Friday, July 16, 2004

(Driving Around)

This was a really hectic day (I am, of course, not writing it on Friday night). Because Agnes (the purser who is leaving) was pretty much working every time we were in Aruba, she had asked for her last Friday off. She had to work in the morning, but the rest of the day was free. So five of us decided to rent a jeep and drive around the island, with that many it is quite a bit cheaper than cabs.

Mihai had been planning for a couple of weeks to download a new version of Linux. Since it is about 1.5GB, he needed someplace really fast, which is only in Aruba. This was his last chance, but he had a meeting in the morning. I went with him to hook his laptop to the internet and start the downloads, and then I babysat his computer while he went to the meeting. He got back just before I was supposed to meet everyone on the ship.

We were supposed to go to lunch, so I checked the price of the Jeep and went in to meet everyone. They had small 4WD's (Geo Trackers) for $40, and full-sized Jeeps for $75. I got in at 11, and they (of course) were running late. Several had already gone to lunch already, so we weren't going to do that. We finally got out at 1:30.

In that hour and a half, the price nearly doubled. The guy told me (and another confirmed it when I brought the vehicle back) that the later you rent (and the shorter time you keep the vehicle) the more expensive it gets. Now it was $75 for the small 4WD. This makes no sense to me whatsoever. After arguing with him for 20 minutes, we finally agreed on $70 (the time wasn't worth $5 split five ways to me, but they wanted to haggle). I was the only one with a valid license with me, so I was the driver. It was a bit odd, as I haven't driven a car in three months. It turned out that I was the only one that could drive a stick shift also, so it was moot.

We first headed to the lighthouse. We had gotten the Tracker (seen in the picture), even though there were five of us. I was sitting in front, so I didn't care how much they had to squeeze. I know that I have shown it before, but it just has such a great view of the water.

We next headed through town to see the church with the above-ground graves (not the only one, but the only one that I knew the location of). I had pictures of them before, but this time (another advantage of renting a car) we could stop at our leisure. We also happened to drive by a lot of cactus, it looks a bit odd to see a hydrant next to it. Kind of a spigot of water in the middle of the desert. I wonder if they run saltwater in them? It would be LOTS cheaper, but I would think that it would probably ruin all of the fittings and such (and maybe add to the water damage in the house). It isn't as if you are using them a lot anyway (hopefully).

We went to the big rock, and happened to see the organized Jeep tour as we left. I get a kick out of these. It is just like being on a bus tour, but without the air and you have to drive yourself. You all have to stay together, though, and come and go at the same time. It is just a big caravan.

We then headed to Baby beach, or what we thought (by the map) was Baby beach. No one had been there before, and the map was a bit vague. There was a oil refinery to the right, and subdivisions, so we thought that we were there. You could drive right out on to the sand (which was VERY soft), and several people had already driven out there and were kite boarding. I put it into 4-wheel-drive and headed out to watch.

It turns out that the 4WD (and the horn, and the jack, not to mention the complete lack of a convertible top) did NOT work. We didn't go 50 feet before coming to a stop here. One girl went to lie down, the guy started (sort of) helping me, and the other two went up the beach to see if anyone would tow us back 50 feet or so. I dug for nearly an hour under the Geo, and tried to use the (useless) jack to get the thing off of the sand. The girls came back to say that no one had a rope except for the guys that were out on the water.

It didn't look too good until two guys in a Samurai drove up. Their 4WD DID work (even though it was a pretty old vehicle), and it was getting along fine. They offered to help, and had a short rope. I was a bit dubious at first, as there really isn't much TO a Samurai. The rope, once it was tied, had around 10 feet of slack. He decided to back up 'till he was almost touching, then drive forward quickly while I drove in reverse. I had to be really careful, because if I caught I could drive into him. It jerked the vehicle around quite a bit, but the first try jerked us out of the hole we were in. However, in reverse my vehicle had absolutely no traction whatsoever. So, he jerked me three or four feet at a time until I could finally move backwards. We stayed driving that way (him in forward and me in reverse) until we got on really firm ground, afraid to stop. The rope only broke once, which was amazing. Of course, it was on SO tight when we stopped that we had to just cut it off.

We thanked the guys profusely, and then asked them where Baby Beach was. We only had a short time left, but it turns out that you have to drive through the subdivision to get to it, and it is right next to the refinery. It isn't exactly a tourist location, but there are only about four beaches in Aruba. There are technically around 15, but that is only because in one 2-mile stretch, there are 12 or so beaches. Each hotel names the bit of beach in front of itself, which I don't really count.

Baby Beach, however, WAS really nice. We only had about ten minutes, but waded out anyway. It is in a cove that is nearly closed, so there aren't any waves. It is large, but never gets deeper than waist-deep. If you look, there are people a long ways away from me, and they have just gotten to knee-deep. The people over half-way across are waist-deep. You can float around without being worried about going out to sea, it is like being in a shallow, warm, very large pool. Here is where the land curves around to almost close the beach into a lake.

When we finally got back to the ship, I barely had time to get the rental car back. The pursers (and a few other people) had chartered a catamaran for a sunset cruise, and had invited a few other people. It was a lot of fun, and it was a good way to be out on the water at sunset. I was starving, since I had missed both lunch and dinner (and only had donuts, for the first time in six months, for breakfast). They had some finger foods, but nothing major.

Here's a picture of our new doctor, he seems like a really nice guy. This is the pirate cruise, more aptly named the "booze cruise." The captain was wearing quite the official-looking shirt, but not so much the rest of his attire. I saw a really nice sunset, and watched people get drunk and dance. It was a pretty relaxing evening overall. The only thing that I didn't care for was the separation of the dancers and everyone else. The chief purser is friends with the dancers, but they pretty much only hang out with each other. The whole night long, the boat was divided equally, the dancers on the front of the boat and everyone else on the back. Just silly . . .

One last picture. This guy is from the U.S., and everyone calls him "Uncle Eddie." He's a real trip, and is a piano player for Carnival (and has been for around 15 years). He's the nicest guy, and pretty much just plays piano and drinks beer. I went to snap a picture of him, and he only drinks Miller Light. However, he had another brand in his hand, as they were out (probably because of him). So he made me take another picture, and lifted his shirt to display the Miller Light t-shirt underneath. I think that maybe they pay him or something . . .