Bonaire was definitely stealing our hearts and we all needed to see more of it. So, along with Milly and Slow Flight, we rented two trucks to further explore by land. First on Steve’s agenda was a hike to the tallest peak, Brandaris Hill in the Washington-Slagbaai National Park. The park is at the north end of the island and a bit of a drive, so we could see more of the island on the way.
First, a short note on Bonaire for other cruisers considering coming. Bonaire is an island with an identity problem, but that is part of its charm. It is considered a Dutch island and there are many Dutch people there, but there is also a distinct Latin flavor to it that must come from its close vicinity to Venezuela. Even the language is confused. Locals speak Papiamentu, a combination of Dutch, German, and Spanish (at least). “Bon bini” is everywhere, meaning bienvenidos or welcome. Good day as a greeting is bon dia instead of buenos dias, as I learned in Spanish. The Dutch people speak English which makes it easy, but the local Papiamentu speakers do not necessarily know English or Spanish. My mostly forgotten and broken Spanish helps, but there are many Spanish words they do not know. Just because something is legal in Holland, do not assume it is legal in Bonaire. The laws are different when it comes to things such as cannabis and coffee shops, but I heard there is an active red light district. Sorry, can’t verify that one for you. The people are very nice, but the island is not set up for cruisers. The marina has no dinghy dock for people on the moorings. The marina collects the mooring fees, but the money goes to the park service. However, the marina does have a fuel dock with water and garbage disposal. There is no easy way to provision without renting a car that we found. If there are taxis, they are not obvious. Nor are there buses running in the area. Finally, checking in and out of the country is challenging without a car as well. It is set up for people coming in by cruise ship or commercial vessels. All that said, this is not a bad thing just an inconvenience. We want to travel the path less followed, so we can expect inconveniences. Everyone made us feel welcome and our business appreciated.
A car rental company picked us up at the Yellow Submarine Dive Shop dock, where the people were nice enough to let us park our dinghies. Pick up trucks are the vehicles of choice on the island because so many people use them to go scuba diving at the various dive spots around the island. Wooden racks are placed in the beds to hold the dive tanks in place. We weren’t diving this time, but that was good to know. We started north and drove out of town and passed familiar sights we saw by scooter previously. As we neared the national park, we passed more salt pans and areas that looked like natural salt marsh. This area is a protected nesting habitat for the flamingos. I love that!
The flamingos were still a little far away. They seemed shy and if we tried to get closer, they would slowly move away. The brightness of their feathers is startling. They can be seen from quite a distance. They must not have any natural predators. While we watched these three, their movement was synchronized.
Not as impressive to look at, but still a neat shore bird, I finally learned that this is a ruddy turnstone. I’ve seen them other places, but didn’t know what they were. They have striking markings across their back when in flight.
The trailhead to Brandaris Hill was inside the national park. You have to carry a park pass to enter. We purchased the land and sea pass at the dive shop when we arrived. I believe it was $25 for both. The trail was easy to follow, but there wasn’t much shade. We were warned to go early and carry a lot of water. We could definitely see why.
The trees may not offer much shade, but they house a lot of fungi or air plants. Little puff balls hang all over them.
We came to a gate that was meant to keep something in or out. We weren’t sure what, but if they are protecting the few arid plants there I would guess it was to keep goats and/or donkeys out. I did see a goat inside, though.
I didn’t realize we would be rock climbing on this hike. I carried my big camera, which made climbing rather challenging. The trail was marked by yellow dots or arrows on the rocks.
To me, it felt like we had been hiking for hours by the time we scaled the first peak.
I looked back and could no longer see the beginning of the trail. You can see the trial go around to the right of the peak in the middle of the picture. I assume the trailhead was somewhere behind that hill. Looks like we did hike quite a ways.
Blue whiptail lizards darted all around along the trail. They were easy to spot with their bright coloring.
The plainer brown ones had the same shiny blue patches on top of their feet, so I’m guessing one is female and one male. Not sure, though, because some whiptails are asexual. Maybe the young ones are less colorful? They were smaller, but they seemed to travel in pairs.
Climbing is tiring work and the day was getting hotter. Glad for a water break, we enjoyed the breeze on higher ground and took a look around.
This cactus reminded me of the Turks & Caicos. The Turks head cactus found on those islands is where the Turks got their name.
The trail led nearer to the ocean and gave us a good view of the salt marsh where the flamingos were. As pink as they are, we could not spot the flamingos from this far away.
We could see the end of the trail now. It followed a ridge up to the highest peak.
But to get there, we had to scale more rocks. This time Dave took my camera bag to help me out.
Finally, we made it! It felt great to accomplish it.
The elevation of Brandaris Hill is 784 feet above sea level. It doesn’t sound like much, but it made for a challenging hike. Also, being the tallest point, we had a 360 degree panoramic view. The view almost made the hike worth while for me. No, I’m not a big hiker… But it is a great way to see an island up close and personal.
But the lizards definitely made my day. The blue whiptails appeared to be very curious about us. Either that or hiking tourists have been feeding them and they now have expectations of being fed.
The lizards kept coming up between Sally and I, almost playing a game of peek-a-boo.
Maybe it was just showing off.
After a nice long rest enjoying the view, breeze, water, a snack, and good company, we turned around and proceeded back the way we came. We drove back to the park office. Yes, it was time. The ladies room was cutely marked with a cactus flower, but the mens room cracked us up. Really, this is at the park service! Hahaha!
There was an informational area and a small natural history museum. This iguana was posing on the steps for us. Since there were taxidermic specimens, you might have thought this one of them. But he wasn’t protected under glass.
I took a closer look. He was very still, but the eye was moving. Gorgeous iguana! Next up, our land tour continues… Cactus vodka anyone?