White Hell

That what the slaves called Bonaire when they were brought here to break their backs working in the salt crystallization pools.

Bonaire was called “the useless island” by the Spanish who soon abandoned it. But the Dutch had a lot of fish to salt down at home and they soon found that Bonaire’s arid climate, hot sun and windy ecology was perfect for making sea salt. More on that later.

Bonaire is the smallest of the ABC islands in terms of population and Kralendijk is the smallest town. Our scheduled tour was in the afternoon so we had time to get out and do some sightseeing before we left.

The town was clean and colorful. Most of the shops were along one main street.

We were the only ship in port so it wasn’t too busy ashore.

Looking forward to seeing those famous Bonaire flamingoes.

After we got on the bus and left Kralendijk we soon arrived at the salt pools.

After the salt crystallizes they dig it out with front-end loaders and pile it up.

Then they convey it out to a ship anchored offshore. A big agro-conglomerate (Cargill) controls the business today.

Of course, in the 19th century, this was all a manual harvesting operation by slaves – who after a day of hard labor were crammed into these luxurious stone huts to try to sleep. The tourists have it a lot easier today.

The salt pools are the feeding grounds for Bonaire’s pink flamingoes – who get their color from the shrimp they eat here. A flamingo wades through the pool, does a Moonwalk dance to stir it up and eats the shrimp it finds. I wonder if those treehuggers buying Bonaire sea salt know that flamingoes have stomped through it (and worse.)

A big flock of them out there. They don’t get too close to tourist buses.

Later we stopped at a Windsurfing beach. Bonaire is famous for it and this particular beach is a perfect place to learn. It has shallow water and persistent winds – plus world-class instructors.

Driving back through the center of the island you might have concluded you were in Arizona rather than the Caribbean – lots of prickly pear and organ pipe cacti.

With this much cactus around you might as well make a fence out of it.

Time to head back aboard and sail away to Curacao tomorrow. Tot ziens, Bonaire!


Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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