Thursday, 28 November 2013

Curacao revisited

Back from Europe we returned to the heat and dust of Curacao Marine, the diggers and tip lorries still busy with their land reclamation. There were boats continually being put back in the water so we regularly had new neighbours and everyone was getting ready for the season.

We spent another two weeks working really hard on the boat : washing all the cushions, more varnishing, changing the oil in the outboard, trying to find the leaks in the dingy floor: it appears that the glue on the seams has gone and generally fettling the boat for another season.
Our 'Twin tub' washing machine!

We hired a car for a week and went out for supper – a real treat!! We did some shopping at the other supermarket for a change and because they have slightly different stock. There is also a really good DIY and homewares shop, Kooimans, so we went there a few times as well. We also used the car to get diesel as there is no fuel at the marina.
A Drive through ATM!

Another nice beach!
Finally, we had a few days exploring the island. We had a long drive all the way up to the north of the island which was a lot like Bonaire, more hilly but also dry scrub and cacti. There are a few places where it much more green and a little section where the trees actually make a canopy over the road. There are many idyllic beaches and we stopped for a swim and a beer at one.
One of many lovely beaches


There are several “Landhuise” which are the old plantation houses, but they are nowhere near as grand as the ones in the eastern Caribbean. Quite a few are just a large house, and many are derelict. Most of the restored ones are now museums depicting different aspects of the islands history.

The tree canopy
 We decided to visit Christoffel Park which contains Landhuis Savonet. The house dates back to 1640 with a good museum telling the history mainly of just this plantation. It was one of the few that was actually successful, many of them were more like country houses for the wealthy Willemstad merchants. There was a river that ran in the wet season and they grew a wide variety of crops including sugar, maize and coconuts. They had cows, sheep, goats and poultry and made cheese. Of course, this all worked much better before the abolition of slavery after which it all went into a slow decline.
Typical Landhuis

The freed slaves were allowed to stay on the plantation in with a small plot of land to farm for themselves. As payment they had to work for the landowner several days a year. If he needed more labour he had to pay them. Life was still very hard for the workers with lots of abuse by the landowners. In the museum they had videos of elderly people who had grown up there remembering their chldhood and what their parents had told them of their lives. Very interesting and quite touching.

The park was great to drive around, narrow winding roads, up and down very steeply in places, all rough cement and very rocky at times. You had to be very careful, but at least it was one way! There were ruins of other plantations and occasionally you would arrive at the sea with good views of the spectacular north coast with big waves crashing onto rocks and pretty inlets.
Road in the park

We saw the Indian caves with ancient rock paintings, now only inhabited by bats and hermit crabs. It was a mystical place for the Indians and we wondered if it still held some thrall as we saw a dead cat and two dead iguanas in crevices. Did they go there to die or was it just happenstance?
There was a lot of bird life, Troupials, Caracaras, Parakeets, Hawks, Bananquits, Auriols and others.

Was this a slave 'whipping post' or a beacon to guide ships ?


We did not see any of their white tailed deer, but many iguanas including one eye to eye! I was looking out over a viewpoint and just in front of me I saw some rather odd looking bark on a tree, looked again and realized an Iguana was staring back at me! It kept nodding its head which I took as “Don’t come any closer”, so I didn’t!
A close encounter!
                         St Willibrordus is an old coastal town with a huge church and old buildings.

Just outside is a lagoon that also used to be a saltworks and a sign that says “Flamingo Area”. Obviously, the flamingos can read as they were dutifully stalking around filtering for food and preening – beautiful birds.

Flamingos and Tricolour Heron

Another Landhuis here is now the home and gallery of artist Nena Sanchez, and ex Miss Curacao and Miss Universe entrant.

Sculptures in the gardens
She has restored the house and filled it and the garden with vibrant paintings and mammoth sculptures.

Only on the 'Dutch Islands' are the Coke signs Orange! 
After our few days of sightseeing we were back to the everyday business of getting the boat ready for the coming season, one job always leading to another. We were keeping an eye on the weather looking for a ‘window’ of light winds preferably from the south east so we could head towards the Virgin Islands.

We had originally planned to go back to Bonaire for a few days and then go north. Looking at the weather we saw we had a week of light winds with some south easterlies, pretty much perfect. Our plans of stopping in Bonaire were cancelled as we decided to sail to either Puerto Rico or the Virgins, wherever the wind would take us! So at 16.30 we filled the boat with water, fitted jackstays, and make ready for sea. Fortunately we had already checked out with Customs and Immigration (as we had planned to go to Bonaire) and off we went at 0800 the following morning on a 400 mile trip. We would have to manage with what food we had on board. Fortunately we had been shopping thinking we were off to Bonaire so we wouldn’t starve.

We knew we couldn’t arrive in Puerto Rico with fresh produce and we also read that you couldn’t have garbage either, so being over provisioned was not the answer. Little did we know how draconian the garbage rules were to be and almost impossible to comply with.  

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