Greetings, Salutations and Best Wishes to all my fellow Arubaholics for 2014. May the year ahead be one of continued visits to our favourite place in the world, along with the surprise possibility of getting to move there on a more permanent basis or at least for four to six months out of the year.
My third trip to the One Happy Island of Aruba was originally supposed to run from the 26th December 2013 to 5th January 2014. However due to difficulty in securing accommodations at CPV and the request for my assistance with house sitting and looking after a small dog, I had to adjust my travel date and with it pay a fee to the online travel site (and by association the airlines that I had booked with). The new travel date was changed to the 2nd January 2014 to 12th January 2014. Ten days this time and in the process thanks to the help of the friend of a family friend I had a booking for the Coconut Inn in Noord. This trip also had another reason attached, I would finally get to meet a friend who I had been communicating with via BBM for the past year for the first time face to face.
Following Christmas and New Year’s on Trinidad, January 2nd finally rolled around and I was on my way to the Piarco International Airport in the early hours of the morning for my 7:35 am flight to Curacao. The first leg of the trip involved flying into Curacao where I would connect to Aruba later in the day. One would think that with Trinidad and Tobago being in close proximity to the Aruba that there would be more direct flights between the two. Apparently Insel used to conduct flights to and from Trinidad and Tobago by way of Curacao and the national airline of T&T Caribbean Air Lines used to have flights direct to Aruba. However both airlines eventually cancelled these routes, leaving Surinam Airways as the only way to Curacao and by association Aruba. DAE was supposed to begin operations in T&T back in 2013, however their financial problems put that eventuality to a permanent rest.
On checking in I was asked if I would be okay with being assigned to an Emergency Exit row on the aircraft. My consciousness immediately started to yell, “NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOOOO!!!! HELL NO TO THE EXIT ROW!!!” Unfortunately my mouth said, “Sure! I don’t mind!” I was assigned to seat #10B and prepared myself to store my backpack in the overhead bin as the row needs to be completely clear of any and all obstructions from under the seats.
My flight landed on Curacao sometime between 10:00 am and 10:08 am. Originally it should have arrived around 9:08 am but the flight was delayed an hour or so coming out of Paramibo. When I made my booking (with Cheap O Air) my connecting flight for Aruba with Tiara Air was scheduled for 10:35……..pm. The idea of being stuck in the airport for twelve to thirteen hours did not sound all that appealing, added to which I had come across several poor reviews and negative comments pertaining to Tiara Air. Originally my plan was to go over to the Insel Air office immediately after landing and purchase a ticket on an earlier flight. That was until Mari a friend of a family friend made an offer. Mari lives on Curacao with her family, and she had been very helpful in securing my accommodations at the Coconut Inn on Aruba. She offered to let me stay at her home for the day and show me around Curacao before I had to go back to Hato International for my flight. Mari also told me that Tiara Air had been going through some problems back in 2013 which was the reason for a lot of their delays and last minute cancellations. Government intervention saw to things being improved and in their service being more reliable and on time.
I took her word for it. It was great getting to see more of Curacao than just the airport. On the drive into Willemstad I could not help but feel as though I was either on Barbados or somewhere in Florida, with all the numerous strip malls and international franchises. While Mari went to run some errands I got a chance to walk around the Renaissance Mall and Rift Fort. It’s a hotel, shopping and entertainment area all rolled into one, situated not too far from the famous floating bridge Otrobanda. The time on Curacao was well spent, especially as I was able to get out of the airport for the majority of it. Eventually the time for my check in soon came and it was back to Hato.
After an hour of waiting the counter staff for Tiara air finally showed up and with it the rush of the handful of passengers who were booked to fly over to Aruba with them. On checking in I was immediately informed that there was going to be a delay of about an hour. Sigh! My first thought was did I make a mistake in still keeping my booking with Tiara? Or should I have gone ahead with my original plan to spend the money and buy a ticket with Insel? It was too late anyway. Upon clearing security and immigration I was a bit saddened to find that all the souvenir stores were closed. So much for my plan to pick up some additional items to take for my friend Darlene and her daughters on Aruba. Good thing I had already picked up some stuff back in Trinidad.
I made my way to gate #7, pulled out my laptop and sent a message to let my friend know that my flight was delayed. Thank goodness for the free wi-fi in the departure area. Apart from the passengers who were going to Aruba there was also an Insel Air flight to Bon Aire that was leaving around the same time as ours. Actually there were still a good bit of passengers that were waiting for their respective flights to depart. I even saw a family four that had been on my flight from Trinidad who were also on the Tiara Air flight over to Aruba. It seemed as though the clerk at the airline counter got the time wrong, as we were not delayed for an hour, more like twenty-five minutes or so. As we were called to board around 11:00 pm, you could have sworn that it was the last flight out of Saigon judging by the way folks rushed for boarding.
The aircraft was a Short 360, it did not look all that small and cramped from the outside. That was till I got on board, talk about crammed. Before I forget, on boarding the lone flight attendant handed out Immigration Cards for Aruba. First time that has ever happened to me in my time flying to Aruba.
When I first made my booking I had initially hoped to arrive on Aruba sometime in the early afternoon, to see the approach to the island in the daylight. Yet again I was to arrive at night, still it was a beautiful view on the way in. With Immigration Card completed I was through Customs, then in and out of baggage claim and on the outside. Darlene was not there as I gave her the wrong departure time, going by what the young lady from Tiara Air told me on checking in for the flight. She showed up in good time and we were soon on our way to find Coconut Inn.
