Day 17-Willemstad Curacao, Netherland Antilles


I’m not even behind for a change.  Amazing.  But I’ve got to back-track a bit before I start on Curacao.

Last night was the second to the last formal night so we decided to dress up and eat in the dining room.  We got there at 5:30 and we were seated immediately.  But, there is no rush for the formal dining.  We were done with dessert around 7:30.  The meal was excellent as usual.  But that isn’t what I was going to talk about.

There was an entertainer on board, Kuba.  A musician, it was claimed he played unusual instruments.  OK, fine.  We wanted to go.  To kill time we wandered around and found a female duet playing classical music.  A pianist and a violinist, they were elegant and the music was beautiful.  We sat entranced until it was time for the stage show.  We vowed to return later.

Kuba turned out to be a virtuoso.  His main claim to fame was the Vibraphone, an instrument similar to a xylophone but not near as heavy.   He stated that a xylophone was too bulky to carry on tour.  He played rock, classical, and salsa and he was fun to watch. 

Then came the odd.  A “thumb drum” from Africa.  He had found it in Argentina in a second hand shop, bought it, and learned to play it.   Very entertaining.

Then came the bizarre.   Sitting on the edge of the stage was this funny looking box with an antenna sticking out of it.  I thought it was a receiver for a microphone, but no.  It was a theremin. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theremin

Kuba is Polish and his accent threw me a bit so I didn’t get the name for sure.   But I’m uploading from home and got it after doing a google seach.

Ever seen the 50’s movie “Forbidden Planet” or the 50’s version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still?”  Or I should say heard the soundtrack of those movies?  That strange music played in those, the sci-fi sounding squeally stuff is made by that instrument.  But, the instrument is not touched to be played.  There is an electromagnetic field set up between the ends of the instrument.  Kuba held his hands in the air and got tones.  One hand controls the volume.  The hand that is nearest the antenna controls the pitch. 

The instrument is extremely sensitive to hand position; that is what makes the strange sounds.  Even moving your arm, neck, or mouth can change the pitch.  Kuba said that the only thing he could move on his entire body while he was playing the thermi was his two hands and his eyeballs.  Otherwise, the pitch would get thrown off.  He played a ’60s mellow rock tune (and I can’t remember the name of it at this moment) and played it nearly perfectly.  He said it took years of practice to develop the hand control to make the tune sound correct.

Gee, you learn something new every day.

Afterwards, we returned to the duet and sat through another set.  It was soooo relaxing, we ordered drinks, munched on chocolates, and enjoyed.  At the completion of that set, I asked the young ladies for their home country.  Ukraine. 

The previous afternoon our captain mentioned that the approach into Willemstad was interesting and picturesque.  Worth getting up early to see.  OK, I did just that on his recommendation.

C harbor entrance (1024x683)

Wow.  Our ship was going to fit there?  I could see the oil refinery behind the bride but…

C Sunrise (1024x683)

Nothing that way but the sunrise.

C close to the entrance (1024x683)

Yup, here we go.

C floating bridge (1024x683)

In further down the narrow canal.  The Dutch influence is quite obvious in this photo.  Every building is colorfully painted.   At the bottom, the long boat looking structure.  A floating bridge on a turnstile.   There is a free ferry when the bridge is stowed, that is the blue boat in the foreground.

C past the bridge (1024x683)

Past the bridge, we tied off on the edge of the narrow channel.  Looking to the other side of the channel, more colorful shops and buildings.  We went inside for breakfast, packed up our stuff, and headed off to see the town.

C Amsterdam (1024x683)

We caught the ferry across the channel.  The Holland America ship Amsterdam had come in behind us and tied up closer to the harbor entrance.   Another ship was also due in, the Caribbean Princess.  No room here, she tied up elsewhere. 

We wandered over to the tourist kiosk and we were confronted with a young lady selling a two hour island tour.  Ok, fine.  But we would come back.  I had other plans.

I was looking for Wi-Fi to upload my blog.  I figured McDonalds would work just fine and sure enough, there was one near the downtown area.  But something was wrong with their setup.  After a futile 1/2 hour, I disgustedly gave up and started to head back to the ship.  But, another little restaurant had free Wi-Fi and everything worked great.  Hopefully you read those posts before this one.

C morning coffee (1024x683)

Locals drinking their morning coffee.  The tourist shops are here all right, but prices seemed reasonable.  Praxy bought a new swim suit as I caught up on communicating with friends and relatives.

Back to the kiosk, and on to the tour tram.

C 2 hour tour (1024x683)

The open air bus looked pretty comfortable, for $15 each we took a seat.

We drove through town looking at the usual buildings, not much new.  But this is a good one.  How would a person know unless you took a tour.

