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The Salt Flats of Jan Thiel

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The plantations of colonial-era Curaçao had it rough, because the island’s arid ground makes it difficult to grow produce or raise livestock. How exactly were the unlucky Dutch landowners going to earn the fabulous fortunes for which they’d come to the New World? Many turned their eyes to something which Curaçao has in abundance: seawater. Or rather, the salt inside of the seawater.

Curaçao’s saliñas, or salt flats, are long since obsolete, but they’ve not disappeared entirely. We went on a short hike to see the saliñas of the former Jan Thiel plantation, near the popular tourist beach of the same name.

Our walk began near the Jan Thiel Landhuis, where we found a path that winds through a forest before reaching the salt flats and the large inland lagoon to which they’re attached. A number of interconnected trails snake through the dark woods, which were a little menacing, with huge termite mounds hanging from the twisted trees. This walk was fun, and even if we hadn’t found the salt flats, we would have been satisfied with the day’s excursion. Soon, however, the saliñas came into view, colorful and wide open, and the day got even better.

The saliñas are wide expanses of land which have been totally flattened. Ocean water was allowed into the flats and then trapped, so that it would evaporate under the heat of the sun, and leave behind its salt. Today, the saliñas are still covered in hard, crystallized salt of a pinkish hue. Totally unscientific guesswork here, but I’m assuming the pink comes from the same organisms which give flamingos their color. We did spot a few flamingos in the nearby water.

Trails lead all the way around the lagoon, though we were content to circle just the salt flats. They reminded us giant ice skating rinks… stepping out onto the glistening salt, I half-expected to slip and fall. I picked up a big chunk which had broken off, and briefly considered licking it, but this salt isn’t for consumption. In other words, don’t plan on showing up with a chisel and bucket.

As long as we were in the area, we also decided to check out Jan Thiel Beach, but I’m not going to waste a lot of space describing it. Suffice it to say that this is not the type of beach which appeals to us. Completely artificial, with multiple over-priced bars and restaurants, “deluxe” lounge chairs and beach beds, and a ban on bringing your own food and drink. And where’s the beach?! You can’t possibly mean that tiny strip of sand. The snorkeling here is supposed to be good, but we never bothered to verify that.

Locations on our Map: Salt Flats | Jan Thiel Beach
Our route on Wikiloc

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January 6, 2016 at 8:50 pm Comments (0)

Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos

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Sint Willibrodrus sits along the edge of the Jan Kok Bay, on the western coast of Curaçao. It’s a small town, but one with big ambitions. As you approach, it’s impossible to miss the “Williwood” sign on a hill in the distance. Actually, you might miss it, if your attention has been captured by all of the flamingos.

Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos

Just before entering Sint Willibrodrus, you’ll see the old saliñas of Rif-Sint Marie, a former salt mining plantation. The plantation is now in ruins, and its former grounds have been designated as a protected habitat for flamingos. It’s almost a sure bet that you’ll spot some here; hundreds of flamingos live on Curaçao year-round.

Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos

Sint Willibrodrus is a quiet town of a few hundred people. We drove through a couple times, on the way to Daaibooi Beach, and rarely saw a soul. Given the small population, you might be surprised by the size of its Roman Catholic church, built in the 1880s. Painted a deep yellow and set upon the highest point in town, it’s visible for miles around, and looks like it could comfortably fit the rest of Sint Willibrodrus within its walls.

Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos

You can’t drive through Sint Willibrodrus without stopping at Williwood, the popular toko responsible for the Hollywood-esque sign at the town’s entrance. Toko is a Papiamento term meaning “mini-market,” but Williwood is also a popular restaurant and bar, with a popular barbecue party on Sunday evenings.

Locations on our Map: Rif-Sint Marie (Flamingos) | Church of Sint Willibrodrus | Williwood

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Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
Sint Willibrodrus and its Flamingos
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December 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm Comments (0)
The Salt Flats of Jan Thiel The plantations of colonial-era Curaçao had it rough, because the island's arid ground makes it difficult to grow produce or raise livestock. How exactly were the unlucky Dutch landowners going to earn the fabulous fortunes for which they'd come to the New World? Many turned their eyes to something which Curaçao has in abundance: seawater. Or rather, the salt inside of the seawater.
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