Apr 062013
 

Taganga Big Boss

Taganga was lovely for 2 weeks of longing for rest. It's tough to be a long-time traveller, no walk in the park like everyone thinks. After 4 months of countless islands, and even more beaches in the Caribbean it was finally time for a little rest and relaxation.

Torunn looking for housing

Torunn looking for housing

First night we stayed deep in the fishing village in a converted private house. The next day we moved to a hotel that was located right across the beach and had a view over the whole village, a better place to spend our days of relaxation.
Taganga is a quiet little fishing village with a small promenade with various restaurants and a myriad of dive shops. Most of the village is just old houses along potholed dirt roads.

Taganga bay

Taganga bay

In recent years there has been an influx of backpackers invading the small town. It has resulted in a tourist industry with dozens of hostels and several clubs and bars, all thanks to Lonely Planet that have promoted it as a nice place for a beach party.
It is also promoted as one of the cheapest places for diving and for taking diving lessons; one of the reasons we went there. Torunn did the rescue diver course, while I just wanted to do a lot of dives as I am already a Divemaster.
It was 4 days with lots of diving and coursing, which was a lot of fun, but got little in the way of plans for relaxation.

Little boxfish

Little boxfish

The dive center was very good, they had their own little beach in the national park where we did all the dives. We had some lunch there in the surface intervals. It was nice to sit and watch Torunn struggle and manage to save different frantic people on the surface during the rescue diver course. The dives were not the best I've had, but still really good. Lots of different fish life and corals, but poor visibility.
The dive center had a huge macaw that was very social and had lots of little tricks up his sleeves . He stood on a shelf right above where all the divers walked past, and he entertained himself by turning upside down and bite people in the head. Sometimes they let him run around on the floor, and it was his greatest source of entertainment to bite my toes and chew on peoples sandals.
It is not a type of parrot that someone should have as a pet because they actually live wild in both Venezuela and Colombia, and they are almost extinct due to people that catch them and sell them as pets.

Stig with a new friend

Stig with a new friend

After diving we had 10 lazy days in the hammock overlooking Taganga. One day I was bored so I wanted to challenge myself; to swim across Taganga bay and back again. I'm not the best swimmer, but amazingly I survived the challenge. It was probably closer to 2 kms, and the whole time I was in danger of being run over by boats, get eaten by sharks, or killed by poisonous jellyfish.
The worst that happened was actually the day I had decided to swim across the bay for the second time. 1/3 across the bay, I felt my body being attacked by various slimy things. They attacked from all directions. I tried to swim faster, but those little bastards followed me. It was a bit freaky, so I swam back to the beach and got back on land, where I belong.
The creatures that had attacked me is a special type of nudibranchs that we saw many of in Taganga. They were different than anything I've seen before, but pretty cool. They are about 10 cm long and swim in the sea with the help of 2 huge wings so they look a bit like a ray-fish. It was the season for them when we were in Taganga, which was obvious when we saw that there were thousands of dead and half dead snails along the beach. Local kids rolled them into balls and threw them at each other. One time me and Torunn were reading on the beach when we were suddenly struck by a ball of slimy snails. These little bastards thought it was fun to throw living beings on us like a snowball. They would be given a beating if I had got hold of them!

Lizard swimming in the sea

Lizard swimming in the sea

One day when I was on the beach, I saw that there was a fire on the hill where our hotel was.

Torunn saving an iguana

Torunn saving an iguana

The fire was pretty big, and approached the hotel, so I went back to see if everything was okay. The people at the front desk were not very worried though there was smoke everywhere…so I thought that everything must be fine. I sat in a hammock to watch the fire, and after 5 minutes an antique fire truck turned up. The heroic local firemen started pumping water in the entire area. They were all covered in smoke, and no one was wearing a mask. That cant possibly be healthy.
Taganga was a nice place, and it was not nearly as many tourists as I had expected after reading about it. It is certainly nothing compared to Cartagena. After 4,5 months of island hopping this would be the last Caribbean beach out of many.

Karneval i Barranquilla Hell Boy

Since it was February and carneval times we could not miss the world's second largest carnival that was in a city called Barranquilla, only 3 hours from Taganga. We went there the first day of the carneval. There was no vacant hotels in town, so we had to leave our bags at the bus station while we went to see the carneval. Another option would be to take in at one of the many sleazy hourly hotels. They rent out the rooms usually with hourly rate to whore clients, but are often willing to rent out the room overnight to desperate tourists.

colourful parade

colourful parade

We thought that it is enough to only be there one day, experience some of the fun, and take the night bus further south in the evening.
The streets were full of dressed up dancing people and the party atmosphere was high. We unfortunately had not found any costumes because we decided to go there a bit last minute. We, however, was an attraction for the locals who stood in line to take a picture of us. A bunch of teenage girls thought it was fun to pose for the picture along with two real "gringos" with blue eyes(Stig) og blond hair(Torunn). A bit strange, considering all the people there wearing the craziest costumes that were much more interesting to photograph.
The whole place was totally chaotic, and scorching hot. There were not many other tourists there , which was a bit unfortunate as many locals had spray cans of foam, and nothing is more fun than to soak a "gringo".

