‘Yachties are a funny bunch.’
So said our friend, and fellow yachtie, Patrice. To say that Patrice is refreshing is an understatement. Firstly, he calls the treadmill he runs on at the nearby gym, ‘a moving carpet’. I know this is the direct translation of a treadmill in French, but still.
Hopefully he forgives us for laughing. He did take us out for our second Sunday expedition in his car. We call it ‘Patrice’s Tours’. He says we are his guinea pigs.
You know when you’re driving with someone who suddenly turns – like their nose or something in their fingertips is leading the way? This is Patrice too.
On Sunday, we were driving north to Rincon. Rincon is the oldest town in Bonaire. It is nestled up in the dry cacti forested hills of the north. It used to be, as many original settlements in the Caribbean were, a reputed pirate hang-out. Now, there’s a monastery in Rincon. Monastery, pirates. As if the pages of history have blurred.
Patrice suddenly turned off the road. As we adjusted our heads, he parked by a ranch-style restaurant perched on the brow of town.
‘Shall we stop and have a drink?’ he asked.
We nodded. Had he been here before? He didn’t say. He was already walking. The restaurant was catching some breeze. We could smell lunch cooking too. It was written on the board: pork stew with rice and plantain, pumpkin and cornmeal.
Patrice ordered a plate for everyone and we took a seat on a varnished, hardwood bench. A few locals were hanging around, a few tourists too. An elderly lady was rocking herself in a rocking chair which seemed especially designed for her. Kids scampered about.
We could see over the hills all the way to the northern coast. Rows of cacti spread into the distance. This was definitely ranch country. We’d passed tiny verandah-style cottages in empty, red fields on the way.
What did these smallholdings produce? Patrice thought the answer was eggs, which may be well true. Goats too. Perhaps some pigs. And pork was on the menu today. As well as iguana soup. Iguana soup is a local delicacy here. Hmm. When in Rome?
The cacti make great fences. You would never attempt to climb them.
Food was served. Everyone tucked in. Patrice was especially hungry, having run earlier on his carpet. At the same time, two men came in with a guitar and a ukulele. They started playing next to us – an enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’.
‘Is there anyone having a birthday?’ they asked after they finished. Nope.
The duo started playing Bonairean songs instead. It was poignant, since Sunday September 6th was Bonaire’s national day, Dia di Boneiru. All celebrations for the occasion this year have been cancelled. The songs were still being sung to an almost empty room. A lady in her rocking chair. Cacti fences. A seriously delicious pork stew.
This is when Patrice smiled at us. He said, ‘Yachties are a funny bunch.’