Monday, February 06, 2006

Cruising Gringos

We were greeted into the bay of Porlamar in Margarita by hundreds of pelicans whose appearance and behaviour are fascinating to watch. They look like a mistake with their giant bills and scraggy plumage but their appearance belies their agility and grace. They skim across the water, almost but never touching the surface, and they are expert divers, always coming up with a meal. They are also quite haughty and ignored us rudely the whole time we were watching them showing no fear or interest in us at all. The bay was busy but we anchored that evening without a problem and went ashore to explore. It quickly became clear that not much English is spoken in Venezuela and Nick's Spench and my Spanglish were soon put to good use. No cashpoint around but we managed to buy a beer with some US dollars.

The next morning we went to see 'Juan' who owns a small shop in the bay and is recommended in our pilot guide as someone who will organise the checking in process with the authorities as it can be a bit of a palaver. He knows everything there is to know about his town and is more than happy to share it, punctuating his statements with lengthy drags on his fags for dramatic effect. It worked: us gringos were mesmerised. His office was full of towers - towers of cds, towers of books, towers of newspapers and journals, towers of fag ends and towers of laundry! Classical music blared out of inside and outside speakers so that it was difficult to hear all the gems of advice he was giving us about our stay in Venezuela, but basically it amounted to: don't trust anyone when it comes to money, change your dollars for bolivars on the black market as you'll get much more, and stock up with fags and booze for bartering, because; 'you can't eatid, drinkid or smokid de dollars my friends'.

Armed with our new knowledge, and feeling considerably less green than we had when we stepped out the dinghy, we headed off into town to check out the shops for some serious provisioning and maybe some sightseeing. Down at the local market, sure enough we got a good rate for our dollars and we found a cheap place to spend them.
The town was difficult to fathom - sometimes it's hard when you don't spend long in a place - but we both found it a bit soulless. No real heart, no old town, perhaps like many holiday resorts around the world. It was a strange mixture of modern highrises and slums, and security appeared an obvious priority. Most of the vehicles are fantastic, big, dirty old Fords with throbbing engines. Deisel here is incredibly cheap (it's duty free) 25p a litre! We really wished we'd not stocked up in Martinique!

Everyone we met was polite and welcoming, and curiously uncurious about us, which was quite nice really as though naturally we would come here on holiday from England. We decided to take advantage of the shops, stock up and head out west as soon as we could. We filled up Kika's empty lockers and lifted anchor at about 5pm on Friday. We were motoring out of the anchorage when 'Alliage' called on the VHF to say they had just arrived from Los Testigos. We were on a mission though and decided to carry on with our plan, just pulling alongside long enough to swap news and catch a fillet of the big Dorado that Brendan had caught on passage.

We had a good passage to Los Rochas where we are now anchored. We had fairly good winds and arrived so early this morning that we had to 'heave to' to wait for light. We have been enjoying the delights of our replenished stores and happily, even though it was pretty rolly at times, I was able to cook some delicious meals without a twinge of 'you know what!' Los Rochas consists of a few small islands amidst coral reefs. It's possible to go and find an anchorage to yourself here if you have the energy but we settled for sharing ours with one other boat. I had to stand on the pulpit in order to get a better perspective on the coral reefs and safely direct Nick through to the anchorage. It was pretty scary as the water is like glass and every rock looks like it will pierce the hull, but it was fine and guess's really beautiful here! We've seen a huge variety of fish while snorkelling near the boat this afternoon and we're looking forward to finding a lobster tomorrow. There's one out there with Kika's name on it!

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