January 02, 2009 | Comments 0

Aruba’s Lasting Impression

aruba-150x1501My wife and I were privileged enough to experience a wonderful vacation in 1999 in Aruba. Admittedly, this 5 day vacation was a milestone in our love for the Caribbean. I won this trip for a selling quota the company made I worked for at the time. It was our first trip to this beautiful island in the Southern Caribbean but it called us back for a full week a few years later and we have stopped there a few times on cruises. Spending those five days at the Aruba Marriott Resort was some of the most exiting of our memories.

Of course the company that sponsored the event had to have the gratuitous “business meetings” for the attendees (no doubt to be able to write the expense off) but all of the meetings were casual and short in length so we could optimize our time there. We enjoyed nightly entertainment at the resort that kept us up late. The beaches along the Palm Beach high rise hotels are beautiful. Words cannot describe the warm glowing white sand as it blends into the delightful turquoise Caribbean water. It’s something everyone needs to experience for themselves.

While on the island we enjoyed renting a jeep and driving around - literally around the island. There is a road that surrounds the island that gradually turns into a rough and rocky beach and sand road. While on it you can visit the natural bridge and a light house along the fringes of the island. I have heard the natural bridge collapsed and need to do some research if that is true or not. Iguanas, goats, and chickens cross your path constantly whether you you find yourself on foot or driving a vehicle. They add much to the romantic and fun character of the island.

One of our most memorable adventures was a trip to Aruba’s caverns. Having visited many natural caverns in the United States I thought I knew what I was going to experience. The USA has fairly strict safety features built into cave tours. You know - railings, lighting, tour guides that speak english. Not in Aruba! We were the only visitors as our guide greeted us. We had heard the tour was free. However, the $10 I paid to rent a flashlight offset that savings. The light I was given weighed more than my car battery and only glowed with the dimmest of energy. As I threw the strap over my shoulder to ready the light my wife and I quickly realized our non-speaking guide was already heading into the darkness ahead of us saying loudly “enjoy the tour, enjoy the tour”. Ahha! - He could speak English - well at least that one phrase. As we walked along feeling with our feet for giant unknown chasms we were at least able to know our guide was ahead of us by the pungent aroma his sweaty body was leaving behind. A mix of alcohol and sweat are easy to follow even if your eyes are not proving to be of any value. The end of the tour did not come quick enough but alas we saw natural sunlight straight ahead. Before us were several huge stones (I think they feel these are steps) that we were going to have to climb up and scramble over to exit the cave. We wondered how someone handicapped or elderly would have been able to do this. There had been no signs warning of the difficulty of this tour so they would have been in serious trouble if they had made it this far and realized the difficulty. As we surveyed the rock ahead of us wondering how we would get out we noticed our guide pointing over behind us into the intense darkness. I shined my light at the hole he was waving at so my wife and I could see what all the fuss was about. There behind us were hundreds ( I tend to imagine thousands ) of bats hanging from the cave ceiling. Thus the answer to how we would get out. We climbed out of that cave up and over all obstacles just like you would imagine a cartoon character spinning his feet trying to get traction.

Even though the cave incident may seem something we would not want to remember - we do. It is truly funny as we always look back on it since it adds to the long list of our “experiences” while visiting the Caribbean. Besides - now anytime we go on a tour while on vacation we now have a phrase that brings back memories of Aruba - “enjoy the tour”. Oh yeah, I mustn’t forget to tell you we learned our tour guide knew another English phrase. It was something like “most people give me five dollars for the tour”.

The rest of our trip to Aruba consisted of going four-wheeling over a back breaking desert landscape. I always recommend friends go four-wheeling in Aruba too so they have to suffer the same as we did. Imagine riding in the back of an open jeep hanging on for dear life as one of the group was learning to drive a jeep over huge boulders, down steep inclines, through creeks, around and very close to thorny cactus at break neck speed. Our group had a payload of elderly folks and I had been chosen as the driver. I refused to go as fast as the six or more jeeps ahead of me that were racing at break-neck speed at the hands of their twentyish drivers. The tour company had sent a token tour guide who was way out front yelling at me to go faster oblivious to the aches and pains being suffered by my group. In summary it was beatiful but tortuous. Of course the damage was nothing so bad that a few rum drinks could not repair back at the hotel.

Our trip also consisted of taking a taxi to a quaint little stone restaurant on the other side of the island one evening that a local had recommended to us. While driving over we were able to visit with the taxi driver. We always like to talk to the “real people” of an island to get a complete picture of life there. He was very good natured and proud of his home. The food was some of the best I have ever had and the atmosphere was delightful. Imagine eating at the edge of the ocean in the open air while crabs crawled out of the water and scampered across the rough stone patio. We hated to leave that place.

We also were able to enjoy an evening of fun at the Tierra del Sol Resort and Spa. It sits on an 18 hole golf course overlooking Aruba’s northwest coast that was designed by Robert Trent Jones II. That was beyond a wonderful evening. While our friends enjoyed Cuban cigars around the pool area we toured the beautiful grounds and eventually found our way back to enjoy a delicious buffet.

There’s so much more to experience on the island of Aruba - shopping, exciting cultural shows, snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding, sailing, and my favorite - sitting on the beach enjoying the unique breeze that only Aruba offers. Check out the video of the Marriott Resort. You’ll see why we loved it.

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