A Symphony of Cicadas:
The Christoffelberg Hike
I can’t believe it took us this long to check off this Curaçao to-do list item! We kept saying we’d do it with friends when they come to visit from overseas, but nobody took us up on our offer. Well, we finally did it! Friends of ours who are avid weekend hikers here on the island invited us to go to Christoffel Park and hike the mountain. We got up at 5am, and I’ll be honest, if we hadn’t been going with friends in their vehicle, I would have hit the snooze button for sure.
Man, am I glad I didn’t hit snooze! When we started the hike, the sky threatened rain but instead drenched us in humidity as a trade-off for not fully opening the heavens. At the entrance to the hike, we were greeted with what sounded like hundreds of cicadas at full volume. I mean, at times, the sound distorted in my ears the same way music at a rock concert does when you forget your ear plugs. The symphony was well conducted, though, as the crescendos seemed to synchronize with us passing particular trees or turns in the path. At those points, it was as if the soloists then took over with a smaller chorus accompanying. I posted a video to Instagram with the sound of these elusive, mysterious performers, and everyone who listened was amazed. I’m not kidding. It’s intensely wonderful.
A whole paragraph and we haven’t even talked about the hike yet! Well, let me tell you about…bromeliads. Yes, fields of bromeliads–you know, those spikey cousins of the pineapple plant. Or perhaps you don’t know which is totally fine as I can’t say I had ever seen this variety before either. There were thousands of them as the hike progressed. The most amazing thing about these plants is when they bloom. A select number of inner spikes are painted a bright coral pink, and in the very centre of the plant are tiny purple flowers edged in white. I mean, looking up the path to a grouping of these plants with the ones in bloom acting like runway lights is just magical!
We saw a warawara (a local bird of prey) walking the path just steps ahead of us as if showing us the way. It led us for a few turns until it took a detour into the mondi seemingly convinced that we knew where we were going. Trees were covered in air plants, also a type of bromeliad, and I couldn’t stop taking pictures and quoting how much each one would cost in a Canadian garden centre. I know this, you see, as I had air plants back in BC hanging in teardrop-shaped terrariums in the guest room, but none as spectacular as these.
Right, the hike. It’s basically Curaçao’s version of a tropical forest mountain hike until the top where there is a bit of minor rock climbing involved to access the spectacular view. You get a 360° view, and you will be amazed that there’s still that much untouched land to see on such a small island. On one side, you look out to the sea and several turquoise-coloured bocas. On the other side, you look out to a flat-topped hill that apparently is another great hike with a very different landscape. At the top, you’re also rewarded with quite a strong breeze that cools you down after such a humid and therefore sweaty walk.
Speaking of sweat, BRING WATER! We passed a couple of generation Zs about a third of their way up the mountain absolutely exhausted and without any supplies. Thankfully, our friend had an extra bottle of water which she gladly donated to the parched souls. Heat stroke is a thing, so don’t go unprepared. The Christoffelberg hike should definitely make it to your to-do list.
Your Papiamentu vocabulary for today:
boca=inlet (often with a beach)
Fresh. Local. Goodness.
One of my favourite weekly Curaçao things to do is pick up my order of fresh produce from Plantage Brakkeput Ariba. Partners Heinrich and Claudia open up a shipping container-in-disguise every Saturday full of local and regional vegetables, fruit, herbs, eggs, baking and spices and treats. I say it’s in disguise as this green shipping container has a palapa-style roof (made of palm fronds) and once you step in, it just feels like a small, covered market stall. This gem full of nutrient-packed deliciousness is open only once a week, and in the time I’ve been going, it has grown in popularity quite a bit.
During Curaçao’s initial COVID-19 lockdown when we had only two days a week that we were allowed to leave the house for shopping, Heinrich and Claudia quickly adapted to an online ordering system which they have kept going now that they are back to in-person shopping on Saturdays only. Shoppers have the option of ordering on a Google Form a few days ahead, showing up on a Saturday and perusing the produce without having pre-ordered or doing a bit of both. I usually put in an order, and if there’s anything I’ve forgotten, I just grab it while I’m there and add it at the till. I’m always greeted with a personal hello, a check of how my Papiamentu is coming along and leave with well-wishes for Jon. These guys know how to make a shopping experience personal and moreish. Oh, and in true Curaçao fashion, they and their staff are multilingual, so feel free to communicate in Papiamentu, Dutch, Spanish or English!
Farming is not common on an island with no rivers, rocky land and little rain. However, farmers are becoming innovative in their practices, and the need for self sustainability has led to more and more local farms cropping up islandwide. This is great to see, and nothing beats fresh Caribbean produce!
Now this isn’t a cooking blog, but I will admit that Jon and I kind of have the breakfast thing down, and we tend to eat a particularly full and delicious breakfast on Sundays after the Saturday plantage pickup. So yes, I shall share.
We love a full breakfast, often with a cooked and a raw element. So if you are wondering what to do with your amazing fresh produce from the plantage, here are some great breakfast ideas:
- baked eggs with chopped tomatoes and green onions topped with cilantro and radish micro greens (add a good bit of cheese if you have some)
- papaya awakati salad–cubed papaya, awakati, cucumber with cilantro and green onion and a lime vinaigrette (if you have goat’s cheese, that’s a great addition)
- oven-roasted batata dushi, onions, whole garlic cloves and plantain (all in decent-sized chunks on foil with olive oil and seasoning)
Oh yes, we eat all three of these together at one sitting. This breakfast is for real, folks. But feel free to use these for a different meal with a different pairing. Stay tuned for more tips!
Your Papiamentu words for today:
Batata dushi=sweet potato
Instagram accounts to follow:
Veganism and Caribbean Vibes
When Jon and I first went to the farm-to-table restaurant Hofi Cas Cora just over two years ago, I was instantly impressed with pretty much everything about the place. The buildings on the property are full of character and charm, the food is freshly harvested from the land that you look at from your table, drinks are served in glasses with paper straws, and I could just tell that this was going to be a favorite spot for us. Coming from British Columbia, Canada, a farm-to-table, environmentally aware restaurant is like a little taste of home–Curaçao version. Every time we have been either for a meal or a piece of cake and a coffee or an event, I have fallen deeper in love with the hofi and how farmer-owner couple Josh and Femi approach their business.
Last weekend, Jon and I went to our second annual vegan event at Hofi Cas Cora, and we’re not even vegan! We went last year and were so impressed by the vendors, the vibe and the number of people who attended, we were thrilled to see on Instagram that @vegancuracaoevents was organizing another pop-up market at the hofi. It was a smash hit and a perfect escape emotionally during this eerie era of pandemic isolation. We are blessed here on this dushi island to be almost COVID-19 free, and the stress-free atmosphere of an outdoor event was certainly felt last weekend. Not only were there enough food vendors that we basically had dinner by sampling their offerings, there were also vegan beauty products, fashion accessories, sweet snacks, wine and beer and more.
Local entertainer Junior Tecla provided the music for the night. He came with a stripped-down version of his band with just two background singers, a cajon and his acoustic guitar. While we were there, he sang several cover songs with creatively written additional verses in Papiamento that the local crowd particularly enjoyed. People danced, we sang along, and it was just an awesome vibe. An equally impressive act was the sunset that opened for the full moon, and when the string lights came on under that moon glow, any remaining stresses of that day melted away.
I’m quite sure this event is just going to get stronger and stronger with more vendors joining from farmers to local startup businesses of all varieties.
Your Papiamento vocabulary for today:
Dushi=sweet, lovely (if you come to Curaçao, you MUST know this word!)
Instagram accounts to follow: