A Travellerspoint blog

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... And we're off

From Boston to Houston to Caracas to Los Roques

Oh my God - Oh my God - Oh my God!!! LOOK!! It's here!!
After a year of stress and uncertainty for David due to his company being sold not once but twice; and my new job which turned out to be nothing short of a baptism of fire. We are excited, no scratch that.  We are "jump up and down - do a few cartwheels - choreograph a touchdown dance" kinda excited about our 17 days beach vacation spectacular!!!
After looking at all our possibilities for this year's destination which was partly driven by a budget restriction due to David's job being at risk and therefore preventing us to travel across the planet; we looked at dozens of different options and both came to the same conclusion:  Wherever we go, chances are it won't be as pristine and mind-blowingly beautiful as Los Roques was.  Since no solution was coming to mind, Puddy the puggle who is in fact the brains of the family proposed the perfect plan: Go back to Los Roques.  Ok, it was not really our dog's idea and if you don't know Puddy this surely made no sense to you - let's just say he is the cutest and funniest dog around,  just not the brightest reading light on the plane ;)

So we're off to Los Roques!  In case you don't know or remember what/where it is, Los Roques is a national park consisting of hundreds of small islands, cays and sand banks about 60 miles off the coast of Venezuela.  Only one island is inhabited, Gran Roque and no matter how hard you search the small island, you won't find any big hotels, bars or restaurants there.  Only small Inns called Posadas. We're going back to the same as last year: Posada Movida as the service and the food was exceptional!  Something new this year: we are doing our open water diving certification.  We have 4 dives planned during our trip.  We're ready to explore the aquatic world and while David is hoping to come across a shark for the experience, I on the other hand am praying to all the Gods to keep the sharp teethed black eyed monsters as far  away as possible.  
Again this year, we're thrilled to bring you along in our suitcase via the magic of Internet :) Bon voyage to all of us!!

Posted by Rattrays 18:41 Archived in Venezuela

Red eye and aqua water

Day one in Los Roques

You know when you feel like you've been hit by a freight train who then backs up to see if it hit something, and rolls over you again?  Yeah that's the way we felt after our 1:00am  connection flight from Houston to Caracas.  We thought they let you sleep on the red eye but no, they put a movie on, sit a crying baby in the row in front of you and feed you burritos.  At 6:00am,  after 2 short hours of sleep, we landed in Caracas.  Can't say either of us could imagine going anywhere else but straight to bed but 4 hours later, we were finally boarding our 30 minuted flight to Los Roques.  Thankfully this year we didn't choose the little dinky plane from Chapi (aka cheapy) airline.  Aerotuy's plane door was actually closing all the way unlike our plane from last year.  And, bonus: no screws were visibly missing.  That said, the plane was old enough to be our plane from Houston's grand father... But we made it!! And all our exhaustion suddenly disappeared!  Ah Los Roques!! It feels like going to visit an old friend.  Mario, the owner of the posada was at the airport waiting for us with his wing man Harry.  Both of them as well as the rest of the posada staff recognized and greeted us like old friends.
After quickly cleaning up and changing into something made with less denim and more spandex, we hopped in the posada's boat to make our way to Madriski , the closest island to Gran Roque.  As you know, men and women are two completely different kinds of animals with entirely diverse priorities when it comes to the first official hour of a vacation. The all mighty male needs to sit, drink as many beer as he can, relax and watch passing badonkadonks*  (*badonkadonks aka  bubble butts perfectly shaped to wear the bikini half bottoms making any other woman possessing only a badonk without the kadonk envious.  Most South American females are gifted with it although I can confirm some lucky gals from England are as fortunate- yeah, you know who you are! :) ) On her side, the tender-hearted female needs to explore the marvels of nature, feel the warmth of the sand and the caress of the sea.  So I explored and felt while my man drank and relaxed.  That's until the aqua water called both of us.  A cooling dip was in order.  No good snorkeling here on Madriski so we'll break in the new snorkeling gear tomorrow.  
At 5:30, Harry was back to pick us up and take us to the posada with enough time to walk around the island then get cleaned up for dinner.  I gotta admit we forgot just how fantastic the food is here.  Oh chef Francesca, Goddess of food, you made my tastebuds quiver in ecstasy.  
Now 10pm, and we're both ready to pass out.  Lights are about to go off as our eyelids are getting just to darn heavy to stay open any longer.  Good night everyone!! (I guess it will be morning before I post after all as the wifi is behing very temperamental right now)

