We came, we saw, we wed. Then, amidst gift delivery and relative flurry we fled. Aruba held several advantages for us: it was sunny, it had all-inclusive resorts where we could sip frothy drinks all day for free, and, unlike many of our other vacations, it didn’t require vaccinations, malaria medication, and bottled water. Aruba is also south of the hurricane belt, which was great because while we watched Florida get torn apart by Hurricane Charlie on CNN, we sat in mild eighty degree weather.
Thanks to the mind-boggling number of frequent flyer miles we accumulated while paying for the wedding, we flew for free in first class. First class on Delta Airlines is definitely slumming it compared to British Airways, but it is still a lot nicer than coach. We arrived refreshed, and were delighted that the cab driver had heard of our resort. Nothing would have ruined the honeymoon faster than finding out that the resort doesn’t actually exist and we have been scammed. We were delighted further when we were greeted with cold champagne. Within an hour we had donned our only outfit for the remainder of our stay: bathing suits.
Drink of the day: strawberry daiquiri.
Divi Aruba Beach Resort
We stayed at an all inclusive resort called the Divi Aruba Beach Resort. This resort had five bars, three restaurants, two buffets and lots of wide-open beaches. Lots of stuff at the resort is included in the standard package: all non-motorized water toys, windsurfing clinics, drinks, food, etc. The resort itself is right on the beach and even when full to capacity, it doesn’t feel like there are a ton of people there.
Aruba itself is an interesting island. It is not tropical: year round the weather averages 80 degrees but the island only gets 8-10 inches of rain a year, making it slightly dryer than Las Vegas. The island has its own oil refinery. The output of this refinery flows into the island’s desalinization plant. Fresh water from the plant flows into the nearby brewery, and the output of the brewer flows into the resorts. Pretty good setup, and it means that the island has all the fresh water you can want.
Aruba is also right smack dab in the middle of the trade winds, so there is always a strong wind blowing from east to west. The wind is so consistent that trees grow at an angle. It is so strong that swimming against the ocean current as hard as you can will only keep you from going down the beach; you won’t make any ground.
After enjoying a few beers and frothy rum drinks, we made our way to the concierge and signed up for all sorts of extracurricular activities.
A “Rhino Rider” is a ten foot inflatable Zodiac that can travel up and down the coast at 30 MPH. We rented one of these and toured around the southern coast of the island. They’re a lot of fun, but at one point we hit a large wave head on and nearly flooded the engine. It took us several minutes to clear the water out and get the boat going at speed again. After about an hour I was a true pro with the Rhino Rider; they’re a lot of fun.
Drink of the day: Pink Panther.
The Low Talker
After the first day I got a little water / ear wax in my right ear that plugged it up. I couldn’t hear anything. I walked around for the next few days talking really quietly and saying “what?” all the time. That’s pretty annoying. It’s also a bit of a disadvantage because for many people on the island English is a second language. Simple requests like “Pepperoni Pizza” were frequently misinterpreted as “Meatball Sandwich”. Danna did most of the heavy communication for a few days until it cleared out. For a while, I felt like an old man with my own private nurse. A nurse, that is, who feeds me an endless supply of drinks, which isn’t bad at all.
The next day we took a sunset sail on a 70 foot catamaran. Wow, what a boat. It’s perfectly setup so one guy can captain the whole thing. Of course, there was an open bar where we were introduced to an “Aruba Ariba”. Danna is convinced we could move to Aruba, buy a nice boat, and live comfortably for the rest of our lives.
Drink of the day: Hurricane.
The next day we rented four wheel ATVs and toured some of the other parts of the island. ATV’s have a set of safety regulations, which we handily violated as soon as we got out of the gate. I haven’t driven an ATV since I was twelve, and I’ve got to say that it was a total kick in the ass. Those things can drive over pretty much anything, but man, they handle like crap. We toured several attractions including the Natural Bridge and Natural pool. The winds were very strong, however, and we couldn’t swim in the natural pool because it was too dangerous. However, it was really cool anyway: the winds would cause huge waves to crash up against the rocks. You could stand there and have a wave crash some fifteen feet above your head. Really cool.
You learn a lot about the personalities of people when they’re driving ATVs. Some are timid, some aggressive. Some not so careful. While we were driving around two people stood out: a woman, who didn’t seem to be happy unless she was breaking any rule she could, and her husband, who was the polar opposite and frequently drove his ATV off the edge of the trail and got it stuck. I wonder what these two are like as a couple.
By the time we got back to the hotel we were covered from head to toe in red dirt. Three showers and a bag sent to the hotel laundry service got us back to normal.
Drink of the day: Chi Chi.
That Shopping Thing
Danna has this thing she does that she calls “shopping”. According to the Encarta online dictionary, “shopping” is defined as follows:
1. activity of going to shop: the activity of visiting shops and stores to look at and buy things
I don’t think Danna has seen this definition. To Danna, “shopping” involves a systematic touching, unfolding and looking at every item in the store. She’s like a human tidal wave moving over the store, leaving a wake of unfolded clothing behind her.
We spent a day “shopping” in downtown Oranjestad. The town may never be the same.
Drink of the day: Blue Monday.
Danna got me up at (gasp) 7:00 in the morning so we could go deep sea fishing. Despite this, we both had a fantastic time. Danna caught a small tuna and we met a family of folks from Holland. This makes perfect sense, since Aruba is owned by the Dutch and lots of Dutch people go on vacation there.
The fishing boat was quite a ride. The waves around Aruba are pretty strong and the swells probably topped six to eight feet. At no point could you really let go of any part of the boat: you'd be thrown around like a rag doll.
Most of the guests at our hotel are from the US. With the exception of us, I don’t think any of them live west of the Mississippi. This provided an endless supply of accents for us to listen to. For the first few days of our acclimation, we felt like we stepped right onto the set of the Sopranos: lots of gold chains and thick New Jersey accents.
Sarah and Mike were from Massachusetts and managed to appear at the bar every night. We know this, because we also managed to appear at the bar every night. Sarah built a few very valuable friendships with several of the bartenders, and this never failed to pay off.
Aimee and Trent were from Arkansas. Aimee has a thick, deep southern accent that you can hear from across the bar and it always brings a smile to your face. When we first met them, they asked us if we had any kids. We responded “no”, and asked the same. With a completely deadpan face, Aimee said, “well, no, we’re cousins”. I don’t know what’s funnier: that they say this, or that, for a brief moment, we thought they might have been serious.
The final character we met I call “Boston”. Boston is from, well, Boston. Boston has a heavy Boston accent, loves the Mets, and uses the term “Wicked Pisser” as an adjective to represent anything mildly good. As in, “This is Wicked Pissah beah.” Or, “The Mets, they’re Wicked Pissah.” Boston ended the night by stripping down and doing belly flops in the pool.