The next stop on our cruise was Aruba…Bahama, come on pretty mama…Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go down to…Oh, sorry. Yes, I hummed this song the entire trip.
Aruba is an independently governed island within The Kingdom of the Netherlands, which means its citizens hold Dutch passports, but have their own monarchy. The official languages are Dutch and Papiamento, with many folks speaking both English and French due to the island’s history with both France and Britain. It’s located just 17 miles north of Venezuela. This area is fantastic for many reasons. First, it puts it outside the hurricane belt. Aruba has very little rainfall each year, and a steady temperature of around 84 degrees year-round. Surprisingly, Aruba is more desert than traditional Caribbean island. Cacti and other succulents line the dry, sandy roads. Though, of course, the coast is beautiful, blue, warm water.
Secondly, it’s in a kind of obscure area with low currents which made it difficult to discover. This means that it went uninhabited for a long time, and also kept it out of the whole nasty Atlantic Slave trade thing.
As Aruba is also renowned for their oil refineries, it along with Curacao was the major supplier of oil to the Allies during World War II. Many Allied troops were stationed in Aruba during the war and Eleanor Roosevelt even paid a visit. All was good until a German sub attacked the island, but a plane took it out pretty quickly. A tour can be taken to scuba and snorkel at the wreck.
Aruba has one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. In fact, so many people began to emigrate for better jobs, that the government issues working permits for only three years. It’s known for its aloe manufacturing, gold and phosphate mining, and of course, tourism. We got to experience a few of those industries while on our excursion…
Enter: The Kukoo Kunuku Tour…aka “The Party Bus”
When I read the description for this tour, I chose it simply because it was the cheapest option to get us from the ship to the beach. For $32, we were promised a brightly painted bus, with maracas to shake along to Caribbean music, and a brief, informative island tour before being dropped off at the beach for 4 hours. This sounded fun. And it was. Oh, it really was. Once we got over the whole “we are the epitome of stereotypical Americans being driven around a tourist trap” feeling. But it was so much energy and fun we couldn’t care for too long.
You see, the brightly painted bus was so much more.
(and before the questions start…no, I’m not preggers…there is simply wind up my dress…)
And the festive Caribbean music was more like “Who Let the Dogs Out”, “I Like Big Butts”, and a little Black Eyed Peas thrown in for good measure. It was 9am, and we’re in a party bus driving through every neighborhood in Aruba BLASTING music, screaming, shaking maracas, blaring the horn (which was the typical clown-car jingle), and generally holding up traffic. Yep. There were tons of round-a-bouts, which our driver would encircle 6 or 7 times before moving along. Check out the video.
And our driver?! Did I show him to you?
I wish I could say his name was something fun and he was a local. But alas, I think his name was Victor and he was from Brooklyn (though he did master a stereotypical Jamaican accent for our amusement).
And the tour? The tour was my kind of tour. He would pull up to a site (with music blaring—who cares about the other tourists), and say: “you have 5 minutes to see what you need to see, take your pictures, and get back on the bus”. I like to delve into a place, but actually, I got to see more, and learn more, because we covered so much.
Our first stop was the aloe plant.
Then, we visited the Alto Vista Chapel. Builtin 1750, it’s one of the oldest churches in the Caribbean, and was maintained for awhile by native converts to Catholicism. The Stations of the Cross wind up the dusty path, leading the church.
Then, the lighthouse. Now this has an interesting story. The lighthouse is called the Californian, named after the same ship that ignored the Titanic’s request for assistance. A few years later, it also ignored the signal from the lighthouse, ran aground, and sank.
We also got to see many gorgeous houses. And graffiti, which is interesting because it was all written in English…
Of course, we then enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach. Picturesque. The water was heavenly, and the tour included a complimentary beach chair, and discounts on floats and nearby attractions. I did a lot of reading, swimming, napping, and making out with my husband. I would never do that in public…
When the beach day was over, Dr. Vic picked us up again, with the music blaring. The other couple at our dinner table told us they were snorkeling a few miles away, and they could hear our bus in the water. Fantastic.
I think the best part was the other folks on the bus. The family in front of us including a 10 year old boy and an 80 year old grandmother. She shook the heck out of her maracas! The couple behind us was made up of a big-bootied black gal who had no problem shaking her thang in the aisles. She was fun. The tour really was the topic of conversation on the ship the rest of day. Highly recommended (as long as you don’t mind people taking pictures of you and generally annoying the locals).
**After returning home and doing some googling, I realized the main audience for the Kukoo Kunuku bus is bar-hopping through Aruba on the weekends. During the week, they cater to cruisers. Check out this website for a guestbook and pictures from some of the more “wild” times.