Saturday, June 25, 2011

the hitchhiker's guide to aruba | february 2

So, Aruba. Once upon a while ago I was getting all of my photos from the trip edited and blogged (which for me is Step 1 towards getting them scrapbooked). It's been taking me forever for two reasons. First, almost as soon as we got back I was sent on travel for work for three out of four weeks. While I can edit photos on my MacBook, it's ever so much easier on my big iMac screen. And then work in general got crazy. Second, I didn't realize it at the time, but I had acquired a massive amount of dust in my D3 sensor, and that dust shows up in every blue sky shot.

Do you realize how many blue sky photos I have from Aruba? Yeah, lots. And it takes for.ev.er to use the spot tool to edit all of those out. But I'm persevering, and I think I only have 300 photos (out of the 1650 that I brought back) left to go through, so chances are I'll actually finish them this weekend!!

Now, on to February 2, also known as Day 4 (ish).

Morning breakfast. We brought some trail mix with us in our suitcases, and while we did have dishes in the room for some reason I picked up a coffee filter to use as a bowl instead.

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We decided that our first stop of the day would be the Alto Vista Chapel. For some reason I didn't take any photos of it (it wasn't really that interesting, and there was a massive tour group and their alarmingly bright bus right in front of it while we were there) and found this rock with a pool of water inside more intriguing instead. Yes, we're weird.

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The view from the hill the chapel sits on is quite gorgeous, covered in brush and cacti.

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Very prickly cacti...

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Blooming cacti...

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And this small, fuzzy cacti that Darren decided to nickname "monkey butt." We're so mature.

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We more or less bushwhacked our way across the landscape to the ocean.

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I love how all the different beaches have their own type and texture of rock and sand.

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Some pretty succulents clinging to life on the rocks.

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Instead of hiking the way we came to get back to the chapel (and our car), we decided to follow the road. It turned out to be a really good thing we did, because that car driving away in the photo below?

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It had been stuck here only a few minutes earlier! If you look closely, you can see the large pile of mangled cactus. Somehow the driver had bounced off the road and crashed into it!! We came across a small party of people attempting to extricate the car from its predicament, and Darren helped them push it back to the road.

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After we retrieved our car from Alto Vista, we drove down the "road" ourselves and figured out how they'd managed to go flying off of it- this thing is bumpy!! We managed to stay on it, but this picture? It was supposed to be straight until we went over a rut just as I pressed the shutter release!

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We drove back down the road to the ocean again (don't ask me why, we just enjoy wandering :) ).

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And of course Darren found something to climb.

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We decided we wanted to go to Arikok, the national park, next, and stopped in Santa Cruz on the way to pick up some water and a few snacks. I couldn't help shooting a few more photos inside the grocery store.

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Nizza? Fo shizzle!

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Such cool candy packaging.

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And such a cool supermarket name - Mundo Nobo. Why can't we have that here? All we have is boring stuff like Kroger and Publix!

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I'm so glad I go a shot of this little piece of paper, because I think it ended up getting lost before we got home. It was a page we pulled out of one of the tourist guides with a reference for all the Dutch/European street signs.

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We arrived at Arikok's main entrance (the west one near Santa Cruz), where I did buy a t-shirt at the "Logo Shop." I'm not a huge souvenir person, but t-shirts are always good by me.

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A quick stop at the Visitor's Center to buy tickets (only $5 each) and take a look at the information displays. Pay close attention to the snake photo- it'll be important in a later post...

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Right out of the visitor's center we figured out that we were in trouble. You may recall one of the photos of our tiny little rental car from an earlier post. A rental car that was most decidedly not a four wheel drive. We had originally planned to drive the big loop road around Arikok and started out with great plans to spend quality time both out walking around and driving in our air-conditioned car.

Except the roads didn't cooperate. Less than half a mile from the visitor's center the "groomed" road ended and became a rutted, rocky, impassable (for our car) mess. So we backtracked to the head of one of the hiking paths that we could get to and decided to walk around for a while.

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Definitely some cool plants around here.

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And that big cavern behind the tree?

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Yeah, Darren climbed into it. :)

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And also up a rock.

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For some reason, at this point we were feeling adventurous (well, more so than usual) and decided to drive as close to Conchi (the natural pool) as we could get and then hike the rest of the way.

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This "road" was almost the end of the drivable part (for our car).

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And then we got out somewhere around here and started hiking down, having no clue how far we had to go. Luckily, we met some people who were hiking back up from Conchi who said that it was an hour and a half just to get there, and they'd been a bit underwhelmed. Also? They looked exhausted. So we decided then and there that we would just leave Conchi for the next time we were in Aruba (because we are so definitely going back) and make sure that we had a four wheel drive for the trip.

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What Darren doesn't know yet about that day (and we'll see how long it takes him to find this post and read it :) ) is that I was already tired, plus it was hot outside. I usually don't mind hot, but for some reason that day it was getting to me (probably because I was tired), and I was trying very hard not to turn into Melissa von Crankypants. Because, really, it's just bad form to do that on vacation, especially in Aruba. So when Darren decided that he didn't really feel like making that hike...I didn't argue much at all. :)

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I did enjoy the gorgeous view, though.

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And, of course, the monkey butt.

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We made the collapsed natural bridge the next stop on our itinerary, but I just had to get Darren to stop the car along the way to get a picture of this grocery store sign.

Wai Fat? Oh, my.

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I present to you Exhibit A in the argument against being a typical tourist. "Lots Of Mix Drinks And Snacks" does not appeal to me, especially in combination with a "Wonder Of Nature." Also? Calling it a "Tourist Attraction" is just...wrong! Or perhaps just annoying.

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We took our time getting there, and we made tons of stops along the way to explore other (smaller) collapsed natural bridge sites and interesting sea cliffs.

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To give you a sense of scale, that tiny little figure standing out on the rock is me.

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And this one is from even farther out.

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And then I took possession of the camera and shot it from the other side.

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And then scrambled down to take some shots from below.

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And to play in tidepools.

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Lots of tidepools.

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We continued the driving/hiking/scrambling adventure for several miles (by this time Melissa von Crankypants had completely disappeared- I think all she really needed was to sit in the car for a little while and eat a snack).

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Remember how I said we kept making up our own names for things? This was the "Harry Potter Rock" because it looks so much like the one near the end of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

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Do I even need to point out the climbing?

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We finally arrived at the main collapse site, and I didn't even take the big camera with me (just the little point and shoot). It was just so built up and...touristy...and not nearly as cool as everything we'd seen on the way there.

We did climb down to the bottom to explore, where Darren found something new to climb up. The crazy thing? There were tons of people up at the top looking around, but hardly anyone ventured down the stone staircase (I mean, geez, could it have been any easier?) to see the view from the bottom.

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The Gold Smelters' ruins were on Darren's list of must-see places during the trip, and a have to admit that I totally dug all the stonework.

February 2, 2011

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And Darren totally dug the climbing.

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If you haven't been able to tell already, I love texture shots. I found this cracked and dried mud to be especially photogenic.

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Lots of little cairns everywhere.

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I couldn't help stopping to take a few more photos of signs on the way back to the hotel.

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Fofo? Fofo?!?!

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We'd passed this place several times while we were out and about, and decided to try it this evening instead of having dinner in the room.

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Darren ordered the goat (which I did not try) and I had this yummy dish of some sort of barbeque totally covered in cheese. Awesome!!

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I'm just going to warn you now- the next Aruba post will be short, but the one after that will be all kinds of insanely long. :)