First Impressions of Venezuela's Isla La Blanquilla
by Chrissi

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One of the best kept secrets in the Caribbean is Isla la Blanquilla, a little spot on the charts 3 miles square and really beautiful. After having sailed from St. Martin we arrived here 2 am on a Wednesday morning and hove to off shore to wait for daylight. We found a delightful little jewel sparkling in the morning light.

First stop was south side of the island where the chart shows a fishing village.(it doesn't exist) As soon as we had showered we were both anxious to go ashore, and waiting for us on the beach were two young men from the Guardia Costal, accompanied by a ferocious looking pitbull who resembled my old comrade Neptune. As soon as the dingy hit the sand I was out and playing with this beautiful monster. I don't think the soldiers found this amusing. The sargento and his aide asked us to get in the jeep and they would drive us to the military base. He said something about a bad carburetor, then proceeded to drive us up the hill at less than 1mph. The jeep kept stalling out every 2 or 3 feet and the dog was patiently walking (or sitting) along the road waiting for us. It was all I could do to keep from laughing, but I didn't want to be impolite or appear ungrateful so I just shut up.

Finally, about hour later, we arrived at the base where we got a tour. The first thing we saw was two more jeeps, neither one was running, and a big outboard motor torn down and soaking in a bucket. I think they were hoping that Jack was a mechanic. It was a very nice place as far as military bases go. In the walk in freezer were some fish and lots of chickens. That's it. I don't think they have a lot of variety at mealtimes. They were very proud of their television and asked us if we wanted to watch a movie.We politely declined. Next we were shown the radio room where a technician was trying in vain to get hold of the mainland. I then asked Jack for a cigarette and as soon as I lit it the other 6 guys at the base mysteriously appeared and smoked the remainder of the pack. We were introduced to the comandante and we asked him if he wanted to see our papers. He just asked us where we had come from and where we were going and said that he didn't need to see our papers.

So on with the tour. They have a shrine in a separate building dedicated to La Virgin de la Valle who is the patron saint of marineros. A ceramic statue of the Virgin Mary along with some strange looking plastic sculptures and lots of candles and some things in a bowl that I couldn't identify were up on the alter. Venezuelans take their. religion very seriously. Then just past the shrine was the beach where we had left our dingy, steps away from the base, so why the ride in the jeep? So again I am playing with the ferocious dog in the surf and the sargento asks if they can come out to the boat now . Jack told him we had to get some sleep, we had been up most of the night , then we would move around to the corner to playa Yaqui on the west coast and they were welcome to come aboard in the afternoon. So we said our goodbyes and I kissed the bad dog and we went back to the boat.

We moved around to the west coast and anchored next to a fishing boat. The crew came over to welcome us and trade an albacore tuna for a small bit of epoxy. YUMMY!!!! Next went ashore and followed a burro trail through jungles of flowering cactus.

The next day i kayaked to Americano Bay a little further north, and there found some extraordinary caves and rock formations, and an abandoned house designed by a very unique architect. We tried to follow a road the next day that we thought would take us back to that bay but the road just kept going east, never turning north, so we turned back. After numerous cactus spines in our shoes and socks we got back to the beach and headed south along the coast where there were 3 tall royal palms looking like an oasis after all that cactus, so we lay down in the shade and started to take out our picnic lunch when the guardia costal arrived. The sargento dove off the stern of the pirogue and swam ashore and told us he wanted to examine our papers. Of coarse we told him they were back on the boat, why didn't he want to see them when we were at the base? He said they would come back tomorrow.

There's lots of beautiful coral to snorkel on and lots of little fishies swimming around this underwater paradise. the biggest flying fish I've ever seen jump out of the water. Nobody lives on the island except the soldiers and the burros and that wonderful dog .I could easily hang out here until our food and water ran out.

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