Originally I had told Darlene that I would have taken a taxi to the hotel due to the late hour that my flight was arriving. She wanted to come and pick me up as she would have a definite idea of where the hotel was located for when she had to come back and meet me during my stay on Aruba.
The directions were relatively simple enough, once we found the Wendy’s at Palm Beach and the Aruba Bank we were on course to find it. Although we nearly missed the entrance. Coconut Inn is nothing like Caribbean Palm Village. It’s smaller, situated in a remote area off from the main road, and is in major need of some serious upgrades. Then again it was what I could get that was within my price range. The owner had stayed on to issue me with my key and to sign me in, he thanked me for sending an e-mail informing them of what time my flight was going to arrive on Aruba and also for calling while I was on Curacao to remind them.
My room was right above the reception office, which explained why the wi-fi signal was so strong. It was a studio with a Queen sized bed, small kitchen area, closet, dresser, television, bathroom, balcony with two old plastic chairs and table that was ready to be replaced and an AC Unit that had been there since the place was first built. While it was not what I expected I reminded myself that I was on Aruba, I had just met my friend Darlene and that I should make the best of it.
Darlene came by the following morning before work to take me to an early lunch, which I was most grateful for as breakfast was rather bland, while it was free to guests we were limited to just one helping; and if you took two slices of bread to go with your eggs and ham/bacon/sausage, you would not be allowed to have any pancakes or ariapas. Anyhow, while at lunch Darlene lent me a cell phone to use while on Aruba, that way we could be in touch instead of having to rely on the front desk to connect her calls to my room. Before she went to work she took me to a grocery to pick up a few things for the fridge. I would see Darlene again later that evening when she got out of work and again on both Saturday and Sunday when she brought her oldest daughter with her to meet me before we went over to Palm Plaza Mall and Paseo Hernecia.
We made plans to meet up before she went to work, unfortunately something got in the way to change those plans. For sometime Darlene had a wisdom tooth that had been acting up and causing her some pain and discomfort. She got an appointment to get it removed, which lead to her being laid low for the remainder of my stay. I’ve seen friends of mine go through the after effects of wisdom tooth removal, and it was not easy for them. So I understood what she was going through. It meant that I would not be able to see her before I left, sigh! Chalk it all up to timing I guess. Or a sign that I should have kept my original travel plans instead of pushing them back. Who knows.
With Darlene out of commission I had to see about getting around on my own. For the remaining days on Aruba I would walk down to Moomba from Coconut Inn, hang out there for a few hours, then walk back to the hotel. Picking up lunch/dinner either at Wendy’s or one of the fast food places on the way. If I did not go to Moomba I would either lounge around the room or by the pool, reading and just enjoying the fact that no one was calling me every ten minutes or so. One of my plans for the trip was to relax, which was what I did. Prior to this trip I took it upon myself to learn some phrases in Papiamento- Bon Dia : Good Morning, Bon Tardi : Good Afternoon, Bon Nochi : Good Evening, Pasa Bon Dia : Have a Nice Day, Con ta bai? : How are you?, Mi nombre ta.. : My name is….., Con Jamabo? : What is your name?, Unda ta? : What time is it? Etc. I used a few of them both at the hotel and when going out and about. The response that I got was overly amazing as a lot of people seemed happy to hear a visitor making the effort to learn and use their language. A few times though I had to let them know that I was not from Aruba before they went on a rapid fire response in Papiamento. I got some pretty good comments on my pronunciations and for my effort in learning and using some simple phrases.
I must have been having a good time because time flew, and before I knew it was the 12th. I made arrangements with the receptionist at the hotel to leave Darlene’s phone there with her name and phone number on it for when she came by to collect it. Transportation wise I was connected to Oscar, a taxi driver who takes a lot of guests from the hotel to the airport. When he said he would pick me up at 5:00 am to take me to the airport, he really meant that he was going to pick me up at 5:00 am on the dot.
After checking in and going through passport control and the security check I made a quick pass through the gift shop, I picked up a few pendants, a t-shirt and the last remaining copy of Dark Currents by Daniel Putkowski. Granted I already had it on my kindle, but since it knocked out I had to resort to reading it on my laptop. Having the physical copy meant that I could read it without having to lug around my laptop and I could share it with family and friends who love to read.
Leaving Aruba was hard as usual, especially watching as others arrive while you’re leaving. My return flight with Tiara Air left on time, and as the aircraft took off I reminded myself that this is not the end, there are going to be more trips back to Aruba. On Curacao my flight back to Trinidad and Tobago was to board at Gate #5, which was right next to gates 6 & 7; where all the flights for Aruba normally board. Sigh!! It was a bit depressing for a while, luckily the next flight for Aruba with Insel Air was not due to leave till 2:15 pm, and my flight back to Trinidad was set to depart at 1:45 pm.
Before boarding for my return flight we had to wait for the passengers on the Surinam Airways flight to deplane. As they passed by I could not help but notice that there were a few passengers with broader smiles on their faces. A sure sign of where they would be connecting to next. To those passengers I wished them a great relaxing and enjoyable trip to Aruba, I already had mine; now it was time for them to enjoy theirs. On the flight back to Trinidad guess which seat I was assigned? #10B……..OH NO……EXIT ROWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!