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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

From the Andes to Catatumbo (Lago de Maracaibo)

Had quick breakfast at a shop near the posada, then to Xtreme Tours to begin Catatumbo tour. Our driver-guide was Pedro, a 28 year old who spoke OK English. Friendly and enthusiastic. We were to have good conversations together. We stopped by a small lake and San Juan village to see a cottage sugar factory. Graffiti for and against Chavez’s recent constitutional referendum (SI or NO) everywhere on walls.

As we drove into the lowlands of Zulia State (capital of which is Maracaibo), it became really hot and humid. Almost unbearable. Had lots of beer. Polar Light was cheap at 2 Bolivars each. Locals curious about us wherever we stopped to buy groceries. Plantane plantations on both sides.

Reached Puerto Concha around 12 noon. Small sleepy jetty port with general stores and a fish market (2 stalls). Loud music in canteen where we had lunch. Rested for a while then off we went on a boat with our supplies. Went through the river with jungles on both sides. Some howler monkeys, birds and kingfishers. But quantities insignificant by standards of Los Llanos or even Sungei Buloh of SG.

Then reached Cataumbo region of Lago de Maracaibo. Stopped by Inparques office for registration, then our own “kelong”. I supposed we reached there too early. Nothing to do the whole afternoon except little naps and lazing around chatting. Should have brought a book there. An owner of a supermarket chain stopped by on his new half-million-dollar speedboat and had BBQ fish together with us.

The lightning of Catatumbo is an unusual natural phenomena caused by the meeting of cold air from the Andes and the hot air of the lake. Lightning would occur throughout the night despite the absence of thunder. Some scattered lightning started to occur around 9:30pm but the impressive phenomena really only took off around 11pm with multiple lightning occurring across the skies, some of which struck horizontally across. It was a pity that the night was cloudy and the lightning occurred all too fast, which meant it was difficult to take any photos without specialized equipment.


More info on the phenomena: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catatumbo_lightning
Online images: http://images.google.com/images?q=catatumbo&rls=com.microsoft:*&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi


By the way, the city of Maracaibo (Venezuela’s 2nd largest city and greatest oil city) is nearby. By boat, it would take only 1 hour but 4 hours by car.
We watched lightning till around 2am. Slept in hammocks. This might sound fun for you but three of us obviously didn’t find that very comfortable…woke up with some backache.

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