Thoughts for Today
From the real world, sublime and challenging
Kralendijk, Bonaire – think salt-flats, wild donkeys,
slave-huts and cactus juice…
How ironic that on the day I settle down to write about the small island of Bonaire it has been declared as one of the places travellers arriving from there to the UK will have to isolate for two weeks. We arrived at Kralendijk, Bonaire – a ‘desert island‘ with a population of 20,000 on Leap Year Day, Saturday, 29th February. Our guide around the island was Simone from Germany - a resident for over 22 years. The words from Psalm 107: verse 24, ‘See the works of the Lord’ – (his wonderful works in the deep) greeted us on our arrival at the marina.
Because of its Dutch heritage Kralendijk is known as ‘Little Amsterdam’. It entertains the hurricane season from July to September and suffered drought from 2013-2016. In the large mini-bus transport we were soon in the land of Aloe Vera spikes and Yatsu Cacti over 200 years old. Indigenous Indians have lived on Bonaire since 1500 BC. We drove to a diving jetty and were greeted by friendly lizards. Young divers were displaying their bravery off the nearby cliff.
Travelling on to the first part of the island’s salt flats we viewed the shy flamingoes in the distance. Apparently, the darker pink indicates the older birds. They live for up to twenty-five years and have no predators on the island. However, algae have been identified as being harmful to them, and booms have been installed to protect the flats from the pervasive weed by Sorobon Bay.
The Cadushy Distillery introduced us to a Cactus Liqueur - a thimble full again you understand! No, it wasn’t pleasant but was advertised as ‘The Spirit of Bonaire’. We negotiated the wild goats and donkeys on the way to the Salt Mountains and glittering salt flats. There are great mountains of salt harvested by the ‘Salt Farm’ of the Cargill Company highlighting the fact with a large conveyor loading a bulk ship by the wharf. The mountains of salt look awesome and natural. The contrast with the industrial process is stark.
Jane and I were not prepared for what came next…the pure white slave houses on the coast – small windowless ‘houses’ just 1.5 metres high. Originally built in 1850 by the West India Company to house two slaves each, but were in fact inhabited by six. Shock set in when we saw the actual size of the interiors. The slaves slept there during the week, returning to their families in Rincon (a distance of seven miles) only for short breaks. Their work involved cutting the salt, and carrying it on their heads and in barrows to small boats before transfer to the Company ships.
The salt today is mainly for industrial use. Slavery, which had been in operation under the Dutch, British, French and Portugese jurisdictions from the 17th century was abolished on Bonaire in 1863. The West Indian Company soon left the island after extracting its natural harvest of sun-dried sea salt for great profit.
We were very subdued after that experience, so physical, so stark. It was in sharp contrast to our next stop, the Sorobon Beach resort. The ‘Wellness and Windsurf Resort’ was secluded and set on a ‘holiday brochure’ lagoon of the Caribbean blue sea with the mangroves nearby. The waves were a mile away.
We lunched and had the use of two beach beds before a paddle into the shallow seawater of the lagoon. Up to my knees in water I met with a female GP and her husband from Rotterdam via Morocco. As we swapped travel stories we were amazed to see a young Nurse Shark (Gingly Mostama Cirratum) come within six feet of us, fortunately socially distancing! They are not known for attacking human beings and feed upon seabed shell fish. We later learned that young nurse sharks very rarely stray from the mangroves to the main lagoon. The surf team informed us we were very fortunate to see one. The experience certainly caused a ‘gingly-tum’! Scary, awesome and unexpected, I was reassured to be with a GP at the time….
After refreshments it was time to make our way back to the ship. We passed the Hotel van emblazoned with the sign ‘Powered by the Sun – Twice the Fun’. The wind farm on the horizon called the ‘Windsock’, contributes to the island’s one third electric self sufficiency.
The sail away followed to Bridgetown, Barbados. Next, there was a sea day. Over two hundred came to the two morning services. Part of the extended sail-away was a late night deck concert with our resident ‘Drifter’, Steve V King and the female vocalist Jo Ashcroft who serenaded us on a barmy evening.
More works of the Lord lay ahead in the wonderful works of the deep…
Edward and Jane