Saturday, March 21, 2020

Curaçao Day 5: Blue Room Success, Sea Turtles, and Jumping Off All the Cliffs

I continue to blog backwards and forward. I will admit to feeling a little silly travel blogging as a virus wages war on the entire globe, so I hope very much these posts are taken (or ignored! also fine!) with the spirit with which they are intended. These are bizarre and scary times and we all need our escapes. I can feel the gravity of our current situation and feel fear for my friends in the medical profession, concern for my elderly loved ones, and empathy for those whose livelihoods have already been decimated or made very uncertain in the last few weeks, and also enjoy looking back and telling a story of our travels one short/INCREDIBLY LONG week ago. I think we're all operating on a lot of different levels and if you enjoy travel escapism like I do, please enjoy the below and let me know your favorite trip you've ever taken and/or your dream place to travel. It would be nice to spend some time googling something beautiful and day dreaming of the future.

Friday morning office meeting;
my 3rd day in those pajamas

In the present, working and schooling from home continues to go smoother with each day. I expect that to slide backwards at some point and we certainly have our highs and lows within each day (and hour), but after my meltdown on Tuesday (sobbing, sobbing when the backlog of post-vacation work hit me in the face along with all our changed circumstances after getting home very late the night before), James has completely taken over our kids' daytime school schedule and that has made life possible. I still pop in and help- I don't actually like working behind the closed door of my bedroom all day while they make memories and do math (my love) and other academic things in the sun room, but he owns it and runs it and I have honest to god fallen more in love with him listening through the door. It's a powerful thing when your partner thoroughly steps up for you and I want to capture this feeling because there will absolutely be bumps in the road along the way.

Video we made for my parents who had just sent the kids a treat to buy a new book

I love that they're getting to see the Finance degree and MBA side of their dad. None of them really remember that he used to wear suits and work with spreadsheets all day. It's been fun for me to hear it too. I also have an emotional support bulldog who is here for us.

I sincerely hope you all are doing well, and if you aren't, let me know that too.

~ ~ ~

And now going backwards- we're at last Thursday, Day 5, in Curaçao.

Each night I'd go to bed thinking we'd wake up early, but we slept in every day (well, except the next day, but we'll get to that), waking up lazily with the sun already shining high on the ocean behind our house. And because we had seven full days and no itinerary or excursions, we could! I usually woke up first and went to make tea to sip while watching the water. The kids tumbled down the stairs around 8 and James would emerge a little while after to make breakfast for everyone. On this particular day we made breakfast tacos with eggs, potatoes, black beans, and cheese (they had the BEST cheese) and this enormous avocado half we bought for $1.80 (i.e., super cheap for something fresh on the island) that was creamy and delicious and HUGE.

While everyone ate breakfast I packed lunches with our Dutch deli meats and cheeses and super delicious wheat rolls, apples, and chips. We had waited our two days and we were going to hike to The Blue Room! And this time we were going to take the EASIER PATH!

We planned to do some exploring of other beaches post-hike, so we piled the back of the car with our cooler (all the gratitude to the homeowner for providing one, with copious blue ice), extra snacks, snorkel equipment, snorkel vests, water shoes, towels, water bottles, and waterproof cases. Once parked back at Playa Santa Cruz we again saddled up with what we needed for the actual hike, jump, and swim, knowing we couldn't leave anything on the rocks behind us. James wore the waterproof case to put our phones, keys, and glasses, the kids wore their inflatable vests, and we all wore our thin water shoes. The path was MUCH more open and easy to traverse (and shorter! omg I still can't believe we did the other "scenic" route).

But first, you walk through a very narrow path between Playa Santa Cruz and the secret black sand beach of Playa Santu Pretu. And about 5 steps into the first path, Claire slipped, threw her hand out to catch herself, and caught a cactus full-on instead.

The scream was blood curdling. We raced over and saw about 12 long thorns sticking out of her hand and at least 100 smaller ones. She was writhing and sobbing and James held her hand still with his left hand while we both used our right to surgically pick out every single thorn, blood dripping as we went. It was awful.

We got all the thorns out, she could flex and move her hand, though it hurt, and we rinsed her hand in the salt water of the beach. She wasn't bleeding anymore and she said she wanted to hike, so off we went, wondering if perhaps we weren't meant to do this.

The easy path, while far more open (and easy!) was HOT and sunny. Curaçao is an arid climate with cacti and scrubby thorny bushes and very few trees. At one point, Cora realized she was no longer holding Landon's goggles. She seemed befuddled as to where they could have gone, so we waited under a tiny tree while James jogged the path back, scanning for goggles along the way. Luckily, it wasn't too long when we heard his happy shout. He jogged back, dripping in sweat in his rashguard and we pressed on. And after what should have only been a 20 minute walk, we got to the turn-off to The Blue Room entrance.

And after 5 (?) minutes on the narrower path, we got to the rocks and coral and little blue dots that show you where to jump in.

We donned our gear, left only our two water bottles, and jumped in the gorgeous blue water.

And after hiking in long sleeve rash guards in felt AMAZING. What a gorgeous spot, and in the now much calmer water (we could now appreciate what the kind local told us two days before, there was NO WAY we could have entered the cave that day; the ocean was entirely different now), we could see how crystal clear and beautiful it was.

We swam over to the right, finding the opening to the cave. When the waves rolled in, the entrance disappeared, when the waves rolled out, the entrance was visible again, so you needed to be prepared to swim about 10 feet underwater before you could pop back up inside the cave with its much taller ceiling.

