If you take Kaya Nikiboko Sud out past the Jesus Christ shrine that is down aways from town and turn right, you pass by one of the sweetest-smelling mango trees this side of Trinidad. It is a mature tree that has passed the years gracefully sporting a massive trunk, gangly branches and lush, robust leaves. When the red-yellow globes of mango appear so do flocks of squawking loras, our local yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots. It is but a slice of a moment and it reminds me of why I live on an island.
There are many others. Some days I cruise Kralendijk by bike and turn a corner only to suddenly see a nine-story structure towering above the town. Ah yes, the Boat-els. If it is a two cruise ship arrival 4000+ day trippers, 25% of our population, pour down the gangplanks and into the streets. Good thing I’m on the bicycle. There is no parking to be found as taxis, tour buses and tourists on quads jockey around the town. But those days are not forever, nor every day. The last boat departs in May and we will not see another until November.
Then there are times when I am underwater, 40 feet down. No mangos here, but the forest of soft coral that I drift through is as impressive as any terrestrial timberland. There are undulating sea fans of purple and green, lacey sea plumes that reveal the direction of the current and sometimes turtles, and black sea rods, branchy gorgonians that are also appropriately called the Caribbean sea whip. Down under delivers an experience that spurred the local government to place “Divers Paradise” on Bonaire’s license plates.
I just spent a night out at the kunuku of my friend, Hans. He and his Cuban wife, Jenny, own the Auriga Ecolodge. It is near sunset and Hans is asked to change the tire of a neighbor plagued with a bad back. In his absence, I scale the stargazer platform of the B&B to watch the sun go down and have a dram of rum. The platform rises above the surrounding canopy of kadushi cacti, acacia and divi divi trees. From this high perch I am treated to raucous parrots and parakeets, colorful tropical orioles and strange, nocturnal nightjars. These are the low riders of the nocturnal bird world with long wings, short legs and stubby bills. To the east, I see a slice of Caribbean blue. The rest of the vista is rolling farmland covered with arid vegetation and small fields of sorghum. Windmills reminiscent of the Oklahoma plains punctuate the skyline. It’s another island sunset.
I guess that is one of the many reasons I like this island where I live. For such a small place, its diversity is extreme. If I’m in need of psychedelia, I only have to travel south to the wind-swept saltpans of pink, lime green and sapphire blue waters. Throw in some Don Quixote-esque driftwood sculptures that appear and vanish on a whim and you have a landscape that would make Salvador Dali’s mustache twitch with envy. And if I’m in the mood to get high, I only need to trek Mount Brandaris, the tallest peak on the island. At a mere 241 meters (784 feet), it is a tiny foothill compared to my tech climbing landscapes of New Mexico years back. But the diminutive Brandaris delivers big time with grand vistas of Bonaire, glimpses of neighboring Curaçao 40 miles to the west, and splendid panoramas of the indigo blue Caribbean flecked with white-capped waves. It makes me want to stay forever.
Rock fever, anyone? You know, that hemmed-in, claustrophobic, trapped feeling mainlanders get when spending too much time down island? Not me. There is simply too much beauty to see and things to do. And if I ever run out of ideas, I can always just chill out in the fragrant shade of a mango tree.