Posted by Rattrays 05:30

PETA award nominees

Days 2 and 3 in Los Roques

Sunday...Slept like babies , ate like pigs.  Now time to go swim like fish.  The posada staff had our cooler bursting with fresh food, snacks & beverages and loaded in the boat along with our umbrella, beach chairs and snorkeling gear. A 20 minute boat ride took us to Craski island for the day.  
While one of us cracked open a brewsky, the other one started exploring our island.   During his exploration, David.... Yeah right, like i could fool you ;) During my exploration, I realized just how much of beach bums we were on our last trip to Los Roques as we failed to see a huge portion of the island.  Pass the 14 umbrellas populating our beach, I realized a 15 minute walk takes you to a completely deserted side of the island.  Turned back around to get David and share this new found haven with my man.  
Funny how a heavenly place like Los Roques changes you.  Us seeing a star fish or beautiful shell on the beach a couple of years back:"Score!!! Let's take it home for a souvenir!" Now:"oh no!! Is it still alive? Quick put it back in the water!" By the end of the day, we had saved 3 starfish, 6 sea urchins and a hand full of minnows .  I know, we're amazing!  PETA's should be sending our humanitarian award any day now. Our snorkeling attempt was surprisingly mediocre.  Water was murky and fish were anti-sociable.  Funny how exciting and filled with colorful surprise snorkeling is but at the same time it's a little eery not knowing what can pop up right in your face.  And let's say that hearing yourself breath like Darth Vader doesn't help with the creepiness factor.
After a delicious dinner of local cuisine followed by a creme caramel that made everyone's eyes roll to the ceiling in delight; we were out for the count.  A full day chilling at the beach is exhausting... but someone's gotta do it ;)
Monday...today was Noronkys, the island where we swam with our turtle buddy last year.  Another breath taking island with a lot of coral patches scattered in front of a huge drop off about a football field away from the shore.  What that means is that its a great place for turtles to hang out but also a favorite of the big Scary fish who shall not be named.  
We had more success on our second day of snorkling.  We saw plenty of nice size fish, mostly blue tangs and parrot fish.  
David was not as lucky in his attempt to catch our dinner for tonight.  Which ironically made me happy as I prefer seeing fish swimming next to me rather then desperately trying to catch their breath, flip flopping like bacon on a hot skillet, with a nasty looking hook in their mouth.
Tomorrow is the beginning of the open water part of our diving certification.  Excited? Very! Nervous? Yup, that too!!

