Isla de Margarita, Venezuela – Oceania

Today we docked in El Guamache on the island of Margarita just off the coast of Venezuela. I had decided to do a kayaking trip whereas all Steve’s table tennis had left him with a sore elbow so he decided to rest up for his upcoming golf games.

There were 24 of us on the kayak tour and we jumped into 4 open top jeeps to go across the island to the National Park. I was joined in my jeep by two guys from Miami, a couple from New York and a woman from Orlando. Lou, the woman from Orlando had visited New Zealand ten years ago and loved it. She thought it was so quaint – like a country stuck in the 1950’s but with internet! I told her we are not that backwards and I have been to some places in the US which truly are stuck in the 1950’s!

We got onto the highway which our driver, Antonio told us was a very important road – it is the only highway on the island that joins the east of the island with the west. We then went off road which was fun and drove alongside the longest beach on the island which is 26km long. Our kayaking guides Alfredo and Jeannine (husband and wife) met us at the kayak camp and we set off into the lagoon. Alfredo said if we had any questions to ask him, if we had any problems ask the wife!

They have a lot of bird and fish life in the lagoon. It is a salt water lagoon that is more salty than the ocean. It was a clear blue sky day with a temperature of 32 degrees – the kayaking created just enough breeze to keep me comfortable. We had to negotiate through some small mangrove openings into different lagoons. It was very picturesque and so quiet.

We saw a lot of bird life – herons and pelicans were flying around. We then went onto a different part of the lagoon and saw the flamingoes. Alfredo then took us into a shallow lagoon where we saw lots of medusa which by scientific definition is a free-swimming sexual form of a coelenterate such as a jellyfish, typically having an umbrella-shaped body with stinging tentacles around the edge. I could see lots of these medusa’s on the bottom of the lagoon. Alfredo picked some of them up to show us the different colours.

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After we finished kayaking we had some refreshments which included local rum and coke. We then went for a walk on the longest beach on the island – it is 26km long but we just explored a small portion of it. It was then time to go back to the ship but prior to embarking I purchased a locally sourced and made mother of pearl necklace and earrings.

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Margarita Island (Isla de Margarita) is the largest island in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta, situated off the northeastern coast of the country, in the Caribbean Sea. The capital city of Nueva Esparta, La Asunción, is located on the island. Primary industries are tourism, fishing and construction.

Christopher Columbus became the first European to arrive on Margarita Island in 1498. The local natives were the Guaiqueries people. The coast of the island was abundant in pearls, which represented almost a third of all New World tribute to the Spanish Crown. Margarita Island was fortified against the increasing threat of pirate attacks, and some fortifications remain today. In 1561, the island was seized by Lope de Aguirre, a notoriously violent and rebellious conquistador. Around 1675 the island was captured again, this time by Red Legs Greaves, a pirate known for his humanity and morality. He captured a fleet of Spanish ships off port, before turning the guns on the forts which he stormed and claimed a large booty of pearls and gold. Construction of the fort Santa Rosa was ordered by the governor, Juan Muñoz de Gadea, after the French buccaneer Marquis de Maintenon attacked the island in early 1676.

The island gained independence from the Spanish in 1814 after the collapse of the First Republic of Venezuela. It became the first permanently free territory in Venezuela. In the same year, Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi was detained for over three years in a dungeon of the Fortress of Santa Rosa on the island in an attempt to put pressure on her husband Juan Bautista Arismendi, who was fighting for independence. Simón Bolívar was confirmed as Commander in Chief of the Venezuelan Republic on the island in 1816. From there he started a nine-year campaign to free Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia from the Spanish Crown.

Most of the island’s 420,000 residents live in the more developed eastern part of the island, which includes the large cities of Porlamar and Pampatar along with the state capital of La Asunción. The island can be reached by direct flights from Caracas, scheduled or chartered flights from a number of North American and European cities or ferries from Puerto La Cruz, Cumaná, and La Guaira. The climate is sunny and dry with average temperatures ranging from 24 to 37 °C.

Venezuela is a country on the northern coast of South America with an estimated population of about 29 million people. Venezuela is considered a state with extremely high biodiversity, with habitats ranging from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon Basin rainforest in the south, via extensive llanos plains and Caribbean coast in the center and the Orinoco River Delta in the east.

Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 amid resistance from indigenous peoples. In 1811, it became one of the first Spanish-American colonies to declare independence, which was not securely established until 1821, when Venezuela was a department of the federal republic of Gran Colombia. It gained full independence as a separate country in 1830. During the 19th century, Venezuela suffered political turmoil and autocracy, remaining dominated by regional caudillos (military strongmen) until the mid-20th century. Since 1958, the country has had a series of democratic governments. Economic shocks in the 1980s and 1990s led to several political crises, including the deadly Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andrés Pérez for embezzlement of public funds in 1993. A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 election of former coup-involved career officer Hugo Chávez and the launch of the Bolivarian Revolution, beginning with a 1999 Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution of Venezuela.

Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America; the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the capital, Caracas, which is also the largest city in Venezuela. Since the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves and been one of the world’s leading exporters of oil. Previously an underdeveloped exporter of agricultural commodities such as coffee and cocoa, oil quickly came to dominate exports and government revenues. The 1980s oil glut led to an external debt crisis and a long-running economic crisis, in which inflation peaked at 100% in 1996 and poverty rates rose to 66% in 1995 as (by 1998) per capita GDP fell to the same level as 1963, down a third from its 1978 peak.

The recovery of oil prices after 2001 boosted the Venezuelan economy and facilitated social spending which significantly reduced economic inequality and poverty, although the fallout of the 2008 global financial crisis caused a renewed economic downturn. In February 2013, Venezuela devalued its currency due to the rising shortages in the country. Shortages of items included toilet paper, milk, flour, and other necessities. As of June 2014, Venezuela’s inflation has increased to 62%. This was one of the main causes of the 2014 Venezuelan protests.

United States–Venezuela relations are the bilateral relations between the United States of America and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Relations have traditionally been characterized by an important trade and investment relationship and cooperation in combating the production and transit of illegal drugs. Relations were strong under conservative neoliberal governments in Venezuela like that of Rafael Caldera. However, tensions increased after the socialist President Hugo Chávez assumed elected office in 1999. Tensions between the countries increased after Venezuela accused the administration of George W. Bush of supporting the Venezuelan failed coup attempt in 2002 against Chavez. Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. in September 2008 in solidarity with Bolivia after a U.S. ambassador was accused of cooperating with violent anti-government groups in that country, though relations were reestablished under President Barack Obama in June 2009. Despite Venezuela’s stated desire for improved relations with the U.S. and its appeals for mutual respect, tensions between both nations are still high as of 2012 due to continuity in U.S. foreign policy under Bush and Obama. In February 2014, Venezuelan Government ordered three American diplomats to leave the country on charges of promoting violence.

With rising oil prices and Venezuela’s oil exports accounting for the bulk of trade, bilateral trade between the US and Venezuela is surging, with US companies and the Venezuelan government benefiting. Nonetheless, since May 2006, the Department of State that, pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, has prohibited the sale of defense articles and services to Venezuela because of lack of cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts.

Chávez dared the U.S. on 14 March 2008 to put Venezuela on a list of countries accused of supporting terrorism, calling it one more attempt by Washington, D.C. to undermine him for political reasons.

In May 2011, Venezuela was one of the few countries to condemn the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Venezuela and the United States have not had ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010.

About SUNGRL

This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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