Today I actually PAID to almost commit suicide!!! When I woke up in Aruba this morning, I didn’t actually know that I would PAY someone a shit ton of money to almost die!! This ‘adventure’ as the company so wittily called it was an ATV ride around the island. Now when they say ATV they literally mean ALL TERRAIN VEHICLE….in EVERY sense of the word…..highways included…..and YES, again I want it noted we did this ‘adventure’…..on an ATV.
As you probably gathered, I am not an ‘outdoors-y girl’. I don’t know how to swim (yes I know, ironic that I would go to an island where most activities involve swimming), I hate hiking, motorcycle riding (well anything with an ‘open cockpit feel is more or less out for me) terrifies me, I am scared of heights, I can’t stand constant strenuous activity, and I hate all things with the word ‘adventure’ or ‘adrenaline’ attached as an adjective but I love my husband and since he loves to do things like quad riding, I am willing to give it a shot….you only live once I suppose. I know I know…..I sound like a barrel of fun don’t I LOL.
This is a testament to how much I love my Sammy….I would actually consider getting on the back of a little Vespa and riding around the island all day is HUGE for me. As we ate breakfast, we watched early morning tropical storm move through and noticed a lot of people riding around on these little scooters……it was readily apparent that my ass would NEVER fit on the back of one of those so I suggested renting an ATV instead. Sam more or less agreed but he really wanted to go on a Jeep or ATV excursion with a tour group. I (in my infinite genius) said we should go at our own pace besides….it’s an island how lost could we possibly get?!?!
So we had our hotel call an ATV rental place and they came to pick us up and took us to the rental place. We decided to rent the ATV rather than the scooters (thank the lord!!!!). I have never ridden–let alone driven–a quad but Sam has so when the guy asked if we wanted a two person or one person ATV, the answer was obvious….TWO!!!
He handed us this map of Aruba and drew this little line around the island circling all the ‘hot spots’ to stop and see. He said the whole island/tour would take about three hours but we went with a full day rental just in case (return time was 5:00 pm).
As we were leaving the guy is like, ok now turn right at the Wendy’s and follow the road out to the lighthouse. So as we pass the Wendy’s we start to notice the road we are on is in fact a four land highway where the speed limit is 80 KM (which is like 50 miles an hour)…..keep in mind our ATV only goes about 40 MPH….add the cross wind into this configuration and you come up with ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING!!!
We finally turned off the highway into a neighborhood-ish area and eventually made it to the California Lighthouse (our first stop). Since it was overcast and raining this was the perfect day to do this little adventure (in the beginning anyway), the views from the lighthouse were absolutely beautiful and it was nice to check it out without feeling rushed.
There is a little fancy Italian restaurant overlooking the bay right next to the lighthouse which would be a beautiful spot for a nice sunset dinner. We stopped to use the bathroom (which we paid $0.50 EACH for) and then refilled out water and headed out to the next stop, the chapel.
Well the ‘map’ the rental guy drew us didn’t really have a ‘road’ which lead to the chapel….it was more like a blank green spot with light colored green lines which apparently indicated this was an off-road track. Now I gather one would be able to reach the chapel via an actual road but we never actually FOUND that real road.
We put the ATV to good use and started our romp through the desert of Aruba. The island itself is rather an interesting climate. Unlike most of the other Caribbean islands, Aruba doesn’t have the same tropical feel. It looks more like the Arizona desert than any tropical location I have ever seen. The east side of the island is more rocky and desert like with choppy coasts while the west side of the island has more calm seas with the characteristic clear water and white powdery beaches one would imagine in a tropical island.
So anyway the guy said after the ‘wishing well’ we would be right by the chapel….it would help if we knew what the wishing well was exactly. I envisioned a well with water….apparently not. We passed all these rocks stacked in little formations for like miles and miles….it wasn’t until the next day that we found out that these rock formations were actually said wishing well area. I guess for the last 30 years people have been coming to this area and they arrange the rocks in these little formations which represent their ‘wishes’. It’s pretty cool as they go on for miles and miles and they aren’t just on the coast, they are all along the rocks and ridges…..it’s really something!
