MY IMPRESSIONS

Puerto la Cruz is one of Venezuela's top tourist destination. The beaches that surround Puerto La Cruz, such as Isla de Plata, Conoma and Arapito are beautiful. Puerto La Cruz is also the entry point of Mochima National Park, one of the most spectacular in the country. From its port, you can take a ferry to Margarita Island. You can (and should) also hire a boat that will take you to the neighboring islands, such as Las Chimanas, Cachicamo and Borracha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the channels of El Morro, there are elegant neighborhoods with their own decks where yachts are parked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paseo Colon located in front of the Pozuelos Bay, is the tourist heart of Puerto La Cruz. This place is full of restaurants and stores; there you can relax, sit back and watch spectacular sunsets. Also, you can savor the most exquisite dishes and choose the daily catch for dinner, in one of the many restaurants along the coast. Another option you have in Puerto La Cruz is "Altos de Santa Fe", there you can taste Creole sweets and contemplate the beautiful view of Mochima.

 

water sports and other activities

This is the perfect place to kayak, surf, snorkel, dive and sail. Other activities include renting a boat and visiting one of the most beautiful natural places in the world: Mochima National Park

 

 beautiful beaches and bays

Beaches stretch from Boca de Uchire to the Gulf of Santa Fe, cover all of the coast which is called, justifiably "The Route of the Sun". The road to these beaches offers some spectacular views. Idyllic bays, paradisiacal islands of fine sands, channels and exquisite beaches for swimming and diving, rich fauna and flora, shopping centers, restaurants and handcraft make of Puerto La Cruz an ideal location.

 

islands

Islands with the best beaches, islets, bays, peninsulas, gulfs, inlets, cliffs and an exceptional underwater beauty are features in Mochima National Park, just in front Puerto La Cruz. Margarita Island is reachable by ferry.

 

excursions

 

 mount avila

Gives a superb view across the city and along the coast. There are several beaches within 30km (20 miles) of the capital, with excellent 'taverns' and restaurants.

 

angel falls

The world’s highest falls, cascade from twice the height of the Empire State Building. The falls are located in the vast Gran Sábana region with mountains and a dense jungle.

 

margarita island

Discovered by Columbus in 1493, ranges from the semi-tropical to the semi-arid, mountains up to about 2,500 feet. There are wonderful beaches, all kinds of water sports, fish, produce, hand-craft markets, shops, lodging and restaurants.

 

 colonia tovar

A Bavarian style village, 41 miles west of Caracas at 6,035 feet above sea level, was founded in 1848 by German immigrants and remained isolated until 1963 when a road was opened. There are shops, inns and restaurants serving German food. On the way stop at El Junquito, a colonial farming town, known for its varieties of sausages, butchers and produce stands.

 

the andes

There are wonderful treks, many can be reached by jeep, on horse or mule, in the gorgeous Andes surrounding Mérida. The lakes and view are fabulous, the villages interesting. The “frailejón,” great friar, is a plant with yellow flowers which is unique to the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OUR MARINA - BAHIA REDONDO MARINA - LOOKING OUT TO THE SEA

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN - HUMAN RIGHTS

 

World Report 2005 : Index

 

Venezuelan democracy passed an important test in August 2004 when it held, in a lawful and peaceful manner, a national referendum to determine whether President Hugo Chávez should remain in office. According to election authorities and international observers, a solid majority of Venezuelans voted in favor of the president’s continued tenure. But President Chávez and his supporters in the National Assembly continue to take steps to undermine the independence of the country’s judiciary and to threaten freedom of the press.

 

 The country’s political polarization has diverted attention from other pressing human rights issues, including a longstanding problem of police abuse. Extrajudicial executions of criminal suspects by both state and municipal police forces are common and all too often go unpunished. Cases of torture continue to be reported. Violence and anarchy prevail in many Venezuelan prisons. Refugees from neighboring Colombia, in areas close to the border, face legal insecurity, difficult living conditions, and sometimes threats to their lives.  

 

Independence of the Judiciary  

In May 2004, President Chávez signed a court-packing law that expands the number of Supreme Court justices from twenty to thirty-two. Although the new justices had not been appointed at this writing, the new law allows the governing coalition to use its slim majority in the legislature to obtain an overwhelming majority of seats on the country’s highest court. The law also gives the governing coalition the power to remove sitting justices by nullifying their appointments.  

 

A political takeover of the Supreme Court would compound the damage already done to judicial independence by policies pursued by the Court itself. The Court, which has administrative control over the judiciary, has failed to grant 80 percent of the country’s judges security of tenure, which is an essential ingredient of judicial independence. In March 2004, three judges were summarily fired after they ordered the release of people detained during anti-government protests.  

