Bonaire

We got to sleep late today because we weren’t scheduled to arrive in Bonaire until 11am. I was awake starting around 8:30 I think but I tried to fall asleep again without much luck until Sarah knocked on the door at 9:30 telling us to meet for breakfast. We got up and dressed for the day and met at the usual table. Only Sarah was there so far so Jean and I got some food and by that time more people had shown up. Oh, lovely prank phone call from Chris this morning – hah Chris, you’re funny πŸ˜› Actually it was though. Liz wasn’t feeling well at all and was totally hung over and was probably not going to leave the ship today, which sucked. We arranged to meet at 11:15 on the pier so I got ready for the day and talked to our cabin maid-person, Helie. She’s from the Philippines and we were talking about the working conditions on the ship. They only get 5 hours to sleep and 2 hours break and all other times they are working. She hasn’t had a day off in months but says she feels lucky because she has circled the globe 3 times. Well I’m sure that is amazing, but I don’t see her out enjoying the island at all. Molly had a similar conversation with her maid and we agreed that the work schedule that they are on may be reason enough to never go on another cruise. US laws don’t seem to apply here. After that conversation, we went out onto the island. It was a beautiful, late morning, I think they said 83 degrees at that time. Everyone else was heading to Klein beach which is a small ‘island’ that you have to take a little water taxi to – it’s THE beach to go to but just the ferry ride over is $20 for about a 3 minute ride. These islands are not cheap. Jean and I, however, wanted to see the flamingos so I asked the information booth where we could see them. Every night we get a fact sheet on the island we are to visit the next day. Helie brings it to us along with a chocolate on our freshly turned-down sheets. It turns out that Bonaire is one of four places on Earth with flamingos – like, in their natural habitat. Not counting those awesome one’s on peoples’ lawns of course. So, naturally, we had to see them. There were 2 places on the island – the North and the South. The guy only pointed to the North area so I got us a taxi for $25/person that would take us on a tour of this North area. Taxis on all of these islands, except for Granada so far, have fixed rates so you can’t really negotiate on the price at all. $25 seemed like a lot, but I guess the only other option was $20 for the water taxi to Klein. Our taxi driver was nice enough and we even made fun of Jean while she called Jackson and chatted like a smitten 14 year old girl. But I digress. We stopped a few times to take photos of the water, which is the bluest I had ever seen. It’s like, none more blue. You want to just take picture after picture but are sure that the photos will never do it justice so I concentrated more on just trying to burn the image into my brain. We also saw donkeys! The roads were narrow and close to the water but not unsafe feeling. The landscape of Bonaire differs quite a bit from that of the other islands. There are a few ‘mountains’ and the ground is not green and lush – it’s more like a desert or like Cape Cod with sea roses and bushes sprouting up everywhere. Soon we were at the flamingo sanctuary which was basically an enormous lake. As we drove around it, there were flamingos in the distance whose vibrant pink bodies were easy to spot in the cerulean blue water. Well, this was pretty cool, but there weren’t that many of them and they were really far away. I guess I was looking for them to come up to me and snuggle? Maybe take a few shots for a kick-ass facebook profile pic? Nah, these were wild birds so that wasn’t happening. While Jean was taking pics outside of the car, I asked our driver if we could see more flamingos in the South. She said usually there were more there and that also that was where the salt flats were. Huh? Hmm, salt flats, I had no idea what those were but wanted to see them. I negotiated a deal that for $5 more she would take us there too. Well, this was, of course, at the complete opposite end of the island so we really did see all of Bonaire. It didn’t take long to get there though and we passed some more donkeys, fences made out of cacti, and a few towns. Bonaire is really a beautiful place and feels like an actual place where people live as opposed to the other islands that felt like tourist traps. People come here to dive of course, ‘Diver’s Paradise’ is on their license plates, but it’s not filled with tourist crap. It’s also not filled with people; there are only 15,000 people who live on the island! We passed the airport (Flamingo International – how could it not be International) which has direct flights to/from EWR we found out. Odd. Also Houston. Odder. Anyways, soon enough we approached the salt flats. WOW. Salt, it turns out, ‘grows’ in the water and somehow turns the water PINK. So on the right there is this amazingly blue, tropical ocean water, and on the left there is pink water and white mountains of salt. In the middle there is a narrow road on which a Sizuki sedan travels with mind-blown Chandra in tow. This combination was too much, I wanted to take a photo of the contrast but it was impossible for the most part, so I guess this description will have to do. We got out and crossed an official looking barrier (no one was there, I’m convinced the population of Bonaire is overestimated immensely) and stood at the edge of the flats. There were flamingos everywhere in the salt flats. Jean took tons of nice shots because she could zoom in far better than I could, I stole a piece of coral, and we got back in the car. I’m very glad we did this!

