Aug 272011

When I was looking around online for things to do in Aruba, the one thing I kept seeing over and over to do was a visit to the Natural Pool. This is a group of rocks at the edge of the island that form a bit of a ring and create a sort of nature-made “pool” at the edge of the island. When looking around for ways to get to it (it’s on the opposite side of the island from all the hotels) I came upon a few big tour-bus type operations, and also a rather unique tour operated by a lady named Madi. All everyone would say about Madi is that she was a “bit of a free spirt” and a native Aruban who was as much a part of this island as the land itself. I was sold!

There was only one complication – every review I saw of Madi online said she was notoriously difficult to get ahold of – both by phone and e-mail, but that persistence would pay off. I decided to put the American Express concierge service to work, and eventually after two weeks they reached her, and had everything booked – we were all set.

Madi had told AmEx that she would meet us at the hotel at 9:00am and to be expecting her big red Jeep. True to word, she was exactly on time, and we were off. She couldn’t remember if she had two others for the tour or not, but we would swing by their hotel on the way to see – otherwise, it was going to be a private tour for us!

First stop was at a church which had been hit by a tornado the previous day. Aruba doesn’t usually get tornados, and this one ripped the roof off of the church.  Next to the church was a really cool cemetery filled with traditional local family tombs.

After the church, Madi suddenly remembered she needed to check on the other tourists, and a quick drive by of the hotel where she thought they might be showed they weren’t there – so we were off!

On the way, we got a little story about the politics of Aruba. There are two main parties, represented by the colours green and yellow – and strong supporters paint their house in the colour of the party they support. Madi was getting on well with the current green Prime Minister, so had recently painted her house from yellow to green in support of him, and was convinced she was going to change her whole town which was mostly yellow. Given how everyone we ran into seemed to know her, I have no doubt she’ll do it!

Stop one of the day was the natural pool. Getting to the pool was a bit challenge, because there was really no direct road to get there. A few years ago, they had talked about building a road to the pool, but Madi protested because it would cause overdevelopment and spoil the natural experience. From what I gathered, she put a chain across the proposed road, and stood in the way of the bulldozer, and eventually they gave up. A smaller road was built, but it took many times longer, which deterred many people. The “road” we took to get there…well, it was definitely the bumpiest piece of dirt and rocks I’ve ever been up. Up, bump bump, down, bump, bump, repeat. After about 20 minutes of this we were there.

When we got there, we walked down the rest of the way to the water, where unfortunately some of the tour groups had just degorged and we had to share the area with about 25 other people. Madi had given us some bread, so we snorkeled around and fed the fish for a while until Matt was like “um, I kinda cut myself on the rocks.” Cut would be an understatement, there was a pretty large gash deep on his ankle and blood was streaming out of it. Yuck, no fun! We stayed a little bit longer, and headed back up to the jeep.

Madi, she was completely on top of things – however. She picked some aloe from the side of the road, got out some paper towels, and soon had Matt all glued up with the aloe, and putting pressure on it. Less than 30 minutes later it had more or less completely stopped. Yay for natural medicine!

While we’d been in the water, Madi also picked up some fresh local mangoes and calabash. I’d never had calabash before, and they were great for munching on as we drove along.

After Matt had stopped bleeding all over everything, we stopped further along the island at the “three bridges.” There are three natural bridges very close to each other over the water here. There used to be a fourth, much bigger one a little way further down, but it had collapsed a few years prior.

Next stop was at a small white sand beach called Andicouri Beach that only had about 10 locals at it. It was a great low-key swim before we drove on a bit more.

We drove on a bit, and stopped at another small rock hill, which had a cave that had some drawings done hundreds of years ago by the native people of the island. On the way down, there was a large strong tree which Madi assured us she “knew well” and we wouldn’t break it so we had to swing on it!

Last stop on the tour was the Casibari Rock formation. We climbed to the top, which gave a great view of the entire island. It wasn’t far from the Hooiberg mountain/hill in the middle of the island, but much lower with almost as good of a view.

Then, it was back to the hotel to rest up, swim around at the beach, and relax before dinner.  We definitely got to see all the highlights of Aruba in a one day tour, and doing it with someone as high-energy as Madi who clearly loves the island was great.  We got all the personal stories about life on the island that you wouldn’t get on a large tour, and you could tell she really loves what she does.  Cant recommend her tour enough if you’re coming to Aruba!

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