Gran Piedra

In the morning we order a taxi from Norbert, the harbor master. He should get us a taxi with which we can visit the Gran Piedra. Eddi arrives at the marina almost on time in his taxi. Norbert hands us over to the taxi driver, who speaks a few words in English, a few words in French, a few words in German and also in Russian. It is enough for the conversation. On the road we pass many monuments. It feels like there are at least one or two monuments to every Cuban revolutionary.

Selfie with Eddi, the taxi driver

The selfie is created during a short photo stop. The small, yellow car holds up bravely on the steep road towards the summit. On the way we see the other Germans in their taxi, which is parked on the side of the road with the hood open and which probably lacks cooling water. I ask Eddi for a stopover, but he refuses. The road has an easy slope of over 20%, somehow I can understand that he wants to keep his car going.

Eddi's little yellow taxi

But we only have to wait a quarter of an hour, then we are all together at the foot of the stairs that lead the last few meters to the summit. Allegedly there are 400 steps, I didn't count it, my bruised knee confirms the size. Every single step is worth it.

Ferns on the way to the summit

On the way the landscape changes, suddenly we are walking through vegetation that could also exist in Germany in the forest. Ferns and deciduous trees shape the landscape.

One tree stands out in particular, here the bees are humming and humming wildly. I'm trying to capture that with the camera. Unfortunately the sound is a bit quiet.

Gran Piedra

Gran Piedra means "the big rock" and it is. When we climb the last flight of stairs, we are already a little chipped.

The last few meters

My knee is looking forward to the descent. In the meantime we are shooting wildly with the camera. Unfortunately we can only guess the sea on the horizon, it is too hazy.

View of the hinterland

But the view of the hinterland is breathtaking. Shame it is so difficult to get there. There are no designated hiking trails and no infrastructure for hikers. One would have to walk down the streets.

Vulture (Photo: Jens)

A vulture circled above us for a few minutes in search of its lunch. Jens manages a wonderful shot at the bird.

Stupid selfie on the summit

Of course we'll take another stupid selfie. Our family in Germany will be happy about that. What is the weather like in Germany? Up here we can't complain at all, the temperatures are very pleasant at high altitudes.

Fantastic views everywhere

We're hungry when we're back down with the vehicles. That's why we ask our drivers to drive us to a restaurant. First, there is a discussion among the drivers about which of the restaurants to go to. Driving downhill, I ask Eddi to stop for a photo at the next donkey. This stop takes place at the point where the taxi of the other German group refilled cooling water on the way there. Here drinking water is filled into canisters at the source, the donkey patiently waits for its load.

The donkey is waiting for its load

The restaurant preferred by Eddi is closed today, we are waiting in front of the door. Eddi makes everything clear for us, a few minutes later we can sit down at the table. It is worth opening the restaurant for a group of seven people. While waiting, I can record this street scene.

Street scene

The further you get from Santiago, the greater the density of horse and donkey carts. There are also a lot of pedestrians on the streets. The size of the potholes that Eddi has to avoid also increases with the distance from Santiago. While we are sitting in the restaurant, the drivers wait outside by their vehicles.

The taxi of the other German group

There is fish in the restaurant. It was available in all private restaurants that we have tried in Cuba so far. Of course, you can pull the fish out of the sea for little money. There are only a few cattle that are needed for milk production. Our German companion, whose funny name is also Eddi, explains the draconian punishments for the locals in Cuba. If a farmer slaughters his own cattle (public property), he is jailed for 25 years.

garden

While we wait for the meal, our salad is freshly harvested in our own garden. We think that's great, but the Cubans might prefer to go shopping in the supermarket rather than cultivating them themselves. Maybe not, that's just speculation on my part.

Grilled octopus

After dinner it is dark. Eddi drives us carefully through the darkness, driving around donkey carts, bicycles and pedestrians, all of which are unlit on the street, without neglecting the dance around the potholes. I'll get his phone number, we'll go on the next trip with him again.

