After Christmas, we flew back to Curacao via Amsterdam where Henk and Angela, Dutch friends we met whilst sailing, gave us an incredible four days of sightseeing, with food and drink being offered at every opportunity! We visited Amsterdam where we took a canal trip which really gave us a good insight into this beautiful city. Some of the canals were frozen and snow and ice were on the ground so it was incredibly cold but we had a great time. They also took us to two very old villages on the Eislemere where we enjoyed coffee and cake on Angela's birthday. We saw a huge barge which an eccentric man has turned into a floating castle, clad to give the impression of stone walling, and with turrets etc. He keeps a horse (yes a real one!) on the upper deck and walks around all the time dressed in full regalia of a knight. We saw him mount his horse and ride around the deck for a few minutes - it was one of those "I can't really believe I'm seeing this" moments, quite surreal, this knight in shining armour riding a horse on the upper deck of a "castle ship" and all around was snow and ice.
We arrived back in sunny Curacao on 12th January and settled down to wait for a weather window to open for our passage to Jamaica. Unfortunately, Fi had a problem with pulled muscles which prevented us leaving straight away and then the weather turned bad just after we'd checked out of customs and immigration (which is a very convoluted procedure here) so we had to go and check back in!
When out walking one day we saw a Greenpeace ship moored alongside and later met three of her crew when they came into a beach bar. We all got talking and they invited us onboard the next evening to have a tour of the ship and stay for a drink and evening meal. It had been intended for them to do some crew training but they had been given orders to leave a day or two later to take some aid to Haiti so we hope that all went according to plan. They are all great people, from all walks of life and lots of different nationalities, but all with a common goal.
We also got to know Maribella, a lovely lady who ran the small snack hut at the fisherman's wharf where we used to leave our dingy. She makes the best rotis we've ever had in the Caribbean! Whilst her partner was over from Holland they took us out with them, and her little boy Justin, to another bay with a beach bar one evening. It was great to be out with them and also to get the opportunity to go somewhere else on the island, as public transport on Curacao is almost non existent so there aren't many ways to explore.
Dave was inspecting the bilges one morning and discovered a leak. I won't go into technical detail but it meant we had to have the boat lifted out for the repair to be undertaken . Luckily, Curacao Marine could haul us and they had engineers on site who fixed the problem so we were back in the water in a couple of days but of course this delayed our departure even further.
However, on Thursday, 4th February we finally slipped our lines and sailed out of Willemstad Harbour through the swing bridge and into the Caribbean for the 600nm passage to Port Antonio, Jamaica.
In the early hours of 25th October we set sail, again in tandem with Chrisandaver Dream (CD) for the half-day sail to Tortuga. A pink sunrise and a steady wind gave us an enjoyable sail and we dropped anchor at midday in a quiet, fairly large bay with only a few fishing huts at one end and 2 other boats at anchor. We didn't go ashore and after a rolly night decided to move to another anchorage where we spent two relaxing days in calmer waters, crystal clear and turquoise, behind a reef. There were not a lot of fish to be seen when we snorkelled but Dave did spot a couple of barracuda about 4ft long.
An overnight sail to Los Roques was planned to get us there early the next morning but we ended up sailing too fast (very rare!) and had to reduce speed so as not to get there too early. Lots of dolphins joined us during this trip and for once we managed to get some fairly decent video of them (I usually manage to follow just behind them with the camera!) and an unfortunate flying fish expired on deck before we'd noticed its demise (all say ahh...). Dave managed to catch a skipjack which was promptly made into his new speciality of "fish dippy-dip".
The main island, Gran Roque, is the only one that has any height and is inhabited. We loved the streets - all sand and no cars and lined with Posadas with their doorways tantalisingly open so you could see into the charming courtyards and through to the accommodation with colourful and tasteful furnishings. I would have loved a few nights ashore in one of these inviting guest houses but couldn't find an excuse! We visited an internet bar run by a very friendly Venezuelan, who could easily be mistaken for American by his looks and accent, and caught up on emails whilst enjoying a beer.