Posted by Rattrays 05:27

Diving In Los Paradise

Los Roques day 4 & 5

Tuesday, D Day.  Diving day that is.  Ok so here's the irony.  I've been spending every summer day of my life swimming in our pool.  When my bestie was still splashing around with her arm floaties, I was diving and snorkeling circles around her (we have home videos to prove it, right Annie? ;) ).  Now my beloved husband.  The man wouldn't even be comfortable jumping in a pool with me when we started dating.  He just never had learned to swim and was really nervous in the water.  Fast Forward a few years and I'm the one apprehensive about the shallow water course while David is as cool as a sea cucumber.
 A 20 minute crash course in shallow water and we're off to our dive down 36 feet.  Once we got a glimpse of the submerged world, all the worries floated to the surface and was replaced by exhilaration.  You know those dreams you have of being able to fly?  Part of your brain knows at first that it's not normal so you float up and down and bounce all around.. Well David was a little like that.  Buoyancy in diving - which is pretty much the art of staying at the correct water level while you dive - was no picnic for David.  The poor guy was up and down like an elevator in a busy hotel...  Never the less, we both still had a great time and were pretty excited to see all kind of pretty fish up from the first floor to the roof top. ;)  The only disappointing thing about it all was that the water was murky again.  Picture watching Finding Nemo on a tv set with rabbit ears.  Not quite as great as on an HD plasma tv...
The diving boat then dropped us off at Fransciski.  This was one of our favorite islands last year because of the piscina natural which is a big natural pool that has a shallow and deep end divided by a coral wall.  The pool is filled with thousands and thousands of tropical fish.  We saw more and prettier fish there then in our dive as the water was much clearer.
You know how too much of good thing can spoil a beach party? The boats usually pick us up between 4:30 and 5:00 to take us back to the posada.  Not today.  5:50.  Last people on the island? 2 concerned canadians.  As the sun was quickly going down we realized that we'd need to establish camp for the night but shortly after the posada boat came speeding over the horizon.  Phew!! That would have sucked!! Silver lining? We got treated to a beautiful sunset from the boat :)
 Wednesday- Best day evaahhhh!! We went for 2 dives to Boca de Cote which is a protected section of the national park and therefore only a few lucky divers are aloud around.  To add to the greatness of the day, our dive master was Pablo who literally is the father of diving in Colombia!  A few minutes with his coaching and David was relieved of his elevator duties and we were both gliding around the underwater world.
I'm just sitting here trying to find a way to describe how amazing the dives were but nothing I can say or show you would give it justice.  It was like swimming in a huge aquarium with stunning sea creatures freestyling next to us or playing hide and seek.  So many curious little fishies turning around to take a second look atwhat they would consider double tailed bubble making giant fish.  
Unbelievable!! If you could only see us right now.  Perma-smiles.  We could babble on and on and on about the dives but it's one of those "ya had to be there" moments to understand just how amazing it was!!  Marie-Eve, you were absolutely right.  We are totally hooked now (no pun intended) ;)
As we were both thinking this day couldn't get any better, the dive boat dropped us off at Craski for the remainder of the day, except this time, they had put our umbrella on the deserted side of the island!!  Life just can't get a whole lot better then this let me tell ya!! Wish you we here!! :)

Posted by Rattrays 08:47

Pictures are worth a thousand words

Thursday... We did it!! We're officially certified divers!! :) :)
This morning was our final test 30 feet underwater. Can't say it was done without stress.  In fact, I'm still not sure if I was shivering from cold or terror.  Scuba diving itself is extremely relaxing.  Everything is done in slow motion and your surroundings are so fascinating, you forget about everything else.  Now when you are submerged and need to remove your regulator  (i.e. the breathing thingamagig), drop it, find it again and put it back in your mouth without forgetting to continuously blow bubbles to avoid having your lungs explode while you are also aware that if you panic and start bolting up to the surface,  nasty little nitrogen bubbles can do a number on you!! That's all a tad unnerving.  We had to do a few more safety related exercises which all went really smooth. The good thing about doing your diving certification on a tropical island is that they don't make you stay in the shallow water for long, no time to lose, just as much time as possible to enjoy the real thing. The bad thing about doing your certification on an island is that they don't make you stay in the shallow water for long, so no time to practice the basic skills before they take you to the deep end. 
Of course we had no camera since it was the test so no proof that we saw some cool fish again.  An octopus, a toadfish, 3 huuuge bright blue parrotfish, another spotted moray eel, 3 trumpet fish of all different colors and of course thousands of other fish all out to celebrate our certification.
After our dive, we came back to the posada for a couple of hours before we went to madriski where we saw a creature who we can only be described as the slug version of Shrek.
We also played a bit with some conch shells to show you what their renters look like.
On Friday, we went to 3 different islands.  First, Cayo de Agua.  The beautiful island about 45 minutes boat ride away with 2 beaches back to back.  Then off to Caranero and Espanki.  Because an image is worth a thousand words, here's about 5000 for you.

