|Juangriego, North Margarita Island|
A trip to Margarita starts with dodging countless potholes between Caracas and Puerto La Cruz, a couple of hours in line under a inclement sun at the ferry terminal (the waiting area is “under renovation” since the Puerto La Cruz chavista mayor recovered it for “le pueblo”), a delayed departure because the Nazional guard searches you for drugs, starting that search only a few minutes before the scheduled departure , and an uncomfortable ride as you must start by looking for a seat that is not too soiled to put your rear end for the trip duration. I do not know how many international tourists still bother with Margarita, but I sure hope for them they take the plane.
The island is clearly depressed and the glory days of “Puerto Libre” (tax free zone) are long gone. With Chavez increasing taxes even here, and the paucity of dollars to buy goods, the only thing you can really find at reasonable prices (low enough to pay for your ferry trip) is booze. I suppose that after 11 years of chavismo drink is the only allowed escape route. Kind of the Vodka thing in the USSR? Thus Margarita is forced back into its original goal: tourism. But is it still possible?
Judging from my trip for lunch at Juangriego I am afraid that Margarita might be beyond the point of return. True, the beauty can still be found here and there, but the travel also shows you “invasiones” from mainlanders that the local government cannot control as they are sponsored by chavismo, such, I suppose, the chavista mayor of Juangriego. And thus the island keeps crumbling under the burden of migrants while the authorities divided in political war fail to take the measures that might not solve the problems but at least would slow down the general degradation I observe everywhere.
|View from La Galera|
|At the foot of La Galera|
And yet it is clear that Juangriego keeps growing haphazardly. The salt pans behind La Galera are surrounded by new “settlements” whose runoff water go straight to the delicate ecosystem. The water front still lacks a major promenade and organized beaches for tourists (assuming pollution has not killed it yet). There is even less coconut trees than what I remember. What was one of the most beautiful bays of Venezuela, only disrupted by the spires of its church is now becoming a whatever of nondescript buildings and traffic jams. Progress? One needs to go to the top of La Galera and look toward Macanao far across the still splendid Ensenada de La Guardia to go back in time, to simpler, open days.
|La Galera "welcome center"|
|La Galera landmark|
Unfortunately lunch, even if delicious, did not give me much hope. The fish, pargo, I was told has now to be sought in front of the coast of Guyana: it has been overfished in the local waters. As for the “polarcita” how long will I still be able to enjoy it?
|For how long?|
PS: for some obscure reason blogger refuses to let all of my pictures stand up! Thus I apologize for the three pictures side ways, I will correct it when blogger fixes whatever bug it has.