Cayo Granma

Today we visit Cayo Granma. Granma was the name of the boat Fidel Castro was traveling in. Today an island is named after the boat. Mostly fishermen live on the island, we can watch their boats every day from the marina when they start fishing at dusk.

Tracks from Hurricane Sandy

While we wait for the ferry, a resident explains to us that this house was beautiful until a few years ago, when Hurricane Sandy swept the island. Not only was this house destroyed, many of the broken houses in Santiago de Cuba were also dismantled by the hurricane.

Cayo Granma

From the ferry we have a wonderful view of the island, which is idyllically located in the sun. After several stops we arrive and take a short walk around the island. It's not far, it's less than two kilometers all around.

One of the many footpaths on Cayo Granma

On the way we see children who carry a chicken under their arm like a football is carried in our country. The chicken doesn't seem to mind, at some point the children let it go on the floor.

Fishing boat

A couple of children are sitting on the jetty next to a fishing boat. Even in winter, the water temperature is perfect for swimming. We climb to the highest point of the island, there is of course the local church. Unfortunately it is locked.

Church on Cayo Granma

When we went back down, we saw children playing by the water. I am sure that the parents here do not have to be afraid that the children will drown them in the water. All children can swim here. The remains of the former concrete pier are perfect diving platforms for the older children.

Children and teenagers play by the water

This island is actually a paradise for the little ones. There is no danger from cars here, a few motorbikes are occasionally brought to the mainland by ferry and back again in the evening. Nobody would leave something as valuable as a motorcycle on land overnight. This MZ ETZ 250 from GDR production costs around 12,000 CUC or 290,000 local pesos on the street, which is only 48 annual salaries with a usual monthly salary of around 500 pesos.

MZ ETZ 250

We stop in a small private restaurant and get fresh fish with rice, fried bananas and salad for little money. Everything tastes great, Jens even tastes the fried bananas. I have to mention that, because otherwise Jens is a banana hater. The green stuff in Cuba, whether tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers, is of the very best quality. The difference to industrial production in Germany is clearly noticeable on the palate. We have a lot, but it's not always good. The Cubans can hardly believe what we tell them about our food. The little eggs from the little chickens that can be found all over the street are also delicious.

Street in Cayo Granma

In the restaurant we meet two Germans, one of whom lives as a pensioner in Cuba. We learn a lot about the local problems, customs and traditions, and we are filled with rum. We arrange to meet for the following day to visit Gran Piedra, one of the highest mountains in Cuba. We're supposed to get a taxi, but a new one with a good engine, because the path is steep and not every taxi driver would go up there.

Castillo del Morro

Entrance to the Bay of Santiago de Cuba

During the nightly voyage to Cuba we sailed the whole time to the El Morro lighthouse. Right next to it is the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, also called Castillo del Morro. When we enter the bay, we have a beautiful view of it in the morning sun.

During our little tour by car we could easily visit the fort. This is impossible with public transport. First we pass the lighthouse on the land side.

El Morro

The Cuban army still has barracks here, we see a lot of soldiers. In Cuba it is mandatory for men to serve in the army for two years. The women can do it voluntarily.

Castle from the land side

On the land side, the way to the fort is rather unspectacular. We can get there easily. It's even easy for Jens with his foot problem.

Fortress walls and moat

After crossing the moat, we first have to pay 4 CUC entry. Our local guides pay 4 CUP. One CUC is about 25 CUP, so we as tourists pay 25 times the entrance fee. Thats OK for me.

Out and about in the fort

Room by room, floor by floor, we work our way through the system. Always nice and slow, Jens is out and about with a crutch borrowed from the harbor master Jorge.

Bearings for cannonballs

Here we see the warehouse for the cannonballs and the ramp through which they were transported to the cannons. These things are pretty heavy. Back then, people had to work hard. L

cannon

From above there are always great views of the sea and the entrance to the bay. Attackers from the sea could be kept under fire here. Today we're firing from all lenses.

