Mysterious Lightning in Catocumbo
Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
332Trip End Jan 19, 2007
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Yesterday we were up and out by 6.30am for our trip to Lake Maracaibo (where all the oil is) and were picked up by Alan Highton from Aranassi Trek (guy from Barbados is specialist on the lake etc) and started on our trip.
First off stopped in a small town with its typical Plaza Bolivar (everywhere seems to have one of these named after Simon Bolivar who liberated most countries from Colonial rule). We walked to the nearby sugar ´factory´ where donkeys brought the sugar cane from the fields to the shed to offload. There were huge cement blocks which had the juices bubbling in and at the end of the production line blocks of brown raw sugar
As we go down the valley we enter desert like landscapes and see loads of vultures too.
We carry on the long drive into much more humid temperatures to El Viga a large town where we have a great lunch. There are about 30 chickens being spit roasted over charcoal and we have this with roasted plantains and hot sauce and some very carbohydraty thing I have no idea what it was.
Having survived very dodgy and collapsed roads, breaking down at least once and some ominous driving (by others not our guides) Alan then loses the minibus keys and is in a blind panic. Fortunately he finds them not long after but not before most of us are convinced we will never reach our destination
Eventually at about 15.39 we get into the port where the fishermen are starting to come in with their catch - mainly blue crabs (literally are blue). We get in some speedboats and head down the concho river surrounded by lush green vegetation. On the way we see storks, a huge iguana, swifts, a rare heron some Venezuelan yellow birds (as you can no doubt tell I know my stuff). After a while we stop at the ¨bar¨ on the way which is basically another speedboat with cold beers. Definitely needed one! Next made it out onto the massive Lake where you can´t see the end of it and is absolutely clear of anything apart from a few floating plants. Have another couple of hours on the lake before we get to Concho town where we are staying but see freshwater dolphins on the way - about 30 of them. They dont play a lot but can see they are a different shape to normal dolphins.
Naturally on the way our boat conks out a few times and at one point we nearly capsize as a rope gets twisted in the motor. Fortunately we dont all end up in the lake which I am paranoid about particularly as all the villages sewage, etc goes straight into it
As the sun is setting we arrive in the floating village of Concho. The village is quite large and consists of about 100 floating houses or shops, a church and school with no platforms between them unlike in Halong Bay, Vietnam. You literally need a boat to get from one to another or a polysterene box if you are a kid.
The sunset is possibly the best we have ever seen and the sky looks like its on fire. Looks even better with the silhouettes of some of the floating houses.
We are staying in the local fire station with some of the govt officials. We literally have a toilet and a space to hang a hammock out on the veranndah. Therefore some of us decide that several rum and cokes are necessary to fall asleep!
Today after going to bed reasonably late we first get woken up at 2.45am by Alan predicting the first strikes of the lightning show. False alarm.
Next woken up from a very deep sleep (which is not easy in a hammock) at 5.30 to see the show as the sun rises
Decide to stay up and after breakfast we all head out on boats to another river to more virgin forest where we hang up bait for the butterflies we plan to see. Alan is a butterfly specialist and points out several massive beautifully coloured butterflies some of which are ´new to science¨ (this is his catchphrase and has been frequently repeated since by us all). It is incredibly hot and as nice as the butterflies are most of us just want to get cooler. Back in the village we have a mini guided tour to see the church and walk up the steeple and see the kids playing in the lake (bear in mind what I have written earlier. They obviously have a stronger constitution than us) and to the local shop which sells about 5 different things none of which are water astonishingly. Not quite sure what the locals drink but they manage to survive whatever it is.
After lunch of catfish we head back down a river past some small houses and farms seeing more wildlife on the way including a swimming turtle (quite rare apparently, but not new to science) and a swimming iguana. Also see loads of red howler monkeys and I think some of them are trying to throw stuff at us. Eventually back to the port without breaking down once and only nearly capsizing once we do the return journey eventually getting back to Merida at 19.30 very tired and desperate for a shower. Fantastic trip and seems like ages since yesterday morning. All cost US$108 for 2 days inc food each which is pretty good.
Tonight have a farewell meal for Abi one of our group leaving us early to go onto Peru which is sad.