Thursday, January 13, 2011
Isla Margarita, Pearl Islands
The largest of the 3 Pearl Islands, Isla Margarita is about a 4 hour ferry ride from the mainland. Christmas Eve: We woke up around 5:30am and Tom immediately went to inquire about tickets. Already there were perhaps 100 cars waiting to board. As the time passed and cars continued to arrive, I began to wonder if we would be able to leave. Eventually, about an hour later Tom came back. Sold out. Not only this ferry but solidly booked until the 28th. We sat and considered our options. There are supposed to be some great beaches further east in Venezuela and we could check those out until Tuesday or we could forget the whole island experience and head straight to Ciudad Bolivar and Angel Falls. We knew there was another ferry company and decided to try them before making a decision. Conferry. Not only could we get tickets but we got them for the 2pm ferry. But there was one at noon and as we were waiting, one of the guards signaled to us and said they may be able to fit us in. Even better. As we lined up, we were in awe of these gigantic barges that can take 400 to 600 cars. At the last minute we were waved aboard and parked at the stern with barely enough room for the huge ramp to close behind us. The voyage was comfortable for us but unfortunately Winston was crated in a separate area with about 8 other dogs that people were taking on vacation. Yet another difference in societies. In Central America, pets are rare. People may have a dog or cat that hangs out in the yard but it is not a pet. It scrounges for food and is never trained or made part of a family but in both Colombia and Venezuela, we have seen more pets and responsible pet owners. Winston was not happy until he saw our destination. Beautiful, turquoise green and blue waters, white sand beaches and room to run. Tom and I were quite happy also. We followed our map to Playa El Yaqui, the first of the beaches we wanted to check out. It is a beach, world famous for wind surfing and we were not disappointed. It was dazzling. Christmas Day, it was absolutely packed with people, on the beach, in the water and at the nearby plaza. Fireworks went on until close to 11pm and then all was quiet. December 26th, we drove further north to Playa El Agua bypassing the busy city of Porlamar. Isla Margarita is a duty free island and people come here to shop. There are reckoned to be more than 2000 duty free stores and many of them are located in Porlamar. I much preferred EL Agua to El Yague. For one there were only about a tenth of the people and you could actually walk on the beach without tripping over a chair, umbrella or someone’s feet. We were also able to park closer to the beach and restaurants. We had intended to also stay on the south side of the island which is a lot less developed but when driving around soon realized that the road had been washed out and we could not reach the beaches we wanted so we decided to try Playa Parguito just south of El Agua instead. Oh my! When we first arrive the beach appears to be another idyllic Caribbean paradise except, there is a group of several men and a woman arguing which culminated in them beating one of the men with sticks and forcing him into the ocean until finally he swam out to sea and then rounded some rocks and we presume somehow got back to shore. In the meantime, several police cars arrived and were beckoned up a nearby hill by onlookers. Next came an ambulance. A family walked by and we asked what was happening. Oh, there was an armed robbery and someone stole $600.00 and escaped via sea. By now there were boats in the water, looking for said suspect, I guess. We park with some trepidation and consider if we should really stay the night, but it is beautiful. Around 7pm, just as we were settling in and clearing the dinner dishes, we are suddenly surrounded by three police cars and there is a knock on the door. We open it and Tom steps out. Several officers are waiting. It is not safe here, they tell us. There are armed robberies and shootings most nights, very dangerous and we need to move. We concur. Playa EL Agua is the closest and that’s where we’ll go and spend our remaining time. Here we can play in the waves and relax. On December 29th, our ferry back to the mainland is scheduled to depart at 11pm. I think about our time here. The island is truly beautiful and although throngs of Venezuelans visit, it is not well travelled by foreigners. Yet it is as idyllic as Aruba, Trinidad, Tobago and Curacao, all of which lie not too far from the coast of Venezuela and are well known for Caribbean travel. Lucky us for being the few foreigners who came here. I also look at the jewelry I have purchased. A necklace, bracelet and earrings in gorgeous, pink colored natural pearls and at a fabulous duty free price. Yes, this is one island I would visit again.