Snoopy (The Eighth Dwarf) of Bonaire

Published: February 20th 2016
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It seems like quite some time since we’ve set foot on land, so we’re all looking forward to Bonaire and a chance to feel terra firma beneath our feet. We started the day in the Lido; or, as they now refer to it “Lido Market”. I guess it’s more up-scale and trendy and Sharon says that’s the first step to adding the NY Pizza spot to the aft deck. Mother asked for waffles, apples, oatmeal, brown sugar and coffee, and so we got her seated and off I went. I was in the waffle line and they’d just finished making four waffles, leaving two for my mom. I had them spoon on some of the cinnamon cooked apples, and went to the bistro line and got a bowl of oatmeal and had brown sugar added to it, all of which had to be done by the staff as we’re still in a “Code-Red” situation. I returned with my booty to find out, “Oh I can’t eat my oatmeal without milk… oh, I can’t eat my waffles without syrup… oh, I only wanted one waffle...oh, I wanted the apples on the side… oh, I need some orange juice. I got some syrup for her waffles and a glass of milk for her oatmeal; and I disappeared immediately to go find some orange juice for her. Sharon was making her way through the bistro line to get some French Toast for her breakfast. I had to wait forever for another batch of waffles to be cooked, and got the daily special with bacon bits and maple butter.

Sharon and I made our way to the Crow’s Nest for Team Trivia at 9:30 AM, prior to our arrival in Bonaire. My mom decided to get ready for the tour back in her cabin. We got our table again… It’s funny how we have “our table” on this cruise. On previous cruises I’m not sure we ever wound up in the same spot more than once, but there were “those people” who seemed to have staked out “their spot”. OMG… have we turned into “those people”? Sharon and I did our Sudoku contest and I easily won the EASY puzzle. We were both struggling with the HARD puzzle when our teammates began to arrive, and, I’m afraid to say that we both get a big DNF for that second puzzle. Sharon was saying that we must remember to wish Simon a heart-felt “Happy Birthday”. Sarah and Mike returned to our team from yesterday, but we somehow lost Jim and Dawn. Two others that Jim and Dawn had recruited, and who had been on the winning team yesterday joined us… Karen and Ken. Ken had been the one that riddled through to solve WC Fields. Simon introduced the Cooking Show Host as the source of today’s trivia questions, and told us any dissatisfaction with today’s questions should be directed towards her. I was afraid she was going to pepper us with some obscure and esoteric travel destination culinary questions that even leave travel agents scratching their heads. Well, she started with some other-worldly questions, and in the end, Sharon and I both agreed she’d come up with some good questions… even the one controversial question was a good one… and it was only controversial because of Simon! Simon read the first question: “What planet in our solar system has only two moons?” I knew this was Mars but Ken was pushing for Saturn. Fortunately, Sarah was our scribe and she had written down Mars. The second question, “Originally (when our solar system was thought to have nine planets) how many of these planets had moons?” Ken was pushing for 6; but, I figured, the only way the qualification of Pluto mattered, was if it has moons, and I’d heard that this now non-planet does have objects circling it; so, the answer had to be 7… I also remember from when I was in school (and when Pluto was considered to be a planet) that only Mercury and Venus had no moons. Next came “What animal starves to death when it loses its sixth and final set of teeth?” Okay, kudos for this question, never heard anything like this before. We settled on “Shark” but none of us felt good about it… after all, shark have teeth that just keep regenerating and moving forward in the mouth of the shark. We found out this poor creature is the elephant. “Which is the flattest of the fifty U.S. states?” After driving across Kansas, we went with that, but I guess, even though it is awful flat, it’s gradually rising towards Colorado. The answer was Florida (with a slightly less elevation change than Delaware). “Which are there more of in the world a. telephones, b. TVs, c. automobiles, or d, bicycles?” Simon clarified that this was “land-line telephones” and not “Cell phones”. So we’re all thinking a must not be the answer. I pressed for d bicycles, but Ken and Karen thought TVs. Thinking of the number of TVs we’re planning in our new home, I could see the merit of that answer. But we were rewarded because Sarah wrote down “bicycles”. Then came the question of dispute… “What landmark was classified as a large antique artifact by the U.S. Customs?” We were supposing, maybe the Statue of Liberty. Then Simon “helped” by offering the comment “No” to the question someone posed “Is it in the United States?” His source for these questions, who was present, clarified, “It may not be in the United States.” Still, it set us to think of something else, and then it hit me: The London Bridge. (It was moved before Simon was born.) When the answers were being reviewed and people complained that London Bridge was in Lake Havisu, Arizona, I don’t think Simon believed them; but, he ended up tossing the question even though we complained since we had it right. They asked us again, and again we got it wrong, although Sharon was pushing for the right answer: “Which of your senses is the last one a person normally loses?” But she always says “Taste” whenever we get one of those sensor questions! “Which sensory taste do cats not possess?” I figured, for survival they need bitter and sour and salty… but they probably don’t need sweet… and that was right. “What was it that Italy legalized in 1970?” Sharon suggested “Divorce” and that sounded pretty good to the rest of us. “What TV sit-com had 190 Emmy nominations?” We went with “All in the Family” which I thought was right. The paper we graded with with “M*A*S*H”, and that sounded even more likely. We were all wrong: “Cheers” was the answer. It was going to come down to the 7-part 5-point all-or-nothing bonus question. I was all primed for the 7 wonders of the ancient world… but not today. “Name the Seven Dwarfs.” Most teams couldn’t name all seven, but we did. And we took home the prize.