Loopholes

The view from the very top is phenomenal. We can take a look at Sissi from a completely new perspective. While walking through the castle we suddenly hear bits of German words. Two vacationers are out and about here and enjoy a Spanish tour they don't understand a word about. But you are happy to have escaped the situation in Germany for a few weeks.

Look at Sissi, the arrow marks her.

If you click on the picture, you will get an enlargement without the green arrow. The view of Cayo Granma, a fishing island on the other side of the bay, is also beautiful. Our guides tell us that there are a few good private restaurants on Cayo Granma. That means that we already have a new destination.

Cayo Granma

The sound of a bell sounds, Jens couldn't help it. But he doesn't want to buy a round, it would be canceled anyway, because there is no bar in the fort. A recommended excursion destination, UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cuban national monument. Great.

Alarm bell

Cerveza

I have to write about beer now. In all of the Caribbean islands, I've always tried to try the local local beer. In Barbados and St. Lucia, it was more of a watery, yellow liquid with a beer taste. The beer in Martinique came from Alsace or was brewed in the Alsatian style and therefore actually quite delicious. There was a local brewery in Bonaire, but they didn't brew or serve any beer during our stay. The Amstel Bright was touted for this, a beer from Holland that is brewed for the Caribbean and has the same watery taste. The Amstel was also available in Aruba, but there you had decent alternatives with balashi and chill. After all, the recipes are from a German master brewer.

Cervezeria Puerto del Rey

In this respect, my expectations were not particularly high when I found the Cervezeria Puerto del Rey directly opposite the ferry terminal on the harbor promenade. To shorten the waiting time for the ferry, I stopped by and tried out the offer. First, shoes and hands are disinfected at the entrance, then you have to show your ID and the information is noted. The good woman despaired of my German ID and finally waved me through without seeing me. Hehe.

inner space

Due to the Covid-19 measures, there are very few tables in the huge dining room. The waiters, who usually carry the beers to the customers, now have to deal with the disinfection and registration of guests.

There is light and dark, I feel that Dorfbräuhaus remind. With that the plan is clear. The ferry leaves in three quarters of an hour, so I can taste both types.

Light and dark

The beers already look good. They are naturally cloudy and don't look like pisses. The waiter carries them to the table, well chilled. A 0.3l beer costs 1.20 CUC (or US$), a little more than one euro.

The light tastes fresh, has a fine hop note and hisses immensely at the local temperatures. The dark produces a wonderful malt note, more intense than the long-missed beer from the Rhön.

Brew kettle

Yes, the beer is brewed here on site. I'm excited. It's the best beer I've had Sines got. Better than anything that could be bought between Portugal and Cuba.

So it is clear that I have to drag Jens to this bridal temple the next time I visit Santiago. He is also enthusiastic. We want to take beer with us. There is no bottling. Due to the Covid-19 measures, the staff is not allowed to fill the customers' take-away bottles directly from the tap. But Cubans are creative when it comes to solving problems. We get a funnel.

Decanting

In the evening we enjoy the beer in our cockpit. Even if there is only a little carbon dioxide left, there is still enough taste in the delicious drink. Cheers to Germany!

In the cemetery

graveyard

Yesterday we had a local guide who organized a car with a driver for us. So we were able to see some sights that we cannot easily reach on foot. We visited the castle above the entrance to our bay and then in Santiago the cemetery where the grave of Fidel Castro is located. I will write about the fort soon, today I will write about the grave.

Flag in huge size

On a flagpole in front of the cemetery is the largest flag I have ever seen in my life. One could wrap Sissi in it completely. Next to the mast there is a small house where the guards do their duty. A changing of the guard takes place every thirty minutes.

monument

At first we believe that Fidel's grave is in the monument in front of which the soldiers are parading. A security service ensures that the guards are not bothered by the tourists when they stand at attention and march at goose-step.

José Martí

In the monument there is a statue of José Martí, probably the most important Cuban writer, poet and national hero. The coffin, covered with a flag, contains the ashes of one of Fidel Castro's campaigners against Batista during the revolution.