The next morning we bought some provisions, including a HUGE avocado (the best we've ever had) and headed out to another anchorage. We followed the pilot guide but found the depth of water decreasing more rapidly than expected so with Dave up the mast we "eyeballed" our way in through the reefs, dropping anchor in a beautiful spot where the water was like gin. We realised that the reason we were alone was probably because navigating into the anchorage is a fairly "hairy" experience but once there we settled to a couple of days in this beautiful spot. We were yards away from an island which we also had all to ourselves and Fi went to explore but came back empty-handed having found little in the way of treasure. A little later we went snorkelling and saw hundreds of beautiful fish. We picnicked on Fi's freshly baked bread, cheese, fruit and a glass of wine and Dave enjoyed some of his fish dip. On the second morning we snorkelled again and were surprised to find that there were not so many fish - until, that is, we came face to face with a 5ft-long barracuda hovering about a foot beneath the surface. Although there's nothing to be concerned about they do look menacing and, let's face it, they're quicker than us so I have to admit my heart was beating a bit faster than normal!
Back at Gran Roque we met up with CD and spent a morning snorkelling on a rock about half a mile from the anchorage. Again we saw lots of fish - amberjacks, parrot fish, angel fish, barracuda, as well as turtles.
We sailed with CD to another beautiful anchorage where yet again we had an amazing snorkel- huge parrot fish, turtle, blue tangs, cornet fish, angel fish, an octopus...... We were all in CD's dinghy and headed back to our boats when Dave said to CD Dave that he'd drop over the side and take a look at another possible snorkelling site. Unfortunately lack of communication and/or a little misunderstanding resulted in Dave dropping into the water whilst the outboard was still running and yes, it did strike something and yes, it was Dave's forehead! Luckily (and that's an understatement...) it was only a small cut about an inch long just above his eye. After all that it wasn't a good snorkelling spot anyway!
Later that day some local fishermen passed by and we traded 3 cans of beer and a bulb of garlic for 2 fish whilst Chris and Dave swapped a bottle of coke and a pack of cigarettes for 2 lobsters - Bargain! Unfortunately, the fishermen couldn't start their engine on leaving us and eventually had to be towed in by some others but it did provide a bit of entertainment. We sat on the foredeck and watched hundreds of fish jumping and watched the sundown but, as everyone knows, nothing is perfect, and soon the mosquitoes arrived with a vengeance so it was nets over hatches and down below for the night.
ISLES AVES (islands of birds)
We sailed on the short distance to these islands and Dave caught his first ever barracuda which was pretty big and flapped around in the cockpit gnashing its teeth before Dave put it out of its misery. It later got shared with CD and made into a kedgeree and yet another dip!
Isles Aves is home to a large colony of boobies nesting in the mangroves surrounding a lagoon or two through which we could pass by dinghy and see the big fluffy white chicks (one per nest) up close. There are also pelicans, frigate birds and some smaller birds we couldn't identify but the overwhelming amount of boobies and the funny noises they make were fascinating.
We spent a couple of nights at another anchorage between two islands with white sandy beaches (we were getting to take these for granted by now!) and where, again, the snorkelling was excellent, The shores were covered in stacks of conch shells giving a clue to the catch of the local fishermen. There was one fishing hut on one of the islands and this was visited by a larger boat that had probably come in to transfer the catch to the mainland.
The sail to Bonaire was fantastic, goose-winged with poled-out jib all the way until we took it down in order to sheet in and head north up the west side of the island to the moorings. A cracking sail with speeds of about 7½ knots. Anchoring is prohibited in Bonaire due to the abundance of marine life which they are at pains to preserve, making it one of the best dive spots in the Caribbean. We could dive or snorkel directly from the boats which were moored no more than 50 yards from shore.
Bonaire is one of the Dutch Antilles and hence has a very Dutch / European feel to it. Almost all locals speak perfect English and were friendly and helpful, including the Customs and Immigration officers. The main export is sea salt and you can see mountains of salt of varying colours at the south end of the island. Pink flamingos are resident although we didn't see any as we opted not to tour the island . Evenings were spent at Carels bar which is situated over the water and we also celebrated Dave's birthday in Bonaire - unfortunately choosing the worst restaurant on the island for his birthday meal but never mind, it was a lovely place to spend a birthday.....
