A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Rattrays

LOS ROQUES BOUND

T MINUS TWO

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It’s finally that time of the year … Time to pack snorkels, order foreign currency and get the passports ready for our annual February adventure. This year, because of uncertain future work situation due to the sale of our company, we opted for a slightly shorter trip and a destination somewhat closer to home. The countdown is T minus 2 days before we board a big metal bird destination: Los Roques. You know we love our beach vacations but also enjoy going off the beaten path. We found this place in some online article about The world's 10 best hidden travel gems. Los Roques is an archipelago off the coast of Venezuela made of hundreds of small islands, cayes, and sand bars. It was deemed a National park in the ’70's which has helped prevent over development of the islands. Only one island – El Gran Roque – is inhabited in the archipelago. No massive five stars resorts on the island either.. only small ins and B&Bs (called Posadas) , mostly old fisherman’s houses renovated into guest accommodations, are available for tourists.

We will be staying at Posada Movida which has 6 guest rooms and only one dinner table for everyone. That’s right, all breakfasts and dinners are served family style there. The most intriguing part of the trip is to know where our fellow eating buddies will be from. Not too many Canadians and Americans travel to Los Roques so it will be interesting to see what nationality everyone is and what language they will speak. Better put a few translating apps on our smart phones!!

Our plane leaves Boston on February 17th at 4:00pm and arrives in Caracas, Venezuela at 6:00am the next day. From there, we have to take a tiny little dinky plane over to the island which takes about 45 minutes. You tube is a very very evil thing let me tell ya! I’ve seen videos of the flight and landing at Los Roques. Been having nightmares ever since. So… IF we survive this plane ride, we will be blogging throughout our vacation as we have been in our last couple of trips. I hope you will enjoy accompanying us along our journey and hopefully inspire you for your next trip. Until then, does anyone has some extra chill pills they could spare to help take the edge off during my flight?? Anyone???

Posted by Rattrays 03:14 Archived in Venezuela Tagged los roques Comments (2)

Viva la vida Los Roques

Los Roques - land of the Badonkadonk

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After 19 hours between airports and airplanes and 2 ½ hours of sleep, we finally arrived at Los Roques and are now sporting with style a “I survived the Caracas to Los Roques flight!!” Okay.. We’re not really wearing a t-shirt that says that but only because they didn’t have them for sale at the airport when we landed ;) But before I get into our arrival to Los Roques, let me briefly tell you about what could have been our amazing race casting. Upon our arrival at Caracas, all we knew about is that some tunnel would take us to the Chapi Air flight we needed to board. We found the tunnel which brought us to the domestic terminal with no signs of the airline, no representative, no Chapi Air flights on the departure or arrival boards and more importantly, nobody that spoke either English or French. And when I say nobody I mean not-a-soul. Sure, I know all the petty resort Spanish lingo to greet, thank, ask for extra towels, and of course David‘s signature phrase: Una cerveza por favor… But here, not so much. After running up and down all the gates, up and down the stairs, with the help of a few nice gentlemen and my disturbingly bad Spanish, we finally found the ticket counter… which had absolutely no signs. How in the world are you suppose to guess Chapi air is the only airline without a sign? Anyways, we made it to the gate in time.
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Now how we actually made it to Los Roques, considering the wear and tear of the plane which was missing screws, had ripped seats, a door that didn’t close all the way… this is a mystery to me. Our seat was completely broken and rocked back and forth crushing the people’s legs behind us and making us look like an old couple sitting on a big porch rocking chair. As David looked at me with a slightly concerned look, I closed my eyes and whispered: Dear Lord. You do know when I said earlier “we’re on our way to paradise” I didn’t mean it literally, right? Thank you for keeping us alive a while longer. Amen. The decent was breathtaking and made us forget all our crashing worries. Something so heavenly should almost be reserved for the real paradise…
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Mario, the owner of the Posada, was waiting for us right next to the landing strip. He picked up our luggage from the plane’s trunk, placed them on a dolly and walked us to the posada. No fancy car or chauffeur waiting for you at the airport here. Well first because there is no airport, only a landing strip; but also because the only car there is on the island is the garbage truck! Mario showed us our room, where we cleaned up and changed into something more comfortable ie swim suits. Then on our way we went with a cooler filled with food, soda and beer, to the little wharf where we hopped on a speed boat to Madrisqui, a little island about 5 minutes away from Gran Roque. We spent the day on the island napping, swimming and walking around this small and beautiful island. The snorkeling here was nothing to talk about. But the badonkadonk… Well we had to re-name Los Roques as the land of the badonkadonk because neither of us have ever seen so many bubbly butt cheeks as we did today. You know the bikinis that look like half the bottom is missing. Every woman wears those here and they have the bubble butt to make it work (see picture of a random badonkadonk below). Hey here’s what I have to say ladies: if you’ve got it, flaunt it!!! Am I right boys?
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At 5:00pm after the speed boat brought us back to Gran Roque, we met our first Anglophones on our way to the Posada. They were already here for 10 days and said we were the first English speaking people they have heard or seen since their arrival. We found the situation to be the same at the inn. Not only were we served delicious Italian food for supper but we shared the table with 8 Italians. It was so much fun! Between my French, and their little English, we were able to have a fun dinner conversation while one of the older Italian men sitting with us was serving our food - women first- which was sitting on the table for a family style dinner. After all that scrumptious food, we decided to go for a little stroll around town and came back to the room early to try to catch up with our sleep.

