cheery voice was Katie.) I've completed the loop around the island but not the entirety of Abecedarian Walk #8, as I still have left to tack on the bulge pointing into Lac Bay from the north.

Red Palm Village no longer has a laundry service, so I added a few off-the-clock kilometers to today's walk to reach the self-service laundry in Kralendijk. While the machine was running I headed to the E Teras bar for a couple of beers, to miss the third rain of the day, and to collect dinner: It was movie night at Red Palm Village, and their restaurant was fully booked.

The bartender recited the foods available; I recognized the term for goat stew.

"I'll have kabritu stoba, to take away."

"The beef is better."

"OK, I'll have that. And the bonchi cora." She had mentioned it last; it wasn't a food I knew, but a quick Google search revealed it to be a red-bean soup. That would be a nice starter, I thought.

Except that she brought out a container tall enough to feed a football tailgating party. Both dishes were large main courses, and priced accordingly. I'd been preparing to tell her to keep the change from a twenty (Bonaire uses the U.S. dollar), but she was soon ringing up my card for $33. Well, I would have variety.

I had time for a swim before the film, which had been listed as "A Perfectly Normal Family."

"It's in Dutch?" I'd asked the owner.

"English, with Dutch subtitles."

I brought out my food by the pool and ordered a glass of wine, and I was surprised that everyone else had finished dinner by 7:30 and was sitting in chairs by the screen. I had a view from the side, where I could eat while sitting on the pool's edge. I wouldn't be able to get out without disrupting everyone, but "A Perfectly Normal Family" sounded like a comedy with music where I wouldn't be noticed as the only one chewing.

Not only was it not a comedy, but it was in the original Danish, with Dutch subtitles. It was replete with silent moments and was a serious film about a father who comes out as transgender to the two daughters and their mother. I could understand the main plot points, if not the subtlety, but it was hard to dine without making a sound. At one point a plane took off and I gulped down a couple bites; then there was a dancing scene and the music drowned out my chewing for a couple of minutes.

My neighbors are quiet tonight.

Go on to day 6