Day 72 – Curacao – August 1st, 2015 (National Park Tour & Willemstad Walk)

For our day in Curacao we initially signed up for a morning tour to the more barren and less populated Western end of the island, followed by a scenic sunset dinner cruise. However, with Judi’s back issues and the strong trade winds, we elected to cancel the dinner cruise. Therefore, our day in Curacao consisted of the tour to the National Park, a slave’s home museum and a visit to an exceptional beach with the turquoise blue waters so typical of the Caribbean. Following the tour, we headed ashore for a Skype session with Heather, Jamie and Owen, then Judi went browsing the shops while I explored the local area. Truly a most varied and enjoyable day ashore in Curacao.

After a quick breakfast we headed down to Princess Theatre for the report time of 08:10, sitting comfortably while they awaited the arrival of the buses. Once aboard the bus we took a quick drive around the local area with the guide highlighting Riff Fort, Queen Emma Bridge, Fort Amsterdam, etc.

Curacao sign in plaza at end of Breedestraat Street

Approaching our berth in Curacao

Approaching our berth in Curacao.

Curacao is a small island about 30 miles in length, with a maximum width of 8 miles, and has a resident population of 157,000, which is increased substantially by tourists. Over the centuries, Curacao has been ruled by the Spanish, Dutch and British, with the Dutch having the most influence. Until 2010, Curacao along with 5 other islands comprised the Netherland Antilles, which had close affiliation to the Netherlands. At the dissolution of the Netherland Antilles, Curacao became a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Government is a parliamentary democracy, led by a Prime Minister. Education is compulsory and in primary school they learn 3 languages – Dutch, local and English. In secondary school this increases to 5 languages with the addition of Spanish and either French or German. Needless to say, I wouldn’t have survived school in Curacao, having failed miserably at the forced and ill-fated attempts to learn French and Latin.

As we departed Willemstad, we headed West though some fairly barren countryside, with scrub land on both sides of the road. It was initially fairly flat, but as we approached the western end of the island we encountered some hills, with the highest point on the island being about 1,200 feet. Our first stop is at Shete Boka National Park, which is located on the NW coast of the island and is therefore subjected to the full force of the ever present trade winds.

Christoffel National ark looking over the lava to the water

Shete Boka National Park, which is a flat, barren lava outcrop that gets continuously pounded by the surf from the ever present trade winds. The above photograph was taken from where we disembarked the bus, looking out towards the water. The flat lava had a clearly marked path, which we followed along to the shoreline.

Christoffel National Park on NW shore with trade winds pounding ashore 

The path lead along this small inlet, which was continuously being pounded by breakers on the shoreline.

Christoffel National Park desolate lava surface on the NW Curacao shoreline

On reaching the shoreline we continued to the wooden viewing platform, which provided excellent views of the pounding surf.

Christoffel National Park with trade winds pounding ashore 2

This was impressive, resembling the clash of the titans, with a reflection off the wall colliding with the next wave coming in, which resulted in the arch of water in the foreground. Unfortunately, photographs just don’t do it any justice.

Christoffel National Park with Judi at the windswept coastline

Judi at the edge of the viewing platform.

Christoffel National Park shoreline in NW Curacao 

View along the coast to the West from the viewing platform.

Christoffel National Park with trade winds pounding ashore 3

Just one of the many explosions of spray as the breakers pound ashore.

The next attraction on our tour was a stop a museum comprising a typical slave’s house and property. Once slavery was abolished the business owners and workers came to realise that they both required each other, so the slaves received some property to build a home and worked off the debt.

Slave home which is now a museum

A typical house with living room, which doubled as kids bedroom and a bedroom for the parents. No cooking or bathroom facilities were included, as these were in separate buildings. The garden included many features to enhance their daily lives.

Slave home museum oven for baking bread

A bread oven where they used dried sage leaves when moving the cooking bread around the oven, which imparted a sage flavour into the bread.

Slave home museum pit for making charcoal

Pit used for making charcoal.