C venezuelan market  (1024x683)

Hard to get photos in a moving bus when you are on the wrong side.  This is a fresh fruit and vegetable market.  I’ve seen them everywhere.  This one is most unusual.  It is a floating market.  Farmers and merchants from Venezuela travel 25-100 miles over from the mainland to ply their wares on Curacao.  The tables are on the road, but everything behind is on a boat.  The merchants stay until they run out of supplies.  By then another comes to replace them.  Curacao has very little farm land so much of the supplies come from South America.

Then off to a local distillery.

 

C distillery (1024x683)

 

C capper (1024x683)

This is some cleaning concoction, not at all drinkable.  Has a strong eucalyptus aroma.  There was a filler to the right and she has an extra bottle to top off bottles that are a little short.

C labeler (1024x683)

The high tech label machine.

C packer (1024x683)

And other high tech boxing machine.  This stuff smelled like cough syrup.

 

C sampler (1024x683)

Sampling table.  All of their liquors had a lot of coloring in them, I usually don’t buy that kind of thing.  Bright blue, red, green, orange, yellow, except for the coffee liquor

C yummy coffee flavor (683x1024)

The coffee should naturally provide enough colorization.  This stuff was very very tasty.  We are at our limit for alcohol coming back into the states, so I had to pass.

C rain on the tour (1024x683)

As we sampled the liquor, the heavens opened and the rain came down in buckets.  We got a little wet in our open air bus, but not too bad.

We continued our tour around the island.

C columbus landed 1499 (1024x683)

The little cove on the far side of the big bay is where Christopher Columbus landed in 1499.  The Dutch eventually wrested the island away from the Spanish after several wars.

 

C more rain (1024x683)

More rain coming, this is the ritzy area.  Andru Jones (pro baseball player) built a huge mansion for his mom nearby.  She lived there for three months, but it was very lonely.  So she moved back to her old neighborhood.  The house can now be rented by just about anyone for $7500 a week.  Extra if you want the maids, cooks, etc.  Needless to say, it is empty.

The guide then took us to the beach and an exclusive bunch of motels and restaurants.  Typical.  But true to form in Dutch countries, the sunbathing has tops optional.  I thought I was seeing things at first.  Then I realized I was INDEED seeing things.  Piercings.  I’d heard about these, but of course I’d never actually seen them.   Hmmm, looked rather, umm, oh, never mind.

Sorry guys, no photos. 

We returned to the downtown directly afterwards.  We were a little tired, so we started back.  The rotating bridge was across the river, no ferry.

C on the floating bridge (1024x683)

Stepping on, I noticed the flag was orange.  Orange flag means that there is less than 30 minutes until the bridge will be retracted.  A blue flag means “all clear”.  Since everyone was going on it, we did too.

C novia with amsterdam (1024x683)

A photo opportunity on the bridge, the Holland America Amsterdam in the background.   You can’t see our ship, it is behind.  We had a long walk coming up in the hot sun.  Since we were leaving at 11:00pm, we were the last out.  That means we had the farthest dock from the main town.  Oh well.

C uh oh (1024x683)

Suddenly, the alarm horn sounded.  The locals started running.  Us tourists stared after them.  Mistake.

Locals were rushing by us and I realized what was happening.  The man gates were closing!   And the gates continued to close.  Praxy and I bolted for them, but we were too slow.  The last few lucky locals slipped through and then…

C stuck on bridge (1024x683)

We were all stuck between the bridge and the gate.  And unbelievingly, they started the bridge and a gap appeared at our feet.   No time for photos, time to crowd away from the open water towards the gate.  No hand rails.  Nothing.  When I was safe (relatively) I held my camera above my head and photographed the crush.

C finally off (1024x683)

After about 10 minutes, the gates were opened and we all were allowed to escape.  The locals seemed a little put out, but this evidently isn’t too unusual.  Something like this would never be allowed to happen in most countries.  I suppose someone will have to drown before the protocol is changed. 

C there it goes (1024x683)

Some people had waited on the bridge.  I don’t consider that any big deal as there was plenty of room.  A small tugboat passed through the open water on the far side and the bridge was back in place in 10 minutes.

We decided to check around this side of the river, but there wasn’t much there.  At least within close walking distance.  Since we were hot and tired, we tried to find an interesting restaurant with air conditioning.  Nothing there either.  But there was one last thing that caught my eye.

C worlds largest hamster (1024x683)

Crawl in, air it up, zip it closed, and you have the world’s largest hamster in a natural hothouse.   I’ll bet the temperature inside was over 100.  And he could hardly make any headway as the outside was perfectly smooth.  Every now and then, a worker would boost him away from the edge, but the breeze was the main means of propulsion.

It was time to head back to the ship and lunch.  We were pretty wore out, so that is about the end of anything really interesting for that day.  We went to bed early as we had a snorkeling trip planned in Aruba the following morning.

12/20/12  11:00am Atlantic standard time (yep, I finally figured it out while online uploading my blog).  I don’t know when we go back to Eastern time.  Either tonight or tomorrow night.  Update 12/27/12  8:10 PST

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About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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