National Geographic : 1970 Jan
vast Shell oil refinery, a Curacao landmark and economic mainstay for half a century (pages 120-21). With its tall flares it is con spicuous for miles around-a "pillar of cloud by day," a "pillar of fire by night." Trade Wind Cools Tropic Isles As we passed the last flare, rain began to fall-always a noteworthy event, since the Dutch Leewards get only 22 inches all year. The Leewards seldom seem humid. Because of the prevailing 15-mile-an-hour northeast trade wind, the daytime average tempera ture of 81° F. rarely feels too hot, and the nights, even in summer, are cool. For tourists, KODACHROME BY EMORYKRISTOF© N.G.S. this climate is among the world's best. For the residents, however, the meager rainfall means a serious water shortage. In Willemstad's Mundo Nobo district, we saw what the country is doing about the prob lem. Managing Director Dr. Engineer G. H. The, a Chinese-Indonesian, showed us the huge desalinization plant that makes Cura cao's fresh water from the sea. "This is one of the world's largest. It can produce 41/2 million gallons a day," Dr. The said. "We have a power plant here, too, and so to heat our evaporators we use the exhaust steam from the turbines that make electricity. We evaporate-or flash-the brine 30 times. Then the water is so pure we must run it through limestone to give it 'water flavor.'" From Mundo Nobo we struck out west ward into the kunuku, the countryside. Huge cacti dominated the landscape-one, like our organ pipe, called datu; another, somewhat similar but with jointed pipes, called kadushi (following pages). In places the kunukeros, or countryfolk, had trained the datu into fences, and occasionally were using the fences as washlines, the spines serving as clothespins. The kunukeros make a jellied soup from kadushi, but they must move fast to beat the goats. Everywhere we looked, those voracious beasts were not only eating kadushi but chomping right through the spiny datu fences. Curacao has about 10,000 goats, and though a prime source of meat they are pests, run ning free wherever appetite takes them. Who owns them? That depends on circum stances. Suburbanites maintain that if you run over a goat, every kunukero will swear it is his. If a goat eats your whole garden, no one owns him! Shortly the flat landscape began to change. Hills rose in ever larger billows, and thick tropical greenery intermingled with the cac tus. Everywhere the divi-divi, or watapana tree (Caesalpinacoriaria),blown by the north east trade wind, pointed its crown infallibly southwest. Tamarind formed thick arches over the road. Manchineel proliferated, offering poisonous little green apples to the unwary. Ahead, conical Sint Christoffel Berg Staircase of old slave dwellings tilts down Berg Altena Street in Willemstad. Many of today's occupants descend from slaves freed in 1863. Pastel colors brighten walls here and throughout the city-legacy of an early Dutch official who banned white houses be cause their glare in the sun hurt his eyes.