Posted by Rattrays 05:30

Beach bums and Shark!!!!

Saturday... Today, we decided to play "creature of the sea". David decided to play the role of a starfish and I opted for being a sea urchin.  As you can imagine, we did a whole lot of nothing.  It was a bit of a vacation from our vacation.  We went back to Craski island on the deserted side but this time we brought along most of the guests from the posada who all gladly played our stimulating game. ;)  Everyone at the posada is Italian except for a couple from Argentina.  Most of them speak absolutely no French or English but that sure doesn't mean we can't all have some fun...
Sunday... Today, we were psyched to go back to Cayo Fabian which we loved last year. It's a very small sand bank and since there is not too much space on the island to welcome lots of tourists at one time, it can't get too crowded.
 Or at least that's what we thought.  This year, In addition to getting half devoured by the hungry sea,  it has become Kite surfing central.  We arrived to a deserted and peaceful island and after 2 hours the wind had picked up and brought along 12 kites racing all around the island making it pretty much impossible for the rest of us to go anywhere in the water without feeling like we were playing a live version of frogger. When the boat came back at 1:00 to pick up some guests leaving for the airport, everyone from the posada jumped in the boat and came back to the main island.  While some people went back out to another island, we decided to stay at the posada to, get this: have a nap.  The life of a beach bum is so darn tiring.  Besides, what's vacation without at least one afternoon siesta in a hammock? 
Of course this wouldn't be vacation for the Rattrays without a few absurdities.  On top of having invented a few songs about badonkadonks, one about sandy bum cracks; having special code faces for baracudas and blowfish and developing an emergency boobcasting system (that's in case my bikini top fails to do its job) I gave us the running gag of our vacation when I woke up from my nap today.  Don't ask me where it came from but as I opened my eyes I said with gusto: Taaa-daaaa!!!!  David looked at me kinda strange but without missing a beat said:"And that would make you the magician or the bunny?"   Needless to say he hasn't stop "ta-da'ing" everything I did since then.
Monday... Last week of vacation has officially started :( To start the beginning of the end nicely, we went to Caranero island for the day.  It was another relaxing day at the beach with a few snorkeling breaks at the back of the island next to a wall of coral.  We saw a really big porcupine fish hiding in a mini cave under a rock.  His face was about as big as ours and his eyes even wider.  He was so beautiful yet freaky looking.  It's almost like looking at a japanese anime caricature of a fish. The picture doesn't reveal much of him and what we didn't realize is that he is part of the blow fish family.  When molested, the cute cartoony creature changes into a spiny balloon!! :)  
Oh!! And we saw our first barracudaS of the year today also.  2 pretty good size ones.  I know they won't attack unless provoked but jeepers creepers they have that unnerving habit of following you around and it freaks me out! Of course David was swimming right at them taking pictures like a paparazzi.  And coincidentally, guess what we had for dinner?? Ta-da!!! Fried Barracuda!  Revenge is crispy and delicious! 
Tuesday!! 2 more dives, a few thousand more fish AND our first shark!!!! A sleeping 6 foot nurse shark that is. I grant you they are the most docile ones of the shark family but eh, it's still a shark.  And it was BEAUTIFUL!! Who would have thunk we would both be so thrilled by being arms length away from a 6 foot shark?? Coolest diving day ever!!!

Posted by Rattrays 18:09

Hasta luego Los Roques!

