Saturday, July 28, 2007

Los Roques to London City

OK, it's a broad title, but then it's been quite a while and now we're back home in London after lots of adventures in Venezuela, and Mexico for that matter.

So after a prolonged period in Cumana we finally made our way West and ended up slap bang in the centre of Caracas, the city we'd vowed never to visit! However a reasonably swift taxi ride took us out of the city and through the mountains to the sprawling town of Caita la Mar where we stayed the night before heading out to Los Roques. We were booked to stay at La Parada hotel, but they are crafty and ship you off to some hotel right on the industrial docks when they are over-full - nice. Explore we did not, though I did manage to get a ride to a Bodega to pick up a couple of bottles of wine for our up and coming romantic dinners!

At 6am we were already at the airport as we had to pass by the Mexicana airlines office to pay for the first leg of our journey home before catching our 8.30 flight to Los Roques. After much arduous and painstaking investigation (while in Brazil) we thought that we had found the cheapest and basically the only way to get back home from Mexico without requiring further Visas for Leah, and the extra $1100 (US) cost to our budget would be painful but livable with. Unfortunately we were in for a nasty surprise as due to a communication breakdown on the behalf of Mexicana, the price quoted when we reserved the ticket was no longer available and instead we were slammed with over $2000 (US) worth of airfares and taxes! Of course our protests, tears, reasoning and pleading fell on deaf ears, "computa says no", and with no time left to try and explore a cheaper option we handed over my credit card and left to find our Los Roques flight feeling thoroughly cheated.

So with that rather nasty taste in our mouths we left the international terminal and headed to the domestic one to catch the short flight over to Los Roques, which, being described as Venezuela's most beautiful Caribbean destination, we hoped would cheer us up somewhat! And indeed as we began to spy the white sands, clear waters and sun soaked islands from the plane window the stresses of the morning ebbed away and our smiles returned.
From Los Roques
On Los Roques we spent our time either sitting by or paddling around in the beautiful water, snorkeling and generally taking it very very easy, conscious as we were that these would be our last few days on our wonderful adventure through Argentina, Brasil and Venezuela. We were looked after wonderfully by Dona Carmen and her crew, and the ever helpful Libia appeared as if by magic whenever we needed advice on a tour or had a boat to book. I think I'll let the photos do the talking for the time being...
From Los Roques
The journey home was long and pretty arduous, especially as Leah was basically taken to a secure area for 9 hours in Mexico, where she had to ask for an escort even to visit the bathroom! Fortunately I was both allowed to stay there with her and leave to go and find us food - I'm sure she'll be writing more on that when she gets around to blogging. Now we're back in London and feeling pretty shell shocked, but enjoying seeing our friends again and trying to decide which stories to bore them with first...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back in Cumaná

In the end we spent just about ten days in Rio Caribe, partly due to Leah being ill for some of them but mostly due to Posada Villa Antillana being so nice and our reluctance to be running around all over the place! Don't get me wrong though, we didn't spend all the time sitting around in the hostel watching films in the comfortable lounge area or hanging in the hammocks enjoying the peaceful shaded garden, no sir, trips R us...

Aside from the already mentioned boat trip and day at Playa Loero we also headed off to San Juan de las Galdonas to try and see some baby giant sea turtles being born. This town is about as far East as the coastal roads on the North will take you and the drive is a dramatic ride up and over the mountains that reach down to the sea all along the coast. We had arranged to stay as Posada Tres Caravlas through our friends at Villa Atillana, with the promise of a trip out to visit the biologists who man the Sea Turtle program.

The posada itself sits up above the beach and has fantastic views of the bay, however it's a bit run down and the heavy rains meant plenty of dripping ceilings! When I thought the sky had cleared a bit I persuaded Leah that we should take a walk along the beach, though she protested that it would rain again soon. "Nah", I assured her, "it's cleared up now..." We had been walking for half an hour or so when the clouds moved back in and the rain started to come down again. I didn't mind so much as it was a lovely walk none the less, but we arrived back at the Posada very bedraggled, with only a change of clothes each to last us the night. Oops.
From Rio Caribe an...
When we had dried up a bit and changed we headed out with Eduardo (the guy running the posada) to a beach where the sea turtle program is being run. Unfortunately for us there were no hatchlings to be seen at that time and the plan didn't appear to be to wait around until they popped their heads out of the sand, which was a great shame as we would have been happy to hang out for a while to catch a glimpse of the little things making for the sea...oh well. Instead we took a walk along the beach and back and then headed back towards San Juan. Before leaving though I bought a T-Shirt with a cool turtle print on it; been there, missed it, got the T Shirt.

On the way back to Rio Caribe the next day we stopped off at the Bucare chocolate factory and did a tour which involved plenty of chocolate tasting and a good bit of knowledge consuming also - long winded process, chocolate making, but worth it! If you're lucky when we get back there'll be some of the chocolate flavoured rum left to try...