 

Freedom of the Press  

Venezuela has a vigorous and uninhibited media. Indeed, as part of the often heated and acrimonious debate between supporters of the government and its opponents, members of the media have been able to express strong views without restriction. Private television companies have often adopted blatantly partisan positions, airing news and debate programs extremely hostile to the Chávez government. In response, many journalists working for media that support the opposition have been subject to aggression and intimidation by government supporters. To a lesser degree, journalists working for media sympathetic to the government have also faced intimidation.  

 

While journalists have a professional responsibility to be objective in their reporting, it is not the job of government to police such professional standards. On the contrary, the government has an obligation, no matter how critical or partisan the reporting, to defend press freedom by vigorously prosecuting perpetrators of attacks and acts of intimidation. In the majority of cases, the Chávez government has not done so.  

 

In October 2004, the National Assembly moved to pass a government bill on the “social responsibility” of radio and television stations that would impose excessive restrictions on the content of these media. The draft legislation would introduce an array of restrictions on broadcasting content that, if enforced rigorously, would infringe upon basic norms of free expression. Under the guise of protecting children from crude language, sexual situations, and violence, the proposed law would subject adults to restrictive and puritanical viewing standards. The proposed law also contains loosely-worded rules on incitement to violence and threats to public order that could penalize the stations’ legitimate expression of political views.  

 

In addition, the draft law provides for a regime of drastic punishments for infractions the likely effect of which would be to encourage pervasive self-censorship. If found responsible for infractions, the stations could be fined, ordered to suspend transmissions, or even have their broadcasting licenses revoked.  

 

Police Killings, Torture, and Ill-treatment  

Police continue to carry out extrajudicial executions of criminal suspects. According to the respected nongovernmental human rights group PROVEA, 130 people, most of them young male criminal suspects, were victims of extrajudicial execution by national, state, and municipal police forces between October 2002 and September 2003. About one in ten of the victims were children under the age of eighteen. In many cases, the police covered up executions by asserting that the victims were killed in exchanges of gunfire, despite contrary testimony by witnesses. Generally, the police responsible for killings escaped justice.  

 

In early February and late March 2004, National Guard and police officers beat and tortured people detained during and after protests in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities. After demonstrators clashed with National Guard units and Chávez supporters, leaving thirteen people dead and more than one hundred wounded, security forces detained more than three hundred civilians. Detainees reported being beaten during and after their arrests with nightsticks, with the flat side of sabers, and with helmets, gunstocks, and other articles. Some reported that their captors hurled tear gas bombs into the closed vehicles in which they were seated, causing extreme distress, near suffocation, and panic, while others described how the powder from tear gas canisters was sprinkled on their faces and eyes, causing burns and skin irritation. Detainees also reported being shocked with electric batons while in custody and defenseless. The alleged abuses appeared to enjoy official approval at some level of command in the forces responsible for them.  

 

Prison Conditions  

Conditions in Venezuelan prisons are cruel, inhuman, and degrading. Overcrowding is a chronic problem and prisons are virtually controlled by armed gangs. Prison riots and inmate violence claim hundreds of lives every year. In 2003 PROVEA estimated the prison murder rate to be forty times the national average.  

 

Border Security and the Right to Refugee Status  

Lawlessness prevails along parts of Venezuela’s 1,300 mile border with Colombia. Colombian paramilitaries and guerrillas, as well as Venezuelan armed groups and criminal gangs, appear to be responsible for execution-style killings, but so far such groups have operated with near-complete impunity.  

 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2,691 people had applied for refugee status in Venezuela by summer 2004. But UNHCR officials say that the real number of refugees is far higher since most try to blend undetected into the population. In February 2004, Venezuela began using a newly-established asylum application process and in June began providing identification documents to recognized refugees to enable them to exercise their rights, including to work, study, and obtain medical treatment.  

 

The Venezuelan National Refugee Commission granted temporary protection status to 292 indigenous Wayúu who fled to Venezuela in May 2004 following armed violence in their community of Bahia Portete, in La Guajira, Colombia. It was the first time that the Venezuelan government has granted this status. The temporary protection is valid for ninety days and renewable according to the security and protection needs of the group. This status means they can remain in Venezuela and get government assistance through the National Civil Protection Office.  

