The lure of nuclear radiation & heat exhaustion–Aruba Vacation (Day VI)

The soft warm trade winds wake me gingerly from sleep…a quiet whisper calling me back to reality. I hear the soothing waves breaking slowly, calmly on the white beaches not too far off. It’s may favorite time of morning, the sun has just risen but people are not quite awake yet, the day is new and fresh….anything is possible.

As I lay in our hotel room with the window open I try to commit this last moment to memory….and every memory from our vacation, the sights, the smells, the sounds….everything about our adventures and experiences so I can recall them later, remembering every little detail.

I lick my lips….they taste salty, though I have not been sweating or in the water. After a quick deduction I realize it must be from the air which practically SMELLS salty!! My skin is soft from the nourishing aloe sunscreen I use on a regular basis, I haven’t worn makeup in five days but I haven’t needed it–I get a nice blush and bronze color from the sun.

My hair has dried naturally and though the salty seas and sun dry it out, the humidity preserves the moisture so my hair can at least look acceptable in a pony tail. The relaxed atmosphere has finally set in and today is our last day here….tomorrow afternoon we will awake from our dream and depart ‘our’ quiet Aruban paradise and return to civilization and….daily life which for us is high stress jobs, responsibilities, and RAIN.

The Butterfly Farm in Aruba

My plan for the day–no MAJOR adventures– I want to soak up every last detail and memory, be out in the sun, lay on the beach, take it easy while enjoying a few Malibu and pineapples before going out for a romantic sunset dinner on the beach where Sammy and I can toast our good fortune and vacation. But between this quiet early morning to a romantic dinner on the beach we had an entire day to waste….would we lay on the beach? Would we lay by the pool? Shop? Rent another ATV? Swim? Attempt to snorkel again? More walking? I woke Sammy up and we got ready for the day and headed down to the restaurant for our last continental breakfast.

I could tell both Sammy and I were tired, the fifth day of our vacation had just exhausted us so it was readily apparent we would not be doing anything TOO active today. I had read about the Butterfly Farm before we left and when we were walking back to our hotel last night was had passed it. Sam and I both agreed that the Butterfly Farm would be a nice relaxing way to spend the day.

While we were eating both Sam and I noted how UNGODLY humid it was out…..I mean there’s humid…..and then there’s TOPICAL HUMID!! Taking a deep breath was not easy…..the air was so thick with humidity it was hard to catch my breath. My sundress felt damp and I realized it was…..we were sweating SO MUCH that I felt like I had just got out of the shower!!

Some tourist didn't understand this was a joke, he thought there were real attach butterflies!

We finished our breakfast and went to hail a cab to take us to the Butterfly Farm. The cabby told us it was a minimum $6.00 charge and he didn’t really want to charge us $6.00 as it was ‘just around the corner’….‘a short 15 min walk’. Now I have heard this before and instantly alarm bells start going off…..OMG OMG OMG everything in London is only a ’15 min walk’ and look how well THAT turned out for my mom and I last summer!!!! But Sammy and I did agree it was close and we could easily walk there….maybe the brisk morning walk would do us good. Ya I’ve heard that before!!!

It's inside wings are bright blue

So we start our journey with two full large water bottles and they were gone in like 10 mins. We were sweating so much and the sun was just beating down on us. It was MISERABLE, according to Google Maps, the Butterfly Farm is less than 1 mile away and would take about 6-10 mins… honestly took us like 20 because we were having to stop and sit in the shade,  take a breath, and drink some water while we cooled down for a few mins. We FINALLY made it to the Butterfly Farm just as our water ran out, we promptly bought two more bottles there.

This is what the inside wings look like, I couldn't get a good pic so this is from a dead display butterfly in the shop

We paid our admission…..which was $15.00 per person mind you……however had we know that the $15.00 admission was good for the duration of our vacation and that we could come back as often as we wanted then we would have gone there FIRST rather than do ATVs LOL. I didn’t really care how much anything cost at that point….we had already spent SOOOOOOOO much money on food, activities, and sunscreen I was more or less resigned to the fact that we would return home well past the original planned budget!! That and I just REALLY wanted to get into some shade I would have paid $100.00 per person if it meant I might actually find a shade sanctuary in the Butterfly Farm.

