Dennis on the Road

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Isla Margarita

I’m feeling a bit restless in Caracas. It has been a long time since I’ve traveled for this long of a period, but I recall from other trips that there is an inevitable lull in the excitement of being on the road. There comes a time when communicating in a foreign language is no longer a fun challenge but a pain in the ass. A time when one misses the little things at home that were once taken for granted: sitting with a cappuccino at Peaberry’s; enjoying a spontaneous conversation in the kitchen with Sachi. This morning my blues moved from my subconscious to my conscious: I was on my bike weaving through gridlock traffic, listening to Coltrane’s Love Supreme on my iPod, feeling as grey as the sky. The movement of the blues from my soul to my mind was liberating. Once the feeling was rational, I realized it would pass and that I have power over circumstances that control it. In the next couple days I’m going to look into a longer excursion to the Andes in my final weeks here.

An Isla Margarita sunset

It has been a long time since I’ve blogged, and a lot has happened in that time. The highlight has been a week on Isla Margarita. My friends/hosts in Caracas are originally from Margarita and have strong family roots there. Rafael, Damaris, Marianela, and I drove to Puerto Cruz to take a ferry to the island. What should have been a four-hour drive and a few hours on the boat took 24 hours. We got a late start (partially my fault) that was slowed further by horrible traffic leaving Caracas. Once out of the city, we thought we were in the clear, until two hours later the traffic mysteriously came to a standstill in the middle of nowhere. After two hours of crawling, we discovered the source of the back-up: in a small village a semi-truck of Pepsi products had tipped sideways. Everyone in the village, from the smallest children to the oldest grandparents were carrying cases of soda to their homes, some by the wheelbarrow full. Less than an hour later, in a maze of potholes, the bad road finally got the best of Rafael’s skillful driving. We plowed into an infinitely deep hole that blew out a tire. The change was relatively quick, but shortly before we reached Puerto Cruz Marianela discovered that her wallet was missing and she was certain that it was on the ground where we changed the tire in the pitch black. (It was later returned by a family that lived in a bamboo shack on the side of the road.) By the time we arrived to Puerto Cruz we had missed our ferry by hours. The silver lining was that we stayed with a very friendly cousin of Rafael and Mari. The next morning we had a further disappointment when we discovered that the AM ferry was booked. We wouldn’t be able to leave until 4:00 PM. At least this gave us the chance to drive into the mountains above Puerto Cruz and explore a beautiful pueblo.

The Beach at Zaragosa

Finally on Isla Margarita, we stayed at the home of Rafe and Mari’s father, Benjamin, and his girlfriend, Isabel. They own a large house in the small city of Juan Griego, but they rent that out and stay in the small two-bedroom apartment behind the house. The night we arrived, Rafe & Mari’s brother, Gollo, and his wife and two children were also staying there. There were four people in each bedroom while Benjamin and Isabel slept in a hammock in the kitchen. We were packed but amazingly comfortable.

An inland village on Isla Margarita. Proudly painted with the colors of the Venezuelan flag.

Over the course of the week in Margarita we explored a dozen beaches, from developed resorts to remote national parks. We drove around and across the island, visiting dozens of uncles, aunts, and cousins, and seeing some lovely small villages. I had two favorite beaches. One was Parque Nacional La Restinga. To get to the beach, we hired a small boat that traveled through a lagoon and a maze of mangrove channels. En route our driver stopped, reached to the base of a mangrove, and picked off dozens of oysters. They were the best I’ve ever had. The waves at the beach were perfect for bodysurfing. I love the feeling of being shot across the water and being tumbled by the sea. Beyond a small cluster of huts, the seashell beach stretched undeveloped as far as I could see. Idyllic.

Oysters on the way to the beach in Parque Nacional La Restinga.

My other favorite beach memory was the small beach of Zaragosa. Isabel’s family has a home right on the beach where we ate fish caught only hours ago and played numerous rounds of dominos.

With my Venezuelan family at the Zaragosa beach on Isla Margarita.

There are plenty of photos on my photos page (file 12) that do much more justice to this experience than my words could.


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