Published: October 18th 2010
October 17th 2010
It's been quite some time since I've sat down to write one of these, but my weekend in Curaçao is definitely deserving of a blog entry. Both in the moment and retrospectively, it counts among the best weekends of my life. The stated purpose for going to the island, which is a part of the Netherlands Antilles and only lies 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela, was to get exit and entry passport stamps for the American students who don't have student visas and needed to leave the country before spending 90 days here. However, our (8 Americans and a Venezuelan) time there turned out far better than anyone could have hoped.
The only real problems we experienced were on the Venezuelan side, where we had transportation issues. These have proven to be extremely frequent here, and I am still not used to the lack of planning ability. It is almost impossible to plan trips online like we are able to do in the U.S. with such ease. Thus, with the advice of some Venezuelans, we decided to wing it. Getting to the northernmost point of Venezuela was no problem in a direct overnight bus, but from there, we
Landing in Curacao
Fresh of the plane.
had problems. As it is impossible to book a flight or really figure out anything online here, we were unable to get space on a plane, which was not too surprising given the large size of the group. We had been told, though, that sometimes yachts and other boats from Curaçao and Aruba (both nearby) came to the ports of Punto Fijo and that we might have been able to pay for passage on one of them. So, with hope, we went to the port to search for a boat. However, the only man we could find that was willing to bring us (to Aruba, which is a little closer, and easy to get to Curaçao from) was a real jerk and wanted too much money. So we decided to try our luck at the airport again, where there was a private plane service. While a private plane in the U.S. would probably cost $1000s per person, our fare for 7 (the other two couldn't fit on the private plane, but there was space in the commercial plane) was just over $150 a person, including all taxes. Airport security in Venezuela is pretty laughable in this day and age. Either
Finally some real coffee!
the x-ray machine was broken or they just didn't care to use it, but either way, our luggage was hand inspected by an affable army man, who, when paid a few Bsf, didn't take away the pocket knives of anyone or the liquor that one friend brought along. After a bit of a wait, we were able to get onto our private plane, which was a fantastic experience that I may never have again (though I obviously hope to). After a very short flight, we finally were in the beautiful Caribbean, on a fabulous island of mixed cultures and vibrant colors.
Curaçao is considered one of the top vacation spots in the world, and, after visiting, I completely understand why. Leaving the island was incredibly hard. I just wanted to stay there and live forever underneath the bright sun and amidst the vibrations of pure joy. There were two main things that completely augmented the vacation and transformed it into the best weekend of my life. The first was Curaçao's independence celebration, which we didn't plan on, but that just happened to be on the same weekend that we were there. Curaçao is now a country within the Kingdom
of the Netherlands, with the Kingdom retaining responsibility for defence and foreign policy. Palpable happiness exuded from all of the locals, who gathered to see the prince of the Netherlands, among others, give speeches and celebrate the momentous occasion. Though this is the low season in the Caribbean, the independence celebrations gave rise to an amazing ambience and gave us an acute sense of the culture and character of the island that may not be as prominent during this time of year otherwise. The other thing that amplified the fun of our stay was meeting some members of the U.S. Coast Guard on leave there for a few days, as well as some people from the Dutch navy, who were all extremely tall. Coming from Venezuela, where I am one of the tallest females, it was a shock to see so many women and men above six feet tall. A friend and I ended up spending a lot of time with them, and it was really great. They spend most of their time cooped up in boats with not much to do, so when they're on leave, they make the most of it.
On our second day there, we
went to a beach on the western end of the island, which is about an hour's drive from the capitol. It was beautiful and pristine, with crystal clear water and beautiful sand. The setting was perfect and everyone had a fantastic time. While Aruba is known as a vacation destination for Americans and Europeans alike, Curaçao is less well-known, and thus I feel it was easier to detect the undertones of cultural mixing and unique atmosphere provided by the Caribbean/Dutch/Portuguese/Latin influences. Everyone on the island speaks at least four languages very well: Papamiento, Spanish, Dutch, and English. While the acuity varies, it is easy for most visitors to make their way around, and Curaçao in its entirety caters to tourism. The hotel we stayed in is in the downtown area of the capitol and is part of the UNESCO world heritage site there. It was renovated recently, and had a beautiful interior, as well as a lovely pool area. For only about $40 per night, it was incredible and far more interesting than staying in an all-inclusive American style resort. We rented mopeds on our last day there and drove around the island. It was amazing and I think that
as long as there are no warnings about foreigners driving I will do that at least once on every vacation I go on from here on out. It really allows one to see more than just a walking tour, and the experience is really freeing.
Another major positive of the stay was our ability to get American dollars out of ATMs, which are extremely useful in Venezuela for going around the monetary laws here. I also was able to buy some peanut butter, which I unhealthily but extremely happily ate too much of upon my return. In other news, (mostly for my mother) I still have the remnants of bronchitis and will be going to the doctor again soon.
There are more photos below