Some of the plants in the garden at the Butterfly Farm

As part of our admission, we had a guide give us a 20 min over view of the butterflies and the Butterfly Farm….BTW, our guide (any everyone else who worked there) didn’t wear shoes…they just wandered around bare foot, not sure why but to each their own I guess LOL. It was REALLY interesting…..what I could make out of the tour  in my heat delirium anyway. We wanted into a large outdoor garden with huge trees (all very tropical looking, a far cry from the cactus around most of the island), exotic flowers, and  elegant (though man-made) ponds/fountains. It was a very relaxing place…..butterflies were everywhere in all different colors. Some even came and landed on my hat or on Sam’s arm….they are very peaceful and beautiful creatures butterflies.

More flowers from the garden at the Butterfly Farm

I was in awe of how many different species of butterflies they had there, I didn’t know where to look first. Everywhere I turned there were exotic butterflies that I had seen in my high school bio books that I thought I would NEVER see in real life, bright colored caterpillars inched lazily along exotic plants and I found myself in total awe of where I was. I have had that feeling before, like looking at Big Ben and knowing I was actually THERE SEEING IT when I had read about it in so many books or stories as a kid was just so surreal.

Us at the Butterfly Farm, we don't look like it but we are dying of heat exhaustion!

I don’t know too much about the tropics and am not a HUGE wildlife enthusiast so I didn’t expect to be in such awe of the things around me but I was…..seeing things in real life…right there in front of my face….touching it— places, or flora/fauna that I have only ever read about in National Geographic–it was TRULY a happy moment for me and I had to smile a little to myself…..I felt like I was a kid at Christmas and suddenly I wanted to touch EVERYTHING and see it all….like I had some urgent time line to meet. My mind slowly drifted from the surreal moment I was having back to the guide.

Some of the cocoons

He was showing us all the various cocoons which butterflies make…..some are very small, while others are almost gold looking in color. He said what the butterfly eats (they think) makes their silk that kind of iridescent gold color. The moth cocoons are they larger dull colored ones. Moths use a left to help spin their cocoon I guess which is what makes their cocoons so large.

I did not take this pic, I couldn't get a good close up, this is from the Butterfly Farm website

He showed us the little eggs on the milkweed plant and two different caterpillars….one that was SOOOOOO small with TINY little ‘spikes’ which were poisonous he said (if we touched it we would just get an itchy rash like poison ivy not die–thank goodness). The other caterpillar was yellow and black striped (a monarch caterpillar) and it just looked so elegant sitting on this giant leaf….so exotic and different.

He said that most butterflies only live for about 30 days….I had NO idea!!! He also explained that throughout the world there are around 20,000 species of butterflies, 725 species in the US/Canada and 2,000 species have been found just in Mexico and about 80% of all butterfly species are in the tropics. They had butterflies/moths from all over the world….Africa, South America, Asia, other islands….EVERYWHERE.

Moth cocoons

It was REALLY REALLY REALLY neat and I think this was my absolute favorite thing we did while we were in Aruba. Since I am also a photographer I was able to snap a lot of rare butterflies and all up close and personal!!

Now I know what a National Geographic photographer must feel like….I would NEVER see butterflies like these in Oregon (except the monarch butterfly in the summer if I’m lucky!!) but never a chance to photograph them in their environment and see so many all at once…..this should be on EVERYONES list of “must do’ in Aruba if you are vacationing there…… is worth the money and like I said, if we had gone there first I would have gone back everyday that’s how cool it was!!

The little gold-ish cocoons

So after our little tour concluded we were all turned loose to wander around the gardens. There was an American tourist with his family right by us and he saw a sign and asked our guide if he could elaborate on the ‘attack butterfly’. The guy  kind of looked at him puzzled and Sam and I both coughed so we wouldn’t laugh too hard. The tourist points to a sign on a nearby shed that says ‘beware of attack butterfly’ and earnestly (and VERY seriously) asked if we could see said attach butterfly. The guide very tactfully explained that the sign was a ‘joke’. The tourist looked puzzled and before he could ask anything else the guide excused himself….probably to go laugh somewhere, I know I had to just walk away before I burst out laughing….clearly this guy had NO sense of humor……AMERICANS LOL :).

