This weekend we finally left town again and spent the long weekend at a beach! We were in the little town of Tucacas, near Parque National Morrocoy, which is by far one of the most beautiful places in the world, Venezuela included. In order to get there we had to take a bus for twelve hours, slowed down by the turns in the Andes, road blocks, speed bumps (I found out here they are called "sleeping police", by the way) and a rock slide. We left at 10:00PM on Thursday night and I managed to sleep a little bit on the bus ride there.
I awoke to a completely different landscape. The Andes are made because one tectonic plate is slipping below the other, while the coastal mountains are made because two plates are rubbing up against each other. These mountains are smaller, rounder and in some ways more exotic than the Andes, which look much like I imagined them to look: rather like the Rockies but slightly more green.
We drove through the coastal jungle and mountains for a while, till we reached Tucacas. Our guide was a friend of one of the students I'm studying with. Edwardo has been studying English at VENUSA and met Claire and the rest of our group on campus. He had been to Morrocoy several times and offered to figure out a cheap way to get us there. Which he did, in the end. It was only 700BsF (little less than $100) for the bus and hotel for two nights and three days. When we arrived though, the hotel we had been promised - ocean views, pool, fridges in the rooms - was a sham. He has booked through a website which took a lot of his money for a hotel that did not exist. Luckily, he was very gracious about it and offered to pay for the mistake. Instead we stayed at a posada, a step up from a hostel and a step down from your usual hotel. Personally, I felt it was much like the hostels I stayed in across Europe, with rooms for 6-8 with bunk beds, an attached bathroom and a key to the door. However, there was a pool and a restaurant, which was possibly where the step up came in.
Tucacas was a pleasant little town. Up here in the Andes, all the villages and cities look like what you'd expect a village in the Andes to look like. Down by the sea it was really nice to see a city that looked like what you imagine a South American Caribbean town to look like. Lots of colorful houses on dirty streets, music playing everywhere, people sitting on chairs out front watching the day go by. Lots of dogs everywhere. It was quiet pleasant and a very different experience. Possibly one of the best parts was that it was not swarming with tourists from all over Europe and North America. Most of the other guests were Venezuelan. We got to talk to them in the evenings by the pool, and it felt more realistic than just another tourist trap hotel.
The disadvantage to being in a not so touristy town was that it was possibly pretty dangerous and we didn't really stay out after dark to find out. This wasn't a huge issue, but you could hear some music and fun stuff going on out there... it was probably best not to be a part of it though. We had our own parties by the pool.
This is the posada we stayed at. Like I said: lots of colors
The pool inside. Not too deep, but perfect for dipping in when you started sweating just sitting around.
On our first day there we went from Tucacas to Morrocoy, and the only way to get to the cayos (islands) is by boat. The whole national park is made up of several islands out in the ocean, most of which are swimming beaches. There is also a bird sanctuary inland, but we skipped over that and headed towards the island. I have to say, riding in a boat with music, dancing and drinking Sangria and Smirnoff Ice, on your way to a nearly private island in the Caribbean is possibly one of the best mood boosts ever. It's impossible to feel down about anything that might be going on in the States, which is exactly what I needed this weekend.
Riding through the canals of the city out to the beach.
Part of Morrocoy cliffs and bird sanctuaries and such.
This is the other boat.
My camera is not great so its hard to see all the birds flying in this picture, but there were a lot of amazing ones everywhere!
Pulling up to the island!
Cayo Sombero was the island we stayed on for the day. Everyone I've talked to recommended this beach, and if it is ever an option, I also highly recommend it. One of the best I've been on in my life!
There's me... right off the boat, not even out of my beach dress.
The side of the island that faces the whole sea has these lovely umbrella covers you can sit under and enjoy the beach.
This is me and Alissa, the girl who lives downstairs in our building. We walk to school together nearly every morning.
Wandering Tucacas, getting some dinner before the sun set
A nice little pizza and arepa restaurant. I don't think its possible to go to a restaurant without being offered arepas in this country. They are good when made right, not too thick and rubbery. I like them with cheese or a little egg, but not exactly for breakfast when I prefer a smaller, lighter meal. If I get to pick, I'd choose an empanada any day. I had some at a stand on the street that tasted like cheese curds and the state fair for dinner. It was lovely.
The next day we went to a more public beach. This one had many more people, a bit of trash and a few more rocks in the water. Oh well, it was still lovely. I have no right to complain.
Coconuts. My friend Kathryn is a pro and finding them and knocking them opened.
Jewelry sellers are all over the places here, and it's pretty cheap. I wish I had more cash with me (I'll tell the bank story in a future post) because I really liked some of them. Oh well, its better to come back with memories than things, I think.
This is our sea lizard we made. Thats me, Kathryn and Sarah.
Alissa, me and my roommate Kirsten on the beach. "Apartmentmates" I guess you could say.
Another part of Morrocoy. It was a very beautiful place with a lot of different areas. Wish I had the chance/energy to explore more. Plus if we could have gone on boats around to more cayos that would have been amazing. However, Sunday when we woke up a rain storm was coming in and not letting up. Collectively we decided it was better to just head home and get back earlier than the 6AM arrival we had planned for. It was nice to see a bit more of the country in the daylight, and I now feel like I can safely say I've seen a pretty large chunk of Venezuela (except the Amazon, but thats OK because not only is it hard to get it, because of indigenous peoples rights its very hard to go anywhere there without a permit).
This is exciting since I only have a week left here! Give my recent circumstances, I am so excited to come home. I've been working really hard to be present and happy and attentive to every moment as it comes, so I'm very very excited to go home and relax. Of course there is also the fact that I will be DONE with my undergraduate degree in three days!
There are a few more stories to tell about the last few days, but I will save them for a time when I don't have 7 more pages of a 20 page lab report to type up before tomorrow morning!