Beach Time

Venezuela is an intriguing place, absolutely stunning scenery, wildlife and natural resources that offer so much potential but there seems little in the way of drive to maximise these advantages there is definitely an air of “tomorrow is soon enough for anything”. This particulalry applies to rubbish colection as the litter probem has to be seen to be believed, generally the local populace regards anywhere they happen to be as a tip.

There is propaganda everywhere in the form of posters and signs for the populist Chavez regime, Chavez kissing babies, kissing the flag, waving to the adoring masses, with the military – there are lots of uniforms here e.g. for the multiple police forces National, Local and Military – and so forth. Will be interesting to see result of the elections in a few weeks, there is a week of national mourning which means it difficult (although not impossible) to buy beer and most commercial businesses and shops are shut.

One of the populist moves is to share Venezuela’s oil wealth with the population, fuel is effectively free. For example as a joke I said I would treat Pete to a truck refuel, 306 litres of diesel cost 14 Bolivar – about 46p. Not per litre in total i.e. about .0015 Pence per litre. So if fuel price is a sensitive issue in the UK any significant change here would spark civil war.

As a result the roads are full of ancient American gas guzzlers because there is absolutely no incentive to move to fuel efficient vehicles. Have to say I would drive a V8 pickup truck if I lived here!

Fuel – Almost 100th of a Bolivar per litre!

Long and somewhat eventful truck day heading for town of Macary, just one of those days, slow traffic, poor roads, it got late so abandoned idea of bush camping and looked for a hotel instead. Pete had a minor altercation with a lamppost as the idiot security guard supervising him reversing watched him back into it, as a result a few miles later one of the huge spare wheels on the rear fell off narrowly missing a following car………….. no harm done but a definite near miss. The people in the car then kindly directed us to the hotel we had been sent to. The recovered spare wheel rolled into the passenger area to complete the journey and took 4 people to hoist it back in place next morning.

We had hoped to get to a steak restaurant, recommended in the guide book but we were so late it turned into take away pizza for me and left over seafood risotto for Karen. Nice hostel with all the girls cooing over the puppies walking around the common seating area.

We have to cross the mountains to get to Puerto Colombia, it was a narrow, twisting road you wouldn’t fancy in a decent car let alone a 15 ton truck, all credit to Pete for calmly and safely delivering us to our destination despite the truly suicidal overtaking of some locals and kamikaze attitude of oncoming bus drivers. Pete is rightly very proud of Icathaca but the horn is pathetic and Ducan observed that sounding it gave the impression of an oncoming moped rather than a Truck. Suspect horn upgrade is now imminent.

We have three nights in Puerto Colombia spread across 3 Pousada’s owned by a slightly batty and very stereo typical German woman called Claudia. There was a lot of Basil Fawlty jokes in the air as you couldn’t get a straight answer to anything but the accommodation was fine if in need of a bit of tlc here and there. Our Poursada became a bit of a base as it had Wi-Fi so evenings people gathered there, some choosing to cook and others heading out to restaurants.

Puerto Columbia is a quaint colonial town, bit quiet at the moment due to the national mourning and it being out of season but very pleasant nonetheless. As there is only the one mountain road in or out transport to the other beaches in the area is by boat. You go down to the harbour and negotiate a price, a few of us wanted to go to Chuao – famous for its chocolate production so after some minor haggling 8 of us (Terry &Leslie, Colin and Jane, Tony and Geoff) agreed on 40 Bolivars each way (about £1.30) not bad for a half hour boat ride that was both exhilarating and, depending on where you sat, very wet.

Those in the front got their teeth rattled as we crashed through the waves and those at the back got drenched in the resulting spray. Great fun though, even when the hatch lid Karen was sitting on went up on a particularly big wave but fell through the hole on the way down followed by Karen, thankfully nothing seriously hurt but pride.

Chocolate Central

Chuao was disappointingly very largely shut so no chocolate feast, we did get delicious homemade (artisan) chocolate ice creams and some coca paste but the 4km walk through the coca plantations and the all round experience was great.

We had arranged to be picked up again at 1pm (after strict instructions from Claudia to only pay when we were back in Puerto Colombia to avoid being either left behind or gazumped on the price!) and were a little short of time for the walk back but a bus came along which we flagged down, turned out be a school bus but they didn’t mind giving the gringos a lift. Great fun with the kids showing us their school made crafts and wanting their photos taken.

Imagine being allowed on a school bus in the UK and taking photos of the kids. A genuine pleasure to be somewhere there isn’t an abiding and largely misplaced mistrust of adults and where such activity is presumed to be the innocent fun it was rather than anything sinister. I really believe we have lost the plot back home when it comes to communal care of children.

We had a fun evening at Pousada Solseil restaurant upstairs on the terrace with Geoff, Tony, Terry and Leslie trying the local cocktails of Mohitos, Cube Libra and Caiprehnas and with a world class, entertaining waiter. Unfortunately they were a little short of alcohol due to the lack of supplies because of the national mourning period. However the (fish) food was utterly delicious and the bills of around $11 each (including food, drinks and service) a bargain.

We booked to go back the next night but asked for some more cocktails to be available, more of the group were there when we arrived but all drinking soft drinks, Pete (a man I think it’s fair to say likes a drink) not at all pleased. Mystery explained when we ordered as waiter explained he had saved the limited alcohol for us. Cue for huge hilarity at our table and a generous tip for the waiter.

Sun, Sand and Beach

We spent the next day at Cepa beach, hiring the same friendly boat man for 50 bolivars each way this time as a bit further. Cepa is a classic Caribbean beach, pristine sand and palm trees. Geoff and Duncan went diving, the rest of just chilled and enjoyed the scenery. The party included Vanessa whose birthday it was and she was delighted with the photo I took of her in the surf which was promptly face booked to show all her friends back in Bolton where she was celebrating her birthday.

Birthday Girl (Left) and Heather

Lunch was at the only beach restaurant open and the choice was fish or go hungry. Lisa and heather opted to ge hungry as not fans of seafood. The rest of us served a huge whole fried fish complete with head, tails and fins which I cleaned to the bones. Although nothing to drink but water ……….

Back to the Pousada for a BBQ for the birthday girl lots of laughter and plenty of liquid refreshment was the perfect end to a super day. Mikkel, our resident wild life finder having scared her some weeks earlier by turning up with a 4 foot caimen presented her with a tortoise wrapped in a gold bow he had found in the garden. The tortoise that is not the bow, I don’t know where he found the bow!

I had teased Pete earlier in the day that I knew why he hadn’t gotten a drink the night before and then after his daily briefing I told everyone the story. More hilarity.

He has promised to get even. And he will.

Beach time photos here. Next stop Los Llanos for wildlife viewing.

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