Once back in Rio Caribe our plan was then to head inland to Caripe and visit the cave called Guacharo, Venezuelas largest, but timing conspired otherwise and we ended up back here in Cumanà - we're planning to visit the cave next week before we head off to the final and most exciting part of our time here; los Roques!

Yesterday we headed off for a day trip to the National Park Mochima, an hours journey from Cumanà. It's a beautiful area off clear waters and green islands and we spent the day on a tiny beach lounging and paddling as we so desired. Nice.
From Cumaná

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

beached again

We went to the beach again today, this time by "Por Puesto", a kind of local bus service, which is actually a pickup truck with wooden benches in the back. Yesterday we tried to go too but it started to piss down with rain just as we left Rio Caribe, and didn't stop for hours. We got as far as the path to the beach, hoping it would stop, and then told the driver to take us back! It cost 20,000 bolivars for the journey since we kind of hired the vehicle. But today we did it for 4,800 there and and learning once again.

We saw a couple of curious things on the beach. The first was a pelican that kind of surfed into the beach and then sat on the shore. I didn't think it was very well, but we left it be. Then some kids came and started picking it up and taking photos with it, then they carted it off with them when they left, poor thing. Later though an older dude came waling past with a pelican in a sack, its heading poking out and looking around, seemingly not very alarmed by its situation. Maybe they were going to nurse it back to health. Or maybe they were off to make pelican stew.

The other thing we saw was a fishing boat anchor just beyond the surf, then the young sailors jumped out and swam ashore. They then proceeded to collect some eight or so huge barrels of fuel on the shore, they roped them together and swam them out through the surf to their boat... a pit stop with a difference!

Other than that we just lay soaking up the sun and playing the odd game of Frisbee,

Monday, July 09, 2007

boat trip

Today we hired a boat and headed out along the coast with another couple from San Sebastian in the Basque Country. The scenery is beautiful; ragged mountain hills, covered in thick jungle greenery reach straight down to the sea while flocks of pelicans fly overhead. The boat ride was quite exciting due to the small size of the boat and the seeminlgy large size of the caribbean rollers. The first beach we stopped at was Pui Pui, a beautiful stretch of palm backed sand with enough surf for a bit of body-surfing to pass the time. After a few hours we then back tracked to Medina, a more popular beach, again very beautiful with tall palms, mountain hills and a much more scerene sea. Nice.
From Rio Caribe an...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Rio Caribe and a hot mud bath

We've ben in Rio Caribe for a few days now, but unfortunately Leah came down with a nasty fever, aches and a bad headache so we've been holed up in our posada. Thankfuly Villa Antilada is a fantastic place and the people running it have been great to us - taking us to the doctor, helping to get a blood test (we thought it might be Malaria...) and even sorting out food and stuff.

Today we went with Emillio (one of the managers) and his girlfriend Sarai to the Agua Sanas thermal springs and had a good dunking in mud and sulphorous pools. It was a cool experience and a realy nice place to relax, set at the base of a plain that spreads out after you pass the imediate hills that front the sea. It's a terrain of cocao and fruit plantations amongst a jungle set in the hills.
From Rio Caribe an...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Crazy cheap

Get this, even the most premium of petrol over here costs just 90 bolivars a litre. Even at the official exchange rate of around 2000 bolivars to the dollar that's 22 litres to the dollar, or about 44 to the pound. I reckon that in my old Smart car you could probably go from one end of the country to the other for about two quid.

No wonder they're all driving mash up old V8 chevies!


After three days or so in Ciudad Bolivar relaxing and trying to get my back sorted we have travelled North to Cumaná, right up on the Caribbean sea! The sun is back out, the sky is blue and we're going to spend a few weeks chilling before we take the long fight home. Woo hoo!

The scenery around here is really nice, green mountains in the distance all around and the deep blue sea if you can get up above the houses to see it. We took a look around Cumaná this morning and it's pretty enough, another of these colonial style towns with small colourful houses, which look poky on the outside but open up inside to reveal an inner courtyard surrounded by cool dark rooms.
From Cumaná
There are plenty of restaurants and bars too, which is nice after Ciudad Bolivar where simply finding something to eat seemed like a real mission. One lunch time we ended up in a restaurant where a stack of speakers blasted music at us from only a few feet as though it were forever carnival, and the dilapidated air conditioning machines fired cold air at us from all sides from filthy vents. The food was ok though, Leah couldn't believe my enthusiasm for the carcas-soup I was served, leaving hers to go cold, but I figured it was probably pretty good and recently made judging by the number of happy (though possibly deaf) diners, it tasted good and in the end I didn't even get ill!
From Cumaná

So tomorrow we're going to head further East to Rio Caribe and the beaches around, which should be pretty nice from what we gather. We'll spend a little while in that area and then work our way slowly west, back to here to Cumanà to do a few trips around the islands and stuff. Apparently there are some hot springs, which I've never had an opportunity to try, and a large cave which I always enjoy!