Exploring Gran Roques

Steve & Carol
Fri 8 Jun 2018 15:59
On our first day here we didn't do much during the day – it was rather windy and we decided to stay on the boat , I made a mosquito / fly screen for the companion way as we are being visited by quite a few flies and we also want to keep mosquitoes out. In the evening we arranged to go ashore with Rik, Sanne, Linda and Steve from Moondancer for a meal, the restaurant we wanted to go to was shut so we went to the only open one we found, everyone had fish except me, I had pasta and tomato sauce – which was the most expensive meal, the fish is all caught by local fishermen where as the pasta has to be flown in from the mainland. The meal wasn't the best – the fish dishes were good but some of the portions very small – however the company was good and we learned about Linda and Steve's troubles loosing their rudder and  the red tape they are going through with the authorities here to allow a boat to come from Curacao to tow them there to repair the boat, today they had some officials on-board for 3 hours so at least things seem to be moving for them , they have been here for 9 days already and didn't provision to stop here so are keen to get clearance for the tug / work boat to be allowed to come and take them in tow.
The next day we went for a walk up to the lighthouse on the top of the hill overlooking the town, unfortunately the wind is blowing from the south east and the air is full of dust so visibility wasn't as good as if we had come up yesterday, still we got a great view of the town with it’s airstrip and the beautiful surrounding sea with its different shades of turquoise and blue as well as the other islands close by. The island itself is tinder dry – it hasn't rained here for a long time, May is usually a month when they do get some rain but they haven't this year, the land is very barren and very little grows here even the cactus’s look dehydrated! However in the town there are planted trees which offer shade and add to the colour and charm of the place, the sand roads are all raked every morning and there is no litter at all, we decided to walk the 5 or 6 roads that make up the town and found a few shops, eateries on our travels – there's a pizza bar where a medium margarita pizza will cost you 3US$, we also found the off licence – it had very limited stock with 3 bottles of red wine on display and a few bottles of spirits. Everyone is friendly and greet us with a smile and either hola or buenos dias, as you wander around, the houses have open doors and windows and you can see straight into them, one house which was painted like a spiders web but had just a temporary roof, we were looking at it when a man came and told us in Spanish that it was damaged when the home next door was destroyed in a gas explosion (he asked us not to take a picture of it), 2 small children were playing outside, one wanted to look at my camera, I showed him some pictures I had taken of the town and he shook his head, stood in front of the camera to have his picture taken – I obliged and showed him himself much to his delight – I wish it was a polaroid so I could have given it to him. When we walked past the health centre / Hospital we met Dr Rafael Martinez who is on a 1 year secondment from Caracas and spoke good English, we told him I was a nurse and asked what facilities they have on the island, he said that if someone needs hospitalisation they are flown to the mainland, they only have beds for recovery after minor ops on the island, he said that the main problems were caused by the large population of dogs who pass parasites on the locals, they have very limited supplies of medicines and no antibiotics at all – the lack of medication is due to the political situation in Venezuela and sanctions in place which mean that other countries will not trade with it or allow it to purchase goods so people are dying from lack of drugs we take for granted! Luckily we were in a position to be of some help to this friendly community -  when we met our friend Jon in Canouan, the yacht he skippers had recently renewed its medicine chest and he had some of the medicines from the old one he had asked if I wanted for just such an occasion, included were some in date and expired antibiotics as well as a selection of other drugs, ointments and creams (expired drugs are more use here than no drugs at all!) I offered these to Rafeal who said that they would be very useful so we promised to return later, 
later in the afternoon we went ashore with Rik and Sanne to deliver the carrier bag of drugs (I found a few medicines which I had 2 of and had added them to the donation) and have something to eat. When we got to the medical centre we were met by Rafael and Dr Barbara D’vva who is also on a year secondment to the island, they beamed when they saw the bag and were very grateful for the donation saying that it would really help the community, we chatted for a while and Rafael showed us on a map some good spots to visit while we were in Los Roques. We left the 2 Drs had a walk around the town which was full of life – in one street lots of people were sitting outside playing a form of Bingo, we made our way to a restaurant called Aquarena had a very nice meal, including starters and drinks for half the price of the meal the night before.
We are so glad that we stopped here, it seems that sailors who do venture to Los Roques all have good experiences and recommend it as a must stop at destination where as the majority of people say it’s unsafe to stop and sail on by to Bonaire, we were rather apprehensive about stopping but had heard from someone we new who came a few weeks ago and sent us a long positive email about his stay here, also Rik and Sanne had met some people who had recently visited and who had also recommended stopping.
I am glad we could help in a small way and wish we could have done more, hopefully we can help further by passing the word to other cruisers to bring medical supplies for these lovely people, who, are suffering because of their government and no fault of their own. 
Pictures will follow when we have internet.