CURACAO - UK - CURACAO
After a week in Bonaire we said a temporary goodbye to CD and sailed to Curacao as we wanted to ensure a safe berth to leave True Colours on when we flew back to the UK for Christmas. The sail was fairly non-eventful and after navigating the narrow and well hidden entrance channel we arrived in the anchorage of Spanish Waters mid-afternoon. The anchorage was a real disappointment it has to be said, after weeks of crystal clear water we were surrounded by murky stuff, due to silt not dirt though so no problem swimming.
We got to know Taff, Shirley and Colin aboard The Road (Royal Order of Ancient Druids) who were great fun, very friendly and helpful, and had a grey parrot, Rubbish, as the fourth member of crew. He kept us all amused, especially if one of us was on deck and heard someone whistling to draw our attention, only to find it was Rubbish up to his tricks!
We had a spur of the moment visit by Lisa, Dave's sister, who joined us for the two weeks prior to flying home on the same flight which worked out well. We sailed up the west coast of the island for a few days during that time and found a couple of beautiful anchorages where we could snorkel, as well as a bar/restaurant. Lisa became hooked on Pina Coladas and was drinking one whilst we watched the sundown and we all saw the "green flash" - our 3rd and Lisa's 1st. It's basically a phenomenon that occurs just as the last hint of the sun sinks below the horizon. Actually it isn't a "flash" at all so much as a thin green line on the horizon that only lasts about a split second. For some reason, two people can be sitting side by side but only one may see it so it's all a bit strange really!
Dave and Lisa went on a diver together and we all went snorkelling a couple of times on a wreck of a tugboat just off the beach in another spot. During one of these snorkels Lisa touched a few fish which nibbled at her fingers for food and one of them actually bit her and drew blood, much to big bro's amusement!
The two weeks Lisa was with us went very quickly and it was soon time to take the boat alongside and leave her there whilst the three of us flew home for Christmas. Chris and Dave came over for a last drink with us as it was time to go our separate ways. We all wonder if we'll ever meet up again and where - we hope so.....
Dave caught two fish on the way to Margarita (he threw one back - didn't want to be greedy) and I have to say our hearts sank when we saw all the high-rise blocks on approach. We haven't a lot to say about our visit apart from that we were not at all impressed with the place, didn't find too many bargains as we thought we might (a sign of the times?) and were happy to leave after two weeks and head for the small island of Cubagua.
The small island of Cubagua
We were we the only two boats (with Chrisandaver Dream) at anchor off this bay although Whiskers did join us just for the first night. We went ashore in the morning and said hello to a lady and her children who belonged to one of only three fishing families remaining there. After walking over the salt flats to another beach and finding two seabeans (one for each Dave) and a sea coconut, Dave spotted the skeleton of a 3-toed sloth on the beach and decided one of it's claws would be a great lucky charm for me (??) - see photos. We wandered back and chatted to the lady who we later found out was XoXirys (pronounced Iris). She was very friendly and pointed out that her little boy had stung himself in the sea and asked if we had any antibiotic cream. Fortunately, Chris had some onboard that she could spare so we went back to the boats and returned ashore later with the cream plus various other small gifts in the form of first aid stuff and food, and of course sweets for the children. We sat with them and had a drink and talked with the aid of a lot of sign language. They had small pigs and numerous cats and dogs running around, not all of which looked very healthy it has to be said. The father of the family came back from spear fishing with 3 octopus which we guessed they would have for tea that night (maybe with the rice or pasta we'd brought?). Dave and Chris bought a beautiful conch from them and it was just a lovely experience, sitting on the beach in front of their very basic home (an open tin/wood hut) and enjoying the evening with a lovely family. As we have found from time to time, and again with this family, they appeared to have next to nothing but seemed to be happy enough with their life so it makes you wonder.....