Noooooooooooooooooo!!!!! How did that happen? How can it already be the end of our vacation? It has been so wonderful, every minute of it.  Even the weather has treated us like guests of honor.  We had nothing more then a couple of 2 minutes showers throughout our scorching hot vacation.  The other great thing about the sun sticking around is that it meant warm showers at the end of each day.  Our last days in Los Roques last year were dampened by cold showers sponsored by BBB, Big Blue Bucket, the good old sun powered water tank on top of the posada.  This year, it was nice and warm everyday.  Although, the shower pressure was so weak, you could literally see drops falling off the shower head instead of a constant water flow.  Makes for long showers when you have sand from your ear canal all the way down to under your pinky toe nail!
So in a nutshell, here's what happened in our last vacation days.
Wednesday was another gorgeous day at Franciski island by the natural pool.  We saw a few more barracudas, one of them so big he even creeped  David out.  We were just snorkeling, admiring a foot long blue round fish using his dorsal and belly fins to swim which made him look like he was gracefully soaring through the water instead of swimming like all the others.  Next thing you know, huuuuge bully barracuda with evil eyes and jagged pointed teeth just flies right by us to go attack the fish we were just admiring.  Freaky.  Really.  Freaky.  Like he was showing us this was his turf.  My lunch money is yours big bully - now go on with your bad self.  Not dangerous unless provoked they say... Pff...
(we have a video to share with you here but there's a problem with the website. We'll try again tomorrow)
Although I didn't get chewed to pieces by barracudas, I was completely devoured by Mosquitos and pouri-pouri.  While David's final count was 5 bites, I stopped counting at 40.  After that number you need to bathe in a tub of after-bite to get any kind of relief.  If only I could win a prize after all that scratching. 
Thursday, we had an hour boat ride to Boca de Cote for a bit of snorkeling right off the boat by the coral wall.  No more shark seeing but we did see a cousin Ray.  Sting Ray.  The tail was pretty short and he was only 2 1/2 - 3 feet wide, might have been a young one.  He was just laying at the bottom motionless (probably playing our starfish/sea urchin game). 
After snorkeling, we went to Pelona de Rabuski.  A Laguna with hundreds of dinner plate size starfish in water as clear as what you drink. Another of Los Roques' secret little havens.  
After the Laguna, the boat dropped us back at Craski Island where we walked along the beach to find some treasures the sea handed to us.
Friday, we went back to Noronski with very high hopes of having another go at swimming with a turtle.  Instead, as we were arriving at the island in our boat, we came across 2 people swimming desperately to shore.  Why in such a rush you ask? I guess they discovered the first swimsuit eating sea creature as we saw 2 glowing white derrieres running on the beach to cover themselves.  
We were in the water snorkeling as many times as we could that day desperately looking for our tortuga.  No luck :( none of them were out to play.  BUT we saw 2 curious squids and one beautiful file fish.  I'm not sure why he is called a file fish as he looks more like a unicorn with a little horn sticking up between his eyes.  But then again, I get why you would call a colorful fish a parrot fish but calling a similar one a slippery dick...  Not sure who decided on that one.  I guess that's much worse then file fish...
(we have a video to share with you here but there's a problem with the website. We'll try again tomorrow)
Dinner was delicious as usual and the wine was a-flowing and the rum was as well.  
We went to say goodbye to our favorite bar tender from Bora la Mar who let us sit in his staff area to watch the Super Bowl with him - there're not many tv's on the island; then walked around for our last night in the downtown square where some kind of amateur show was bringing the place to life.  After a last attempt to drown our sorrows in a glass of sambuca, we went back to our room for our last Z's in paradise.
Saturday was our last day in Los Roques.  Half a day at Franciski to personally say farewell to our thousands of fish friends and up in the Venezuelan sky we went direction Caracas where a driver was waiting for us to take us to our hotel for the night.  I'd love to say we explored the city but Caracas is not the safest place to hang out at night so we stayed at the hotel for our anniversary dinner.  :)
Now on our way back to Boston through Houston, nostalgia has settled in,  tans are already fading, no more sand is left in our bum cracks (David is singing the sandy bum-crack song to me as I write those lines).  Now time to look at possibilities for next year.  African safari? Over the water hut in Bora-Bora? Or does anyone have a better destination to recommend?  :)

Posted by Rattrays 17:49

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