|Well the main reason we chose Venezuela as our vacation destination was playa el Yaque. El Yaque is a world renowned windsurfing (and now kiteboarding) destination. The winds blow daily in el yaque which is good for any sport that depends on wind to propel it. Getting to el yaque was a different story - it meant many delays in the Caracas airport. In fact many of the locals say international touism to el yaque is down because there are no longer direct flights to margarita from places such as Frankfurt and Montreal. I would believe this after waiting 5 hours in the Caracas airport for our flight to depart. This was especially tragic since the winds were blowing the best they would during the 2 weeks we were in el yaque on the day we arrived. Oh well, the one thing to learn about traveling in Venezuela and about traveling in general is that things won’t always go as they should so it is best just to take things in stride.
Once we reached our destination, it really did feel like we had reached paradise. It was nice to finally park our bags in one place and not be on the move for a while – a true holiday. So a few things about el yaque – it’s really a windsurfer’s paradise. We planed everyday. It’s also a great place to learn to windsurf or kitesurf because the rates are reasonable – especially at the current blackmarket exchange rate of 17:1. It’s also a small town which makes it pretty safe. That being said you aren’t going to find much (other than alcoholic beverages) in the grocery store which was more like the equivalent of a U.S. mini-market so there’s two options for food depending on your budget 1) Take a trip to polamar to stock up on supplies or 2) eat out at the town’s reasonable establishments (food and drink for less than $20 a person per a night). There are some really good restaurants, mostly owned by ex-pats who have relocated to el Yaque due to the wind. So you see there’s a trend here – people come to el yaque for the wind, but it has its other charms as well. Also, if you don’t want to go to Porlamar, I still suggest stocking up at the airport – the shops there appeared to carry better snacks than any shop in El Yaque.
El yaque is now very popular with the Venezuelans – we happened to arrive at the end of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays which depending on your objective may or may not be a good thing. First, if you are going to travel at this time, you have to book everything well in advance (especially airfare). The beach is packed with revelers all day. Most Venezuelans don’t come to el yaque to windsurf – they come there to booze it up on the beach all day. Apparently whisky is popular on the beaches as well. This does present a challenge to hauling gear in and out of the water, but generally the people are very interested in what you are doing and the difficulty of the sport so it turns out to be quite a conversation starter during rest breaks. The town’s restaurants and mini-marts also tend to have a food shortage at this time because they are not equipped to handle all the people. The upside of it is that it is quite a party and people watching experience to you can partake in while taking rest breaks or during lulls in the wind.
All and all, the pace of el yaque was relaxed and we settled in quite comfortably. Our days consisted of waking up, maybe going for a run, eating breakfast, maybe getting a massage (which by the way there is an awesome masseuse at jack sparrow kitesurfing who worked magic on my aches and pains), and then reading on the beach and swimming until it was time to go windsurfing (based on when the wind picked up). We then finished off the day with a beer on the beach for sunset and a delicious meal.
As time went on, we got to know many of the local characters that weaved the charm of their life story into our trip. One very sad event that occurred just before we arrived was that our posada owner’s wife had recently passed away from cancer (like 2 days before we got there). It was kind of surreal when we first learned this truth, but also a reminder of how precious life was. Miquel was a true character though with many stories to tell. He had come to margarita over 20 years ago because of its amazing winds and helped to build this tourist destination. Then there was jean Luc, the owner of the French restaurant. You will never meet a more positive person. It was so much fun to watch him cook and soak up his positive personality. He slept outback of his restaurant and showered beneath the stars. There were Roxy and Ouicho, our ever happy guides at vela. They had all the dirt on which local restaurants to eat at and what sails to use. They always seemed to have a smile on their face, but were also keen at reading people. Then there was Al who took us on a great mountain biking ride as he tried to convince my husband to come back for the killer mountain race in march (only 12 people have made it up killer 1). And yomana who really worked on some serious pain issues I have in my back and made me promise to continue the work she started (including being more decisive and believing I can accomplish what I tackle) when I returned home. The list continues – el yaque is a small town so you get to be known by some after a short time there. This only adds to the experience. As a person who generally leads a pretty normal 9-5 life in the states, I’m always curious to learn how people have decided to move to another country and start a posada. We also truly enjoyed meeting fellow windsurfers at our club and posada. Erika and Martin whom we had met in Merida decided to make the trip to el yaque. We also met a delightful English/Swedish couple who were completing a 2.5 month holiday. We were glad to be able to play cards with 4 rather than 2 people.