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July 2008

As July arrived, we left our Eastern Caribbean cruising home for the past two years and sailed to Venezuela.  We traveled with five other boats overnight from Grenada to Los Testigos, Venezuela where we anchored in beautiful aqua-green clear water in early morning.  Oscar, from the boat Zenitude, is a native Spanish speaker and he was a wonderful help as we made our official visit to the Guardia Costa (the Venezuelan Coast Guard).  Boats cannot officially check into the country at Los Testigos, but the Guardia Costa gave us permission to remain in Los Testigos for three nights. 

The Los Testigos islands are short on facilities, but rich with natural beauty.  We hiked through cactus and scrubby brush making our way up to the highest point to get a wonderful view of the surrounding islands.  Snorkeling around the beautiful coral formations in the islands wasn’t a disappointment.  

los testigosThe following night we hiked over tall sand dunes down to the beach and hoped once again for another leatherback turtle experience (see June 2008).  About one hour after dark, a large dark shape emerged from the water and made her way up the beach.  Our group patiently waited at a distance while the leatherback dug her nest.  As she started to lay her eggs, we quietly watched behind her as dozens of eggs were laid.  We were amazed at how carefully and diligently she covered her nest and attempted to “eliminate the evidence” of her eggs.  As we watched the leatherback make her way back to the sea, we all felt blessed to have these opportunities to witness the wonders of nature.  Our hike back over the sand dunes in the dark of the night took a little longer as we made a few detours in the dark; but we finally found our way back across the sand dunes to our dinghies and anchored boats.

Los Testigos, Venezuela

A quick stop on Margarita Island allowed us to officially check into the country, do some shopping and buy some fuel.  Diesel fuel is one of the few bargains we found in Venezuela and we had fuel delivered to our boat for the equivalent of $.61 per gallon.

We are trying to use our little Spanish as much as possible.  In Margarita, we stopped at a small sidewalk grill to eat lunch.  There were pictures of the food, so we felt confident that we could order lunch without any problems.  John ordered a cheeseburger and Ann ordered a grilled chicken skewer.  The woman running the grill launched into a long explanation about Ann’s order.  Ann continued to repeat her order, but there appeared to be some issue or question that needed to be answered.  The woman called to an adjacent stand to see if someone there could make the explanation in English.  The adjacent vendor shook her head and threw up her arms, but then went out to a table and asked assistance from one of her patrons.  A young woman came over and listened to the explanation from the grill vendor.  The young woman also rolled her eyes, shook her head and threw up her hands.  Then the young woman pulled out her cell phone and made a phone call.  She explained the situation over the phone and then handed to phone to John.  A voice in excellent English over the cell phone explained to John that the cassava, an ingredient in the salad served with the grilled chicken skewer, had not yet been delivered.  John relayed via the cell phone that it was not a problem and the cell phone was passed to the sidewalk grill operator so the explanation could be given to her in Spanish.  As the cell phone call ended there were smiles and muchos gracias all around.  We had a great sidewalk lunch and a wonderful cultural experience with the Venezuelan people. 

Net in Laguna Grande

We left Margarita and headed for Golfo de Carriaco, a 39-mile long protected body of water on the northern coast of Venezuela.  In contrast to Los Testigos, the Golfo water is dark and silty from the numerous rivers that drain into the basin.  Terrain at the entrance to the Golfo is dry and arid, but grows more lush as you travel near the rivers.  Our first anchorage at Laguna Grande provided spectacular views of vibrant colors.  The surrounding area has few residents and we saw only a few fishermen collecting oysters on the mangrove roots and net fisherman during our short stay.  Our first steps on the South American continent (all our other stops in Venezuela had been at islands) were on the Laguna Grande hillsides.  These hikes allowed a view of the Golfo as well as Margarita Island and surrounding islands to the North. 

Net fisherman at Laguana Grande, Photo by Chuck Shipley

Dolphin

 

The Golfo is rich with marine life.  As we continued our journey into the Golfo, we were surrounded by hundreds of dolphin feeding on large schools of small fish the size of sardines.  We were highly entertained by their jumps and fast swimming as we cruised along.  Our journey further east into the Golfo took us to the end where rivers drain into the Golfo and the bird watching is spectacular.

 

 

Dolphin in Golfo de Carriaco, Photo by Chuck Shipley

scarlet ibis

 

Our friends Barb and Chuck from Tusen Takk II are traveling with us.  We waited with them in our dinghy at dusk to witness the influx of scarlet ibis to their nighttime nesting grounds in the mangrove swamps at the end of the Golfo.  These birds are beautiful large ibis with a dark red color similar to the color of a cardinal and are only found in Trinidad and a small area of Northern Venezuela.  We are amazed to see numerous large flocks of bright red ibis fly overhead to reach their nesting spots.  We estimate seeing 400–500 birds fly over for the night.  Unfortunately the light at dusk is so poor that we can’t capture the scene in pictures.  The following morning we awake at 5:00 am to see if we can witness their early morning departure.  We see only a few birds depart, but are rewarded on the following morning when we can see several scarlet ibis resting in trees before they leave for the day.

 

 

Scarlet ibis

Golfete sunset

 

We traveled east out of the Golfo with another beautiful overnight stop at Laguna Grande.  As we left the Golfo, we filled our diesel tank in Cumana with diesel fuel for the equivalent of $.06 per gallon.  Ann felt guilty about purchasing fuel at such a low price – it just didn’t seem “right”!

Before the end of July, we arrived at Bahia Redonda Marina in Puerto la Cruz , Venezuela where we plan to leave Livin the Dream for two months while we travel back to the U.S.  We spent a frantic few days getting the boat ready for our absence, arranging for boat watches, and preparing for our visits with family and friends.

 

Golfo de Carriaco sunset


Laguna Grande

The amazing colors of Laguna Grande, Photo by Chuck Shipley