I had the opportunity to visit the Margarita Island in Venezuela. Ready with the car we had rented we started to explore Porlamar. But quickly we realized that the stress of cars on one side and people buying and selling everything on the other was not our thing. With a small map that the agency gave us we decided to go to the first beach on the island to go looking where we were going to build the tent. We toured almost all the islands, Playa Guayacan, Playa Caribe, Playa Pedro Gonzalez, Playa del Agua.
None seemed to offer a quiet and safe place to camp, nor a bathroom nearby where the owners of the restaurants, bars or hostels allowed us to take a bath. It was night and we were driving from one place to another looking for a beach that gave us that security to build the tent. Finally we find out from the locals that camping was a bad idea.
Exhausted to go from beach to beach and being almost 12 midnight we decided to find a hotel or hostel. But the hotels that had service were completely out of our budget and the small hostels did not open their doors. We got tired of touching in several of them and not receiving an answer or we found people who said: "we are not in service or we are full". We resolved to park in front of the Playa de Agua, assuming that we would be safe, and sleep in the car till the next day. We considered our plan.
After 10 minutes strange people approached the car, putting their foreheads almost against the glass to see who were inside. People did not look good but who in turn seemed to do business on the stairs that are at side of the police station. Minutes after the heat inside the car began to suffocate us. Keeping the air conditioning on all night would be impossible.
It was even more difficult to open the windows and sleep knowing that there were so many people hanging around. In Puerto de la Cruz the ferry was waiting that left at 2 in the morning and in which it was impossible to sleep. Now the stress of not knowing how to sleep were over with the few forces we had. In Playa del Agua, we decided to go to a more quiet beach fishermen. During the day we had walked and met its inhabitants.
We parked under a tree trying to shade the car because the street lights did not let us sleep. It also made more evident the presence of us inside. Every so often we opened the windows so that the heat came out and turned on the air conditioning and at the slightest noise we woke up. The night was long and thoughtful. We said millions of times that it is better to sleep peacefully than save 10 dollars in a hostel in Venezuela.
On this trip I made several excursions. One of them was what is known as Jeep Safari. This has an approximate cost of $ 60 per person. You can hire your travel agent from Buenos Aires or also on the same island. The tour consists of a general tour of the island in a jeep that can fit 6 people plus the driver. He was also the guide who commented about the places we will visit. We had lunch and drinks included throughout the tour.
We left at approximately 8 in the morning. The same Jeep happened to us to look for by the hotel where we were lodged, and from there we began the excursion. The first stop was a craft house very typical of the island. There we were able to find two very nice but friendly parrots with only a few people. After this first stop we continue the walk passing some very beautiful and picturesque fishing villages. Their houses are low, colorful and colonial style, each house is painted a different color. The streets and sidewalks are narrow.
We arrive to the chapel of Our Lady of the Valley, the patron saint of the Island. This virgin is found everywhere, hotels, shops, restaurants, houses, etc. The chapel is simple but very well maintained. You can not enter the church in short and muscular despite the heat that makes the island.
After the stop in the chapel we continue the trip to the National Park (PN) Laguna de La restinga. In the trip to this NP we could observe how the landscape was changing, as we got closer we started to see traces of aridity, presence of thistles, cactus, while in the northeast area of the island there is much greener.
The Laguna de la Restinga NP is something similar to the tiger where boats go out for a walk. On board these boats we toured the different channels of the lagoon. Each channel has a different name and in general they have romantic names, we find the channel of the kiss or the channel of love. In these channels we find starfish, or actually they would be freshwater stars that we could touch since the guide of the boat always takes some of the water so that the tourists can caress it and of course then returns it to its habitat. In addition we saw crabs, aquatic plants and different species of birds.
At the end of this step through the lagoon we started the trip to Punta Arenas where we had lunch in a kind of cabin overlooking the beach. Lunch in general is fish or chicken with vegetables. After lunch they left us about an hour and a half to enjoy the beautiful and wide beach of Punta Arenas. There we were able to rent some chairs and parasols for only about 10 bsf. Honestly this beach is one of the most liked of the island.
Since it is very wide, the sea is calm and warm and the landscape is rare to see on a beach but it is still beautiful, it is arid, instead of palm trees there are cactus and cardones, and you can see different species of iguanas and lizards.
After an hour and a half of rest we started the tour and made a last stop at a hostel. Here we tried the Cocada Loca, which is coconut juice mixed with rum, a bit sweet for my taste, but most of the men loved it! .
On the way back we are exhausted because the day has passed moving almost entirely in this extensive island of 1000 km². But I can assure you that there is no regrets because thanks to this walk we really know what the island is, that there is in it, the town and its history.
The next morning we flew to the Arekuna camp, on the border of the Canaima National Park. We settled in the middle of the jungle, in bungalows that imitate the indigenous constructions. The roof is made of braided straw. There are no windows and the light is cut at eleven o'clock at night. For those who want to fully immerse themselves in local customs, there is a hammock that crosses the bedroom from corner to corner.
