Everybody’s doing it!
The sentiment has always served as a warning of what not to do along out travels. Our focus is the uncommon, after all. The beaten path, well, that’s just not for us.
The many persistent voices encouraging us to visit Conchi on my last trip to Aruba with the wife last summer, though, were very convincing.
“It’s the top natural wonder in Aruba,” they said. “An amazing place; peaceful and remote…”
Add in the fact that Conchi is a natural pool (our favorite type!), and we just couldn’t say no.
So, at the crack of dawn on our first full day on-island, we set out on what we hoped would be the adventure highlight of our trip!
Upon arrival at the visitor’s center at the Arikok National Park, we were immediately encouraged we’d made the right decision. The reason: Stanson Tromp.
The young energetic ranger who’d serve as our guide on the hike carried a pleasant, carefree effervescence we found warm, welcoming, and appealing. He was talkative and full of information; an obviously proud Aruban dedicated to showcasing the special gifts Mother Nature reserves for his island home. We were in good hands.
The trek, as well, appeared to hold a lot of appeal. Stanson told us we could expect a moderate hike marked by inclines that weren’t too steep, paved, and unpaved sections, beautiful views of the whole island, and a refreshing dip at the end…
What could possibly be not to like?
(Yeah, I’m getting to that…)
We started out around 7:30am heading along a paved road up one of those moderate inclines.
Pavement soon gave way to dirt. The Visitor’s Center and all sounds of civilization – motorized vehicles and the like – disappeared behind us.
We were on our own, out in the desert wilds of Aruba.
True to Stanson’s promise, views from the highest elevations along the trail stretched almost the entire span of the island. We could see the shoreline along Eagle Beach and the Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort from whence we’d come. We could see the old oil refinery area in San Nicoholas, where we intended to stop in at Charlie’s later in that day. We could even just about make out a faint shadow of the northern coast of Venezuela on the southern horizon.
The sights closer to us were pretty cool too. All around us, exotic lizards, birds, and towering cacti kept Stanson busy regaling us with their various back stories.
We ate prickly pear cactus flowers, marveled at the Martian-like landscape, and continued along at an even, unhurried pace, the better to enjoy the journey, nature’s treasures, each other’s company…
More than two hours of hiking went by like a breeze as we approached the final hill of our trek.
All the while we’d walked alone; not another soul in sight.
Once we cleared the final hill, though…
ATV’s, dozens of them, suddenly were everywhere. And they weren’t alone.
Much of our final descent down to Conchi was spent dodging 4×4’s of varying sizes – ATV’s, safari-styled trucks, Jeeps, horseback riders… It seemed Conchi was not as inaccessible as we’d thought.
Turns out you can actually drive right up the staircase down to the pool, assuming you have the right vehicle, an element of convenience that made Conchi quite crowded during our visit.
Nevertheless, we strode down the stairway, elbowed our way through the crowd, and enjoyed our dip in the Natural Pool…
…satisfied in our hearts that we’d earned the special swim more than anyone else there that day.
For more information on the best ways to enjoy Conchi, and everything else in the Arikok, please visit the National Park online. When you go, take lots of water, wear sunscreen and a big hat (there’s virtually no shade), and be sure to ask for our buddy, Stanson… especially if you’re keen on taking the road less traveled.