Riding off into the sunset–Aruba Vacation (Day IV)

Sammy and I horseback riding in the desert

Well it’s midnight on our fourth day in paradise and I can’t sleep. Normally I would wait until I got home to start my blog but considering the loud ass neighbors in the next room, I am inclined to start my blog early in the hopes that it helps me fall asleep….or they pass out….which ever comes first!! Not only are they loud they are two or three Puerto Rican girls (probably on spring break) listening to Pitbull (aye papi) and a long list of other Reggetone rappers. So I’ll maybe pop a Tylenol PM and blog while praying for Daddy Yankee to sing me to sleep….como chingas!!

Well at any rate let me fill you in on today’s adventures. We woke up thankful to be alive after yesterday’s ATV adventure. We have gotten into the habit of planning our day over toast and freshly squeezed OJ so we made our way down to the little restaurant to get our continental breakfast. Sam woke up with a horrible sunburn from yesterday’s ATV experience (yes apparently even Guatemalans get sunburn). Now I was smart, I spent $20.00 USD and bought a nice sunblock as it was glaring obvious from the moment we stepped off the plan that I would fry like an egg out here

Sammy and I riding on the beach

So I bought the home grown Aruba Aloe sunscreen–which works like nothing I have ever bought in the US. Sam on the other hand I guess didn’t think he needed it though I did offer him the sunscreen repeatedly???? He was so burnt and in pain most of the day while I only suffered minor burns to my wrists and behind my ears….my lips on the other hand look like I had collagen injected. They are a swollen blistered nightmare!!!

For our ‘adventure’ of the day, we decided to check out some shopping by where all the cruise ships make port. But since Sammy was  hurting and my lips were beginning to look cartoonish we opted to stop at the aloe boutique before we flagged down a cab to take us to the fancy shops.

On our way back from the aloe shop where we bought the best after sun/medicated burn relief (complete with lidocane……try and buy that in the US LOL) and ubber fast acting healing lip balm–we were well on our way to recovery and shopping. Before we could grab a cab, we got flagged down by some lady with a GIANT mole on her cheek (when I say giant, I mean it….it was like MASSIVE) and she starts asking Sam if he’s Puerto Rican (what’s with all the Purerto Ricanos on this island anyway??? I thought this was Aruba?? Vacation??) Anyway, so she’s like blah blah blah, do you speak Spanish, where are you from? How long have you been in Aruba?

Sammy having a natural coconut 'cocktail'

Then she grabs my ring finger and proceeds to check out my wedding ring…I felt like I was having an appraisal LOL. Apparently my ring passed the ‘status’ test as she kept talking—I suppose my ring indicated to her that we had money??? Not like it’s a two carat diamond so I am not sure why she singled us out but anyway…..so she starts telling us about this $100 coupon to a spa or anywhere else we wanted to choose from some long list of stuff and next thing we know she’s shoving us into a taxi.

We end up at this Hotel/Resort which is a time share program I guess??? So it all starts making sense…..they will give us a free package or a perk to listen to some hour long ‘info-mercial’ about time shares in the hopes that we will buy one and make them rich. So we figured what the hell we have nothing else to do so why not listen and when they are done tell them hell no and escape with our $100 spa day?!?! Plus we didn’t have much choice since the cab dropped us off and left.

The Little Switzerland Square

Some guy named Miguel comes out and takes us around the property (which I must say if we could afford a time share it is the way to go…..really it seems legit but not really our thing). As we were listening to this guys, I did have a moment where I thought, if Miguel touched my arm one more time he might have found it rather difficult to ‘shake one it’ when he closes his deals….lucky for him I think he got the hint…..I don’t like to be touched by random strangers :). And not for the first time I found myself wondering again…..what is it about me that makes people think I want to talk to them?? Whatever….

Riding off into the sunset

Well we listened to his little spiel which took about an hour and finally told him no, but of course he had to bring out his ‘finance manager’…..(I wasn’t aware we were buying a car here?!?!?!) who still tried to convince us to ‘invest’ in our vacations. And honestly it was convincing but I would need to read up more about it and honestly buying shared property overseas……seems a little iffy to me.

He said one out of four people buy a timeshare while on vacation….which was a little hard for me to buy because I know lots of people who travel and travel extensively but yet…..no time share. Sammy and I weren’t about to buy something without knowing more etc. We were able to get out of there….WITHOUT a major investment or financial obligation depending on how you look at it!!! We left (poor Miguel and his manager were rather disappointed) and we claimed out $100 coupon to a spa treatment (our appointment is tomorrow we shall see how this goes, more on that soon!!!) and were on our way.

