Aruba

Last week was the week of our 36th wedding anniversary, and we spent it on the small island of Aruba located in the Caribbean which is drenched with sun, girded with glistening white sand beaches and subject to the constant blast of the trade winds. It was once a small jewel of a place which now is still nice, but is rapidly being built over with resorts like the Marriott Surf Club, which try to maximize their revenue by cramming them to the rafters with tourists – mainly parents dragging with them their loud, ill-behaved children or sullen teenagers. The resorts are on the west side of the island, or in the lea of the wind. This is the side that has the best beaches as on the windward or east side of the island, the surf just pounds the rocky shore line, sending spray dozens of feet into the air. Aruba is an arid place – not much in the way of lakes or rivers and so the water is supplied by a desalination plant on the south side of the island which is supposedly the world’s second largest. For a place with as much available sun and wind as Aruba has,  I found it odd there appeared to be no real solar or wind power being developed, as I would have thought it would be a natural fit.

Call me odd (heck – I’ve been called much worse by people that really meant it !), but each morning as I looked out at the acres of baking tourist bodies all parked on their lounges in the sun, I just could not stop thinking how pointless it all seemed. I personally can’t think of anything more wasteful than to travel thousands of miles to a place, with the express intent of just doing absolutely nothing. I also wondered just how much else if any of the island any of these people had bothered to take a look at, as there is actually much to be seen. We always make it a point to see as much of any place we visit as possible and so had rented a car for the week expressly for the purpose of doing some exploring. As on our first visit, we put the car to good use, and managed to see quite a bit, and yes we also did do some swimming and a little bit of sitting around as well.

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Of the many interesting places to visit in Aruba, one item of special, possibly macabre  interest is the pet cemetery on the south side of the island near Baby Beach – I frankly have never seen anything like it anywhere although I’m sure they must exist. East of Baby Beach in the dunes and scrub of the coast line, small crosses can be found which stretch for hundreds of feet – almost as far as the eye can see. Some have writing on them, some have small tokens of remembrance – a stuffed toy perhaps now bleached and faded in the sun.  Some are quite impressive, and others are just a couple of sticks stuck into the sand. There are literally tens of dozens or hundreds of these small marked graves and each is of a former family pet.  Its both a bit eerie, but also very touching at the same time. When I first saw this some years ago on our first Aruba visit, all I initially could think of was the book by Stephen King ! Unlike ‘people’ cemeteries which don’t bother me at all, I found this one to be slightly unsettling in a sorrowful kind of way. Conventional places of burial are structured and ordered with neat landscaping, markers and boundaries. There does not seem to be any real defined boundary at all  to Aruba’s pet cemetery, and there is certainly no real ‘order’ – it sort of starts at a road fork and then continues east on the south or seaward side of the coastal road.  It is not a ‘professional’ location such as exist in a few places in the US and possibly elsewhere – it has no neat rows or arrangement to it – it actually very much has the appearance of being the sort of impromptu thing a child would do, but on a scale which I think is amazing and which I think makes it quite special.

If you get a chance, its worth a look.

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