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Bonaire Day 8: Of Salt and Sea

We woke this morning with a sense of dread that it was our last full day on the island. I was adamant about getting some shopping done first thing. Bonaire is not a shopping mecca. There are a few souvenir-type stores and some higher end jewelry stores but that's about it. This didn't make for very long shopping but we were able to find a little something for ourselves and everyone back home. Mike wanted to take this home:

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Even I can't compete with that.

We drove over to Lac Bay on the eastern side of the island where we had an appointment for a couples' massage at 2 p.m. We arrived with just enough time to grab lunch before our massages. Lac Bay is the windsurfing area with one of the few sandy beaches on Bonaire. We stopped in at Bonaire Windsurf Place and Mike ordered some nachos and I ordered fish and chips. Both were good (sorry, no pictures). By now it was time for our massages at the Massage Hut.

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We were treated to a one hour full body massage and a Bonaire sea salt scrub. Afterwards, we hung out on the beach for a while watching the windsurfers fly back and forth. Mike used to windsurf many years ago in Austin and he really wanted to do it again but given his broken heel injury, we didn't think he should risk it on this trip. So we were content to watch.

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By late afternoon, we left Lac Bay so that we could drive the coastal road down the east side, around the southern tip, and back up the west side of Bonaire. The east side takes the major brunt of the trade winds so it's often referred to as the "wild side."

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Willemstoren Lighthouse is at the southern tip of the island.

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We then came upon the slave huts which will literally render you speechless. After the Dutch took over Bonaire in 1633, the island became a plantation for the Dutch West Indies Company. Slaves were brought over from Africa to cut dyewood and produce maize and sea salt. They were forced to live in these simple huts with doors only three feet tall.

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Next to the slave huts was the first of four obelisks built by the government in 1837. Each obelisk was a different color (orange, red, white, and blue) that corresponded to a different grade of salt. Ships would come in to Bonaire next to the obelisk that matched their cargo to be picked up. The slave women would then carry the salt out to the ships in containers placed on their heads.

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Further up the coastal road, a couple of kitesurfers were catching some wind.

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Bonaire has been producing salt for over 350 years and currently salt production is controlled by Cargill, Inc. These are the salt pans where sea water is captured. It then evaporates, leaving behind salt crystals.

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The salt crystals are piled high like mountains.

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A conveyer belt carrying 2,000 tons of salt per hour runs from the salt domes, up and across the road, to the loading dock on the other side where it's loaded onto ships for transport.

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Sometimes salt crystals fall off the conveyer and if you find any, you can keep them as souvenirs. We looked but didn't find anything.

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We made it back to the condo just in time for one last sunset.

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Since it was our last night and we had an early flight, we decided just to eat dinner at the condo restaurant, Sunset Grill. We weren't especially hungry so we split an order of fish ceviche with onions and pineapple and conch fritters. The ceviche was wonderful and very spicy. The conch fritters were practically inedible. There seemed to be no conch at all in them and they had a cinnamon taste to them. Yuck!

After dinner, we hurried back up to our room to get ready for a night snorkel. I didn't think I could handle a night dive just yet and we couldn't dive the day before flying anyway so we went snorkeling instead. At least it gave me an idea of what it's like. We thought there would be a ton of fish life out and about at the Aquarium but we didn't see much for some reason. The one great spot of the night was a huge lobster scrambling down the cement slabs to get away from our dive lights.

The only thing left to do was pack and get ready to be at the airport at 6 a.m.

Bonaire was all that we hoped it would be and more. The island was calm, quiet, and beautiful both above and below the water. The people were friendly. The food was for the most part, delicious. The freedom to dive when you want, how you want, and where you want is unmatched anywhere else in the Caribbean. The only bad thing about the trip that we could see was that one week is too little time to really relax and enjoy everything the island has to offer. We normally don't like to visit a place more than once because we feel there are too many other places in the world to visit but this island we could come back to again and again. Until next year...

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Posted by zihuatcat 21:13 Archived in Netherlands Antilles

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