Father of all Cubans

In the evening I learn from the harbor master that Fidel's grave is not in this monument at all. His ashes are in a hole in this stone behind the sign with his name. He just wanted a very simple grave.

Fidel Castro's tombstone

One of the fighters in the memorial is referred to as the father of all Cubans, then another fighter is buried there, who is referred to as the mother of all Cubans. If only I had a better memory for names. With a little internet you can find out, for me it's too expensive at the moment.

Next door is the memorial for the other revolutionaries. A place steeped in history to which we have been taken.

The other revolutionaries

I was able to shoot a little video of the changing of the guard. Unfortunately, this is a bit shaky because I didn't have a tripod on hand. Should I have the opportunity again, I will take a tripod and, if possible, come back in better light, i.e. in the morning. But I think it gives the impression quite well.

Santiago de Cuba

This post is brimming with images that don't match the text. In the next few days there will be more pictures. So many colors, so many impressions.

sunrise

The alarm clock rings at 5:20 a.m. I get up quietly so that Jens is not woken up. Unfortunately, he cannot accompany me today because he has stretched his foot and has to take care of it. After a few minutes I'm sitting with my morning coffee and trying to empty the pot within an hour. I do this while watching the sunrise.

Waterfront

The ferry is punctual to the minute and takes me to downtown Santiago de Cuba in a good half an hour. I have planned a lot there. I want to buy fresh vegetables, maybe I can find a butcher and I'm also looking for a SIM card for the Internet. The first impressions overwhelm me.

Taxi carriage

The horse-drawn carriages are taxis for the port area, where the mountains are not that steep. In addition to horse-drawn carriages, there are also horse-drawn carts for transport, for example here for building rubble.

Cargo horse

Since the shops don't open until 9 a.m., I take a long walk. That is very good for me after the sails and the days of quarantine.

Old sledge

I don't want to give the impression that the streets in Santiago are all driven by ancient cars, but it's no pleasure to photograph a current Renault Berlingo or a Peugeot 405.

Motorcycle gang

On my way to the train station I met a motorcycle gang. Yes, these motorcyclists are all in a group. Every single one of the motorcycles would violate our noise regulations, and the guys honk wildly.

Ferrocarriles de Cuba

I can't go into the station itself, but I manage to photograph the train in the parking area. Only the locomotive is missing, no idea where it was parked. Finally rails in front of the lens again.

Parking facility

Santiago is built on hills, so I walk up and down a lot. That would have been poison for Jens' foot. On Monday we want to go back to town, then I can do a little tour. The formerly pretty colonial buildings are shabby or very shabby. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is harmonious and I like it very much.

Steep streets, old sleigh

In contrast to many other places, I notice positively that the streets are licked clean. There is no rubbish lying around on the street. By the way, the mask wearing quota is about 100%, in Cuba you have to put on a mask everywhere in public. Until I learned that, the rate was a little lower because it never occurred to me to wear a mask on the street.

Former rails

Remnants of tram tracks can be found in a wide variety of places. Apparently there was also a tram in Santiago in the period before the revolution. Unfortunately it no longer exists today, otherwise I wouldn't have to crouch my legs.

Old buildings, young horse

I find the sales office of ETECSA, the local mobile operator. There is a long line in front of the door. You shout "persona ultima" into the crowd and the person who is currently the end of the queue answers. When the next potential customer comes, the game repeats itself. Opposite the sales office is a park, the queue is not only on the sidewalk, but also on the park benches in the park.

A cat at the counter

When my turn finally comes after 45 minutes, the clerk wants to sell me Internet vouchers, which we can also buy in the marina. I refuse, I want a SIM card with the correct data volume. She doesn't sell them to me. I don't get it and leave the shop.

This car is a taxi

I find the fish market and move through the stalls. Almost three and a half hours back to my ferry, I don't want to carry the fish around in the sun that long. Then it is certainly no longer fresh. I make up my mind to come back later.