Posted by Rattrays 15:20 Archived in Venezuela Comments (6)

Life as island hoppers

Sand bar & Noronkys Islands

All the foodies in the Hooouuuuuse!!! So lets forget about the whole beach vacation extraordinaire here for a minute and talk about the real things. You know.. The essential things of life, the fuel to our energy: the basic needs we call eating… Even if you’d hate sunny beautiful weather and gorgeous beaches, if you were a self proclaimed foodie - you know, the kind who like me makes Mmm sounds while they eat something delicious and love taking pictures of their food, yeah-you know who you are - Posada Movida is the place to vacation. While I was eating my meal today, between 2 Mmmm Mmmm Mmmmms I looked at my new friend from Argentina and told her “I have died and woke up in food heaven”. Francesca, the Posada’s cook is officially the Goddess of all foods in our book. She says in broken Italian “ dinner is ready at seven thirty o’clock” and we show up with our taste buds ready to be taken to the nirvana of delectability.
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As for the rest of our vacation, it has been of outmost bliss. Our second day in Los Roques, after a yummy breakfast consisting of freshly made bread, eggs and pancakes covered with nutella, the Posada’s boat dropped us off at our very own semi-private sand bar for the day. The island was as big as our Condo and surrounded by beautifully turquoise colored water which was home to numerous conch shells and hundreds of thousands of colorful fish. We quickly realized Los Roques would become our number one spot for snorkeling.
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You probably know that snorkeling is one of the things both David and I love doing the most in life. But you also know my complete aversion to large fish. Yes, Jaws made another “traumatized until the end of time” victim out of me. So I’m completely amazed and overwhelmed by the beauty of the underwater life yet I might be a bit of an overly cautious snorkeler while floating around in the middle of the sea. Especially knowing that Los Roques is believed to have not only an incredibly great number of large fish such as Bonefish, Barracuda and Tarpon but also has some of the LARGEST fish in terms of size!!! David is literally on cloud nine thinking about all the great fish he'll be catching in the next few days. Did I mention they also have sharks around? Yup. Tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, lemon sharks all kind of lovely sharp-teeth-black-eyed-devilish-looking harmless fishies... and you know what the only bad thing about Los Roques being the hidden gem is? Not a whole lot of swimmers' footsies to serve as appetizers while David and I reach the beach. Don't judge me. You know in those situations we all think "better them then us"... ;)
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Mr. Fisherman-Rattray hasn’t been lucky enough to catch a big fish yet but I was the very unlucky one to have a barracuda stalking me while my dear hubby was fishing hundreds of meters away from where I was snorkeling. God I hate those awfully mean looking fish! Creepy! But sitting under our umbrella wasn’t too much of a horrendous task for me to do while waiting for David to be done fishing. David also had a near traumatizing experience when he touched what he thought was a shell but was in fact a sting ray. He (very manly) screamed like a girl from the surprise. He also was the lucky witness of a 3 feet long grey fish swimming a few meters away from him. Not sure what that one was but we’re guessing either another barracuda or something more teeth deprived like a Jack fish.
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The third day, in a ‘coco’nutshell, started the same way as day 2 but we were dropped off at Noronkys island which is known for having a lot of sea turtles hanging around. And guess what?! WE GOT TO SWIM NEXT TO ONE!!!!!! Pardon the over excitement here but we have both been dreaming about this since our vacation to Roatan. It was magical. They are so adorable yet incredibly graceful. This itself, made our whole trip!! We also saw hundreds of black salamanders while sitting on the beach. It was pretty cool at first but got a little annoying while we were trying to have lunch and some were literally trying to crawl on us. There were also a dozen hermit crabs walking around but since they were pretty timid , they never became pesky to us. We also got to see the most amount of huge colorful fishes we’ve ever seen since our snorkeling debut 6 years ago. Yay Los Roques!!!
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Posted by Rattrays 18:04 Comments (5)

Cayo de freakin' beautiful & Scuba diving

Cayo de Agua, turtles, Espanky & Scuba!!!