The restaurant is on a terrace with a magnificent view over the Caroni, a tributary of the Orinoco that is like the Tagus. We have lunch and take a walk to the Las Babas jump. We soon discovered that, for some mysterious reason that may have to do with the temperature and relative humidity of the air, rum enters these latitudes with surprising ease. We started by diluting it in a good glass of cold drinks, but little by little we are reducing the dose of cold drinks and increasing that of rum. It seems that I begin to penetrate the core of Venezuelan culture.
I worry about falling asleep and miss the excursion to Salto Angel. You are in the Orinoco, they reassure me. The birds are responsible for waking you up. Needless. My bungalow neighbor keeps me awake all night. Their snores dominate with authority the voices of the jungle. Only from time to time they are drowned out by the roar of a Goliath beetle hurling itself against the mosquito net.
There are two ways to see Angel Falls. You can navigate in curiara (canoe) from the lagoon of Canaima and then walk several hours to the base of the waterfall, or you can fly over it, which is what we do. I read in the National Geographic magazine that originally the whole region was a great plateau. The action of the water has eroded it, cracking it and digging deep canyons until it turns into a labyrinth of huge monoliths: the tepuis.
The plane buzzes among them like an insignificant insect. The pilot maneuvers parsimoniously and leans first on one side and then on the other so that the whole passage can appreciate the spectacle well. On the short ledge from which the Angel Falls plunges into the void a helicopter lands like a dragonfly.
We climb to cross the top of the Auyantepuí and, without interruption, we jump on a tiny ocher strip at the bottom of the valley: the landing strip of the Uruyen camp. I have seen wider neighborhood roads. At that point of the ride we have already lost any inhibition and we scream as if we were traveling on a roller coaster. The pilot is used to this theater, he encourages it even. Take the microphone and say: "Can someone grab the controls? I can not remember how it lands." More screams
A truck awaits us in Uruyen. We settled in the box, as members of an African guerrilla. It seems an improper transport of people of our category. It's a hellish way to do it walking, pities the guide. The truck leaves us at the base of Auyantepuí. We advance first through the savannah and then through the jungle, following the course of a river. We make a stop in a natural pool. I ask for a beer and settle down under a stream of water. It's the same as a jacuzzi. The others continue.
The march is complicated by moments. You have to jump from stone to stone, crawl, swim. The rocks slide, but you can not stretch your arm and cling happily to the first thing you find because you end up with a snake in your hand.
The mound of the Auyantepuí appears from time to time on the tops of the trees. The Indians believe that bad gods live up there and Arthur Conan Doyle imagined him full of prehistoric beasts in The Lost World. The truth is that, until not long ago, we knew more about Venus than about the tops of the Tepis. What we have learned later confirms that it is not, in fact, a hospitable place.
There are no gods or dinosaurs, but in National Geographic they compare their appearance with "the ruins of a bombed city". The constant rains prevent the formation of rich soils and many plants obtain their nutrients from the unsuspecting insects they trap. There are also reptiles, but those of gigantic size that have always seen a witness become surprisingly shy as soon as a photographer appears.
Our expedition does not arrive, however, so high. It concludes in Akareupa, a small lagoon fed by a great waterfall . The effort has been worth it.
The Indians of the region are not the fearsome Yanomamo, but the friendliest Pemones. With blows of machete and fire, they open small clearings in the jungle where they practice subsistence agriculture. Its food base is yucca, an insipid tuber that they grate, knead and bake in the form of cake. To eat it, they dip it in a fish stew or in a hot spicy ant that leaves your tongue swollen and insensitive for several days. Cassava chewed and fermented in the saliva of a toothless old woman also gets a beer, the cachire, but we do not dare to try it.
The comforts of civilization have begun to erode these traditions, but you can still see a child playing naked on a curiara when you sail near the camp. The day concludes with a new snack on the terrace of Arekuna. I hear that they have had to send a plane to Puerto Ordaz, because in one day we have finished with the rum we had for three.
From Canaima Park we fly to Los Roques, an archipelago of coral islands. From the monumental point of view, there is not much to tell. In the morning, a 20 meter catamaran picks us up at the dock and takes us to some beach. We anchored, we planted umbrellas and we jumped into the water.
The first day, we all signed up for diving activities. Only to see how someone fits the fins, the monitor gets cold sweats. We float like buoys at the mercy of the current and we run the risk of ending up in Aruba.
Evenings in Los Roques do not have much history either. Once visited the lighthouse, which is all there is to visit. We visit the bars in the area. Then we had dinner. When they throw us out, we sneak back through the windows.
The rum tasting ends reasonably well if we consider that before eating people were already singing anarchist hymns. Only one has fallen off the chair and we have almost not interrupted the master ronero. Then there is a snack.
We retired about midnight. Nothing is left open on the island.