Various supermarkets shine with empty shelves and long lines in front of the door. The locals look through the shop window to see what is currently on sale. If it's interesting, get in line. I don't see any fresh vegetables so there is no reason for me to queue.

View of the cathedral

There are very long lines in front of all bakeries, except for those who have run out of bread. We are well positioned in this regard, because we have our own bakery on board and a huge amount of flour that we can bake.

I noticed positively that, as a rich tourist, I am not addressed by the locals. If I speak to someone and ask where to go to the ETESCA, a cigar shop or the supermarket, I get a polite answer and directions. I experienced it very differently on other islands.

View of Santiago from the ferry

Unfortunately the fish market is sold out on my second visit. I've learned that I have to go shopping when something is in the store. I cannot expect the goods to be available two hours later. That's okay, we can survive for weeks with the supplies on board. That's all of the stuff we stashed for the crossing to Australia.

On the ferry

All day I haven't seen a single policeman on the street. A soldier rides on the ferry for this purpose. The ferry makes a little detour and goes directly to the marina, where the soldier disembarks. The captain, the chief disinfector, the machinist and the soldier looked rather stupidly out of the laundry when I wanted to get out too. The marina security man gives permission and I save myself going home.

I have to process so many impressions first. I can't even remember the last time I was in a big city.

Life in the Fast Lane (Part 2)

Besides working on the boat, we didn’t miss the opportunity to continue the sightseeing program for Jens. I could work as a tour guide in Aruba, that's how experienced I am now. We drive to San Nicolas so that Jens can see the graffiti on the walls.

I titled this picture “X-ray vision”.

I got one back in April during the lockdown exclusive tour through the colorful world of images. In the meantime I've learned a lot more about the artworks. The above picture, which I have titled “X-ray vision”, offers a lot more than it seems at first glance. Looking at it through a blue or a red filter, either the skin or the skeleton comes through. Here is an animation:

The journey continues to Baby Beach, which in my opinion is completely overrated. The Arubans cavort here en masse, we don't even get out of the car. Neither Jens nor I are guys who hang around on the beach.

Pet Sematary

We make a short stop at the pet cemetery. In the south of the island it is just behind Baby Beach. So we got through the entire program. We're looking for the golf course where the donkeys Tiger and Woods were found. The signage is bad, we can't find the golf course. Instead we find an airfield for model pilots, in the closed reception building of which there are a couple of donkeys. Three mothers with their children who are hardly older than Tiger. Unfortunately we don't have any carrots with us.

Wild donkeys at the model airfield

A few days later we rent a four-wheel drive jeep. With it we can go to the national park and especially to the Natural Pool Conchi. We drive over stone and stone at walking pace for bathing fun. The sea is rough, so we are always showered by waves coming over us. Jens is just as enthusiastic about this magical place as I am. Unfortunately it is not as quiet as in May, when there were no tourists on the island and the national park was closed.

Conchi in May

Just like in May, Edward is with us this time, and we still have space in the car for his sister Shelley. At the pool we also meet Lucas and Marcin, who live with us in the apartments in the Donkey Sanctuary. Unlike us, they walked along the coast from the horse farm. Eric is on the road with them, who also helps with the donkeys and knows all the park rangers. So you can avoid the entrance fee.

Conchi in November

In contrast to the groups in guided tours, we have enough time. We let ourselves be carried back and forth by the current, splashed by the waves and enjoy the time. The sky is overcast, the best weather to avoid sunburn. Jens snorkels. Jens films underwater. I relax, have a little chat with Eric and the park ranger, who also works as a lifeguard and supervises the bathers' luggage.

Marcin and Jens

Even we cannot stay indefinitely, because our program still includes a visit to the caves. There are two of them in Arikok Park. While you definitely need four-wheel drive for the pool, you can see the rest of the park without it. Accordingly, I expect even more crowds there than at the pool and am surprised that we are the only visitors to one of the two caves.

