With mixed feelings, we have finally set sail from Grenada. We have loved our time back on this lush island, full of friendly people and wonderful scenery, but it is time to explore a different area of the Caribbean. First stop – Los Roques. These Venezuelan islands are en route to the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) where we are due to join the Suzie Too Rally in November. Our visit to Los Roques seemed a safe way to get a feel of Venezuela without scaring our family and friends too much, by visiting the mainland of a country that is currently viewed as a little 'risky.'
On our 3rd trouble free day at sea in company with our lovely friends Diane and Jeff, we spotted land (or rather some vary barren looking rocks) and felt a twinge of excitement as we approached this new country. As we sailed between islands towards the main island of Gran Roque, we were delighted to see how clear the water was with beautiful shades of blue and turquoise. The check in process for yachts involved visits to a few different offices, but everyone was very friendly and helpful. The coast guard found our Spanish quite amusing on occasions and helped by using an online translation tool. He also assured us that we would find Los Roques very safe and secure and we certainly felt this throughout our time in these islands.
The main town on Gran Roque is a collection of colourful homes, churches and other buildings (including bars, restaurants and a couple of shops) around sandy streets, which are full of locals chatting and children playing during evenings and weekends. Many, many of these homes have been turned into attractive bed and breakfast type accommodation (known as posadas) and there seemed to be no shortage of holiday makers flying in and out of the small airport each day. We chatted to some ladies from Caracas on a beach one day, who described how Los Roques was a paradise for them to visit compared to the tough life currently being experienced in Caracas. Let's hope that life in Venezuela improves soon for these lovely people.
We anchored off and explored a few different islands during our stay and felt that life for the locals must be quite tough; the islands are small and exposed, and seem to resist any attempts at local agriculture. Outside of the main island, the locals have to be very self sufficient and we assume rely on fishing for their livelihoods. There are some truly beautiful beaches and many of the tourists travel between these beaches and their posadas each day by local boat. Unfortunately some of our idyllic anchorages turned less friendly at night when some rather evil mosquitoes invited themselves aboard. Although we were safely tucked behind our mosquito net, it is amazing how these tiny insects can keep you awake as they fly up and down the net perimeter looking for a way in to feast on the juicy new tourists.
We saw very few other boats and it is a shame that more sailors don't visit these lovely islands. Our week in Los Roques provided a fascinating glimpse of Venezuelan life and it is amazing how different these islands and local people are from the Eastern Caribbean that we are used to. How wonderful to be able to wade across sand spits between islands, have a beautiful white sand beach all to ourselves, swim in turquoise waters surrounded by fish, turtles and sea birds and be spoilt by attentive waiting staff in a typical Venezuelan restaurant. We also rather love our Venezuelan passport stamps !