Aruba, Jamanota - 188m/617ft
My first country high point in the Americas and the first of a planned 9 day 5 Country high point adventure. I flew from Birmingham to Amsterdam where I had a comfortable sleep in the airport by remaining airside on arrival (Several mice running around despite being on the second floor) followed by a Tui flight from Amsterdam to Aruba with a short layover in Bonaire en route.
I landed in Aruba around 6pm and quickly filled in the arrivals card and headed out of the airport with my phone in hand for the 40 min walk to my pre booked hotel for the evening. I popped into a petrol station to withdraw some US dollars along with with a few drinks ahead of a long walk planned the following day.
Upon reaching the hotel it wasn't marked correctly on the map so after a few mins pondering and asking a local who also was clueless but I managed through process of elimination to figure out where it should be from the address I had and hovered outside that building for a minute or two before entering. I entered, paused and looked around for a second. Was this the right place or have I just walked into somebodies house? I could hear a loud TV past the open plan kitchen so I walked through the living room and coughed a few times to hopefully gain attention but no reply. It was still above 30c outside so I decided to sit down under the refreshing air conditioning as I was quite sure this was the correct place.
15 minutes later a man appeared followed by his wife, both semi dressed. I said I had a booking at the hotel for this evening and he nodded without speaking and lead me through to a room around the back passing a reception area with a credit card machine to my relief. He was pleasant enough and the room would be suitable for the evening as I was planning an early start before walking 12km to the highest point and then to the airport for my flight to Curacao that evening around 9pm.
The following morning I got ready and went to the reception but nobody was around. I didn't have a room key and had only made a prepayment on my credit card so I still needed to settle the outstanding balance. 20 mins past and still no joy. I didn't have time to hang around today so I decided to head off knowing they can claim the money from my card. I started walking along several dirt roads before a main road which would lead me to Santa Cruz passing a few bus stops along the way but I felt good and thought Ile just carry on. It was already getting warm by now and I was grateful there was quite a nice refreshing breeze.
Upon reaching Santa Cruz I bought a few drinks and continued onto the national park passing many multi coloured houses many of which proudly flying the flag of Aruba. The road became a little steeper before I arrived at the national park and there was a sign stating a fee of 11 USD was payable at the visitor center for all people wishing to visit the park. The was a car park and in hindsight a taxi wouldn't have cost a great deal but it was good to be walking amongst and saying hello to the locals.
At the visitor center there was a cafe, quite a few maps and several smaller groups hiring bikes and quadbikes. I cooled off for a few minutes, bought another drink and set off to the highest point in Aruba. Jamanota is only a mere 188m but with my 9 days of luggage on my back and by now 32C+ it was a good warm up to start the year off. I plodded along a steep roadway before I needed to turn right and follow a track (No access allowed) used for maintenance of the communications equipment on the summit. I simply assumed the sign was to prohibit vehicles not me on foot.
I passed many large cactus's and albeit a small island I was heading to the most remote area and it certainly started to feel like that. There are quite a few snakes and spiders on the Caribbean islands and reports of a boom of Cobras in recent years in Aruba in particular mean't I needed to be a aware and cautious when sitting, putting bag down or passing under trees.
I soon reached a sign saying Cero Jamanota and I had my first glimpse of the antenna that marked the highest point. I pushed on an reached the end of the track with a nice viewpoint area. There was a large gate blocking the remaining track that lead to the summit but it was easily bypassed to the left hand side. After a few minutes on the final steeper section I was on the highest point in Aruba. Number 58 and the first country high point of the Americas. The view was panoramic and I could see over to the fantastic blue waters and beaches that surrounded the islands main resorts and hotels.
I headed back the same way to the visitor center but spent a little while at the viewpoint en route as it offered extensive views and better landscape photos to be taken than on the summit with the antenna. I continued down and was soon back at the Arikok national park visitor center where I once again cooled down and replenished before heading back along the track to Santa Cruz where I knew there would be a McDonalds restaurant waiting for me. I sat in there for a while before deciding my next move as I had 6 hours until my flight to Curacao and the airport was only an hours walk away. I had noticed during the walk that both of my heels had started to blister. A reoccurring problem from the several long walks last year.
I changed socks and put plasters on and headed slowly to the airport giving my feet a little extra time to recover. Upon reaching the airport I looked on the departure board and was greeted with a message saying my flight was cancelled. I went to the check in desk to see what the plan was and all she said was to head to the InselAir sales office just outside. There was a queue so I had to wait 30 mins before being told the flight was cancelled and wouldn't be flying tonight. I've had cancelled flights before and I try to pre-plan and arrange my itineraries for such occurrences. After another hour or so I was given a taxi and hotel voucher and told they would contact me in the morning regarding the flight planned the following day. Several taxi's declined the voucher which was a bit odd until I paired up with another solo passenger and we made our way to our hotel.
Once at the hotel I headed to the reception desk and was told I along with the other 6 people there would have to wait for confirmation that they had received payment from InselAir before they would give us our rooms. After an hour we were told that a person from InselAir was en route to pay for our rooms. I took another hour and half before someone turned up and paid so we were able to get a room, two women in their 70's had been waiting also. But it was clear that the hotel along with the taxi company had no confidence in InselAir paying them for the vouchers.
The hotel was nice enough but the following day I wanted to head to the airport early as I had already lost a night in Curacao and was due to head to Sint Maarten the following day. I arrived at the airport and didn't mention my voucher until I got there to save any complications. My new flight was scheduled for 14.20 but after the faff of the day before I went through security early nonetheless. I waited for several hours and another flight to Curacao scheduled for 10.00 had been delayed already with the passengers still in the airport the next gate to mine. The hours passed by with no information and my departure time came and went with no other people seemingly sitting at my gate? By 7pm the delayed flight from that morning had arrived they soon started boarding. I got up and went to the desk, the woman looked at me then at the person next to her and he nodded his head in acknowledgement. She took my passport and changed my boarding card seat number by pen and pointed at the back of the queue. I got on the plane and headed to Curacao, It turns out that my flight had been cancelled so i was fortunate to have slipped on that one. Albeit there were 6 empty seats at least out of the 50! Very eventful and already a day behind.. Onto Curacao.