We saw lots of local animals (birds and lots of lizards) all over the desert areas and after what seemed like HOURS on this god forsaken road we FINALLY saw the chapel and made our way up there to check it out. This chapel, formally called Alto Vista Chapel is literally in the middle of no where. It overlooks the sea and is actually very quaint and welcoming. It was the first chapel built on the islands by the Indians and Spanish 250 years ago.
After snapping a couple of pics we went to the next stop, the abandon gold mill. We bumped along the countryside where there was still no road (ironically the ATV was LESS terrifying than when we were on the highway). After about 30 mins we came to the gold mill where there was some random car out there selling water and hotdogs??? I am still trying to figure out how a CAR got out to this mill, it was a challenge trying to get the ATV out there let a lone a car????
Anyway, since there wasn’t too much to see at the gold mine we continued to the land bridge which is one of the things we both really wanted to see…..but not before we crossed a tidal stream, some more rocks, and sand dunes. We also passed a lot of little abandoned houses right on the beach. They look like little fishing shanties but we are not sure. They were literally everywhere….little houses that began with a foundation and a roof but nothing else. No one lived there and there was nothing to indicate anyone ever DID live there….but why so many and why right on the beach?? We can only assume they were fishing hideouts??
We passed a small land bridge before we came to the big one which really is a sight to see, however I liked the small one better because I could see it better, the big one was hard to photograph. At the land bridge stop there is a little restaurant where you can buy water or lunch. We had not eaten since breakfast but we were excited to get on to the next stop so we didn’t stop to eat. We did stop to apply sunscreen though since by now the sun came out and was beating down on us like a thousand blazing suns!!!
The next stop was supposed to be the ostrich farm and then the donkey sanctuary but neither of us wanted to see those so we thought we would by pass them and go directly to the sea caves on the south eastern side of the island…..here is where things we drastically wrong!!!
Now the guy said after we saw the land bridge we would get back on a regular road (which we did) and the road would take us down to a turn off where we would follow said turn off toward St Nicholas…..somehow we ended up on a single lane highway which took us directly to a roundabout, which we followed and ended up on an even bigger (and busier) four lane highway. We were still heading in the right direction from what we could tell but we weren’t sure and I began to get worried after we drove on this highway for 5 or 6 miles and never saw ANYONE else on an ATV.
There was no ‘shoulder’ to speak of and we kept having to run off the road (literally) to let other people pass us because they were honking and trying to pass on the left and the right….oh and did I mention that we didn’t have side mirrors or blinkers on this ATV??? And neither Sam or I could remember the hand signals and we found ourselves wondering….are the hand signals universal or are they different in foreign countries. At any rate we never did use them, we thought they might cause more harm than good considering we weren’t sure what they were in the USA let alone anywhere else LOL.
Neither of us wore a watch and were forced to guesstimate our time out….it felt like we had been out forever and judging by how busy it was with all the traffic, we thought it was probably around 3:30 or 4. We decided to turn around not knowing where we were or what time it was, plus we were scared shitless on this quad!!!!
After we found a place to turn around, we decided to follow the signs back toward the capital which we knew we could find our way from there back to the quad rental place. As we are driving on the ‘shoulder’ we did pass another group of people on quads going the opposite direction so I began to feel better but still they were the ONLY ones we saw in that area which was more than a little disconcerting. Next thing I know, Sam is yelling ‘duck’ I turn just in time to miss random tree branches on the side of the road.
This gauntlet of branches goes on for about a mile….keep in mind I can’t see a damn thing over Sammy’s head and I can’t tell when he is actually ducking so I must rely on him TELLING me to duck…..but I can’t really hear him either over the roaring traffic and ATV. As luck would have it, I did manage to miss most of the branches….except the last one!! There is a rather large tree/bush in the middle of the ‘shoulder’ and Sam’s like DUCK and he literally ducks out of the way…..leaning over the side of the seat to miss this bad boy……now I have about 30 seconds to compute what is happening and I am hot, hungry, and terrified so I’m slow on the uptake….next thing I know…..WACK I get hit right in the face with the large-ish branch.
