Oranjestad and a dusty adventure

Oranjestad and a dusty adventure

On Wednesday we started the morning with a plunge in the pool and then opted for the breakfast buffet at La Vista. After breakfast we took the bus into Oranjestad. It was a cruise ship day so the town was bustling with people. We strolled around, did some shopping, checked out the cruise ships and stopped for a beer and a spot of lunch at a place called The Paddock. After lunch we strolled a bit more and then took the bus back to the resort.

One of eight blue horse sculptures in Oranjestad that are a tribute to Paarden Baai (Horses Bay), which was the city’s original name in the 17th century when selling horses to Europeans became a major contributor to the economy.

Back at the hotel we headed to the pool and after some R&R it was time to get ready for dinner. Before dinner we stopped for drinks at a bar on Moomba Beach and then headed to TGI Friday’s for dinner. Might seem a bit touristy and dull but sometimes you just feel like eating at a chain restaurant. We shared a nacho-based starter with fresh tuna, which was super delicious and I immediately decided we have to duplicate it at home. Hubby had ribs and I had tzatziki salmon with a side of potato mash and salad (I was also served rice because they got the side order wrong). The food was tasty but nothing to write home about.

When the bartender realized I was taking a picture he added the fruit to the drinks
Small drinks to go with dinner
Half eaten starter, that was super delish

On Thursday we had booked a whole day tour with ABC Tours. It was called the Island Ultimate Safari taking us around the island in a jeep. We got picked up by the tour company at our hotel in the morning and drove to the company’s office to sign waivers, make a lunch order (lunch was included in the tour price) and meet our driver and the rest of the tourers. The jeep accommodated eight people but we were lucky enough that one couple was a no show, so we had more room with just six people. First we headed to a beach favored by locals called Mangel Halto. The beach is surrounded by mangroves. After admiring the scenery we continued to Baby Beach, which has very shallow waters and is the place where local children learn to swim. The beach is located near a closed-down oil refinery and the so-called Lago Colony, which was a closed community for oil refinery workers and consisted of about 700 homes, a hospital, club house, bowling alley, and an American school. The colony was born in 1924 when Pan American Petroleum’s subsidiary, Lago Oil and Transport Co. Ltd. signed a lease with the Dutch Government for land on which to build a crude oil transshipping facility and housing for the families of the English officers who manned the Lake Tankers carrying the oil from Lake Maracaibo to Aruba. The refinery and influx of Americans came later, in 1928. In the 1950s, the Aruba Esso Club was built at Baby Beach man made lagoon. The club included a restaurant, dance floor, and a baseball stadium. The refinery operated until 1985 when it was shut down.

Mangel Halto Beach
Baby Beach with oil refinery and the Esso Club in the background

After a swim at Baby Beach we headed to Arikok National Park and two of its caves. The first stop was the Guadirikiri Cave that also houses hundreds of bats which caused me some scares. Then we visited the Fontein Cave that has the drawings of Arawak Indians on, the ceilings. After the caves, we headed to a unique formation of rock (volcanic stone circles) that create a tranquil pool known as “conchi” or “Cura di Tortuga,” or more familiarly by visitors as the Natural Pool. The weather was too windy for us to go swimming in the pool but the site was impressive. The drive through the national park was more like a roller coaster ride and with the sandy roads and open jeep we got very dusty. Our next stop was the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins from 1825. After a short drive along the beach we arrived at a natural bridge. After admiring the bridge we stopped by the Chapel of Alto Vista, which is the island’s first Roman Catholic Church, built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953. The church was rebuilt two times, once in 1831 and again in 1886 and major repairs were made in 2012 after damage from a storm. The final sight we visited was the California Lighthouse: the lighthouse was named after the S.S. California, which was wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891. Construction of the lighthouse began in 1910 and it was completed in 1916. While heading back to our hotels we made a stop at a beach to give us a chance to take a swim and wash off most of the dust. I can wholeheartedly recommend ABC Tours and their service. We had a perfect day with a fun a knowledgeable guide.

Our jeep
Guadirikiri Cave and our guide
Drawings in Fontein Cave
Drawings in Fontein Cave
At the Natural Pool
Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins
Natural Bridge
Chapel of Alto Vista
California Lighthouse

After a long day exploring the island we opted to eat at the nearby Moomba Beach Bar & Restaurant, where we had stopped for drinks the night before. Hubby’s starter was Carpaccio: thinly sliced raw beef tenderloin topped with greens, capers, tomato cubes, shaved Parmesan cheese and a truffle mayonnaise and mine was Tuna Duo: thinly sliced Cajun seasoned tuna tataki and tuna tartar with a mango mayonnaise, wakame salad and soy sauce. The starters were really good. For the main, we both chose the house special called Pincho. We ordered the shrimp version: jumbo shrimp with onions, bell peppers and mushrooms served with French fries, a garden salad and a BBQ sauce, garlic sauce and home-made chimichurri. The shrimps were nice enough but the choice of vegetables and sauces did not really work. All pinchos (beef, chicken or shrimp) are served with the same vegetables and sides, which is clearly a problem.

Tuna Duo (apologies for the poor lighting)
Shrimp Pincho

 Our Aruba week will continue with at least one more post.

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