Fontein Cave - photographed from the entrance to the inside

The first of the two caves is the Fontein Cave. An elongated cave that becomes shallower and darker at the rear end. It's beautiful, but doesn't particularly impress me.

Fontein Cave - photographed from inside the entrance

The locals get a discount on the entrance fee in the national park. Edward and Shelley could enter the park for only 5 florins, while Jens and I each paid $ 12, four times the price. While I was still taking the change, I happened to see on a screen how to identify yourself as a local. With the Price Smart membership card (I have) or the Arubus chip card (I also have). I could have saved a lot of money.

Shelley and Edward

In the parking lot of the next cave, the Quadirikiri Cave, we are initially alone. The park ranger in front of the entrance points out to us that neither artificial light nor flash photography is allowed inside. Bats live here.

Quadirikiri Cave

We quickly find out that there is no lack of light in the cave. There are holes in the ceiling in various places. Apparently the cave is just below the surface of the earth.

Interior lighting with daylight

What both caves have in common is that they have been washed away by the ocean over a long period of time. Back then the sea level was much higher. They consist of a coral structure. We go from one large, light room to the next, the path leads us deeper and deeper into the interior of the island. Impressive.

Jens, Edward and Shelley in the Quadirikiri Cave

We finish the visit to the national park, bring Edward and Shelley home and return the completely overpowered jeep. Then we are pretty tired, a sightseeing tour is always exhausting.

View from the cave

Life in the fast lane

We act like tourists. For a donation equal to the usual weekly rent for a car, I rented the donkey cart for a week. With that Jens and I make the island unsafe. It's now a home game for me, and I could work as a tour guide in Aruba.

California Lighthouse

The California Lighthouse is located on the northern tip of Aruba. For me it's a kind of culture shock, because when I last visited the island in April there was a complete shutdown, the border was closed and the airport closed. Everyone is talking about the fact that there aren't enough tourists on the island, but for my purposes the number is easily enough.

View from the lighthouse towards Oranjestad

We briefly enjoy the beautiful view in the clear air. Then we continue to the famous Altovista Chapel, a small Catholic chapel with a Way of the Cross. During his stay in March, Jens could practically not see anything of the island.

Altovista Chapel

For this shot I had to twist myself quite a bit so that no other tourists would come into the picture. I was just able to hide the booth with the knickknacks behind the church. As we approach the interior of the church, we are almost besieged by knickknacks and candle sellers.

Why did I park the car on the other side of the church? If the sellers had seen the license plate on the car, they'd leave us alone. You can easily differentiate between rental cars and private cars.

Altovista Chapel from the inside

Close to the chapel is a kind of zoo, Philips Animal Garden. The business started as a shelter for animals from private ownership, which made too much work for their owners. That's why there is a lonely monkey, various snakes and even a crocodile. I haven't seen this zoo either. It was closed on my rental car tour in April.

Shetland pony?

A bored young man collects an entry fee of five dollars per person, but we get a small bag with carrots and pellets to feed us. Just feed the animals with legs, no birds, no fish. Okay, we can do that. We shouldn't feed the monkeys either. Do they have no legs? We walk into the area. There is a sign at the first enclosure that says “Shetlandṕony”. The residents approach us immediately and we see familiar faces. The pony on the left is a normal sized horse, we don't need to talk about the long ears on the right.

Several rabbit stalls

We find several rabbit houses in which quite a few rabbits live in a confined space. They look lively and cute, but I still wonder if the enclosure wouldn't have been one size larger.

Pigs

The pigs look lively and happy, the enclosure also looks a bit small here. There are no employees on the lonely grounds of the zoo to talk to about the animals. That's a shame, we do it a little differently at Donkey Sanctuary.

Ostriches

The big ratites look into the camera lens. In the picture it looks like they have plenty of space and exercise, but the fence is so close that you can't even see it in the picture. The two birds have about 50 square meters of space. I repeat myself.

