A blog with colored facts about Bonaire cannot exist without an episode on hiking. Now my blog is about my personal experiences on Bonaire, and I must confess I am not much of a hiker. Why walk? Humanity did not invent motorized transportation to not use it. I do want to compromise and walk to my car or even stroll in my tropical garden every once in a while, but to go hiking…
I started this blog about the beauty I find on Bonaire, but I postponed this episode until I could not avoid it anymore. My guest Richard pushed me over the threshold. He is a sportsmanlike guy and he told me he definitely wanted to hike the Brandaris. After all the enthusiastic stories he heard, he had to experience hiking the highest mountaintop on Bonaire. In a weak moment I said yes, and it was not so bad at all. When, a week later, my friend Marc and his wife Lieke were staying with me I could not say no either. I hiked it twice in a short period of time! My guests brought my sportsmanship to an unexpected height; 241 meters to be exact.
You don’t want to climb the Brandaris when the sun is too hot. So we got up early to be at the Washington Slagbaai National Park entrance at 8 AM. We were the first visitors of the day. The gate-keeper at the entrance gave us a map and wrote our names in his book. I could not help wondering if he would keep track of the people who left the park that day, just in case… We entered the dirt roads of the park by car. At the Saliña Mathijs we stopped to take pictures of the Flamingoes and on we went.
The park covers 1/3 of the island. On the bumpy dirt road we could only go at walking speed, it seemed like we were driving forever. The first time with Richard I saw a few spots I thought to be the beginning of the hiking trail. After a couple of false starts we finally found the start of the trail. Marked very clearly, just like the ranger at the entrance said. Next time I will believe him on his word.
It started pretty wide, but after a while the path looked like a goat trail. The aroma of the lush bushes surrounded us. We had to watch out for the Prickly Pear cacti. The light green segments of these cacti separate very easily from the plants when the long barbed spines enter your skin. The goats did not seem to mind, they roamed the area with a segment of Prickly Pear without noticing. All the time we heard the bleating of baby goats yelling for their mum. We watched one mum just pretending not to hear, but when we stopped and waited long enough she decided her whining kid had learned its lesson and answered. Then she just waited until the baby goat went toward her sound and found her again. Bonaire wildlife in a nutshell.
The trail went up and down and up again. Thick bushes, green trees, the rain really did a good job this season. The trees seemed to be full of birds nests, but when I looked closer, I saw it were epiphytic plants, the ‘Tree Beards’. A bit further the landscape opened up. The views were stunning. Didn’t I tell you I’m a sucker for panoramic views? On this hike there were plenty, so I thought to myself that hiking is not such a bad activity after all.
After forty minutes the slope got pretty steep and we had to use hands and feet to continue. I felt like a real mountain climber. Fortunately the climbing part did not last long and we could walk again. After gazing at some magnificent views on Lake Goto and on the Saliña Slagbaai, we got to a ridge and saw our goal: the Brandaris summit. Another steep rocky climb got us to the top where we let the scenery sink in. From here I did not only see all of Bonaire, but also a big chunk of Curaçao 50 kilometers away. Some say that on extremely bright days you can even see mountains in Venezuela, some 200 kilometers to the south. At this point, looking down on the Slagbaai plantation building, I could not see the steep slope going down. I experienced the awesome feeling of looking out from an airplane.
We stayed at the top for about 20 minutes until all my senses were saturated. Time to get down. It took us a bit more than an hour to get from the car to the top. Climbing down would probably take us a bit longer. You really have to be careful descending a steep, rocky slope. You don’t want to slip and fall down, it may take ages for help to arrive here. Both times I hiked the trail we only met one other couple on the way back. It was just like we had the whole trail to ourselves. Carefully we managed to get down safely. Of course I regularly had to stop and stare at the scenery, I just cannot help being fascinated by panoramic views.
I never thought it was possible, but I really liked hiking. On Bonaire there are more trails for me to discover. Just wait and see.