“I’ve never been to the top of an island before,” says Richard, my Canadian friend. “This is awesome.”
And it is. We are standing on the top of Mount Brandaris, a whopping 784 feet above the sea. A very vertical 241 meters. Perhaps I should not frame this event in measurement. That is not a very high climb compared to continental peaks. I have scaled thousands of feet on dozens of mountains of the American West and found that much more physically challenging.
But Brandaris, in spite of its lack of height, is awesome. I think that Richard is on to something. Being on top of an island is special. We can see almost all of Bonaire from here. Looking west, I spot neighboring Curacao some 40 miles away. On this exceptionally clear day, I also see Klein Curacao, a very flat offshore island. I later tell my park ranger friend, Rutsill, about this. He doubts my claim, but I know. I have sailed between Curacao and Klein Curacao twice and know exactly where they lay in respect to each other. We did see it.
But island peaks have more than mere distant sightings that make them unique. Continental mountains have that too. No, rather it is the deep blue water surrounding the island that makes this day special. We are adrift. We are at sea. We are floating on this tropical gumbo of palms and pleasure, beaches and beauty, flamingos and fun. And to see it from above and still be rooted to terra firma is a distinctive experience. It rivals any continental grandeur.
Today’s crew agrees. I’m hiking with two Canadians and two Dutch. It is their first time on top even though one couple has been on island for three years. I hiked to the summit of Brandaris before. It was my first year living on Bonaire. I found that trip much longer than today. Plus, the clarity of the air on this second trip is simply stellar.
My two battered knees survived the hike. My chronic heel pain did not return. I kept up quite well with the other four, all who could be my children. I enjoyed this so much that I plan to do this hike every birthday. It is good for the soul. It defines where I live. It has the right amount of rock scrambling rigors to let me know that I still have it. It makes me feel like I am at the top of the world.