Today was a non dive day which meant we got to sleep in...kind of. Shannon and I had arranged to take the truck for the day sight seeing. My roommate decided he needed the truck from 7:30am-12 noon so we hung around the resort until then. Once he returned we headed into town to do some souvenir shopping. We encountered a problem though as most of the shops close from 12-2pm for siesta. We did what little shopping we could and headed to the southern part of the island.
Our first stop was the donkey sanctuary. Donkeys are wild on the island from the days when the salt traders used them for labor (more on that later). The islanders were not very nice to these wild donkeys so one of the residents bought some land to "rescue" them. When she started the sanctuary she had about 20 donkeys. Today there are more than 400 donkeys that call the sanctuary home. Since the refuge is run solely on donations, we paid our $12 entry fee, grabbed a bag of donkey feed and headed out on the one way dirt road (the wrong way I might add) to say hi to the donkeys (please note that it is impossible for me to say donkey without envoking the Shrek version of DON-KAY!).
As we entered donkey land we were greeted with a plethora of donkeys who knew why we were there. They have no worries about sticking their long noses into the car and begging for a treat. At one point we had about six donkeys, three in each window, looking for some grub. And these little buggers are smart. As you stop to feed they come RUNNING from everywhere. You feed a few and when you decide to move along one or two will dart in front of your vehicle to try and get some more meal time. They will move but it feels wrong to push them out of the way with a truck. Once you do break free of the group, two or three will GALOP (at about 20 kms) with you until you stop again. Once we completed our donkey safari we stopped to see the "orphaned" donkeys and even a baby donkey about a month old.
With the truck full of donkey slobber we continued south toward the salt "mines" near our dive site from Monday, Invisibles. The salt mines consist of large pools of sea water that are allowed to evaporate leaving acres of salt which are then scraped up an put into large piles. The interesting thing is these "crystallizer" ponds are as pink as flamingos due to the sun refracting through the salt. Quite a sight.
As we drove along the one lane road we eventually came to an area known as the slave huts. Way back when the Dutch had slaves who tended to the salt pools. Ships would moore offshore and the slaves would carry the salt to dingys on make-shift docks. The dingys would then take the salt to the ships. There were four areas where ships could moore and they were marked by large pyrimid pillars that still stand (orange, white, red and blue - the colors of the Dutch flag) which designating the quality of the salt they would buy. The slaves who worked the pools were housed in small huts near the pillars. When I say small, I mean SMALL. The huts are MAYBE 5 feet by 7 feet long and the top of which are about eye level. To enter the hut I almost had to crawl through the door. I can't imagine myself living in one of these huts let alone raising a family in one of them. It is amazing what human beings are capable of inflicting on other human beings.
After that sobering experience we continued to the southern most tip of the island where an old lighthouse still stands. Now equipped with state of the art technology, the lighthouse sits among driftwood, volcanic rock and dead coral while large wind swept waves pound the shore nearby. After a few pictures we ventured along the east coast until we made it back to the center of town.
By now the shops were open again and we were able to pick up shirts and other trinkets to bring back to our family and loved ones back home. We ate at a small place called the Buenos Ares Cafe with a great view of sailboats passing by (the cheapest meal we had to date at only $30 for two cheeseburgers, two beers and a coke).
Everyone had done their own thing today so dinner plans were a little confusing. After I went down to view my last sunset, complete with dive bombing pelicans and viewing the Tarpon feed from above water, I found that everyone had left the condo. I didn't have to get the truck back until 10pm so I took it down to a restaurant along the main drag called ZEEZICHT. After a few beers, some firecracker rolls (which were white fish egg rolls in some VERY hot sauce) and watching most of the Yankees/Red Sox game, I headed back to check out and return the truck. I was able to get the $40 back I paid for internet access since it sucks and headed over to the pool bar to try and connect one more time.
As I was writing this the resort next door had an impromptu fireworks show. Luckily I had my camera with me and was able to get a picture of the action. Since I was in Vegas for 4th of July and they don't shoot fireworks on the strip I feel like I finally got my show.
Our flight leaves at 7:30am from the pink-painted Flamingo Airport which means we have to get up at at 4am to catch our shuttle. I'm hoping to get a couple hours of sleep and then a few more during our 9+ hours of travel (that's right, feel sorry for me as I return from paradise). At the end of the day the trip was one I will NEVER forget. I will have all of my pictures up on Flickr after I sleep for a day and a half and help our softball team the Diablo JETigers get to 3-0.
The Now Internationally Known Buddy Dive Pool Bar