So I have inundated my blog and FB page with images of the water and in the water in Bonaire. Who can blame me when the water is so magnetic because of its’ beauty and refreshing qualities?
But we have not allowed the allure of the water or the temperatures to dissuade us from exploring the land. Frank and I pulled our mountain bikes off of LIB and went for a “short” three hour tour of parts of the island. We quickly left the paved road surfaces and found some rocky byways to ride and climb. Seeing as how I was trying to keep up with Frank, there was no time to take pictures!
How is this for a view while biking?
My favorite part of exploring by bike was riding along the coast where we had a nice ocean breeze and a magnificent view… Or maybe it was the screaming downhills that seemed so much shorter than the climbs to get to the top?
We also spent a couple of days exploring in a car and Captain was able to join us the first day which made her and us happy. I did have ample opportunity to take pictures from the car!
The first day of driving, we managed to make a quick drive around pretty much all of Bonaire with the exception of Washington Slagbaai National Park as the Park doesn’t allow pets.
A display of the harsh, rocky parts
Even though Bonaire only gets about 22 inches of rain annually, this is the rainy season and we were impressed by how green things were in some parts of Bonaire. The terrain is surprisingly diverse, sometimes flat and harsh with coral as the foundation, other times hilly and covered in scrubby trees then other areas are arid with towering cacti.
While most of the land appears to be too rocky to grow crops, it is said that the island in the picture above has been farmed for three generations. You can actually see on the small island that the ground appears to be more of a loose soil than in other areas.
A touch of softness among the cacti.
Even though the environment would be difficult to cultivate, there is beauty here and birds are more prevalent than on many islands.
Such a vibrant bird!
This little bird was not at all afraid when we came by in our car and in fact he seemed very curious. Captain was in the back seat and I thought she would go crazy if the bird came too close, but she remained very quiet.
Our pretty little visitor.
Sure enough the little bird did come visit us at the car, but I think he was actually more fascinated with his own reflection than with us. He hovered about our mirror for several minutes admiring himself, sitting on the edge of the mirror and sometimes hanging upside down to see himself. The symmetry of his coloring is beautiful.
Bonaire produces 400,000 tons of industrial grade salt each year! The southern end of the island is naturally low lying and, using a system of traditional Dutch dykes, acres of land are divided into ponds which are flooded with seawater. The seawater is allowed to evaporate and salt is left behind.
Can you see the pink color of the water in this salt pond?
The seawater changes color during the process of evaporation and from what I have read goes through three main color stages depending on the salinity of the water and what flourishes in that environment. The pink color that I found so pretty, but hard to photograph, occurs during the final stage of evaporation when the salt content is very high. During this brine state, a microorganism called halophilic bacteria develops. This bacteria is actually a single cell life form and gives the water this pink hue. (For more in depth information, see this link.)
Mountains of washed salt waiting to be exported.
The salt is collected and washed, then stored in huge piles until it is loaded onto a ship for transport. The salt ponds have a separate, dedicated pier where ships dock to be loaded. On days when there is not a ship at the pier, the area around the dock is excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving.
As pretty as these salt pools look, there is evidence of a sad history of slavery here as well. Driving along the road or from the sea you can see a row of tiny, stone huts which were used by salt pond workers. The houses are too small for a grown man to stand in and were simply a place for workers to keep their few possessions and sleep.
These tiny huts give witness to a life of incredible hardship.
According to the literature I read, a small number of African slaves as well as Indians and convicts worked the salt fields and lived in these huts. I read that the slaves would walk to the city of Rincon on Friday afternoons to be with their families. They were required to return to the salt huts on Sunday evening. That walk to Rincon? The literature said it took seven hours each way! So sad.
We had heard about a pretty area on the eastern coast of Bonaire called Lac Bay and that was where we planned to stop for lunch. Lac Bay is a shallow, well protected area with white sand beaches. This combination makes it seem like Lac Bay would be overrun with hotels and commercialization, but because it is on the eastern side (too rough to moor) and hard to reach by car, it only has a few cozy places that cater to windsurfing or lounging on the beach.
Our very casual lunch spot had a cool, sandy floor for Cappy.
We stopped at a casual, little restaurant right on Lac Bay, for a bite to eat and some sniff time for Captain. Lac Bay is perfectly protected by a reef and Frank would love to kite there but due to some mishap a few years ago, kiteboarding has been banned from this idyllic bay. Only windsurfing is allowed and even on a calm day, the bay is dotted with windsurfers.
As we drove around Bonaire, I was struck by how these folks have learned to use the resources available. There is a distillery here that produces a drink from the cactus plant. I understand that Cadushy Distillery makes the worlds only liqueur from cacti plants! We have not toured the distillery yet, but perhaps we will.
This cactus fence was less dense than most.
Cacti are also used as natural fences here on Bonaire. Many yards are lined with cacti planted so close together that they act as a natural barrier. In fact, I think these fences would be more effective than barbed wire at keeping people out if that is your desire. The fence above was a little more decorative and less dense than many that we saw along the road.
This post only touches on the many facets of Bonaire, but already it is long, so I will dedicate my next post exclusively to our visit to the Washington Slagbaai National Park.
Thank you for visiting our blog. I hope you can get a small glimpse into how pretty Bonaire is and how much it has to offer. If you have any questions or favorite places here that you think we would enjoy, please let us know! And if you would like to hear from us more often, please visit our FB page.