Back at the port, we walked around for a bit and Jean bought an necklace and I got some postcards. I wanted to buy a necklace too but was out of cash and the ATM wouldn’t accept my card πŸ™ I also found the customs hut but no one was there which sucked – I really want at least 1 stamp for this entire trip! It was 2pm by that time and I was supposed to meet Sarah at 2:30 for scuba so we hustled back to the ship to grab some food. I was waiting for her until, like, 2:53 and was convinced she was going to miss scuba when she finally showed up. Phew. We took a water taxi up the coast to the dive shop. it was run by all these Dutch guys who were all really nice and explained how this entire operation would work. First, video, then a quick talk, then suiting up, then into the water. The video was ok, the talk was good, and finally we put on all the gear. Oh, there were only 10 of us, so it was really nice and Sarah and I were in a group with an instructor and one other boy, we didn’t catch his name. They gave us wetsuits, which I though would not be necessary but they seemed to know what they were doing so we put them on. My first time wearing a wet suit. In the water, we practiced breathing which was a piece of cake for me with all my training πŸ˜‰ then chilled under shallow water for a bit. Well there was no air in my bcd, but I still kept floating to the top so they tossed a few more kilos of weight into my pockets and all was good. After a few short minutes, we were on our way! We swam out a bit, the instructor did all the work with the bcd’s for all of us and in no time at all we were looking at coral and neon colored fish! Words really can’t describe it. My favourite fishes were these bright purple ones that were about the size of my hand and traveled in a large school around the coral. It was just so peaceful down there and there was so much to see, so I really hope my waterproof disposable camera 1) didn’t break because we went down 30 feet and it’s only good for 15′ and 2) was able to fully capture all of the colors. I’m going asap to get those pictures on a cd. Nothing bad happened, Sarah apparently got fed up with just chilling and tried to head off on her own down really deep and the instructor hustled her back. My ears wouldn’t equalize at first too but seemed to miraculously ‘pop’ as soon as we got to the reef, so it was perfect timing. I feel like I should be saying more, but I really can’t, I mean I swam with fish! We saw flounder too, just laying still on the bottom, camouflaged like crazy. The coral was SO amazing too, just those ones that are like clusters of tubes, bright purply-pink. And those ones that kind of look like brains? Those too. After about 20-25 minutes of cruising around the reef, we slowly swam towards the beach. I can’t believe I just went scuba diving in Bonaire! Thanks Dave! Awesome Christmas present and one that I will never forget. Back on land, we took of the gear, rinsed off, and started waiting for the rest of our group. We had finished the instruction in the water first so we were the first back. Sarah and I chilled in our bathing suits on the dock for a bit and realized that we should probably walk back to the ship if we were ever going to make it to dinner. We said good-bye to the Dutch guys and goodbye to all our fellow scuba-ers who were slow as hell, and walked the mile+ back to the ship. It was a good walk, beautiful day, nice and exhausted from scuba and ready to eat in, um, 20 minutes.

We were back on the ship at 5:55 and I ran up the 8 flights of stairs to my room to change. There wasn’t time for a shower so I just tossed on a dress and prayed I didn’t smell like sea water too much. I hustled to the main deck to mail my post cards but I was 5 minutes too late, 6:05, so they will be mailed from Aruba, lucky for me it’s the same stamp. At that point I realized that we would be leaving soon and I would lose cell service again so I called Dave, woke him up, and we talked while I watched the sunset over the ocean. This has, by far, been the best day of the trip. At dinner, Sarah and I sat with Katie and Chris which was a lovely change. It was the captains dinner or something like that, so the menu was all fancy. Because of Nick’s clout, we had antipasto on the tables which was really nice. Sarah and I ordered a bottle of pinot noir and we both had this goat cheese garlic thing (flambe?) to start. Next was lemon sorbetto to cleanse the pallet, pretty nice. I got the king crab legs, of course! They were very good, not as good as in long island, but good nonetheless. For dessert we all had this trio of this raspberry thing, tiramisu, and this vanilla something. We also got amaretto ice cream and blueberry sorbet for the table to share. It was a really good meal with really good company. After that, I went up to my room to shower because I felt completely gross. Liz called as I was finishing getting ready and invited me to this comedian with her and Claudia. We met in my hallway and went down to the theater. I didn’t think the guy was funny, but I suppose it was worlds better than going to country music trivia with Jean. Pretty sure I’d have nothing to contribute there. After that, we found Sarah and Molly in the store and found out they were going to bed because we have to meet everyone at 8:15 tomorrow on the pier! I thought bed sounded like a fabulous idea so I’m sitting there now writing this. I think I’m going to order room service for breakfast, I don’t see the point of schlepping up to the lido deck for a piece of fruit and some bacon when someone will bring me something just as good. Goodnight from Bonaire (ish), Aruba tomorrow!

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