To the mainland and Cumana and the Gulfo de Cariaco
We left there for Cumana which is a marina just before the entrance to the Gulfo de Cariaco on the mainland. We went there mainly to check in but that didn't appear to be necessary (well, nor formally anyway) and found the marina staff there very friendly. We spent two nights there before moving the 12nm to Laguna Grande in the Gulfo and were completely overwhelmed by the beauty and tranquillity of this beautiful place. The photos will not do it justice but will give some idea of the amazing colours of the hills surrounding the various anchorages. We had three peaceful days there in three different anchorages. Goats roam the shores and a few fishermen work their nets in and outside the harbour in their small boats. A local lad from the small fishing community there came out in his rowing boat and asked if we had any snorkelling gear he could have (we learnt later that he asks all boats and then sells it on to the locals). Luckily for him CD had a couple of snorkels with small cracks in them that they gave him and he also sold them some fish. All we could offer him was a can of 7Up but he seemed happy enough. On the second evening we had a bbq on the beach which went very well until the drinks ran out and we decided it was so lovely we should stay a while longer. The two Daves went back to the boats and brought further supplies. After a while longer, one Dave fell in a cactus and the other was laughing so much he fell and cut his face - MEN!
We headed on up the Gulf for Medregal Village where we wanted to haul True Colours and have the antifoul done. We found the owner, Jean-Marc, and his team very friendly and helpful and an excellent job was done for about quarter of the price in the UK. Whilst the work was carried out we spent our days lounging by the pool, doing some washing and using the wifi connection (mostly unsuccessfully). Dave kept Fi happy by getting the odd newly-fallen coconut and smashing it open for her to nibble as she sat by the pool. We also met Sven, a Swedish guy who now has a house a few plots up the beach and holds a pizza night on Thursdays which we enjoyed twice - he has a pizza oven in his garden and does an excellent and tasty variety of pizza to order. The atmosphere is great with everyone sitting together.
After re-launch, the two boats, together with Bo, a guy from Georgia on a yacht called Free Spirit, sailed to the top of the Gulf. That evening, we took the three dinghies for a trip up a river that joins the Gulf where, apart from the usual pelicans, frigate birds, kingfishers, skimmers, etc we saw giant egrets, parrots, and beautiful scarlet ibis. Hawk-eye Dave noticed one lost a feather when flying overhead and it landed about 100yds off so we went and grabbed it from the surface of the water. It is so red it looks artificial (see photo). When dusk was falling we drifted back down the river and the fish-eating bats started flying about around our heads. We just managed to catch a photo of one, more by luck than judgement, and if you look carefully at the photos you might just be able to make it out! It was a great experience - another to add to the memory bank...
The next day the five of us caught a local bus called a por-puesto which is like a truck with seats down each side and a roof and side panels and after an hour changed to another in a small village for another hour's ride to get to the Guácharo Caves. These caves house the only birds in the world of this species (Guacharo Birds) of which there are apparently about 27,000. The birds live in the caves and only come out at night to feed. They make the weirdest noise - a bit like a lot of Donald Ducks all speaking at once. Our guide took us over a mile into the cave where there were fantastic examples of stalagmites and stalactites and quartz in the rock. We had to go through a couple of narrow passages which was not the best experience for Fi who suffers with claustrophobia (guess it must be getting better!) but it was all worth it for the experience. A man in the same party kindly translated some of the guide's information for us and, when we saw him later, we went and thanked him. His name is Tommy and he was there with his wife, daughter, mother and mother-in-law. He offered to give us a lift to catch the bus back home which turned into a marathon event for him as we were unsure where we needed to go. However, apart from being extremely patient and taking us all over the place to make sure we got to the right place, he stopped on the way and bought us all strawberries and cream. He refused our offer to buy them for the family, saying that he wished to be friendly to visitors to his country as he has found people friendly to him when he is abroad. What a lovely man with a lovely family. At one point, Fi was wearing Bo's cap in the back of the truck when it blew off so Dave, thinking Tommy had stopped the truck, jumped out to retrieve it, only to find that the truck was still moving - oops! Then it started pouring with rain and the four of us in the back got soaked but it was all good fun.
The driver of the por-puesto that took us the rest of the way back seemed to have a death wish by the way he was driving but luckily we all got back in one piece, in time to sit in the cockpit with a glass of vino blanco and watch another beautiful sundown, with pelicans diving all around for their supper.
We called in at Medregal for one night on the way back down the Gulfo, where we caught up with Where II, an Australian couple who were hoping to get hauled there and said hello to Bo as well as Dinah and Jim from Canada on Evergreen, and Debbie and Wayne from South Africa on Sunshine, all people we'd got to know when we were hauled.