Us on the beach

After departing the Hotel/Resort we had the cab drop us off in the ‘shopping district’ as per our original plan. You can defiantly tell this is where all the cruise ships make port. There was stores like in Vegas…..all catering to high rollers: Cartier, Carolina Herrera, Rolex, Tiffany & Co, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, and TONS of loose diamonds and gemstone. I read somewhere that outside of Amsterdam, Aruba (well the Dutch Caribbean in general) was the next best place to buy loose stones and jewelry….cheeper and duty free/tax free purchase (BTW, I am still trying to figure out the ‘perks’ of duty free shopping I am not sure that I see the savings but I digress….).

Riding off into the sunset....yes that's me!!

There are lots of discounts for most stores but the diamonds/jewelry are really the best buy it would appear. I struggle with purchasing loose diamonds/stones from anywhere other than the US or a reputable jeweler. Mainly because I know stones sold out of the US or by a non-reputable jeweler are not necessarily considered ‘conflict free’ diamonds. Of course there are never any guarantees (unless I go out and find the diamond myself) that a diamond or other stone purchased is a conflict or blood free diamond…..but I would like to think the US and/or reputable jewelers do a fairly good job  of avoiding blood diamonds etc. The there’s always the question about natural stones versus laboratory created stones…my sister could probably write a book just on jewelry buying so let’s just say I would NEVER buy any ‘big purchase’ jewelry items like gemstones etc without consulting her first 🙂

Lady helping to sell the coconuts

There are lots of colored diamonds for sale (yellow, black, and blue being the most popular) and many exotic gemstones such as trillium and fire opals as well as the more common stones such as emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. I don’t see those stones–or rather that kind of broad selection–in the US that much and they I do they are VERY expensive depending on the quality etc. Here they are in abundance and much cheeper. The only gripe I had about the Aruban jewelry stores (not the big ‘American’ ones but the smaller direct sellers) was that there was nothing unique about their gems or settings. I was hoping for a ‘one of a kind design’ or a really unique settings etc. but sadly, I could have bought the same stuff back home….all the designs were really similar which says mass production to me. At any rate, I digress……again 🙂

After we wandered around a while window shopping we found a little street vendor who was selling coconut milk….yes from a real coconut! I don’t know about you Dear Reader but in the US all I have ever seen in the way of coconuts are the little round brown husky kinds….the ones here in Aruba…..are GIANT and a weird oblong shape with no husks. Perhaps a different species???

Iguana Joe's Restaurant at the shopping center

Anyway we decided to try some so this cute little old man picks up this giant rushy machete and starts hacking away at my coconut like he simply peeling an egg!!! He DID have all his fingers and no large scares…..thank GOD!! He put a little straw in the top and handed it to me and we went on our merry way! According to a sign by his cart, coconut milk not only rehydrated you, but it also provides major electrolytes, protein, complex carbs, antioxidants, and they provide lots of natural energy–they are one of the best fruits for that…..who knew!! Need less to say I felt great after having one!! It was like natural Red Bull!!

So we ventured out into some of the other stores in the little square called Little Switzerland. The shopping center is ascetically appealing with all its Dutch Colonial colors and architecture……the shopping itself is more touristy…..lots of little trinkets and ‘Aruba’ nicknacks (not really my thing). We ate lunch at Iguana Joe’s which is apparently the “IT” place to eat when ships are in port as it’s PACKED. But since there were no ships in port today we decided to check it out.

Sam's horse rearing up on his hind legs!! Poor Sammy!! Kinda reminds me of Zorro LOL

I was not impressed. I ordered a cheese quesedilla with steak and it was super greasy and just kind of….blah. I’ve had better. We listened to the bells chime on the hour from the Little Switzerland square (where all the ‘luxe’ goods are sold) and began wondering……hummmmm…..no what????

It was like 2:30, we had exhausted all the shopping (which wasn’t much besides lots of tourist street vendors selling trinkets, random jewelry, and over priced designer duds). We didn’t want to really do anything else in the way of shopping, so I suggested we head back to out hotel and call about the free spa and maybe do a sunset horseback ride. Since I had not gotten my heart rate over 200 for the day….I felt like I was missing something LOL.

Watching Sammy try to hail a cab was an interesting business….I don’t think he’s ever done that before but anyway he did it and under ten minutes LOL so we didn’t fry in the sun. One thing I really wanted to see while we were here was the sea turtles. As fate would have it, Sammy hailed us the perfect taxi driver!!

Us on the cliffs overlooking the beach

For two days we were asking our various taxi drivers and other locals (including the hotel desk people) about the sea turtles (las tortugas in Espanol) and no one seemed to know anything about the turtles. I am not sure why since everything I read about says there is this conservation group which tracks the turtles and it is a widely known group and conservation movementwho’s goal is to protect the sea turtles–dah!! I don’t know it just seems like more locals would know about them or at least where to find them but but I guess not.

Sammy checking out some of the street vendors

At any rate, the driver was great, he drove us by the beach (Eagle Beach) which has had the most sea turtle activity in recent weeks and gave us a little narrative info session on the turtles and then dropped us back at our hotel. From his info we did go check out the beach later in the week. Every year four species of sea turtles (all on the endangered species list) come to nest. The largest (the leatherback turtle) comes all the way from Halifax to Aruba to lay their eggs!! Though we never did see one, we did see the first nest on Eagle Beach. The best times of the year to see the turtles are March to Sept, the driver said we were a little early in the year.

At any rate, we end up back at our hotel where we called and made our reservation for the free spa and Sammy called to set up a sunset trail ride through the desert and on the beach for just the two of us (he’s so romantic!!). The horse ranch people came to pick us up from the hotel and drove us ten minutes to the eastern side of the island (the more desert/rocky side). I swear, it’s like people see me and think….hummm there’s a lady who needs to relax and the only way they can think to relax me is scare the crap out of me!!!!

Example of a leatherback turtle (no I didn't take this pic, I didn't get to see a turtle)

The guide takes us to our two horses….now I decided to put on pants rather than wear my sundress….but my pants were a little on the tight side. I didn’t think I would be mounting my horse from the ground….I don’t know what I was thinking–clearly I wasn’t–because I road horses for years and should have known that I would be mounting from the ground up. Well since my pants were a little tight it was a challenge to get my leg up in the stirrup. I guess I just assumed they would have a step ladder….ya I know stupid American tourist right??? Ya that’s me!! My horse was a little on the skiddish side and while I was desperately trying to get into the ‘saddle’ my horse was walking off…you try mounting a moving object and see how quickly you can get on!! So ya it took….not one but two guys…. to literally SHOVE my ass into the ‘saddle’ which was more like a sand bag with stirrups.

More shopping

Sam eventually stopped laughing long enough to snap a half way decent pic of me though so thank you Sammy LOL. Anyway as we started the trail ride, I thought it was going to be just riding on the beach for an hour or so…..ya it was more like a three hour tour through the desert and a quick jaunt on the beach. Our guide asked me if I spoke Spanish and when I said a little he didn’t talk to me the rest of the ride….though he managed to talk to Sam no problem. He brought his cute little dog with him who was fun to watch throughout our ride. The dog was looking for lizards and chasing birds ALL over the place, SOOOOOO cute :).

It was a really relaxing ride….no one to interact with except Sammy…which was GREAT. The guide rode a head of us for quite a while so it felt like we were alone just us two. He would yell random directions to us–which I gather were things like ‘lean forward’ or ‘lean backward’, ‘it’s steep here’, or ‘watch the rocks’ though I had no idea because my Spanish isn’t THAT good and Sammy didn’t enlighten me…..I just winged it and I did manage to stay ON my horse so I suppose I understood well enough!

Another beautiful sunset in the Aruban desert

We paused to admire some of the views and eventually made our way to the deserted beaches. I wish the beaches we rode on would have been the characteristic Caribbean beaches of postcards but they were deserted and had a beauty all their own. The guide stopped to take a picture of Sam and I and he told Sam (in Spanish of course) to pull back hard and fast on the reigns which he did and the horse reared up on its back two legs which made my horse freak out and dance excitedly in circles. Sam did stay on the horse and thought it was so much fun that he kept doing it LOL. To Sam’s credit the guide asked him if we wanted to go at a full gallop through the water etc. and Sam said NO—thank you Sammy!!

Me after I FINALLY got into the 'saddle'

Most of the ride my horse ran until the end where he slowed to a walk, especially when Sam’s horse came within five feet of him. Seriously my horse was the most ‘excited’ one in the entire corral….again, why is it always ME?!?!?! I was wearing a swimsuit top with a wrap—let’s just say a swimsuit top is NOT equivalent to a bra….I felt like I needed a sports bra about two seconds after getting into the saddle!!! My horse would randomly veer off the path and no matter if I pulled the reigns or not he went where he wanted and would them randomly start ‘trotting’ without warning!

We finally headed back toward the ranch just as the sun was setting over the rocky Aruban desert. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL to see the sun set on the red-ish rocks…..almost like Arizona as I said but yet so different. It was nice to see the sunset from the desert one night rather than the ocean. It was breathtaking!! As soon as we got to the ranch, I got off much easier (and more gracefully) than I did when I got on but my legs felt like rubber after being in the saddle for so long…..

Horseback riding (alone more or less and at sunset on the beach) was the perfect romantic way to relax and yet have some adrenaline pumping ‘adventure’. I know I know, it’s a far cry from the ATV’s but still, my blood was pumping from the skittish horse I had to ride….that was enough for me!

Well I think the Puerto Ricans next door have gone to bed or passed out, all I know if Daddy Yankee has quite serenading me so I might actually get some rest now!!! Until next time Dear Reader…..more installments coming soon for your enjoyment!!!

Riding off into the sunset....again!!!

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