When we got back to the cabin, I told my mom that she could have answered the bonus question that so many people missed. I told her, “They asked us to name the Seven Dwarfs.” She beamed, oh yes, I know that, and she began, “Sss-Sssn-Snoopy, and…” And I repeated incredulously “Snoopy?” And we all burst out laughing, but her most of all because we all knew what she had done… combined Sneezy and Dopey and come up with Snoopy! And that’s how Snoopy became the eighth dwarf of Bonaire.

We met our group on the end of the pier, and they meant on the end of the pier by the gangway! We boarded a small van that seated two on the left and one on the right. There was a fold down seat in the aisle for a fourth person; but, we didn’t need that today. Our guide informed us that we wouldn’t be seeing any traffic lights today, as there are none on the island. In fact, there are just four round-abouts. They came into being because there were two questions on the Dutch driving test about round-abouts, and so the local government of Bonaire decided the island needed some round-abouts to make those questions relevant. We passed the St. James Medical School, and were told that the school was now closed because it failed to meet the Dutch accreditation requirements. Those 600 students are now in attendance at a school on a different island, and this was a big impact to the local economy. Someone noticed a warning sign and asked “Was that a donkey crossing sign?” It was indeed. There are many donkeys roaming wild on Bonaire, which is in the third year of a drought. The donkeys need water put out for them by locals in order to survive as there is no natural potable water on Bonaire. We passed a large water purification plant that uses reverse osmosis to make excellent drinking water for the island.

Bonaire is one of the premiere diving sites in the world, with an incredible coral reef. There is a 3-mile stretch along the coast where access to the water from the shore is prohibited, in an effort to preserve that portion of the coral reef in its most pristine state, for the most part, uninterrupted by divers. Divers swimming over a coral reef can damage the reef if they are not careful, by the flapping motion of their flippers striking the coral. Our guide is an experienced diver and also a certified lion-fish spear fisherperson. The lion-fish is the only fish permitted to be hunted with a spear-gun; because, this fish with its highly venomous barbs has no natural predator and unchecked would overwhelm many other species in the coral reef. But to become certified requires many hours of training. As we drove along the coast road we saw many places were divers were parked, and could be seen swimming in the aqua marine colored water below, along with the shadows of some large fish that they were observing. One such dive sight is known as the 1,000 steps sight, and from the road divers could be seen going down the steps to the water below. Our guide said that she’s dived this sight before, and it’s only 73 steps down to the water… it just seems like 1,000 steps when you’re coming back up with all your scuba gear on. Just prior to this pullout we spotted the “Diver Crossing” sign. We stopped here for a bit, and saw several iguanas perched on a rock at the top of the 1,000 step stairway. Their head was pointed skyward and they remained very still, and only the occasional rapid turning of the head gave them away as something other than a dead root. Our guide assured us that iguanas make a wonderful stew. It tastes, sort of like chicken, she said.