The next day we started out early for Laguna Chica, just west of Laguna Grande, where we spent a couple of nights. The two Daves went ashore the first day to investigate the bar/restaurant we had been led to believe was there but wasn't. The following day Dave and I went for a walk ashore and met the road we had walked up when in Laguna Grande.
Bahia Redonda Marina, Puerto la Cruz
We headed off for Puerto la Cruz and despite a great start when we were actually sailing along well, we ended up motoring most of the way. We had many dolphins swimming with us for long periods which made the trip more enjoyable.
On arrival at Bahia Redonda Marina in PLC, we were helped into our berths by the friendly staff and settled down to a couple of weeks alongside in order to get a few jobs done and book a tour or two.
It takes a long time just to get one job done by the locals here so we spent a lot of time sitting by the pool reading and watching the resident iguanas eating and sunning in-between times. We decided not to get a cockpit enclosure made as it was too costly so just settled for a new oarlock holder for our dinghy which only cost us £20 so that was a result. Dave and Dave spent a morning fixing our compass light which was a godsend - thanks CD Dave for saving us so much money!
Los Llanos, crocodiles, and anacondas....
The four of us arranged a tour with Matthias, a German guy who has lived in Venezuela for years, and booked with him to leave on the following Sunday for a four-day trip to Los Llanos, the flatlands about 12hours' drive away. We chose this trip as it sounded less commercialised than the popular Angel Falls trip, we would see more wildlife, and it would only be the four of us going.
Matt picked us up at 5.30am outside the marina and we headed off in his Landcruiser, stopping for refreshments along the way and sampling traditional Venezuelan dishes at lunchtime in a restaurant he knows, where they cook the meat above a log-burning fire pit and serve flat corn pancakes, local cheese, yuka and salad.
We neared our destination and Matt started pointing out the crocodiles and some cacubaras (water pigs) as well as numerous birds, before we'd even arrived at the smallholding where we were staying, which now also caters for tourism on a small scale. A hearty meal was ready for us shortly after we'd taken our bags into the round, thatched building that was to be our sleeping quarters where, apart from a couple of small beds, there were half a dozen hammocks slung from the central supporting pole. The breeze ran through all the way around the building via mosquito-proof wire openings and the floor was concrete so as cool as we could hope for. That night we discovered the wildlife that inhabit the shower/toilet block each evening - cockroaches, spiders, moths, mosquitos, millipedes (these can give a nasty nip) and best of all, toads in varying sizes from the size of a 50p piece to the size of a large man's hand.
The night was spent getting adjusted to sleeping in a hammock and we all persevered for the three nights apart from CD Dave, who suffers a bad back and could not get comfy.
The next morning Dave and I got up early and went for a walk up the track (it stretched for miles in both directions) to watch the sun rise and the birds taking flight. The black ibis that we'd seen coming into roost as we arrived the evening before all took flight as well as numerous other birds and we also caught a glimpse of a wild cat crossing the path in front of us.
We returned in time for breakfast and then headed out on a pony trek across the fields belonging to our host family with the father and son riding with us. After stopping in a small wood and sampling the oranges growing there, we rode on and were a little surprised when the two guys starting riding off without us and, apparently, ignoring us completely. Hmm, a bit unfriendly we thought, what's going on, don't they like us? Anyway, turns out they went off to track down an anteater for us to see. Well, when they drove this animal towards us I couldn't believe how big it was (see photos). I thought they were about a foot high and maybe two feet long but this was more like 4ft high and about 5ft long. It was huge! That made the trip worthwhile if we didn't see or do anything else......
Dave then spotted some owls on the ground and said he believed they were the type that live in burrows in the ground. Pa confirmed this and showed us the burrows. We saw a couple of pairs afterwards. That made the trip worthwhile if we didn't see or do anything else......
We then had great fun, much to our delight, helping round up the cattle with them which Dave got stuck into (memories of Canada Blizzy...) and a thoroughly good time was had by all.
After heading back and having lunch (all meals, incidentally, were plentiful and tasty) Matt drove us, with Pa and sons on the roof, to a part of the river where everyone had a go at piranha fishing (apart from Fi). It's a case of flicking the line in quickly as soon as they take a bite of the bait or you lose them from the line so speed and dexterity are needed. Chris and the two Dave's all caught fish so that was a great success and made the trip worthwhile if we didn't see or do anything else. The piranhas were later bbq'd over a fire back at camp and sampled - the consensus was okay but bony.