Day 4’s destination for the day was Cayo de Agua which we were told was a gorgeous island 50-60 minutes away from Gran Roque by speed boat. But because the Posada’s boat motor went kaput 2 days ago, the boat ride was more like 1.5 hours - that’s what happens when you put 2 - 40 hp motors on a 30 foot boat. Was the 1.5 hour worth it? Heck yeah it was!!DSC_0744__1024x734_.jpg! I know I’m the queen of emphasizing adverbs when I describe something pretty or delicious but David is the one who had the description of this island covered. (Mom Rattray, you might want to skip right over the next part…) “This place is F***king beautiful!!!!” (Sorry.. But I warned you ;) ) As if 1 beautiful beach was not enough, there are 2 beaches back to back on this small island. So you can have your chair on one beach, decide you had enough of that breath taking view; turn around, walk 40 feet, put your chair down and enjoy beach number 2. How sweet is that?
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We usually can’t wait to put our snorkeling gear on when we get to an island but this time, it almost felt like something we had to do instead of something we really felt like doing because the island was so beautiful. The island was “sofa king” beautiful (get it?), all we wanted to do is walk around and engrave all that beauty in our brains forever.

After a few hours at Cayo de Agua, the *insert sarcasm here* super speedy-speed boat took us to a turtle hatchery where they spawn and introduce turtles back into the ocean. There we learned about the various species and got to hold a few little guys.
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next pit stop was Espanky island, another divinely beautiful island where snorkeling is supposed to be amazing. The only downside was that we had only 20 minutes off the boat so we didn’t have time to go explore the marine life. Better luck next time. After yet another gourmet meal back at the posada, we went to walk around the village and had our now traditional pre-bedtime mojitos in a bar by the water. Tough life…
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Day 5 is now known to us as the day that almost de-throned the “elephant owner for a day” experience we had in Thailand as the best day of our lives. We went Scuba Diving for the very first time!! Can’t lie to you and say we were not both extremely nervous about the whole thing. We thought an introductory dive like this would be a maximum of 10 feet down, kind of like as deep as we go snorkeling but with the scuba equipment. Boy were we in for a surprise. When we went to check-in with the PADI shop the night before, we got a different story. Replace the feet by meters, and you’ll be close to the depth of our FIRST dive. Yes, not 10 feet deep. 13 METERS deep. That’s about 40 feet deep!!
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Jose, our instructor was fantastic. After giving us the crash course in a couple feet of water and taking us down 15 feet to practice, he brought us to El Morito where a ship wreck was waiting to be explored as well as coral packed with thousands of fish and sea creatures. David got to hold a sea spider while I absolutely refused to touch it. Eh - a spider is a spider, the only part of my body touching something this gross is the bottom of my shoe!

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the other cool things include a huge Spotted Moray eel, a trumpet fish, a few ginormous midnight parrots, numerous schools of different kinds of fish and a 4 foot barracuda.

The experience was completely different from snorkeling. We both agree on the fact that other then the breathing that is a little tricky and concerning, everything else loses IMG_5838__1024x733_.jpgIMG_5847__1024x733_.jpgIMG_5853__1024x768_.jpgthe eery factor. Fish are looking at you like you’re just another sea creature. Neither of us were freaked out by a barracuda almost as tall as me, swimming next to us… And a big eel that creeps us out even in pictures, became cute in that environment. It’s just a whole other world down there.
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Another victory over the big bad barracuda was that one of his brothers was on my dinner plate that night. That’s right people, deep fried barracuda “nuggets” was served for supper. And let me tell you that it was one of the tastiest pieces of fish I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it almost has the texture and taste of chicken cooked this way or if it was just the mental knowledge that I’m the one enjoying a taste of him and not the other way around - but this was one tasty sea monster.

