Written by: Myrthe Visser-Wind
Public transport on our little rock is practically non-existent. While there are some bus stops along the streets, there are almost no busses that run on a regular basis. From what I understand, you’d have to call one to come and pick you up. In fact, in all of the time we’ve lived here, I’ve not once seen an actual bus drive by. I’m starting to believe these things only exist in fairy tales… or rather ghost stories, considering the horrific state of some of the roads here on the island. There are no trains here either; no need for them because the island isn’t that big anyway. Since I was a typical Dutch girl growing up, I always took the train everywhere: to college, to work, to the movies, to go shopping, to a night out in the “big” city. Trains and bikes were the way to go, literally (it was Holland after all), so no longer having them as an option was definitely strange to get used to for me.
Transport on this island is mostly by scooter, quad, motorcycle, car, or mountain bike. For the National Park up north and the dirt roads in the kunuku (the inland), you definitely need a 4×4! Actually, one would come in handy almost everywhere on the island nowadays, considering all the potholes the rainy season left behind…
If you want to travel abroad from this rock, planes are generally the only option. From here, that means small planes though, not typically the big “real” ones we used to take to go on vacation before we moved to our island. Well, let me tell you, these small planes have become very real to us now…
We had a trip planned to Curacao at the end of November, what should have been towards the end of the rainy season. But on the day we were flying, the weather was worse than it had been in years (according to people who’ve lived here a lot longer than we have). The streets (and airports) were flooding and pitch black clouds filled up the sky.
There were a total of eight people inside the tiny airplane, including the pilot. I guess he didn’t have enough time to finish his breakfast that morning because he climbed into his seat with a sandwich wrapped in paper and something that looked (and smelled) like a milkshake of some sort, which he tucked away in a compartment in the door, like you would do in a car. He also brought along his newspaper (in case he got bored on the twenty minute flight?). But that day, he didn’t get bored, that’s for sure. He was too busy dodging the big clouds and thunderstorms on our way to the other island. He did, however, still find time somehow to finish his sandwich and whatever else was in that plastic cup. Despite flying around the storms, our plane did some pretty heavy shaking. I have never been afraid of flying, but to say I felt a little uneasy in that moment would be an understatement.
Our trip was just four days, so two small suitcases (hand luggage size) and a backpack was all we brought. On our flight to Curacao, our suitcases were checked in and put in the luggage compartment of the plane, which was a good thing, considering the limited amount of space we had. But on the way back, the guy at the check in desk asked us if we could keep one of the suitcases with us because there wasn’t enough space for it in the luggage compartment. Sure, no problem. It was a short flight anyway. It did mean though that we had to do some rearranging to do then and there because of fluids in our hand luggage that we assumed we’d be checking.
I always feel slightly annoyed when people are picked out of the line at the baggage check because they left something in their pockets or in their bag or suitcase that isn’t supposed to be there. I usually go out of my way to make sure everything is in order to avoid being called out, sent back, or worse – to be asked to open my suitcase with all of those people around me. To let a stranger go through my bras and dirty socks looking for whatever they think showed up on the screen is my own worst nightmare (Travel Tip: always put your dirty undies in a separate little bag, preferably one that isn’t see-through).
Because of the quick luggage-switch-rearranging-thing at the check in desk, I’d put away my phone (which I had in my hand at the time) in the pocket of my shorts and forgot all about it. So, of course, when I walked through the metal detectors, all the alarm bells went off and my face turned bright red. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Then, when our suitcase went through the scan and came out on the other end, I was asked to open it because they saw something. Little drops of sweat started to form on my forehead (on that particular trip, I had NOT thought of bringing said non see-through bag to stow everything I didn’t want some random guy to have to search through… Oh, no… here come the undies…).
It turned out to be a bottle of sunscreen that I’d forgotten was in there, which would have been no problem because we weren’t going to take that suitcase as hand luggage in the first place. The guy was pretty easy about it though and we got to keep the sunscreen and walk on. Now all I had to do was board our tiny plane again and find a way to balance this suitcase on my lap during the flight (and calm down, take a deep breath, and wipe the look of shame off my face).
When we finally got to the plane, I was asked to hand the suitcase over to the people loading the plane because they had to put it in the luggage compartment. There turned out to be some space in there after all. I rolled my eyes and with a sigh, I entered the plane. Ah, island travels.