The second morning we headed off after an early breakfast to the part of the river where our hosts keep their river boat which is a long, narrow canoe (about 20ft) with an outboard on the back. We were taken up river and after a short time Chris spotted a howler monkey in a tree. This was a bonus as Matt had said that it wasn't likely we'd see one. This made the trip worthwhile if we didn't see or do anything else...... We went on further and Pa started to turn the boat in a circle so we thought we were heading back but in fact, what he was doing, was circling time and again to attract a very rare species of turtle to the top. Eventually, when we'd almost given up after about 10 minutes, Matt spotted one of these turtles and the young son on the bow dived in the muddy water and came up with the turtle in his hands. It was the most weird looking creature ever and amazing to see. We all said this made the trip worthwhile if we didn't see or do anything else......
We continued yet further up the river and saw myriads of birdlife - parrots, parakeets (bright blue, red, green, yellow), a very ancient bird that lives up there and reminds us for some reason of a phoenix, ospreys, macaws, cormorants, kingfishers, heron, egrets, stalks etc etc. as well as crocodiles on the banks (no-one fancied a dip...) After a while the son, who was now on the helm, started circling again and we thought we were heading back (by now we'd been going for about an hour) but he was just circling to bring the fresh water dolphins to the surface. They are amazing - funny heads and faces and pink and grey in colour, not like seawater dolphins at all. CD Dave had caught a glimpse of one just before we'd started out and we weren't optimistic we'd see any so we all agreed it made the trip worthwhile if we didn't see or do anything else......
We stopped by a bank further up the river and got off to stretch our legs on the land which was occupied by Pa's sister. On the way to say hello to her he pointed up into a tree to a bird which, for some moments, Dave and I couldn't even see. This nocturnal bird was so well camouflaged as an extension of the branch that it blended in completely. It is impossible to describe this bird as it was so amazing to look at (we've yet to find it on the internet) but was incredible and must be the best camouflage I've ever seen on any animal. We were all amazed by it and agreed that it made the trip worthwhile if we didn't see or do anything else......
We slowly headed back down the waterways, ducking branches in the narrow channels and speeding along in the wider waterways. It was a really fun trip and we saw ten times more wildlife than we'd hoped.
After lunch we headed out with Pa and two sons - Will and Aman - to watch them track and capture an anaconda. Earlier that day they had found one, about 1-2 metre, in the grounds and we'd duly had our photo taken with it around our necks, apart from Chris who has a strong phobia against snakes. Anyway, Dave found himself armed with a long stick and wading through the edge of the river and on the bank with the other three. Now, bear in mind that Dave had deck shoes on and that these locals normally go about their everyday life in bare feet, but they had donned wellies for this purpose. After what seemed a long time but was probably only an hour or so and about 1-2 miles there was a commotion behind some bushes screening us on the road from the view of the riverbank. A few minutes later, the four of them came up into the field carrying an anaconda - 4-5 metres long! Will was at the head (holding on tight!), Aman next, Dave was carrying the heaviest part of the body and Pa was at the tail. Apparently, when Will had dived for its head it immediately flared and curled up its body to try and wrap itself around him so all three had to act quickly to control it before it got a hold. The snake was writhing around trying to get free (obviously) but not being caused any pain. It was very difficult to hold onto it so photos were taken quickly before letting it go back into the river. Dave was pumped up with the excitement of catching it and said it was an experience he'll never forget - it made the trip worthwhile if he didn't see or do anything else......
Matt took us for a slow drive along the river for a last look at wildlife and birds and some more photo opportunities before heading back for our last night in the hammocks.
We headed off early the next morning for the 12-hour drive back to PLC, got stopped twice by the police and held up for half an hour getting petrol in the garage so were back at about 7pm.
We planned to leave the week after Carnival with Chris and Dave and perhaps a couple of other boats headed our way but unfortunately one or other of us all got glitches and last minute hitches, worst being that Chris slipped on a wet pontoon step and ended up with a gashed and broken toe.
