Written by Jose Kevo on 27 Jul, 2004
The bus had turned onto the final stretch of road heading towards Chichiriviche and I mentally questioned where all the school-uniformed teenagers were going to fit when pausing at the corner bus stop. The hullabaloo of their boarding was squelched from the pulsing stereo system…Read More
The bus had turned onto the final stretch of road heading towards Chichiriviche and I mentally questioned where all the school-uniformed teenagers were going to fit when pausing at the corner bus stop. The hullabaloo of their boarding was squelched from the pulsing stereo system and I went back to gazing out across the dried marshlands as the bus rolled onward.
A tap on my shoulder startled me back to presence from the young kid eagerly beaming from the crowded aisle. It took a brief moment to register I'd seen him in the Cays the day before selling obleas on the beach. Digging through my pocket, I pulled out 500 bolívares to make up for his inability for previously making proper change, thanked him, and went back to look beyond the glass.
I felt a shift in the seat and turned to see he'd traded places with his schoolmate, but a giddy shyness kept him from saying anything more. A pair of flamingos, winged by a scarlet ibis, were mid-flight along the marsh edge as if trying to keep pace with the bus. The curious teenager asked if we had those in Puerto Rico. I assumed he was talking about the birds, but my "no" sufficed for whatever question he'd asked.
About the time I'd determined it might be nice if he wanted to show me around for the day, the bus stopped again and students began heading for the exit. There was nothing remotely resembling a school in sight. He offered up a "Ciáo" before I could even attempt bribing him to play hooky for the afternoon. It was just as well since we both needed educating.
With no map and very limited information, finding my way around this small coastal village of 7,000 ended up being a much bigger challenge than I expected. Stepping off the bus in the heart of the commercial strip along the only road into town, there was no sense of fulfilling basic touristy needs. Curiosity was flourishing based on the locals' split opinions on whether Chichiriviche or Tucacas provided the better home-base for exploring Morrocoy National Park.
The pueblo obviously hadn't undergone the same upscale commercial facelift, and the absence of banks and other official agencies only complimented the authenticity of wall-to-wall structures hawking foods, anything fathomable beach related, and basically everything you'd need to survive. And of course, for dirt-cheap prices.
Main street tee's into the coastal road with open-air restaurants lining the inland side allowing patrons to gaze off across the Caribbean. There's a small, unimpressive malecón/promenade, and a pair of docks used for launching travelers into the cays. Small colorful wooden fishing boats were more picturesque than the actual beach, but all would not be lost.
Cayo Muerto is visible just off the shore, and the short boat ride over was Bs1,500 for anyone serious about soaking up the sun. Otherwise, Tucacas did appear to have better access to a wider variety of the National Park cays.
With several budget listings in the Lonely Planet guidebook, I wanted to scout around to see what else I potentially missed and began asking for directions. Venturing into these small Latin villages and finding no street names/markers was nothing new. What I wasn't expecting was the apparent clueless ness of local proprietors when asking for directions that invariably turned out wrong. That is, if they even knew what or where the place was to begin with!
I ended up seeing more of this village than I'd ever imagined simply trying to track down Villa Gregoria; the top-listed budget posada for the area. Obviously, the given address and directions meant nothing with no street markers. There was also another major realization factor that should be taken into high consideration if planning to stay here. Off the main strip, none of the side streets are paved and the rutted roads were rather muddy and swamp-like even now in the dry season.
Ringing the buzzer at the gate, Aurelio welcomed me in as a potential guest and what I found was like an oasis. Protected behind a compound wall, the Villa Gregoria is a two-story structure with 22 rooms facing a well-manicured courtyard. Singles start at Bs15,000 ($7.50) and increase by 5,000 Bolívares per person for up to four people.
The Spanish-born owner had done an impressive job of creating a laid-back atmosphere with scattered hammocks, tables and chairs, and all the little extras providing comforts of home. Rooms looked fresh and new; the tiled floors including in the private bathrooms, all but sparkling in the light from the large, screened windows which were pulling a nice breeze even without fan running.
The easiest, clear-cut way for finding here: when entering the town on the main road, about half-way down is a vacant lot on the left/north doubling as the bus lot/transportation center. Beyond the ticket booth and scattered vendors is Calle Moriño and you'll see a smaller posada with a painted, redbrick facade. Take a right and Gregoria is just a short distance on the left.
Actually, there's four small posadas along this strip. Aurelio says the owners are all friends and work together. Of course, he recommended his posada...as well as Chichiriviche the better choice over Tucacas. I had to agree his establishment was by far the most appealing accommodation in either location, but the friendly debate continued over which actual village was better. There was an unspoken truce of agreeing to disagree in a friendly way. Before stepping back through the entry gate, he asked if I was enjoying Venezuela better than Puerto Rico?
Back out on the main road, the intense sun was all but partnering in punishment with my state of daze from the previous night's Marathon Ritual in Tucacas. Pacing back and forth trying to decide on a place for a late lunch, I did find one other advantage Chichiriviche had over other destinations I'd so far explored.
There were at least half-dozen small shops selling authentic local handicrafts that definitely would not be considered tourist junk. Various artifacts of clay and pottery, along with wind chimes and other mementos made from shells, driftwood and things from the sea, were in cheap abundance. At this point, I reasoned it was still too early in the trip for loading up my bag and hauling things for the rest of my journey. I gambled on eventually coming across similar places in other towns; I didn't.
Just beyond the bus lot heading towards the coast, the main road widens briefly in a triangular intersection where I found Restaurante El Ríncon de Arturo on one of the inside corners. Eateries were also a dime a dozen with likely the same types of local foods, but what caught my attention here were the shaded sidewalk plastic tables that also provided a front-row viewing for all that was happening along the busy intersection.
I selected one of their daily specials from the ejecutivo portion of the menu which included a large bowl of chicken soup stocked with veggies and choice of fruit juice which accompanied the main dish - carne de la gardenia; a heaping portion of tender shredded beef stewed in a Creole sauce with more veggies, and served with large helpings of rice, beans, and salad for Bs5,000 (roughly $2.50.)
I sprang for the extra-large chilled bottle of water as my ongoing recovery dessert and lingered long enough while scribbling in my book to attract the owner's attention. Arturo eventually joined me at the table striking up another debate on why I'd chosen Tucacas. When preparing to leave, he said that maybe he'd go there some time. Tucacas? No, he pointed to me, and I looked down to have it consciously register all the day's puzzling questions stemmed from a beach scene screaming Puerto Rico emblazoned across the front of my shirt...
Getting to Chichiriviche is perhaps the other minor drawback since the town has no direct service off the Coro - Morón road unless coming from the east where you can find a few direct lines at the Valencia terminal; about 2-hours away.
From Tucacas, it's only 35km and you'd wait at the main stop along the highway for the first bus passing to Chichiriviche. The 25-minute ride cost Bs1,500 one-way. If coming from Coro and the west, you'll need tell the driver to drop you off at the Chichiriviche intersection along the main highway and wait for the next passing bus.