More gardens at the Butterfly Farm

So Sammy and I wandered peacefully around the garden photographing the butterflies and gardens…..we came to a little bench to sit on and decided to have a seat and take in all the surroundings. Next to us there was a little pillar with various kinds of fruits laid out…oranges, bananas, lemons….and a large moth (but it was actually a butterfly) sucking the nectar from an orange. It had large brown wings with big dots on the underside. I must have sat there for 10 mins trying to photograph it with its wings open….when it opened its wings it was BRIGHT blue on the inside…..absolutely breathtaking!!

This was the only time I longed for my larger Canon 40D camera…..we didn’t bring it because we know it would be a lot to carry and sand plus water/humidity would probably ruin the camera and lenses so we brought our pocket cameras. Our pocket cameras were fine but the photographer in me really wished we had brought the other camera and lenses to capture every little detail of the butterflies in RAW format, they would have been some AMAZING PICS. Oh well though I suppose the ones we took were fine :).

As we sat on the bench watching the butterflies all of a sudden my vision started to go a bit fuzzy and I felt like I was spinning. I looked over at Sam and he must have felt the same way because he didn’t look so good. I thought….this is it, I knew it!! The GOD DAMN ANTS!!! They have given me some horrible tropical disease and we are DYING!!! I didn’t think I could get up off the bench….I was soaked through with sweat and I suddenly like I was drunk. As I said, Sam didn’t look good either and he says casually, ‘ok well shall we go inside???’

I did NOT refuse, somehow we made it inside to the little gift shop. Most places in Aruba don’t have AC…..swamp coolers yes….but full AC is seen only in the bigger places of business and hotels……so ya NOT at the Butterfly Farm. The Butterfly Farm’s gift shop thing is all outside like a patio, in the open air but it WAS in the shade at least. We bought TWO MORE WATERS and sat down on some picnic tables under a small fan. I have never actually felt like I was going to be sick or pass out from the heat or sun….AND I’M FROM PHOENIX!!!!

I suddenly realized that must be the problem…..we had over heated!! But what I couldn’t understand was WHY….we had been drinking water…..and I mean LOTS of water….all morning and we weren’t in direct sun light really. Besides on the ATV day we were out in the desert ALL DAY LONG in the blazing heat and only drank 2 liters of water each all day…..why all of a sudden we were literally DYING in the heat?!?!?!

Sam wanted to get up and walk across the street to the beach and jump in the water to cool off which is what I also wanted to do…..we were only like 500 ft form the beach but I honestly didn’t think I could make it to the water.

I am usually a little trooper and even if I’m tired or hot…some how I find the energy to keep going. Not the time. I looked at Sam and I was like….’if I move I’m going to either pass out of throw up if not both. I can’t make it and I can’t keep sitting here even in the shade, I NEED AC NOW!!!’

Sam finally admitted he was also feeling the same way, his vision was going a little too. He asked the lady at the Butterfly Farm to call us a cab, I told him there was no way in HELL I would be able to walk back to the hotel. So the taxi came about 5 mins later THANK GOD and as luck would have it, it had AC…..kind of. It was blowing ‘cooler’ air but wasn’t really COLD air…..we didn’t care we just wanted to get to the hotel.

More of the cocoons

He took us back and we gladly paid the $6.00 and somehow we made it to our room. Housekeeping had just been there and turned the fan and the AC on in our room (which they did ever day so we would come back to a cool room)…..we opened the door and literally fell onto the bed. I think Sam must have pulled the blackout shades closed because when I opened my eyes it was pitch black in there.

We laid on the bed unable to move for like 20 mins. We will weren’t cooling down fast enough….we were both sweating profusely, we kept drinking bottle after bottle of water, but I was still feeling shaky and dizzy.

We had to do something fast… Sammy suggested we go down to the pool and cool off that way. So we somehow made it there and made a beeline for the pool. Sam cooled off quickly but I could only stay in there for about 15 mins as I was still feeling sick and dizzy and even the little rocking of the pool water was making me more and more nauseated. I got out soaking wet and laid down on a lounge chair in the shade.