Our goodbyes having already been said to people, we were not unhappy to be in this, our favourite place, a little longer. During that time we spent quite a few evenings with CD and Colin and Ricky at Clarks Court Bay and also had a couple of trips around to the next bay of the Phare Bleu marina (in Colin's dinghy as our outboard probably wouldn't have made it! - thank you Col!). The two Daves also went with Colin one day to bring a large yacht from St George's to Woburn and you'll see a couple of photos in the gallery of Dave Dog up the mast.
The tears welled up in Fi's eyes when we said our final goodbyes at the dive shop where we had always been made welcome, especially by Pano, Andrew and Sheldon. We told Pano he is always welcome to visit us and I hope one day he will although I think we'll have to stock up on woollies to lend him! We've got his email so hope he will stay in touch and let us know how they all are getting on.
After a week in plaster (and insisting to the doc that they didn't put another hard plaster put on!) CD and TC left on the Thursday evening for an overnight sail down to Los Testigos. Apart from an assortment of completely unidentifiable vessels (don't think they've heard of port and starboard lights down here, never mind anything else...) we managed to keep well together and had a very pleasant trip, arriving at Los T at about 9am.
We were greeted on the top of the hill of Isla Iguana Grande, where Customs is , by a very friendly young man who made us most welcome. He offered us water or coffee, said we could stay as long as we wished and reminded us that they were on CH16 if we needed help at any time. This was contrary to all we'd heard and we immediately took to the place.
We anchored off the opposite island on the advice of the Customs guy and early in the afternoon were awoken by the friendly voices of Diana and Gerald (Whiskers) who we had last seen in Grenada and who had just arrived from Trinidad. Chris and Dave kindly hosted a sundowner for us all that evening making a lovely end to a beautiful day.
The next morning a fishing boat came along, not to sell us fish as we thought he might but to tell us of his restaurant just on the small hill along from us overlooking the beach. That night saw us dining with CD on the terrace of this lovely couple's home, overlooking the beautiful islands and watching a fantastic sunset (no green flash though Blizzy!). Wow! What a place!
Dave and I did a bit of snorkelling which was great, a couple of small turtles, parrot fish, angel fish, soldier fish and a whole host of others we don't even know the names of. We also walked up and over the sand dunes to the windward beach which was an amazing stretch of deserted, scorching hot white sand beach with nothing and nobody on it save a couple of seabeans and the usual few token plastic bottles (you find them everywhere now unfortunately....)
The islands have only 162 inhabitants who live by fishing alone. They do have a school and a church and all seem happy with life even though we can't help immediately thinking "what do they do?!" as we're not accustomed to such a lifestyle.
Hernan, the gentleman who runs the restaurant with his wife, asked if the two Daves would like to go out fishing at 5 the next day. Well, to cut a long story short we thought he meant 5am but he meant 5pm so the two guys were up with the crack of, only to be waiting in vain. Anyway, after Dave snorkelled over and walked up to the bar later on that day all became clear. Hernan's friend was visiting with his family from Porlamar, Margarita (where we're headed next) and told Dave he would take the two Dave's out fishing later that afternoon on his fishing boat. So, as I write this, off they've gone on this "proper job" of a charter fishing boat with Hernan, Alexander and family members for a bit of fishing around the islands! Unfortunately Gerald and Diana asked us over for a sundowner but the boys probably won't be back early enough, all things being based on Caribbean time.
Well, the lads got back after a fantastic couple of hours fishing, when CD Dave caught the biggest barracuda and TC Dave caught a 15lb(ish) yellow fin tuna too. A Couple more barracudas and an amberjack were also caught. It was the sort of fishing expedition that people pay a lot of money for so they were very lucky to be invited and had a whale of a time (if you'll excuse the pun...). Alexandro gave us his mobile no. and we hope to see him when we get to Porlamar, where he lives. Also, Hernan and his wife Ciria are visiting there in a couple of days so it would be good to see them again. All such friendly people, from the fishermen to the coastguards, what a wonderful, wonderful place....
Carnival arrived a few weeks earlier than expected with Sunday night's in Woburn becoming one big thumping beat throughout the night until the wee small hours. We sampled one of these evenings but gave in early, before the real party began, and awaited Carnival "proper" to happen.