 

Key International Actors  

The Organization of American States (OAS) played a key role in brokering the agreement between the government and the political opposition to find a peaceful and constitutional solution to the political crisis, helping set the stage for the August 2004 recall referendum. The U.S.-based Carter Center, along with the OAS, provided international observers to help ensure that the referendum took place without serious incident or disruption by partisans on either side. Both the Carter Center and the OAS validated the official results of the referendum, concluding that President Chávez had won a legitimate victory.  

 

UNHCR organized a series of training workshops for the army units that patrol the border and provided officers with instruction on refugee rights, international refugee law, and the role of the military in refugee protection. UNHCR also provided the National Refugee Commission with continuing technical assistance, training, and expertise.  

Our Mall above - Dave and I dinghy over to the grocery store

 

MY IMPRESSIONS OF VENEZUELA –

 

Actually there are two Venezuelas – the one that tourists and cruisers see as expatriates and the Latino one.  Actually, I enjoy them both.  As they can overlap I will try to summarize my impressions thus far.

 

PUERTO LA CRUZ –

We happened to sail into Puerto La Cruz just after dawn and I was most impressed at how the pink/orange light affected the buildings of the city.  I had expected a small town, much in the style of Central American and Mexican cities with which I am most familiar, and was most surprised to find a fairly large metropolis with tan high rise buildings nestled on the sea with the Andes foothills in the background.  It was picture post card perfect and I had not expected that.  The entire city is spread out into different areas, all located in a linear fashion along the beach, much like the Gulf Coast area of the southern United States from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama.  

 

As we neared the marina where we will be staying for the next few months while Dave finishes his refit on Swan Song, the industrial port came into view with long lines of freighter vessels waiting their turn for loading in the Atlantic.  We passed several official boats – the Venezuelan Navy and the Police and Fire boats.  As we neared the area where the many marinas are located I noticed the small fishing boats that were heading out for a day’s catch.  They are made locally and are very much like the Island Sloops of the BVI, of which Dave and I are so fond – these however are without masts and are either powered by outboards or are rowed.

 

BAHIA REDUNDO MARINA

The marina that we selected is the newest in the area and is situated on the outermost canal of a vast area of canals – much like Venice in Europe and Ft. Lauderdale in the US.  This was delightful to us as we do not have a car and can use our dinghy for transport everywhere that we want to go.  Everything is located on the canals – the grocery, the large modern shopping mall, the high priced residential areas, 5 star hotels and condominiums – even an 18 holed golf course.  This is quite obviously the where the upper strata of Puerto la Cruz citizens live.  Some of the homes are of the same value as those in Ft. Lauderdale – millions in price – and that’s saying something as one US dollar equals 2,500 Bolivars!  - PLEASE SCROLL DOWN ON THE LEFT -

 

The marina is new and modern with a lovely hotel, pool, restaurants, wireless Internet, spa, laundry, marine shops, etc.  The docks are new and our space is sufficient.  We are stern to the dock and have an easy entrance due to the set of boarding steps that we brought with us.  The big difference between this marina and Nanny Cay Marina in the BVI is that everyone here is a cruiser and live-aboard – there are no charter yachts at all.  At Nanny Cay we were the only live-aboard surrounded by 135 high end charter yachts.  You can imagine then the vast amount of cruisers, highly cosmopolitan as they have sailed from all ports of the world to escape the hurricane latitudes that are living next to each other.  It is much like living in a high rise in a large city only everyone is out doors all of the time.  On our dock there is another trawler from Florida, a 50’ sailing sloop from Australia, another large sloop from Barcelona, Spain, a smaller hermit sloop from Bozeman, Montana and two French vessels.  Everyone is friendly but for those of you unfamiliar with yachting life, individual space is always respected.  No sugar borrowing unless you know the people.  Because of this everyone lives in harmony as we all know how important privacy is.

 

The marina makes up for this by offering a multitude of activities for cruisers if you care to join in.  Movie night is Tuesday, dominos are Sunday, fried fish is Friday night, yoga is three times a week as is Tai-Chi and Friday mornings include a long walk for the ladies.  Buses run to town for 20 cents – that’s right you heard me – and taxis are very inexpensive.  Most are driven by top executives that lost their jobs when they joined an oil strike against President Chavez in 2003.  Opinions about that are vast and heated – cruisers know instinctively to stay out of the political arena when visiting foreign countries.  This includes feelings about America’s current political situation which is very hard for me as most of you know how I feel on that score.

