Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Los Testigos

The Los Testigos is a delightful group of island with about 160 inhabitants who live by fishing. Other than a church, a school, and a beach bar (tin roof stick structure with Regional beer pennants and loud music) there is nothing else. To get supplies, they jump in their pirogues and zoom over to the mainland some 40 miles away.

There is a Costaguardia post that allowed us to stay for 3 days before moving on and officially checking into the country. Angie’s primal Spanish and some smiles were sufficient to check in. The arid islands were quite beautiful and the people were very friendly.

Our best experience was the sand dunes of Playa Gozman. From the SE shore we climbed up a path-wide sand dune from the water’s edge up to the top. Along the way, there were thousands of white butterflies floating about like snow in the tropics! As we climbed the soft sand trail, we sunk to our ankles. Approaching the top, the trail starts to widen out with nothing but sand and a few clumps of bushes. Cresting the top to view the oceanside was stupendous. On this side, the dune opens up and descends onto a half mile beach. The windswept landscape of powder dunes, desiccated tree trunks, and the random clumps of green were beyond words. I vote this the most beautiful untouched beach in the world! We spent the day frolicking in the waves, walking the shore and playing on the sand dune.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Chacachacare the Leper Colony

Side-by-Side headed west to explore the Trini island of Chacachacare (Chaka-cha-carie) some 13 miles away. In 1924 a leper colony was established here by the Dominican nuns, and continued until 1984. The hospital, houses, men and women dormitories, paved road, and church were simply left behind. Today most of the structures are still standing though Mother Nature is slowly absorbing them back into the earth. Walking through the buildings one must be careful of rotted or unsupported floors, especially on the second story! For a while the Trini Navy used it as a base but mysterious pulled out, rumor has it they were spooked away. The only island resident is a lighthouse keeper who lives high atop the island tending the lighthouse and communications tower and the mossies (mosquitoes).

We hiked up to the top of the island to have a look and take in the spectacular view. We stayed a couple of nights and opted to move to Scotland Bay back on the main island. As dusk was approaching, green parrots were flying all about. In the lush mountains rising up all around us we could hear the bone chilling howler monkeys. They sound like a monster having its arms ripped off… slowly. Our plan was to depart to Venezuela with a group of boats for security reasons. As seems to be the case in making boat plans, the 6 became 2 us and Grace, the boy boat. Our first destination was to be a speck on the sea called Los Testigos.