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Date: 20 Sep 2007 19:38:23
Title: Time for a snooze in Puerto la Cruz

Position 10:12.5N 64:39.8W

 

Good grief, is it really three months since we last did a blog? Yes, it almost is so I’ve dragged myself away from the mad social whirl and sat myself down to remedy matters. We are now, as you will have seen from the chart, in sunny South America, Venezuela in fact, moored in Marina Bahia Redonda (www.bahiaredonda.com) in the city of Puerto La Cruz.

 

Most of our friends that were in Grenada when last we blogged (is that a verb? To blog? Probably.) were headed this way for the hurricane season so not wishing to be Billy-no-mates we booked a berth here too. An overnight sail from Grenada brought us to Porlamar, Margarita, in the company of Durban Dancer, Squander & Scorpio. I say sail, there was very little wind so we all motored almost the entire way. Anyway, arrive we did and ended up staying for a couple of weeks in this, our first taste of South America. And what a contrast – aside from the obvious facts that the people are a different colour and speak a different language, the whole feel of the place is different from the other Caribbean Islands we’ve visited. Different music, food, and so on. You’ve got to watch your back too as certain members of society appear to have a somewhat cavalier attitude to crime – the bastards’ll nick the milk out of your tea if you’re not careful! There was a religious festival while we were there, something to do with Our Lady of Something-or-other, which seemed to involve lots of drunken Venezuelans zooming around in boats and generally terrorising the anchorage:

 

 

More friends from Grenada, Somerset Cat (Leopard 47 catamaran) turned up in Porlamar and since it was Mike’s birthday, and an important one at that, a dozen or so of us retired to a beachfront restaurant for a celebratory lunch that rolled late into the afternoon…most enjoyable. Much hilarity was had when we saw the artwork on the menus contained a spitting image of John from Durban Dancer. This isn’t a great picture of him and his beard’s now shorter, but you get the idea. That’s him on the left:

 

    

 

Obviously I had to nick a menu to get the picture, but when in Rome…

 

Having equipped ourselves with various goodies from the numerous malls in Porlamar such as air conditioners, dvd players, mobile phones, guitars (of which more later), etc, taking advantage of Margarita’s duty free status, we set off towards the mainland, stopping overnight on the way at a small island called Cubagua where Squander, Scorpio and myself enjoyed a very nice dive on a sunken ferry – lots and lots of fish. So many fish that we felt obliged to catch one the following day on the way to Puerto La Cruz, which was the highlight of an otherwise boring day-long motor, no wind again. Still, a very tasty Dorado:

 

 

Having tied up in the marina, and got on with enjoying electricity, water, aircon, TV, and all those things you lot use all the time but we rarely do so they’re a treat! And that, my friends, was on the 1st of August. So what the hell have you been doing since, I hear you cry? Good question, not sure really. After the initial flurry of doing jobs on the boat that require water and power, which took about a week, we seem to have settled into a routine of, well, time just seems to pass…ah yes, we’ve been having Spanish lessons, twice a week, so our Spanish has improved somewhat. The only trouble is, we very rarely get the opportunity to practice as we’re surrounded by Americans and Europeans in the marina and don’t get out much other than to go shopping etc and for the occasional meal. Despite the blurb on the marina website, when you leave our particular marina you go straight into a “barrio”, i.e. a shanty town type place where we’re advised not to walk for fear of being robbed. So all movement outside the marina involves a taxi, which isn’t a problem in that they’re very cheap, but does mean that you can’t just go for a stroll. And that is very frustrating, as we do like an amble about, so are now thoroughly fed up with it all. Prior to our trip to Trinidad back in February we had heard stories about security problems there, which in the event turned out to be grossly exaggerated, as long as you were sensible and used common sense as you would in any big city. Here, it would appear, you really do have to heed the warnings and be a bit more careful, which to be frank is a right royal pain in the arse! Hey ho.

 

Some of you will know that I (Neil) have been trying with little success to play the guitar for the last ten or more years (alright, nearer fifteen then) and have displayed a singular lack of talent for this (and probably any other) instrument. But what can you do when faced in Margarita with the opportunity of buying an electric guitar, amplifier, tuner, bag, strap, spare strings, etc etc for £55? Well obviously what you do is buy it. After all, we hadn’t had a guitar on board for a while – months ago, back in Graciosa (Lanzarote), we bumped into a boat from NZ, Essence, and Stuart gave me back my old acoustic guitar that he’d bought from me in Turkey three years previously. I was tempted to ask if he wanted to rent anything else. Anyway, I sold that again in Grenada so it was plainly time for a new one. Adrian from Squander also invested in one of these fine instruments (for those in the know they’re Silvertone Panderas) and now the marina echoes to the hideous screeching of the two of us practicing. Actually that’s unfair on Adrian as he does seem to have some ability, and a musical background, whereas I’m crap but it keeps me occupied.

 

Tracy, meanwhile, has been far more constructive in that she’s been helping out with an organisation called Fundamigos which is a charitable group that provides surgery for kids and adults to rectify hare lips and cleft palates and other similar problems. She’s been dutifully folding bandages, along with other volunteers from the marina, in preparation for the next round of operations in mid October. Although looking at the number of bottles and glasses on the table I can’t help wondering what the bandages are going to look like…

 

 

She has the opportunity to do all manner of things including actually assisting in the theatre, although I suspect she may restrict herself to making soup. We shall see.

 

A group of us went on a two day trip recently, up into the mountains to the Guacharo cave, which was a nice change. It was worth it for the drop in temperature alone! It’s very hot here on the coast, continually in the thirties but humid with it so everything’s an effort, the drier cooler atmosphere higher up (around 1400m) was lovely. The cave itself is an enormous, erm, cave that is inhabited for the first 800m by birds called, with some ingenuity, Guacharos. These birds live in the darkness of the cave all day and then come flying out at night to feed, although since they eat fruit it beats me why they don’t do it in daylight. They’re equipped with some clever sonar thingy so they can “see” in the dark so I suppose they feel they have to use it. Having seen them coming out at dusk, we returned the following morning to go into the cave, led by a guide with a gas lamp. Here’s piccy looking out from in:

 

 

The first 800m where the birdies are is all a bit spooky with lots of screeching (there are around 15000 of them in there) and no small amount of guano to walk through. Lovely. After 800m there are no more birds (the cave gets narrower and you have to pass through a small-ish hole) and you can continue on to a maximum of 1.2km, which of course, being intrepid explorers, we did. Here’s a weird rock formation to prove it:

 

 

 Actually, if we’d been really intrepid we’d have got the special permission required, and the equipment, and gone on for another 9km – told you it was a big cave. As it happens the last 9km is a lot more difficult, involves proper caving techniques, and permission is rarely granted, so we went for lunch instead.

 

Having experienced the outside world we’re quite keen to see some more so at some point will do a trip to Merida in the Andes, and of course Angel Falls is a must. The hurricane season, depending on which opinion you listen to, lasts until the end of October or the end of November, so we’re going to stick around here for a bit longer particularly as the track of a couple of hurricanes this season has been unusually low, one passing very close to Bonaire and we’ve no desire to be sailing around in one of those, thank you very much.

 

Watch this space, who knows within three months or so there might be another blog…


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