James and Cora went first. We semi-inflated each kid's vest, so they could go underwater, but it would also pull them up if needed. James held Cora's upper arm while they swam and took her through. I'll admit to a little gasp when the wave came in and their heads rose to nearly hit the cave entrance before James pulled her underwater to kick the rest of the way, but I heard her delighted shout once they were in. I sent Landon just ahead of me while I took Claire. We took a big breath when we felt the water rise, put our hands up to not hit our heads on the entrance ceiling, and kicked like crazy, popping up on the other side.

And wow. It was a truly extraordinary site. I use a lot of superlatives already, so I don't know what I can add here, but the unearthly blue glow of the water was simply a wonder.

The waves kept crashing in, as waves do, so it was hard to stay still and get out the camera (we'd found ours didn't like taking pictures through the smaller pouches), but James managed these two and they don't come close to capturing the glow. The cave was lighter than it seems in the photo, and the blue glow truly electric... the waves would roll in and out, adding more light and taking it away, but the glow of the sun off the white sand below stayed constant.

While it's incredible, and well worth the hike, there's not a whole lot to do inside, so once we'd all soaked it up and swam around we made our exit.

And stayed to jump off the cliffs and snorkel and splash in the beautiful water of our own private set of cliffs and patch of coral.

Cora, feeling IMMENSELY pleased with herself after swimming to an underwater cave like some kind of super hero, did her first cliff jump! Her leap into the water brought her up beaming, and if the climb back out wasn't so hard (basically a full body press up, with coral to avoid), she would have done it 100 more times instead of 2.

Eventually we got our stuff together to hike back, knowing the car (and lunch!) was a good 30 minutes away and I know to ALWAYS leave when the kids are still having fun and think they could stay forever- you need that happy stamina for the walk back.

We ate at Playa Santa Cruz where we'd parked the car pre-cactus-attack and Blue-Room-swim. The kids splashed, the beach was empty, and I sat at our picnic table under a palapa and drank the Amstel Bright I'd packed along with the food.

It was now about 1 p.m. and flush with the joy at being among those who have seen the inside of the Blue Room (we felt like we'd been inside Aladdin's Cave or something), we decided to hit up another new experience- swimming with the sea turtles at Playa Grandi, about a 10 minute drive north from Playa Santa Cruz.

the roads; so crazy the gorgeous ocean is only a few hundred yards over to the left

We parked at Playa Forti, which we had discovered and loved the night before, with a plan to snorkel over to Playa Grandi which was only a few hundred yards up the coral-lined coast. (You could also park at Playa Grandi, but it's a smaller beach that was more crowded and we knew we wanted to end with more cliff jumping at Forti; they're very close together.)

I don't have any pictures of this next part because we kept our cameras in the waterproof pouch James wore around his waist, but I'll never forget it anyway. We got everyone's fins and snorkels and masks on at Forti, and set about on a slow float along the coast. The coral was vibrant and beautiful and there were a TON of fish. We saw so many: Parrotfish, Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Eels, Needlefish, and tons more I don't know the names of, and Cora's little happy scream through her snorkel every time she saw something new and beautiful was my favorite thing.

As we got closer to the anchored fishing boats of Playa Grandi we saw our first hazy shadow in the deeper water. As we swam closer we saw that it was a turtle! A beautiful, graceful, silent turtle, just swimming around in the crystal clear water. We swam further out, among the boats, and saw two more HUGE turtles. One had a shell that was at least 3 feet long and was about the size of Cora. We dove underwater, swimming closer (no touching! but to give you an idea of proximity, you absolutely could have), simply in awe of these enormous graceful creatures swimming through the ocean beside us.

Seeing Cora (and all the kids!) dive under, her face light up in joy, kicking alongside a giant turtle is something I will never, ever forget. We probably saw 20? They'd swim off deeper and we'd wave goodbye and then you'd see another shadowy shape in the distance that would slowly become clearer. We saw medium ones, small ones, and at least 8 huge ones. It's my favorite memory of the whole trip.

After our sea turtle adventure, we swam back to Playa Forti, admiring the coral fish along the way. James and the big kids practically ran up the stairs to get to their cliff jumping while I stayed down to let Cora play on the sand a bit. There aren't any chairs or shade at Forti (it's a tiny beach), so after 15 minutes or so I decided to seek shade at the cliff restaurant where my children had been entertaining customers with their leaps.

Lunch felt like a lifetime ago, so I ordered a few snacks- fried funchi (polenta) which is Landon's new love, and tostones (fried mashed plantain) which he remembered fondly from Costa Rica. I also got a drink with blue Curacao, which felt like the right thing to do.

There are iguanas all over the island and several live on the cliffs at Forti. I felt this one was posing just for me, so I took his picture.

Hello Good Sir.

James and the big kids jumped a few more times (each one takes a while as you have to swim about 75 yards to shore, walk up the many stairs and across the parking lot to the edge of the cliff again) and Cora and I enjoyed our corner table, snacks, and the spectacular view. The water remained a marvel- I took this while walking back from the car of the big kids swimming to shore in the deep water below.

We finally packed it up and went back to the house around 5? 6? I have no idea.

The kids explored the caves for a bit, we all enjoyed the sunset, and then James and I made dinner- a big salad with farro for James and I and small salads with mac & cheese I'd packed from home for the kids. I drank Prosecco and we all faced the ocean at our table, quietly eating, enjoying the view, and feeling very ready for bad. It was a great day.

(All Curaçao posts tagged here.)


  1. Please keep writing your happy tales. Reading about your family makes me smile, and we need these reminders of normal life!

  2. I need your escapes too! These are really helpful for sanity and just normalacy.

  3. Love reading these escapes.we took three trips to Alaska pre kid and now we're hoping to take her back in a few years when she's Cora sized.

  4. Love, love, love all of this. I'm glad I was able to take trips (Keystone, Austin, and CA) this year prior to national emergency and pandemic.

  5. Every time you go on vacation I decide that place HAS to be our next trip.