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Driving Around the Christoffelpark

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After having hiked to the top of Christoffelberg, we had enough time to continue exploring the park. A driving route recommended by the visitor’s center brought us to a few interesting sights, including a remote beach, a dark cave, and ancient rock paintings made by the Arwak Indians.

Christoffel Park Drive

The hike had left us so exhausted, that even a driving route sounded unappealing. “You mean we have to press down on the gas, and turn the wheel? Unnhhhh… god!” But entrance to the park is expensive enough that we didn’t want to pay to return another day, so we sucked it up and motored off into the nature. Heroic.

Christoffel Park Drive

The first stop was at a viewpoint overlooking the park. When the skies are exceptionally clear, you can supposedly see Bonaire from here. That wasn’t the case today, but we did have a nice view of Boka Grandi: the large inlet and beach that would be the next stop on our tour.

After relaxing on the sand, and nearly allowing the sound of the waves to put us to sleep, we hopped back into the car and continued for a few more minutes until reaching the cave. It was much bigger than we had expected, and we were able to crawl back far into its depths, where very little light was able to reach.

Christoffel Park Drive

Next to the cave is a set of rock paintings attributed to the Arwak Indians who were Curaçao’s original inhabitants. These paintings are thought to be up to 2000 years old. It can be hard to spot them, as they’ve faded with time, but the red markings are still visible on the rock.

Most visitors come to Christoffelpark to hike up Christoffelberg, and then they leave right away. But there’s a lot more to the park than just the mountain, including the excellent Savonet Museum and this driving tour. It’s an easy way to discover some additional highlights of Curaçao’s biggest national park.

Location on our Map: Boka Grandi

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February 5, 2016 at 9:11 pm Comments (0)

To the Top of Christoffelberg

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Curaçao’s most popular hike, and perhaps its only popular hike, is the trek to the summit of Christoffelberg. At a modest 372 meters above sea level, this is the tallest peak on the island, and reaching the top requires an effort of about 90 minutes.

Christoffelberg Hike

Here on Curaçao, where life is about beaches and relaxation, a 90-minute uphill hike seems more strenuous than it probably is. We’ve raced up much higher mountains in places like Iceland and Idaho without thinking twice, but getting to the top of the Christoffelberg was hard! Maybe it’s the temperature. People are actually prohibited from beginning this hike after 11:30 in the morning, as the midday heat can be unexpectedly dangerous.

Christoffelberg Hike

This was the only hike we completed on Curaçao where we saw other people, and we saw a lot. In fact, we blazed past at least a dozen on the way up Christoffelberg. I’m not claiming that Jürgen and I are fast hikers (we’re actually rather slow, with all the picture-taking) and I don’t want to come off as a “know-it-all.” But honestly, what is with all the flip-flops? Who hikes up a mountain wearing flip-flops?! Maybe it’s the only footwear you brought along on your trip to Curaçao, and that would be totally understandable. But in that case, don’t climb the Christoffelberg! You’re going to be miserable. Just go do something else.

Christoffelberg Hike

Anyway, we passed by the suffering flip-floppers and made it to the top of the mountain in an hour and a half. The ascent is steady, and leads through some lovely forested areas. It only gets really difficult toward the end, where the mountain’s peak becomes rocky and more vertical. The view from the top was as wonderful as we had expected; the entire northern end of the island was visible, and it was fun to find and point all of the places we had visited.

To best enjoy the hike, arrive at the Christoffelpark as early as you can in the morning. The temperature will be better, and there will be fewer other people on the path. You have to pay entrance to get into the park, and then you can drive to the trailhead. The hike itself is uncomplicated, but you do have to be in decent physical condition, and make sure to bring plenty of water.

Locations on our Map – Trailhead | Summit
Our route on Wikiloc
Chrisoffelpark – Website

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February 5, 2016 at 2:01 pm Comments (0)

The Savonet Museum

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The former Savonet Plantation is found within the bounds of Curaçao’s Christoffel National Park. In 2010, the landhuis (manor) was converted into a museum which touches on the history of the island and life on a colonial-era Dutch plantation.

Savonet Museum

The museum starts off at the very beginning of Curaçao’s history, with artifacts left by the Arowak Indians: the people who inhabited the island before the arrival of the Europeans. But the majority of exhibits at the Savonet concentrate on the story of the plantation itself, and what life was like for both landowners and slaves.

The Savonet Plantation’s landhuis was built in 1662, at a time when the Dutch were heavily invested in the slave trade. Hundreds of men and women kidnapped from West Africa were purchased in Willemstad for work on this plantation, which was one of Curaçao’s largest. Even after the 1863 abolition, most of the Savonet’s former slaves stayed on, working for pennies on parcels of land which they now owned.

Savonet Museum

The museum introduces the culture of the Savonet’s slaves and, by extension, those across the Caribbean. We learned about the religion santería, which is a blend of Catholicism and various West African faiths, as well as some of the more curious customs. For example, after birth, newborn babies were safeguarded for eight days to protect them from falling victim to a vampire-like creature known as the “èdze.” Another custom was that, after marriage, the mother of the groom would visit the bridal suite. If she found the sheets stained with “Virgin Tears,” she would bring them in celebration to the mother of the bride. The two old biddies would then wash the sheets and hang them out to dry in the front yard, making sure that every passerby knew about the bride’s chastity. We also learned that many Dutch women would give their babies to a “Yaya,” or nursemaid, for milking. The Yaya was responsible for the child’s upbringing, and would often follow them into adulthood, eventually watching over their children as well.

Savonet Museum

The museum is rounded out with portraits from the plantation days, tools, clothes, a crib, a coffin… and a few real live bats. I almost screamed the first time one whizzed by me through an open door. I might have been afraid that it was an “èdze.”

Perhaps the best part of this museum is its location. While you’re reading about the Savonet’s history, you’re standing in the very spot it occurred. Amazingly, we were the only people there, and this was on a Sunday. I’m guessing that most visitors come to the Christoffel Park to hike up the mountain, and then leave again right away. But if you have any interest in the history of Curaçao, don’t overlook the Savonet Museum.

Location on our Map

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December 22, 2015 at 9:58 pm Comments (0)
Driving Around the Christoffelpark After having hiked to the top of Christoffelberg, we had enough time to continue exploring the park. A driving route recommended by the visitor's center brought us to a few interesting sights, including a remote beach, a dark cave, and ancient rock paintings made by the Arwak Indians.
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