 

The prices are just unbelievable.  Our dockage is one-third of what it was at Nanny Cay with free water [in the BVI it was 15 cents a gallon] and free electricity [in the BVI it was $300 a month on top of dockage at $18 per foot].  Six of us went out for a lovely dinner on Friday night not far from the marina - I had Shrimp Alfredo, Dave had a filet mignon. With appetizers, many glasses of wine and desert the bill was $30 for the two of us, including the tip.  And don’t believe what you hear about Venezuelans not liking Americans – they love us as we are the biggest tippers around.  The French don’t tip at all and Spaniards only a little, like the Brits.  When asked why we tip so well I always reply that in the US waiters, etc. are at the bottom of the pay scale with many just making minimum wage.  As lots of them are students we have always learned to tip well to make up for their low wages.  They just look at me in shock.  Tis true though.

 

More later – I must take a break now as my monthly articles are due.  I’ll finish later.

HERE WE ARE WITH FRIENDS AGAIN BUT MUCH CLOSER TO THE MARINA.  A NIGHT OUT AT THE LIGHTHOUSE RESTAURANT WHO ALSO ARE THE OWNERS OF OUR MARINA RESTAURANT.  GREAT FOOD WITH A TRUE LATINO STYLE.  ABOVE I AM BEING SERVED A DELICIOUS FISH, STEAMED WITH VEGETABLES, AND SERVED IN A "POUCH."

 

THE PICTURE DIRECTLY BELOW IS OF OUR MALL WHERE WE GO TO SHOP FOR GROCERIES.  THE WATERWAY TO THE RIGHT IS THE CANAL THAT SERVES AS OUR ROUTE TO THE MALL OR SHOPPING CENTER.  AS YOU CAN SEE, EVERYTHING IS QUITE MODERN AND UP TO DATE

 

DAVE'S LETTER TO FELLOW BOATERS UPON ARRIVAL

Buenos Dias Amigos,

 

Finally had to get some gas for our dinghy, LEDA II - for those that don't know Leda II is 15+ feet long and weighs in at 1000 lbs. She also sports her own running lights, radar arch/reflector, VHF, depth sounder, GPS and chart plotter so we don't get lost.  After a month and a half of running about from Norman Island to North Sound in the BVI, ST Martin one day and all over the place here in Venezuela we'd used up our spare supply. Our 60 HP Merc 4 stroke is pretty fuel efficient but Leda II's GPS log had 122 miles on it since we last filled up and I'm not sure it was turned on every time we used her.

 

So we loaded our three 6 gal jugs and went to the fuel station. With Well over a 1000 power boats in Puerto La Cruise you'd expect a few spots to get fuel. Only two, so you either get there early or make it an adventure hanging about listing to 10 different stereos going full blast on every boat from 15' to 80' with different "Salsa music" on. These guys make the Puerto Rican Navy look like amateurs ;-)

 

We took on 75 liters (~19.5 gal), the attendant spoke no English and the pumps only tell you how much fuel not how many Bolivars it is. So I pulled out some money expecting him to tell me when to stop handing him some. Well he did after I gave him one 10000 B's note!! He went inside the shack and came back with change!!! 2000 B's!!

 

Soooo my quick conversion math was stumped as I was stunned. Nancy looked at me and said how much? I babbled to her "not very much" while trying to figure it out. Actual I was hoping it wasn't water I'd taken on by mistake as it was crystal clear :-)

 

It was $3.20 for slightly less than 20 gals. Aka $.11/gal. At this rate I guess you can use as much as you want and tO  hell with worrying about The cost.

 

I have some crap in the belly tank but once we get that back in service we'll have another 20 gal capacity there. So with a total of 48 gals we'll have almost a 300 mile range on the dinghy. We expect once we leave here to be in the outer VZ islands where there's no fuel for at least a month. The dinghy will be used daily on exploring trips to the hundreds of little Spots you can't take the big boat or just don't feel like moving Swan Song, This really opens up the exploring. At the BVI price of $4/gal the dinghy Fuel would be a real budget item....here it's the price of a couple of

Snicker bars ;-)

 

The diesel situation is changing as VE is broken up into "States" like the US. The state we are in has put a limit on diesel sales to foreign Flagged vessels. The states to the east and west of here haven't. In Cumana to our east 40 miles it is $.07/gal!! We still have ~700 gals of diesel but

when we pull in to fill up it'll be with a smile and few hundred thousand B's for a 1000 gals or so. Wow!

 

Another interesting thing is that I've not yet seen a bad VE boater. Every one of these guys and gals seem to have learned how to handle their boats.  No one is coming in too fast or out of control. Fenders are always ready and dock lines are actually attached to the boat before they dock. Also everyone waves to each other and is courteous of their wakes. All in all a refreshing change from the charter boat "Caribbean captain's" antics in the Virgin Islands.

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NEW CRUISING FRIENDS