Posted by Rattrays 17:56 Comments (3)

Birthday surprise and Krasky critters

When it rain, it poors

For all the very sweet people who wished me surprises for my birthday, your wish became reality... but not quite the way I expected. We woke up to a downpour in the posada. Yes, I mean IN the posada because the hallways outside the rooms and half the dining room doesn't have the common amenity we call roof.
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We thought we'd be housebound for the day but Mario (the posada's owner) said in broken English - that sounds much like the villain from Despicable Me - "Rrain will stop. Maybe rrain more 5 minutes. But stop again. What island you want to go to todaayy?" We decided, along with our friends from Argentina to go back to the small sandbar from the second day of our stay.
They dropped us off by boat and left. The sky was cloudy for about an hour after we arrived at the completely deserted mini-island. Then a boat arrived and 4 women laid on our island (how dare they? ;) ) for about 20 minutes until the men in the boat started waving their arms frantically for them to come back in the boat. They were gone in a flash. As we were picking up our jaws that had just fell down in the water after seeing how scary-dark the sky had become, we sprinted back to our umbrella to try and get prepared for the storm while the rain started drumming on our skin. We hoped for a 5 minute shower like Mario predicted but Mother Nature had something else in mind. We built a wall to try and protect us from the storm with folded beach chairs, our cooler, flippers and sand. Sitting on a towel behind the mini wall covered with a second beach towel. 1 hour of torrential rain and heavy wind. Stuck in a raging deluge in the middle of the sea with nothing but a beach umbrella and an improvised wall to protect us. Happy birthday to me!!!! 1.5 hours later, the rain was still steadily falling from the clouds but the wind had calmed down. We were completely soaked and shivering cold. Our friend Alfredo was jogging up and down the sandbar to try gaining a little warmth to his body while David was still trying to send subliminal messages to our boat guy by repeating "Haaaaaarryyyyy come for us Haaaarryyyyyy". Once the rain completely stopped, Harry finally showed up. Can't say we warmed up to a comforting hot shower back at the posada because the taps do not have the internationally known red dot on them. Only the blue dot that is probably quite useful for all the single men surrounded by all those badonkadonks all day. We assume the warmth of the water depends on the daily sunshine. The hotter the day, the warmer the water in the oversized blue drums on the roof of each posada which is their hot water supply. All this to say: Cold rainy day = cold shower. Now who thinks this makes a good combo?? One thing is for sure. This will be a birthday to remember!

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Thursday was still a tad cloudy but the rain was out of the picture (perfect). We visited an island named Krasky and were once again taken aback by the beauty of this new place we discovered. When I said in previous blogs that we saw hundreds of fish, never have I meant it ALL at the same time but this place was a snorkeling dream. Hundreds and I literally mean 100s of fish swimming, floating, bobbing along with us all at the same time. I've never said so many owwws in a row!!! (if you look it up on the English-Snorkel dictionary, you'd translate that to WoW!!!) I don't know if it's because there were so many of them and only 2 of us, but they were just hanging there, curiously checking us out without blinking an eye... ;) Obviously unperturbed by our presence. Yet another magical moment to add to the Rattray memory book.
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Krasky also has it's own kind of jewels right on the island. Mountains and mountains of beautiful conch shells.
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One of the most unique and amazing piles of sea treasures we've ever seen.
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We've been very blessed to have some wonderful people sharing the posada with us. And those family style dinners are the best way to make new friends. It's been challenging but oh so rewarding to try communicating and learn to know them all. Between the bit of English spoken by everyone, hand gestures, similar latin based words and plenty of white wine flowing steadily; there was never a dull or silent moment at the table. At this point we shared our dinners with 2 couples from Argentina, 4 fishermen from Austria, a couple from Brazil and a few couples from Italy. Thanks to the email and facebook era, it will make it much easier to keep in touch with the ones we grew closer to.
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On Friday as much as we wanted to explore further islands, Los Roques being such a remote archipelago, needs to have everything shipped from the mainland. And everything includes gasoline for the boats. For some reason, the gas shipment never came this week and the supplies are getting low. That means no boat wants to go to the further islands. But ya know, when you have to chose between paradise islands, there just isn't a way to lose. We decided to go back to our dream snorkeling island.
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That day was another amazing discovery day for us as we found THE starfish central!! In a 30 feet radius, we saw at least 12 of them. And no small cute ones. I'm talking ones the size of both our heads together. So beautiful.
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The wind was blowing quite hard for the 3rd day so we got to see a lot of kite surfers. We considered trying it ourselves but after seeing experienced surfers doing a few face plants, being stranded on the high seas and being rescued from another island; we both said: Naaaahh... maybe next time.
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The ride back was extremely bumpy but not quite as much as the day before which made us feel like the little cushions between the discs in our back didn't have any cushiness left to them after the ride (I know, I'm like a human medical encyclopedia). But today was just bumpy enough for David to unconsciously start making Karate chopping "Hiyaaa"s and "Waaaaaah"s every time the boat hit the ebb of a big wave while trying to protect his back by absorbing the shock with his legs. This was the funniest, most random thing he did (all day) so we giggled all the way back to Gran Roque. :)

Posted by Rattrays 19:31 Comments (2)

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