Stig and carneval-man

Stig and carneval-man

Streetfood was EVERYWHERE, meat on a stick, Fried sausage with yucca, freshly squeezed juice, unrecognizable fried organs and other delicacies. No one will go hungry during the carnival!
The parade-street was completely packed with people, so all the time I kept my hand on the pocket where the camera was located as it is the ideal place for thieves. People taking picture with foreigners. People wanted to take a picture with the foreigners. It was impossible to see the parade wherever we were standing, but we noticed that there were a lot fewer people on the other side of the street. We walked around the entire parade to the other side of the street where we quickly found a place where we could see everything. The reason why there were fewer people there was that the sun shining right towards that side of the street, and there was no shade. It was a little bit like torture, but we got to see some fun carnival people.
At night after the parade was over, thousands of people were sitting on plastic chairs around the various pubs that played loud salsa music. Everyone were drinking Aguardiente (Local cheap spirit) or beer, and the whole family was on dansegolvet.Vi said goodbye to the shore and jumped on a night bus that went south, to the mountains.

 Posted by at 3:13 in the morning
Mar 122013
 

Originally our plan was to take a boat from Trinidad to Venezuela, then travel through Venezuela to Colombia.
After talking with people, and reading some advice and information about Venezuela, we decided to skip the whole country, and find another way to Colombia. It turns out that kidnapping,robbery and murder of tourists are all too common there, especially in the capital Caracas. We figured that if we wont feel safe there, there is not much reason to go there. One lady we spoke with had lived in Caracas for 10 years, but never gone into the center because it was too dangerous. That says something. In addition to that it is generally hazardous, it was even worse when we were supposed to go there, as President Hugo Chavez was dying.
So we went to Curacao instead, although it was approximately twice as expensive. On the flight from Trinidad til Curacao, flying above Venezuela, we saw several deserted archipelagoes that looked like the perfect paradise. A good reason to buy a sailboat one day.

Willemstad views

Willemstad views

At the airport Jan Driesprong came to pick us up and drove us to his house on the outskirts of Willemsted (capital).

Jan Driesprong is a couch surfing host who thankfully opened his home for us the 5 days we would stay on this island. He is a funny guy; a Dutchman in his 60's who has spent much of his life traveling around the world before he settled in Curacao 25 years ago.

Curacao sign

Curacao sign

He took us to the capital Willemsted and bought large quantities of beer for us, which was fine for us.
Willemsted is one of the nicest cities in the Caribbean. The houses are incredibly colorful, and of a special architecture. The Dutch built the city in the 1600s just after they had taken over the island from the Spaniards. The bridges have many imaginative

Torunn and Jan on the bridge

Torunn and Jan on the bridge

ways to let boats pass, inspired by Amsterdam. The biggest bridge has a motor that drives the bridge to the side every time a large boat is going past. That happens quite often because Curacao is a popular destination for cruise tourists, and in addition there is much traffic to the oil refinery located near the center.
In Curacao they speak Pamiento, which is a mix between Dutch and Creole. Some people on Curacao speak only Pamiento, which means that if they go to any other place than Curacao they will be "lost in translation".
One museum that is worth checking out in Willemstad Location is the slave museum. Curacao was in fact the island where all the slaves were transported to, directly from Africa. On the market in Willemstad the slaves were sold to the highest bidder from one of the other Caribbean islands. Then they were transported there to work on the sugar plantations of rich Europeans.
The museum was interesting and showed how horrible slaves were treated during transport, and during work. It was common that the slavetraders brought too many slaves in the ship so that 1/3 of them died during shipment(150 people). They also had focus on all the racism that blacks were subjected to after the slavery was forbidden. Their life was not much better even after the emancipation..

Jan was a perfect host; He not only gave us shelter, but he also drove us around the island to see everything that was worth seeing, our own private guide! .

Beer with Jan Driesprong

Beer with Jan Driesprong

He took us to the north of the island to a small lake with thousands of beautiful pink flamingos. Then we went on to the east coast where the terrain is a mix of desert and volcanic rock. The sea is crashing against the cliffs, forming some incredible rock formations and caves. It was worth a visit.

Curacao flamingoes

Curacao flamingoes

When it was time for lunch, he drove to the other side of the island, where the ocean is a little quieter, and there are many beaches.

We had lunch right next to a beach, and it was not long before we were surrounded by 15-20 giant lizards. The local iguanas have learned that there are easier ways to find food than to look for green grass in the desert terrain.
Tourists are usually more than willing to feed the cute annoying lizards, and we were no exception. Once the damage is done there is no longer any point trying to convince restaurant-owners that they should not let people feed wild animals. They are amazing and interesting creatures to observe. There is something quite special about having 3 small dinosaurs climbing on your leg while trying to eat your lunch. There were many people feeding them with french fries, which perhaps is not quite ideal for their digestive system.
There are quite a few that eat iguanas on Curacao, even if it is not allowed nowadays.
Of course we did some diving on this island too! No Caribbean island without diving!

Diving from the beach !

Diving from the beach !

This time was a bit special because we only paid for the gear and jumped into the sea from the beach. Jan was kind enough to drive us out to the nicest beach on the island; Cas Abao.
We rented the equipment and did 2 dives on the coral reefs, and relaxed on the beach in between diving. Cas Abao is a fantastic beach with white sand, bar with beers, and lot of nice little palms for shade.

Morey eel swimming

Morey eel swimming

Brain coral and Torunn

Brain coral and Torunn

Curacao feels like an island where all the locals do their own thing, and are not too bothered with tourists, with the exception of some merchants near the cruise terminal. It's not the nicest island we visited, but it has its charms, especially Willemsted. I was seriously annoyed at the authorities when they took 40$ from us at the airport in "departure tax". That is quite a lot of money to pay for nothing, and not fair to tourists who have already spent a lot of money in their country. Curacao is also the richest island in the Caribbean since they have so much oil wealth .
After 4 months of island hopping in the Caribbean, it was almost melancholic to leave the last island, island number 22 and country number 12 on the trip. On the other hand I looked very much forward to going to South America, where prices are low, beers are large, and you do not have to take expensive flights everywhere.

 Posted by at 9:09 pm