We drove to the north west side of the island, where the Goto Lake offered many opportunities to see pink flamingos feasting in the shallow waters. At first we spotted just one or two at a great distance floating in the lake. The driver spotted one flying low across the lake. Farther along the lake, and now where the road passed within feet of the shore, we spotted many flamingos close together. Some of the flamingos appeared brilliant pink; while, others appeared to be a much paler pink. We learned that they are born white, and the pink coloring comes from the shrimp that they thrive one. Can you here a chick’s parents telling them, “Eat your shrimp so you’ll grow up nice and pink like your father.” There was one standing quite still and motionless within feet of the shore. Two people in a private car ahead of us had gotten out, and had waded in the water over next to the pelican which remain frozen. Our driver and guide were quite upset, as it is prohibited to approach these delicate and easily frightened birds. And this one so close to us was in obvious distress. There was a tour bus ahead of us and after these two had ignored his orders to leave the birds alone, he went back to his van, came back with a camera and made it clear to these two that he had taken a picture of them with the birds and now one of their vehicle and license plate. The local wildlife conservancy was contacted, and we later heard that they had been able to rescue that pelican, who had evidently hurriedly scooted into a pool of quicksand and had become stuck in the muck, so to speak.

Our guide pointed out some ancient looking crusty trees that she referred to a Brazil wood. This island had once been called Brazil wood island by the Spanish, who also called these ABC islands, the useless islands. (There was no gold or silver to be plundered here.) But there are trees that grow here with extremely hard wood. In the past, these woods have been used for things such as making bowling balls and croquet balls. At one pullout, my mother chose to stay on the bus, and forgo any chance of seeing a mess of iguanas (yes, that is the proper group name for iguanas). Sharon did get a photo of one large iguana and a smaller blue lizard. Someone asked the guide and driver what that blue lizard was, and after consulting, the reported that it was indeed a blue lizard.

We also spotted quite a few cactus fences on the island, where the tall slender yatu cactus would be cut, and then lined up with the top alternately leaning against one side of a wire near the top of the fence, and the cut cactus reaching from there to the ground. The guide demonstrated how the cactus was cut with some tools and the man who was sitting in the front rows finger. The transplanted cactus section has no problem being severed and planted in a new location in this manner, and takes root in its new spot creating a prickly barrier capable of keeping out what?... you guessed it, the donkeys (and goats). They are everywhere.

The kadushi cactus is used to make a tequila-like drink, they have silver and gold and respado. We stopped briefly at a rest stop for a bathroom break and refreshments. I tried some of the gold liquor, the were offering a shot for $2 US. The US $ is the currency in use in the ABC islands. The also offered a chance to try tamarind juice and lime juice which we did when my mother and Sharon returned from the restroom. I really missed a great opportunity here, because we got one of each for my mother and I to try (and a Sprite for Sharon who needed to have something special); for, I could have mixed these with the cactus liquor and we might have been onto something. These drinks too were offered for $2 US each.

As we headed back across the island we noticed some melon cactus in the rocky outcroppings, which require no soil at all to grow, and were growing out of the sides of the rock outcroppings where ever they could find a slight ledge to support themselves. And they looked like small prickly melons.