We ended up saying we'd go to J'ouvert / Jouvet / Jab Jab (all versions of the same thing...) which basically entails going out in the middle of the night into the Capital of St George's to get covered in paint and mud and oil and anything else people care to throw at you whilst drinking copious amounts of alcohol and walking behind, or sitting on, trucks playing loud music and dancing in the streets. We're a bit hazy on the whole concept but believe the tradition stems from the slaves hatred for the "Jab Jab" or devil (aka white slavers). In the case of the locals, the dancing involved a lot of gyrating that only they can do (don't care what you say, white people cannot dance, despite the fact we all think we can when we've had a few!).
Anyway, Dave and I got up at 2am (yes, I did say 2AM) and went ashore at Woburn where we met up with Andrew, Sheldon and a few others and after a few drinks headed around to St G in Andrew's wizz boat. Luckily it was approaching dawn so we could vaguely tell land from sea! A good time was had by all in town and we got into the spirit of Jab Jab and were eventually covered in just about everything! By late morning we were all shattered and Andrew, with what seemed like double the passengers he had at the beginning, headed back for home. It started raining on the way back and visibility dropped drastically so he headed into Grand Anse beach where we all jumped in the water to try and get some paint off ourselves. I cleverly jumped in with camera in pocket (result - no more camera) but it was lovely and warm in the sea and refreshing too. We spend ages in the water just relaxing and having fun. Eventually we headed back home via Hog Island with just a couple of scrapes of the reef (oops!) where we were surprised to see Roger was behind his bar - surely it couldn't be that late! - but it was..... 1pm. Dave and I went to bed and sort of lost the rest of that day.
A few days later we headed into town on a bus organised by Clarks Court Bay marina to watch the carnival procession but unfortunately it was postponed due to torrential downpours. Still, there was a bonus as Tracy and Neil turned up and we had a good few drinks in the Yacht Club together with Chris and Dave, Ricky and Colin (Solar Quest) etc etc. We went back in to watch the procession on the following Saturday and saw some fantastic costumes, a lot more gyrating and louder-than-ever music. There are a few songs each year which are picked for carnival and you hear them over and over and over again whilst Carnival is on, so much so that you go to bed with them in your head and when you wake up the same music is still there - agghhh!
The next day was cool-down Sunday with more loud music blaring at Woburn for the last time this year and then everything was back to normal and as if nothing had every happened.......well, apart from everywhere you went you could see loads of paint splattered all over the roads and pavements in town.
Well, after nearly getting detained at the airport for not knowing the name and location of "Daddy's yacht" (i.e. the address at which they were staying) Kye and Claire were finally released to us by Customs and Immigration and we all jumped in Spice's taxi with Chris and Dave who had returned on the same flight and headed to St David's.
We spent the first few days "chillaxing", with evenings at the Bel Air Plantation where Janus, Gylfi and Fred kept us entertained; we swam up the (Orinoco?) river (well, 2 rivers as it happened...), hunted for seabeans (Kye became almost as addicted to this as us!) and generally had a good time.
A short, fairly lumpy but easy sail brought us back down to Woburn where we based ourselves for the rest of their holiday. Kye and Claire went off on one of Cutty's island tours and were lucky enough to meet the Mona monkeys up in the rainforest on the trip.
We did quite a few other things though - went into St George's for the day; did Burger Night at Clarks Court Bay Marina; had a trip to a beach resort where there was bbq, music and snorkelling; celebrated Colin's (our new friends on Solar Quest, Colin/Ricky) birthday playing Wi bowling and pool; went out snorkelling on Pano's boat followed by a few hours on Hog Island; went to Fish Fryday at Guauve where we saw a 40-strong steel band; joined in the Woburn Sunday night carnival build-up celebrations, and on their last evening had dinner in the Little Dipper where we were joined by Chris and Dave.
So, all in all, a fairly busy schedule but Kye and Claire both managed to catch a few rays as well so that they could go home with a bit more colour than they had when they arrived.
Although they are the youngest visitors we've had, they must have been the most restrained drinkers onboard yet! The fortnight went extremely quickly and before we knew it they were off again. Dave has loved spending time with one of his Sons out here and they have both got great memories of this time spent together.