Pond and fountain at the Butterfly Farm in the gardens

We brought four bottles of water (thank GOD Aruba has the second best water in the world….and let me just say….it was WONDERFUL, there is no water on Earth like Aruban water, you can even drink it right out of the tap no need to buy it….it’s just, there are no words, it’s……AMAZING!!) and I drank them in rapid secession. I must have been dehydrated because I never really had to use the bathroom all day…..all this water was going in but nothing going out (except sweat) so I knew I was REALLY dehydrated!!!

Resting my feet....wishing you were here???

Finally I started to cool down and feel better….I have never actually had sun stroke or anything but I think this must have been it. It was like NO other heat I have experienced on Earth….Phoenix was hot but the heat with the humidity and the sun being so close (Aruba is right by the equator so the sun is WAY more intense than anywhere else) I was just NOT prepared for the sudden onslaught of heat exhaustion!!!! Here is how one website describes the Aruban sun and yes they are DEAD RIGHT….I have NEVER experienced anything like it…..the heat and the sun are SOOOOOO INTENSE!!!!  (courtesy of

The Hot Bright Equatorial Sun: Aruba is just about 12 degrees north of the equator. The sun here is like nothing you have ever seen. If you have every received a bad sunburn in Florida, the equivalent in Aruba would be twice as worse. You do not want to ruin your vacation with sunburn & this is the place that you will get it! My first trip to the island, the tops of my ears peeled twice!

Grouping of shells on the beach

Sam came and joined me under the palm tree after a few more mins and we both laid there watching the other travelers sunbathing and swimming. I never really understood why if one would spend so much money on a tropical vacation in a place with miles of world-class beaches and clear calm ocean waters spend their entire time in a hotel pool???? I totally understand why now LOL. The times we went swimming in the ocean, it was so salty and we had to shower right after we got out, the salt burned my eyes and God forbid you nick your self shaving (I nicked my leg shaving and then went swimming in the ocean talk about PAINFUL!!).

Plus the sand gets EVERYWHERE and sticks to you. I felt just GROSS after coming back from the beach even after I took a shower….sand was in everything and the sea water felt sticky and almost greasy on my skin, hair, and cloths (including my swim suit). While most of the beaches on the western side of the island were calm with white powdery sand, there were scattered rocks, corals, and shells in the surf and even as we waded out into the ocean….I stepped on corals, shells, and rocks all the time. Though I only managed to cut my foot once on the rocks, it was still very painful.

Me relaxing on a palm tree

Plus, the sun reflects off that water and the white beaches and it’s absolutely BLINDING. No wonder people burn sooooooo bad!!! It’s like a giant radiation zone!!!! Seriously I felt nuclear by the time we got back to the hotel today….I surely have had my lifetime supply of radiation. If I ever had cancer I suppose I am cured now.

Christ almighty….I will probably glow every night from now on due to the massive amounts of nuclear radiation I got from the sun from today ALONE….the sun practically KILLED me today!!! Does anyone have some potassium iodine handy because I will probably need it after today LOL!!!!!

Watching the ships sail by....

At any rate, I now realize why people spend hours by the pool at the resorts and hotels when the beach is right there…..chlorine from the pool was much easier to deal with and MORE SHADE!!!

Suddenly Sam was like….ok I’m ready for a nap and it was only like 2:00. I didn’t want to go back to the room (who wants to spend their last full day on an island in their hotel room watching TV???? I could do that a home for Christ sake!!)…..but I sure as HELL was not about to go anywhere that was far from the sanctuary of shade I had now claimed for myself.

I didn't take this pic but it's the caterpillar with the spikes, I got pic from the Butterfly Farm website

Since the our hotel had an on sight spa in a little hut by the pool, Sam went and asked the lady there if she had time to give me a massage or something. She said she did and Sam scheduled me for a full body stress relieving massage on the spot so he could go up and sleep in the AC of our bedroom. I asked if he wanted to join me but he was like AHHH NO I need the AC and a nap BAD I still feel kind of sick form the sun….which was fine with me I was just happy to have a massage.

I have had body wraps and neck/shoulder massages before but never a full body massage. There are no words….to say it was amazing is like the understatement of the year. It was like haven I am sure… peaceful and relaxing!!! The spa had an open air room for the massage where the plantation style shutters were open facing the quiet garden of the hotel. The wind blew quietly cooling me off and all I could hear was the soft rustling of the palm tree branches and the ocean waves.