Driving through the port town our driver noted that here there is a KFC and a Subway, but no other fast food place, and she likes it that way. Carghill is the big manufacturer on the island, which a large producer of salt which produces about one billion pounds of salt a year. This is done through a series of evaporation pools which gradually concentrates the salt to a pure crystalline form. As the concentration get stronger and stronger the brackish water gets pinker and pinker, where this pink bacteria is the only thing that can survive the high salinity. In the final pool pure white sparkly salt crystals emerge and are harvested with the salt crust reaches the appropriate thickness. Large salt piles are nearby for shipment by sea to its final destination, often in the Far East.

Nearby are the breeding grounds for the flamingos. Carghill owns this whole southern part of the island and has taken steps to protect the flamingo breeding grounds. Near the tip of the island was the spot where salt had been loaded in earlier times onto the sailing vessels that carried the salt to the New World and back to Europe. Slaves were used to row the salt out to the anchored ships. And the salt as classified as “White”, “Blue”, “Orange” or “Yellow”, at the time the colors of the Dutch flag, and corresponded to different grades of salt. Those taking on the salt would pay for the salt at the capital and then anchor by the white, blue, orange or yellow monoliths that marked the berths for each cargo. Slaves would then transport the appropriate salt out to the ship. Originally the slaves would walk from their villages north of the capital to the southern part of the island, a journey that would take six or seven hours on Monday. They would then put in six full days work, before returning home again for the “weekend”. And it would begin again on Monday. Originally, in the south there was no shelter for the slaves, and they would sleep in the open. Eventually small clay structures were built that had a small window at one end, a small crawl through door and space for three adults to light on a cold flat slab floor.

On the way back I was having trouble understanding our guide as she talked about the “wind vine”. These wind vines seemed to produce electricity. I eventually realized, once I spotted something that could produce electricity, that she was saying, with her distinctly Dutch accent “Wind Turbines”. Evidently there are 12 of them on the island to give some of the island electricity.

As we were returning to our ship, our guide noted that the only thing that Bonaire needed was a wreck for diver’s to explore. They got their opportunity in 1980. The Coast Guard approached a ship that appeared to be in distress, but the crew of the distressed ship waived off the Coast Guard, indicating that they had things under control. As you might imagine, this peaked the curiosity of the Coast Guard as the ship was obviously having problems. The Coast Guard boarded the ship and found many tons of marijuana onboard. The Coast Guard contacted the Netherlands and asked them what they wanted to do with the pot. The reply was, you boarded the ship, the pot is your problem. After much consideration, they decided to burn the marijuana. Smoke from the marijuana barbecue drifted over the nearby island of Aruba, which is why they are known as “One Happy Island”. Seriously though, the ship that was in distress was scuttled, and now is a dive-able wreck off the coast of Bonaire.

Mother decided that it was too late to eat. Sharon and I went up to the Dive-In, where I had their Back Flip chicken sandwich with fries; and, Sharon had a naked burger. I’d forgotten how good their grilled chicken sandwich is!

For dinner I literally had to twist my mother’s arm to get her to try the goat-cheese and onion jam puff pastry; but, she did get it, try it, and even though it was different and unlike anything that she’d ever had before, she actually liked it. I know this because she finished it and there was none left for me! I decided to try the French Onion soup as well, and it was good. Sharon and my mother had the turkey dinner with fixings, and even convinced the couple seated much after us at an adjacent table for two to order it as well. I had the vegetarian curry cutlet, which could have been spicier; but, I enjoyed it nonetheless. Sharon and I had the 8 o’clock chocolate-mint mousse cake which was very green and very good. Neither of us recalls having had or seen this cake before. Mother had the crème brule and she enjoyed that.

After dinner I worked on the blog for a bit; and, Sharon and my mom went top-side to the Lido to listen to the piano man playing by the pool (Stryker under the Stars). He gave a rousing performance but my mom and Sharon were plagued by a nearby table that were loud and very disruptive to anybody trying to watch from that distance. Fortunately, a closer table opened up and they were able to move forward away from those clueless cruisers. They thought there were leaving early when they got up to return to the cabin, but he was on the last number.


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