Slave home museum kitchen

Small kitchen, which was housed in a separate structure.

The next and final stop on today’s tour is at Knip Beach, located on the west facing tip of the island, which affords some shelter from the trade winds. This beach was simply spectacular and almost everyone exclaimed, “Wow” as we disembarked the bus.

Knip Beach with Judi

Judi sitting on the wall with the amazing crystal clear, turquoise blue water in the background.

Knip Beach looking out from the point towards the ocean

I walked off to the side of the viewing platform, to the edge of the shoreline and found this amazing sight. Looking out to sea, with the view of the transitioning colours of the water framed by the arch of trees.

Knip Beach pointing West is sheltered from the trade winds

Facing west the beach receives a gentle surf compared to the pounding experienced at the National Park.

Knip Beach transition of turquoise to dark blue waters and white caps

Looking out to sea from the edge of the beach with the light turquoise waters transitioning to darker blue and whitecaps.

Knip Beach and shoreline

Looking down on the sandy beach from the viewing platform.

Knip Beach Judi sitting on the wall with the turquoise waters in the background

Judi with the amazing beach in the background.

We re-boarded the bus for the 45 minute drive back to the ship, where we returned to the cabin to grab the laptop before returning ashore to find a good wi-fi signal so we could Skype with Heather, Jamie and little Owen.

Sea Princess alongside at Curacao

Sea Princess bow with the pounding surf of the ever present trade winds. Needless to say in the 30 knot winds, all hats had to be well secured, or they were gone. We walked along the tented shops  out through the security gate towards the adjacent hotel and mall.

Looking down the hotel path towards the shore and Sea Princess

View from the mall entrance looking back down the path to the shoreline. Success, we found a Starbucks, so we sat down with a cup of tea and set up Skype, chatting with Heather and Jamie, and drooling over our grandson for over an hour. Judi then wandered through the local shops, while I ventured off for my daily hike and to investigate the local surroundings.

Rif Fort sign and cannon

Originally the fortifications protecting the entrance channel, it is now an eclectic mix of small cafes and restaurants, with an abundant supply of tables on the patios.

Fort Riff cafes and restaurants

A small selection of the cafes, restaurants and patio tables within Rif Fort. As a tanker was entering the channel, the Queen Emma Bridge was open, so I climbed up to the walls of Rif Fort for a panoramic view of the surrounding area.

Curacao channel fortifications and tallest building on the island

View across the channel towards the fortifications and tallest building in Curacao from the walls of Rif Fort. To maintain the UNESCO designation no other tall buildings can be built on the island.

Fort Amsterdam, home of royal family

Fort Amsterdam, built in 1634 with 10 foot thick walls and 4 bastions, it was hit by a cannon ball fired by HMS Theseus, during an invasion and capture of the fort in 1804. The cannon ball is still embedded in the wall and visible. The fort is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses the cabinet offices and offices of the Governor of Curacao.

Colourful business on eastern shoreline

Colourful buildings along the eastern shore of the entrance channel.

Once the inbound tanker cleared the channel, the pontoon bridge started snaking its way back across the channel.

Queen Emma pontoon bridge almost across the channel

Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge almost across the channel.

Queen Emma bridge

Looking across the pontoon bridge. Once across the bridge I walked around the local street and around an inlet off the main entrance channel. The following pictures are just some of the local sights.

Homes and businesses at the end of Marshe Nobo

Looking towards the end of the inlet, which is surrounded by homes and businesses.

Colourful market stalls

Market building in the background with additional brightly coloured stalls at the side of the street.

Fishing boats at the rear of the fruit and vegetable stalls

This is the rear of the fruit and vegetable market, where they appear to live on the boats.

Eastern shore and high level bridge

Returning back across the Queen Emma Bridge looking up the entrance channel towards the high level road bridge.

Businesses on western shore

Row of colourful shops on the western shore of the entrance channel.

Hotel and mall adjacent to the berth

Hotel and swimming pool

View from our balcony when docked alongside at Curacao.

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