Goats

Why? Why do you have to put goats in an enclosure in Aruba? Goats get along well here in the wild, find enough food and there are no accidents with cars. Why? Because, unlike the donkeys, the goats simply run away when they are afraid. When in doubt, the donkey stops in the middle of the road. The only reason I can think of is that the goats are in the cage because of their cuteness.

Goats in the wild, photo taken in April

I don't want to do anything bad about this zoo either. The dromedary is from a private home and would certainly not have survived if this zoo had not existed. A lonely dromedary with his baby. I would have liked to ask a member of staff about the history of the animal.

dromedary

Feeding a dromedary is like feeding a donkey. They can even do the cute facial expression too. The baby, of course, has the usual cuteness factor. All baby animals are cute, aren't they?

Baby dromedary

We leave the zoo with mixed feelings. Or the animal shelter. I don't think it's worth another visit. And now I know what I'll tell Donkey Sanctuary visitors when they ask me about it. So far I could only say that I haven't been there yet.

In Aruba it is only a few minutes' drive to the next attraction. A rare rock formation unique to Aruba is Ayo Rock.

Ayo rock formation

Jens is excited, so am I. On my last visit, which was before the rainy season, the whole landscape was sandy and red. Now it is mostly green. We climb the stairs to the summit and enjoy the view.

Climbing in Ayo Rock

The so-called Natural Bridge is very close by, just a few minutes' drive away. It is also considered one of the really big tourist destinations.

Natural Bridge

With the best photo light and between two guided tours, we manage to photograph the bridge without people. There is really a lot going on on the island. Jens doesn't think it's too tight.

View over the east coast

The view over the coast, which is so beautifully green, is wonderful. We are exhausted, have seen a lot in a short time. We choose to relax in the water. Only a few minutes drive from the Natural Bridge is a natural pool. In front of that, tons of ATVs are waiting for customers. That is new.

Waiting for customers

We drive up to the entry ladder, only see a guided tour splash down. That's good, they usually go away after a few minutes. This tour is no exception. While Jens is going down the ladder, the group is getting ready to leave. Wonderful, we have everything to ourselves.

Started

It is only a few meters over sharp-edged corals until we are floating in the cool water. The big waves from outside transform the pool into a flow channel. It's wonderfully relaxing.

Pure relaxation

Jens is thrilled. Now he's arrived in Aruba. We set up a small loudspeaker box, the acoustics are great. The vaulted walls reflect the sound, the dull rumble of the waves gives the music a very special charm. We regret not having any chilled drinks on hand. This is not the last time we are here.

Relax in the pool

I've been the tour guide for Johnny, Jo and Stewart for a few days. In this way I get to the most beautiful places on the island again, because unfortunately all of them cannot be reached by bus.

Jo and Stewart descend the ladder

My last visit to the so-called “new natural pool” was a month and a half ago, when I visited the pool with Shelly, Moses, Vanita, Brian and Johnny. This time our group is smaller.

Access is via a five meter long ladder. That was the reason that Moses could not go into the water at the time. Johnny is a little annoyed that he left his shoes on the car. The way over the broken corals is painful.

Johnny at the foot of the ladder

Today the view over the broken edge of the Atlantic Ocean is terrific. Wind with a strength of six to seven Beaufort makes the ocean simmer.

Strong wind for heavy seas

After a few minutes we reach the entrance to the water and then immediate relaxation begins. What makes this pool special is that you can stay in the water indefinitely, even at lunchtime, without the risk of being burned by the sun.

I'm in the water (Stewart took the picture)

The place is not new to Johnny, he still knows exactly from which point you can jump into the water. After a big ass bomb, he showered us with water. Um, I don't like salt water.

Stewart and Jo

We relax in the water for almost an hour before the stomachs call for a filling. During this time, several guided island tours pass by. Some of the visitors do not even dare to walk over the sharp-edged corals to the pool. Some people lack the guts to go to the best possible entry rock. It's less slippery than it looks. Unfortunately, most of these groups only spend a few minutes by the pool. It's a shame when you're in such a hurry on vacation.

