Today rocked the house. We terrorized pretty much all of the island of Aruba in a Jeep. We're not really into tours as we don't like being herded from place to place, so we made our own tour. It's funny, all the people we've talked to for advice always want to send us to the most touristy places. It's tough to explain to them that we're not the typical American tourists and that we hate McDonald's.
Our goal was to get to Arikok National Park. Just getting there is a challenge. Aruba is not so big on road signs. In fact, we got lost about 10 different times today, but we did make it to Arikok. At first we didn't know we were there because the road was partially blocked and, of course, no sign. We drove into the park, and I have to say that my Jeep driving skills are epic. I was tearing around all over the place.
Our first stop in Arikok was Cunucu Arikok. Apparently, a Cunucu is some sort of historical site. We ran around the trail here which after about 7 minutes brought us back to the parking lot, where we turned on the trail marked "Cero Arikok, 1.4km." As we ran along, we realized that Cero means Mountain. It got steep. Oh, did I mention that Arikok is basically a desert and it was about 95 degrees. Beautiful, but hotter than hell. Our run turned into a hike, as we just took it easy in the heat. But it was awesome.
After Cero Arikok, we headed for Fontein Cave along the coast. The cave was OK, but the drive out there was sweet. More dirt roads. Rugged stuff, and quite fun to drive in a Jeep. Although, Jeeps pretty much are the least comfortable vehicles of all time. After Fontein Cave we stopped at the roadside bar for lunch. It didn't look that appetizing, but the food was killer. I had pork on a stick with peanut sauce and french fries. What's better than that?
More crazy roads lay ahead as we headed towards the town of San Nicolas and Baby Beach. San Nicolas is also home to Valero Oil Refinery. It's huge. It's disgusting. Ah, paradise. We eventually found Baby Beach...again, no signs. We went for a swim to cool off since Aruba is nothing but hot.
Lost once again after we left San Nicolas, but eventually reached our next stop: Natural Bridge...or what used to be Natural Bridge. It collapsed. Oh well, the drive there was beautiful.
A stop for ice cream, and then back at the hotel. A long day, but a great one. It was great to see more of the island, and, in fact, to see what the island is really like. We're staying in the uber-touristy section, appropriately named, High Rise Hotels. The rest of the island is nothing like it. It's poor. It's run down. It's struggling. Life on Aruba is not all rainbows and candy as the staff of the Hyatt has tried to make it seem. I almost feel like the concierge was pushing us to take the tour, so we'd stay in the touristy areas. No way. Driving through the streets, neighborhoods and towns was much more real. And more interesting. Did I mention hot?