I let me mind wander and not for the first time on this vacation (or any other for that matter) I began to wonder how can I do this for the rest of my life?? How can I travel and wake up every morning in some new exotic place?? Do I really need to go back to my day job in a couple of days? Back to the daily grind and my life which I feel like I navigate through with on autopilot?? Back to the dampness….the rain and the cold weather??

Yes that's us in the chairs, relaxing watching the last sunset

The romantic in me says the logical thing would be that I become a travel writer and Sam my photographer and we just travel the world and go to weird obscure places and write about them….but then I suppose no one really wants to read about my own personal experiences (though if you are reading this Dear Reader then that statement is probably not true LOL), they only want to read about where to go, what to do, and how to do it cheapest.

I don’t want to write a travel guide, I want to write things that people want to read…..a story people will want to pick up again and again. Not fiction or literature but something like a cross between National Geographic magazine, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Frommers Travel Guide. Yes someday I want to write a book/novel…..hey why not both?!?!

Us on the beach at sunset, desperately looking for a beachside dining experience to no avail

And of course I want my cake and eat it too… every American LOL, I want someone to PAY me for my stories, PAY for my travels, and pay me enough to live on :). I know I know….romantic isn’t it LOL.

I know it sounds silly but that would be my idea job, globe trotting with my husband (and kids someday) and writing about it. It’s not that I don’t love my job….I love many things about my job. I have a great job with flexibility that is stable and pays well (both Sam and I work at the same place, an educational institute)…..we have time off in the summer so we could easily travel then.

Another glorious sunset

There is something about just picking up and spinning the globe randomly choosing our next destination that draws me….I like the spontaneousness of that, I hate that I can only go on vacation when school is out :). I have always had a ‘gypsy’ like soul and the life of a wandering vagabond, traveling the world in seek of exotic adventures appeals to me but sadly in this world with all the new technology, anyone with a digital camera and a computer fancies themselves a photographer and writer…..

I’m a small fish in a big pond I suppose but hey I can always dream right and who knows…..maybe someday I will be independently wealthy and thus free to travel the world blogging my little heart out about my adventures LOL.

My massage was over before I knew it….an hour……where did the time go?!!? I felt so relaxed and at peace after, it was GREAT. I went back up to the hotel room and found Sam–he had not slept at all LOL. We went back down to the pool and swam the rest of the afternoon. By about 5:00 we felt MUCH better and finally able to start thinking about how we would spend our last night in Aruba.

We had seen all these great on the beach dinning restaurants and decided since it was our last night, we should go to one of these places….a fancier dinner than we had eaten while we were there and very romantic. All of the restaurants like this never looked full when we walked by… fact most were deserted. The Hyatt had a restaurant on the beach….which I swear I have seen a restaurant like this on Rock of Love or Flavor of Love or I Love New York….one of those celebrity dating shows on VH1…..the private tiki huts, the elegant dinners, the tiki torches….the champagne….and actually in 2005 ABC’s the Bachelor was filmed in Aruba!

We had walked by The Hyatt the night before and asked if we needed reservations and they said we didn’t and they gave us a little menu card to take with us so we just thought we would get ready and then head down to the beach, watch our last sunset and then go to The Hyatt restaurant for dinner since seating didn’t start until 6:30 (after sunset). I had brought a nicer cotton sundress for our last night there but I have never actually worn it….ummm apparently it is completely see through which I didn’t realize till Sam told me when we were walking to the beach. At that point I just didn’t care I was NOT going back to the hotel and NOT buying a new dress…..everyone could think I was wearing my swimsuit underneath for all I cared. LOL.

We sat under a little tiki hut on some lounge chairs watching the sun set. We found lots of cool shells on the beach….you know the big kinds you only ever see in souvenir shops at the beach…..the BIG exotic looking ones. Now my mom loves shells and I wanted to take some home to her. I grabbed like 5 of these shells but Sam wouldn’t let me bring home the big ones as we didn’t know if there was anything still living in them…..he told me it would be my luck that a crab was still living in it and it got lose in my bag…..he was probably right. I only took a couple of smaller shells that I KNEW there was nothing alive in them.

