Erica: Catatumbo

June 30, 2009

This trip was lots of fun, and different than the others because it was just me and two other americans who planned it last-minute.  It was totally worth it, though.

DSCI0167.JPGThis is a picture of the “Ranger’s Station” in our area of Lake Maracaibo.  For those not familiar with Venezuelan geography, this lake is actually the huge bay in northern Venezuela, but they all call it a lake because the inlet is small in comparison with how big the area of water is, and the species here (at least where we were, on the south-west edge of it) are fresh-water.

DSCI0161.JPGSunset from our boat.

DSCI0145.JPGThis is where we slept (yay for the return of the hammocks!) Luckily there was a breeze for most of the night so we didn’t get bitten too badly by the mosquitoes. My hammock was the one closest to the corner, and when it got dark I could see the stars from where I was laying down. It was really clear at night and was excellent stargazing conditions once the quarter moon retired. It was amazing, this picture is facing north, and that’s where the lightning phenomenon started and stayed for about two hours, then it moved to the southwest. So we had this awesome lights show in the distance (I decided it was a pretty good substitute for missing the 4th of July celebrations) and a clear sky above us.

At its peak, we would see flashes every two or three seconds. Most of it was cloud-to-cloud, but some of it was striking down too. It was too far away to hear the thunder, but that made it all the more mysterious and special. Most of the night I sat with my two other american girl friends talking about our Venezuelan experience. There were only five of us tourists there (two Germans were with us), with two guides and the boat driver.  I think I prefer smaller groups like this, you can get to know people better and generally have a more intimate experience.DSCI0141.JPG

This is the view from the water, our “cabin” was on stilts in the water like the Ranger Station.  It was fun and really interesting to be there totally surrounded by water, we weren’t even close to the shore.

DSCI0185.JPGHere are some birds we saw on what was formerly a cabin like the one we stayed in. Our guide explained that wealthier individuals (many of them living in European countries) build these cabins and then never use them. So, as local fishermen notice that no one ever comes around, they begin to take building materials from the house to use for their own houses or building projects. Eventually, all that is left are the stakes that are cemented into the lake bottom. At least it’s being recycled.

DSCI0194.JPGThere was a lot of poverty in the areas we drove by for this trip, more-so than I have seen yet. We passed by houses that were no bigger than some regional park bathroom buildings, mostly (sometimes entirely) made up of the roofing material you see here. The people I saw in these areas were usually just sort of sitting there. In a few neighborhoods they were burning trash and you’d see these areas with broken glass and miscellaneous garbage everywhere, and kids would be walking in these areas with no shoes on. It was really sad and eye-opening to see that first-hand.

DSCI0190.JPGThis was a back-of-the-truck farmer’s market we drove past on our way back to Merida.

DSCI0216.JPGThis was one of the memorials we passed on the road.  Catholic Venezuelans put these up to commemorate family members or friends who have died in auto accidents, in the places where it happened (like the crosses we sometimes see in the states). It was a more than a little nerve-wracking and creepy to see such a high concentration of them on the roads. 99% of them are little churches, with varying complexity and elaboration.

DSCI0218.JPGThis is a lake we stopped at for a little bit. Some kind of mineral is present which makes it this shade of brown-green, and it was salty.  Our guide told us there are only two like this in the world.  The other one is in Holland.

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