Originally our plan was to take a boat from Trinidad to Venezuela, then travel through Venezuela to Colombia.
After talking with people, and reading some advice and information about Venezuela, we decided to skip the whole country, and find another way to Colombia. It turns out that kidnapping,robbery and murder of tourists are all too common there, especially in the capital Caracas. We figured that if we wont feel safe there, there is not much reason to go there. One lady we spoke with had lived in Caracas for 10 years, but never gone into the center because it was too dangerous. That says something. In addition to that it is generally hazardous, it was even worse when we were supposed to go there, as President Hugo Chavez was dying.
So we went to Curacao instead, although it was approximately twice as expensive. On the flight from Trinidad til Curacao, flying above Venezuela, we saw several deserted archipelagoes that looked like the perfect paradise. A good reason to buy a sailboat one day.
At the airport Jan Driesprong came to pick us up and drove us to his house on the outskirts of Willemsted (capital).
Jan Driesprong is a couch surfing host who thankfully opened his home for us the 5 days we would stay on this island. He is a funny guy; a Dutchman in his 60's who has spent much of his life traveling around the world before he settled in Curacao 25 years ago.
He took us to the capital Willemsted and bought large quantities of beer for us, which was fine for us.
Willemsted is one of the nicest cities in the Caribbean. The houses are incredibly colorful, and of a special architecture. The Dutch built the city in the 1600s just after they had taken over the island from the Spaniards. The bridges have many imaginative
ways to let boats pass, inspired by Amsterdam. The biggest bridge has a motor that drives the bridge to the side every time a large boat is going past. That happens quite often because Curacao is a popular destination for cruise tourists, and in addition there is much traffic to the oil refinery located near the center.
In Curacao they speak Pamiento, which is a mix between Dutch and Creole. Some people on Curacao speak only Pamiento, which means that if they go to any other place than Curacao they will be "lost in translation".
One museum that is worth checking out in Willemstad Location is the slave museum. Curacao was in fact the island where all the slaves were transported to, directly from Africa. On the market in Willemstad the slaves were sold to the highest bidder from one of the other Caribbean islands. Then they were transported there to work on the sugar plantations of rich Europeans.
The museum was interesting and showed how horrible slaves were treated during transport, and during work. It was common that the slavetraders brought too many slaves in the ship so that 1/3 of them died during shipment(150 people). They also had focus on all the racism that blacks were subjected to after the slavery was forbidden. Their life was not much better even after the emancipation..
Jan was a perfect host; He not only gave us shelter, but he also drove us around the island to see everything that was worth seeing, our own private guide! .
He took us to the north of the island to a small lake with thousands of beautiful pink flamingos. Then we went on to the east coast where the terrain is a mix of desert and volcanic rock. The sea is crashing against the cliffs, forming some incredible rock formations and caves. It was worth a visit.
When it was time for lunch, he drove to the other side of the island, where the ocean is a little quieter, and there are many beaches.
We had lunch right next to a beach, and it was not long before we were surrounded by 15-20 giant lizards. The local iguanas have learned that there are easier ways to find food than to look for green grass in the desert terrain.
Tourists are usually more than willing to feed the cute annoying lizards, and we were no exception. Once the damage is done there is no longer any point trying to convince restaurant-owners that they should not let people feed wild animals. They are amazing and interesting creatures to observe. There is something quite special about having 3 small dinosaurs climbing on your leg while trying to eat your lunch. There were many people feeding them with french fries, which perhaps is not quite ideal for their digestive system.
There are quite a few that eat iguanas on Curacao, even if it is not allowed nowadays.
Of course we did some diving on this island too! No Caribbean island without diving!
This time was a bit special because we only paid for the gear and jumped into the sea from the beach. Jan was kind enough to drive us out to the nicest beach on the island; Cas Abao.
We rented the equipment and did 2 dives on the coral reefs, and relaxed on the beach in between diving. Cas Abao is a fantastic beach with white sand, bar with beers, and lot of nice little palms for shade.
Curacao feels like an island where all the locals do their own thing, and are not too bothered with tourists, with the exception of some merchants near the cruise terminal. It's not the nicest island we visited, but it has its charms, especially Willemsted. I was seriously annoyed at the authorities when they took 40$ from us at the airport in "departure tax". That is quite a lot of money to pay for nothing, and not fair to tourists who have already spent a lot of money in their country. Curacao is also the richest island in the Caribbean since they have so much oil wealth .
After 4 months of island hopping in the Caribbean, it was almost melancholic to leave the last island, island number 22 and country number 12 on the trip. On the other hand I looked very much forward to going to South America, where prices are low, beers are large, and you do not have to take expensive flights everywhere.