Our Week on Aruba

March 1995

Aruba is one of three islands that make up the Dutch Antilles, also known as the ABC islands (A for Aruba, B for Bonaire and C for Curacao). The three islands are grouped within a 130-mile diameter and are located very close to Venezuela, South America. Aruba is only 6 miles wide and 20 miles long. English and Spanish are spoken widely, although Papiamento is the native (local) language and Dutch is the island's official language. The currency is the Aruba florin. One U.S. dollar is equal to about 1.75 florins. U.S. dollars are accepted at most establishments, although you may get florins as change. Tourism is Aruba's primary source of income.

We had a great time on the island. Lots of sun, warm turquoise water and white powder sand beaches. Our schedule for the week was very relaxed. We didn't do much other than sleep, eat, lay on the beach and swim. Our son did take a resort scuba course that taught him the important basics of diving. At the end of the course, he was able to go to 25 feet in the ocean with an instructor. Since I'm a certified diver, I was able to go along. It was fun to watch our son dive and I was proud of his confidence and ability, especially considering that this was his first encounter with scuba diving. We dove a ship wreck that was destroyed by a German war ship during WWII. We saw lots of fish, lobster and coral growing on the remains of the ship. Now our son wants to get certified which is fine with me because this means we can be scuba buddies. Scuba divers can never dive alone, so a dive buddy is a must.

We stayed on the 18th floor of an 18-story Hilton Hotel & Casino. From our small walk-out terrace, we had a nice view of the hotel pool, beach and Caribbean sea. One room for mom, dad, a 12-yr old son and a 2-yr old daughter meant that everyone went to bed and woke up pretty much at the same time. One evening, Our son and daugher agreed to stay in the room while mom and dad tried their hand at the quarter slots and the roulette table. We set aside a whopping $5. At the end (less than an hour later), we were up $67, so we cashed in and left. I guess we did okay, considering that neither of us are gamblers.

All of us kept from getting major sun burns except for my wife. The first day, she missed a large area on her leg when spreading the lotion, and boy did she ever pay for it. She could hardly walk the following day. The burn was so deep that it's been turning different shades of blue and purple ever since. The sun *was* intense, so you really had to be careful, even when it was cloudy. The air temperature was usually around 85, but the trade winds kept it reasonably cool. The water temperature on my scuba gauge read 79 on all three dives. (Two days after our son and I dived together, I went on a 2-tank boat dive with a group of a dozen certified divers. We went to 85 feet on the first dive and 60 feet on the second dive. Visibility was in the 50-80 feet range on both dives, which was pretty good. I saw a large green moray eel on the second dive.)

It doesn't rain much in Aruba -- only 18 inches a year -- so it's considered a desert island. This is good if you enjoy sun and don't care for the rain. Much of the island (away from the beaches and resorts) is sand, rocks and cactus. That may not sound very nice, but it was, for a change of pace. It didn't offer the tropical rain forests and jungles like the Hawaiian islands or parts of New Zealand, but it offered a different kind of scenery and natural beauty. At the south-most tip of the island, along the windward coastline, we saw large waves crashing against awesome rock formations. From this point, we could see the mountains of Venezuela, which was 15 miles to the south.

We visited three caves, one which was 85 feet deep and the length of two football fields. We climbed down a steep, rocky incline which was a bit of a challenge in the dark with a 2-yr old. Of course, we had flash lights, but it was still a little tricky. Another cave we visited was filled with bats. This made the stay short for my wife and our daughter. Our son and I stayed to get a close look at them.

On the journey back, I convinced the family that our Mitsubishi rental car (which had 90,000 miles on it) could handle four-wheel drive terrain. We made it up to the top of a rocky off-road lookout and then back down without incident. We high centered only a few times. <grin> After about 30 seconds on the main road, I could tell that something was wrong. Somehow, I destroyed the front right tire; we were running mostly on the rim. As you might imagine, having a flat tire in the dessert was not a pleasant situation -- especially without a lug nut wrench. Luckily, I was able to borrow one from some people that lived in an old run down house a couple of hundred yards down the road. They couldn't speak English, but I pointed at the lugs on a mostly torn apart car in their front yard. I was able to change the tire and we were back in business in under 15 minutes. This little mishap made the journey all the more adventurous.

With the exception of my wife's burned up leg, the week could not have gone better. Our son was in heaven because he loves reptiles, and lizards and iguanas were everywhere, even around the hotel grounds. The flights were on schedule, the rental car got us to where we wanted to go (sort of), and the hotels were fine. We spent a night in Miami on the trip to Aruba because it was impossible to get there in one day. We hope to return to the Caribbean very soon.

— Terry Wohlers

Copyright 1995 by Terry T. Wohlers