Walking in the mondi – Aruban wilderness – means exploring the beauty of Aruba, which is never the same. This is the philosophy of ‘hiker extraordinair’, Marvin Gomes (52). Gomes is one of the people who share their experience of walking the mondi of his island the most and he never gets tired, not of sharing and not of walking. What’s more, even on weekdays when he has to work, he takes pictures of the beauty in nature.
Marvin grew up playing in the mondi. His parents would stimulate him to be outdoors, and the mondi around Tanki Flip was ideal, particularly during the rainy season, it was fun to be out there. “The area up to where now is Fantastic Gardens would accumulate water and become a swamp. This must also explain why in this area plants grow so fast”, Gomes explained.
Currently he doesn’t live too far from where he grew up, his house is in Bubali. This makes it easier for him to go to work on bike, since his job is in the tourist area. And for his luck, his house is right next to a mondi.
“We are in an area with just a few houses. And behind our house there is a mondi, a natural area surrounded by houses without a passage.” It is property land (eigendom) which belonged to an American who passed away. Marvin himself was the one who went to find out at kadaster – the land registry – to find out more about this plot of land, and was glad to find out that the intention of the owner was to leave the land in its natural state. And his daughter, who inherited the land, informed Marvin that her intention is to respect his father’s wishes, something that for Marvin, was music to his ears, because despite living in a populated area, he is close to the mondi.
Even so he searches the wilderness of Aruba every Saturday morning or any moment that he can. “I have been hiking regularly for about five years. I began with Rudy Leysner who still has his group Movimento ta Bida (Movement is Life) and this way I got to know a lot of corners of mondi in Aruba.” Together with Encho Eckmeyer from the Arikok National Park they would explore the nature of the island. “My friends and I got together with them for two years, and after that we decided to break away on our own.”
Nowadays, Marvin and his friends walk with different groups, always ready to share the paths they have discovered, because this is the red line of those who explore the mondi: to share the beautiful experience of what the nature of Aruba can offer.
“I never get tired of walking in the mondi of Aruba. The same path that I walk today is different tomorrow. It is incredible. You can walk a path today and the next week when you go back, you see different things. Many things change.” Gomes shares that he receives a lot of comments from others saying that the only thing they see every time is cacti and succulents, “but that’s not true. We notice, by walking regularly, that you can see how the area and environment changes. A little rain needs to fall and you see a change.”
Every day a moment of peace
The few minutes that Marvin takes to go from home to work not only mean his daily physical activity, but more than anything else, it inspires him to be ready for a good day. “For me it is very nice, in the morning, to go in front of the sea.” But the path by the sea means also going in front of Bubali Plas, which is rich in flora and fauna.
Many people discovered the mondi and walking in the mondi during the pandemic, but not everyone has continued. It is understandable because there are now other activities available, but it is essential for the community to have appreciation for the beautiful and diverse nature that Aruba, despite being small, can offer. “People have joined us and sporadically continue with the hiking”, he said.
The secret of hiking, for those who are passionate, is in their love for their country. “It’s not a joke. You need to wake up at 5am to go on a hike. It is an emotion known by every hiker. If you hear how passionate hikers talk, it’s not about the activity itself but about appreciating everything in the country in which they live. Everyone I know and hikes with passion, simply love the island.” Regardless of the early hours and the challenges, the moment of walking in the mondi means living in the moment and enjoying everything that is around, and that is the best relaxation that nature offers.
This is the reason also why Gomes, who works in tourism, thinks that we need to appreciate how Aruba is, and this needs to be reflected in our architecture. Hotels that are designed in an Aruban landscape need to complement this very same landscape and not become something that is out of place. Most hotels are not built like that, which is a lost opportunity to stand out. “Imagine if the hotel in Seroe Colorado was built in such a way that it becomes part of the nature over there? How beautiful it would have been?”
This way, tourists could appreciate Aruba even more. “Many tourists that I encounter and have as friends on Facebook tell me that they never see Aruba as I put it on pictures.” These are people who maybe go on UTV tours or stay on the beach, and when they see Marvin’s pictures realize that Aruba has a lot more to offer. In other words, Aruba’s hikers not only help expand the knowledge of the Aruban landscape, they are the best ambassadors for the natural wealth of our country.