Right by our little spot on the beach was a sunset wedding (the second one we had seen) and lots of other couples walking the beach together as always….so romantic. Watching the new couple getting married I couldn’t help but wonder what their lives will be like together. Here Sam and I are…..married for almost seven years, together for eight… kids and still in love. We are truly lucky.

Some of the shells I commandeered with me back to the US

Not that we don’t want kids but we got married fairly young and knowing the odds were against us as a young couple we decided to wait until we were stable and ‘ready’ to have kids. We are very lucky to be able to be around each other 24/7…..and lucky to be in a position where we can experience things together like traveling. Travel is a big part of me and it’s great to be with someone I can share that with….someone who loves the things I love like photography and accepts that I hate outdoors-y things and still wants to vacation with me LOL. As we were sitting there in silence soaking up the last bit of nuclear radiation we will probably see for a few more months in Oregon….Sam finally decided to pull out the little menu for the Hyatt. We had not eaten anything since breakfast and both of our stomachs were growling….we still had an hour before the sun actually SET and the restaurant started seating people but we were so hungry we couldn’t help but check out the menu.

The blazing sun reflecting off the water and was like being in a nuclear meltdown!

Thank GOD we did!!! So the menu is ‘fixed’ and it’s $70.00 per person!! Though this included one glass of wine, an appetizer, dinner salad, main course, and dessert…..that seemed a little on the spendy side….almost $200 for dinner?!?!? $100….ok, but $200 when it’s all said and done….as this did not include tip and we would likely have MORE than one glass or wine or drinks….and what if the food was not good??? We could choose from steaks, fish, or pork which was fine but we didn’t want the appetizer or salad and probably not dessert either but we were stuck with it. We debated a little bit and decided to check out some of the other sea side dinning that we had seen when we were walking the night before.

Yep you guessed it, we started walking…..again. After 45 mins the sun set and we finally reached the next beachside dinning spot and… was full for the night. Same with the next place we checked. By the time we made it back to the Hyatt… was 8:00 and I was STARVING but I was still NOT about to pay $200.00 to sit on the beach and have the wind blow sand into my food just so I can say I did it……Sam was of the same mind. We finally decided to eat at the Italian restaurant by our hotel…..I know real wild ones aren’t we LOL. I’m not gonna lie we were both disappointed we really wanted to do eat right on the beach but in the end it didn’t matter….we got to spend time together and go to a place where most only get to dream about……and we saved $200 so we got over the disappointment quickly!! Although I did order a Malibu and pineapple at the restaurant and they were out of Malibu and I almost flipped out… does an island in the Caribbean, a place FAMOUS for it’s coconut rum drinks actually RUN OUT of coconut flavored rum?!?!?!!? But I ordered something else no biggy!!

After dinner we still had all this florin money to spend because NO WHERE would take it….a lot of good THAT did!! We went across the street to one of the casinos thinking SURELY they would take this money. Nope…..USD only!! We cashed in our florins there and played the slots for an hour. I was on a winning streak with the 0.01 slots LOL. Some lady next to me actually won $7,000.00……and she kept playing!!! STUPID I would have took the money and ran!! We walked back to our hotel (sadly my winning streak ran out and we left) and passed a couple of ‘La Cucuracha buses‘ on our way full of tourists with their loud Hawaii shirts and sandals, shaking their maracas out the windows….we had to laugh…Aruba did have one thing–CHARACTER LOL.

We were exhausted and fell asleep quickly…..the sun just took every bit of energy we had. Over all the trip was a success and I felt like I got to do everything I wanted….more or less. Sammy and I are truly lucky to be able to travel and see things together…..and not kill each other after two days :). This has been a memorable trip and one that I will treasure forever…..full of interesting things and adventures :). Tomorrow we will wake up and hop a plane (well….planes) back home–and don’t worry Dear Reader I will be posting about the return journey soon as the story doesn’t end here LOL. The only question Sam and I have now is……where do we go next????? Hummmm the world is our oyster so they say. Who knows……we want to go somewhere exotic and different, not touristy. It doesn’t need to be an island….it can be anywhere…..where are some of the less touristy and different places you have heard about Dear Reader……share them with us, we are all ears!!!

Until next time Dear Reader…..the adventure is almost over….but not quite, be watching for the last post soon!!!


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