Making music by the pool

The hotel pool is artificial, our evening performance at this pool is artistic. We can also relax great when we make music together in the evening. Shelly in particular shines with her beautiful voice while I try not to be that loud. Charly, meanwhile, has become very relaxed with his guitar. Just a few months ago he refused to play the guitar in public. Even I belonged to that public. Now he's on the road without stage fright.

A beautiful day

Johnny rented a car, a four-wheel drive jeep. We have been driving across the island with it since Monday, I am allowed to play the tour guide. On board are Jo and Stewart, who have been anchoring off Oranjestad with their sailing boat Patronus for a few days.

Today is a day of swimming in the natural pool Conchi hip, trendy, popular. I was last there a few months ago with Edward and Shelley. I can still remember the path we drove and walked together, so I direct Johnny to the horse farm with the parking lot.

From there we walk comfortably for 45 minutes along the shore and enjoy the landscapes that change fundamentally three times on this route. It starts with crossing a mountain range that ends in a steppe-like environment.

Car wreck in the steppe

Not even half a kilometer later we walk through deep sand. It's uncomfortable with shoes, unbearable without shoes. Either you walk on the sand in your shoes or barefoot in the glowing hot sand.

Scorching hot sand

We happily cover the last meters after the sandy beach with a view of the rock “Little Aruba”, because the reward is waiting for us right after the next ledge. A swim in the natural pool. The sea is rough, which promises great bathing fun. The sun is already glowing very, very hot. A cooling is necessary.

50 meters from the entrance to the natural pool, a park ranger suddenly appears in front of us. We wouldn't have bought a ticket at the main entrance and would have to walk back. Annoying. And yet logical. My last visit was in May. At that time the national park was still closed, so nobody could sell us a ticket. The park rangers were at home. Today they work.

We're 15 minutes faster on the way back to the car. We finally want to get into the water. We buy tickets and eat sandwiches before Johnny drives the jeep onto the official road to Conchi.

Johnny directs

The route that we now have to cover to Conchi is designated as a track for all-wheel drive vehicles. There are some big chunks lying around, but most of the time it is easy to drive. The more ground clearance the car has, the better it is. Johnny's ambition is to definitely make it to the parking lot. We have hiked enough for today.

Two-way traffic - a four-wheel drive minibus

Overall, there isn't much going on in the park. In between, a minibus comes towards us, which takes visitors from the visitor center to the pool with all-wheel drive. At the encounter we see that the two passengers are shaken up properly. Johnny prefers to drive slowly. It's gentle on people and material, my intervertebral discs thank him.

Goal in sight

After a seemingly endless drive through dust and stones, the natural pool finally comes into view. We are all looking forward to the refreshment.

The rough sea does what it can, the waves break again and again on the rocks that form the pool. The water splashes in a high arc over us bathers.

Wave breaks on the rock

We get to know a young American couple. Both have just graduated from university and are on vacation in Aruba for a week. A long conversation develops when we mention that we have been stuck with our sailboats on Aruba for weeks or months. (This actually always happens when you mention the boat in a conversation with non-sailors.)

When a large group of tourists with countless beach buggies shows up, we decide to go to San Nicolas together and do the street art walk.

Street Art in San Nicolas

In good time before sunset we manage the colorful round. We end the evening with a few beers and small snacks. On the way back to Oranjestad, all four of us are happy about the successful day. The hike along the coast was also praised as beautiful by everyone.

Covid-19 scooter

This scooter is regularly in front of the parliament building. Today I take it as a symbolic image, since the beer bottles and the cocoa drink have been seen too often in the meantime.

I am shocked to discover that I haven't published a blog for six days. This is of course due to the fact that I'm on the road a lot at the moment. Six days ago we were in 279 active Covid-19 cases. Yesterday afternoon we had 679 cases. As I write these lines, the 700 mark has long been cracked. The first five sick were hospitalized. This is what it looks like right now.

This is not the only reason why we enjoy the time we make as beautiful as possible.

Update: We landed on 776 cases today. The next death is to be lamented.