It was like something out of a movie….you know one of those where you go ya right like that would ever happen in real life….how could that idiot NOT see the giant branch about to hit them on the face rendering them unconscious???? Ya that idiot was me……so after (&@#(&@)(# words later I told Sam to get the hell off the highway before one of us gets killed!!!!
As luck would have it as we passed the last hill and the airport (which is in the capital city) was in sight. The roadway seemed more or less passable but the ‘shoulder’ was running out which meant we had to drive right through town back to the ATV place in the middle of rush hour traffic. To make matter worse….there were three cruise ships in port so there were all these peds walking around for us to run over.
The downtown area is PACKED with taxis, peds, and random traffic. We didn’t know if we had break lights on the ATV so we were in constant fear of being rear-ended….not to mention people were riding our ass…..because we could go faster??!?!!! HONESTLY we are riding a lawnmower more or less…..how much horse power are we talking about here???? 4 MAYBE?!??!
It took us FOREVER to make it through the home stretch which was only like a mile or town through the downtown shopping district but with all the ‘rush hour’ traffic, cruise ships, and peds….it seemed like at least 45 mins before we made it through. As we were making our merry little way back toward the ATV rental place we realize we still needed to refill the bloody tank with gas before returning it!!! By now we have passed the ONLY gas station on the island…..we had to loop around (yes another roundabout which we have no idea how to navigate we just closed our eyes, prayed, and went for it!!) to get gas.
We get to the gas station and low and behold….the bloody thing is in the metric system and prices are listed in florins. WTF this country is backwards……which is it dollars or florins?!?!?! We of course have to pump our own gas which we don’t do here in Oregon but we have pumped it ourselves before so it was no biggy but trying to figure out how many liters to buy and in USD was a trifle annoying. I went in and told the gas attendant I wanted 5 florins which is like $3-ish USD I guess….and it didn’t fill it up. Then Sam went back in and got $5 more USD of gas….which still didn’t do a whole lot….FINALLY we topped that thing off and pealed out of there to go return the ATVs.
As we are rounding the last round about…..a police officer (the only one on the island apparently) pulls in behind us…..doesn’t stop us (thank God) but he sure did gives us a long look….the WTF are you tourists DOING ?????? look!! We made it back to the shop where we both agreed we just wanted to the hell off this gas powered suicide machine. I was so happy to be alive …..I thought it was going to die on this ‘adventure’!! As we are standing there waiting for the guy to take us back to our hotel—where we will promptly pour ourselves a double Malibu and pineapple while toasting to our lives—-we started reading the safety warnings on the bikes…..
- ATVs should ONLY ever carry ONE PERSON AT A TIME they are not meant for 2 people (on these models at least apparently)
- NEVER EVER EVER take an ATV on regular streets
- Always wear a helmet that is snug and secure
- Not one under the age of 12 is allowed to ride these bad boys
Well…..I guess technically we followed ONE of the rules…..#4 , we are over 12 LOL. So YAAAAAA after our terrifying adventure we checked the clock—it was only 3:45 so we still had some time to go and see some more of the island before we returned the contraption, but we were both SOOOOOOO DONE with the terror on wheels!!! It’s one thing when it’s a Jeep but a quad…..ATV’s just AREN’T meant to go some places!!
A couple of days later, I was reading the brochure about the ATV rentals again and it said (and I quote) ‘heart pounding adventure sure to satisfy the even the most extreme thrill seekers’…….ok can we say understatement of the year!!!! So long story short, we never did see the caves or the other land of the island (southeast and southwest sides) at any other time during our visit but I do hear they are great and worth the trip…..but I can offer you no first hand knowledge :). Ironically, we did contemplate renting ATV’s again later in the week (but vowed to rent individual ones) as they were fun for the off-roading parts anyway, but we didn’t end up doing that…..probably for the best I suppose :).
Suicide by ATV $180…..Strong drinks after ATV ride $16.00….Memories from ATV ‘adventure’, PRICELESS!!! Until next time Dear Reader!!!