Staying an extra day in Cuidad Bolivar turned out to be a monumental mistake. The owner of my hotel is a crazy German guy and I thought that this was going to be the perfect place to chill out and watch the first day of World Cup action. Wrong. I was the only tourist at the hostel because he was running low on water so he turned away all the tourists looking for a room and the big party I was hoping for just didn't happen. I watched the Germany game with Gerd and his son and then headed to the bus station to find out how to get to my next stop, Caripe. I found a guy at the station who gave me lots of information on the best way to get there but as I found out later, he exaggerated how short each hop would be. I ended up spending the entire next day on a series of smaller and smaller buses and didn't arrive in Caripe until 4pm. I was annoyed at wasting an entire day and consoled myself with a very nice, if expensive, dinner at pretty much the only restaurant in town open past 6pm.
I woke at 7am and caught a cab for the 12 km journey to the Cueva del Guácharo. They were supposed to open at 8am but this is of course South America so I had to sit around for 45 minutes before they would let us buy tickets to enter the cave. I was in a group with 9 other early birds and our guide Manuel. As we moved deeper into the cave you could hear screeching and squawking all above our heads. The birds hate the light so we saw them mostly in shadows. Walking along the path was a bit treacherous because it was covered in fruit seeds from the bird's late night banquets. We walked in further looking at all the stalactites and stalagmites and trying desperately not to fall on the slippery ground. I was happy to get out of the damp darkness and easily found a taxi to bus station where it was another long journey in a series of shared taxis to Puerto de la Cruz. It was an eerie and interesting experience but I'm not sure it was worth all the traveling.
I arrived in Puerto de la Cruz at 4pm and made up my mind to catch the ferry to Isla Margarita from where I could fly to Los Roques. At the ferry terminal I bought my ticket and then jumped on the Internet for 30 minutes to book the flight. It was a bit more expensive then heading back to Caracas and flying from there but taxis to/from the Caracas airport are crazy expensive and even more so at 5am when there is no public transport available. The ferry was 2 hours late so it was 11pm when we finally walked off the boat. I found a Spanish girl to share a cab into the city center and went to sleep for 4 hours in a pit of a hotel before heading out to the airport. One hour later I was in paradise! Los Roques are a series of small islands just below Aruba and Bonaire. The main island, Gran Roque, is so small that from the place that you walk off the plane to the the center of town is less than 100 meters.
I chose a small cheap hostel in the square and went to check out options for scuba diving that day. I found the company I'd been exchanging emails with and quickly put a bag together to head out on the excursion with them. We had a great morning diving around a large pointy rock called the Pinnacle and had lunch on a small nearby island before heading out to try and look for sharks. No sharks but we saw lots of big fish. Back at the hostel for dinner I found out that an American guy I'd met at Angel Falls was staying at the same place. There aren't many cheap places to stay on Los Roques so all the single travelers seem to be at my hostel. An funny English guy, a French girl and 3 Dutch girls rounded out the rest of the group. Food on the island is also expensive but breakfast and dinner are included in the room price. We all sat down a dinner of fish and then drank and chatted well into the night. The next day I had organized to go diving with a different company along with a Spanish couple who I'd gone diving with the day before. It was a one hour boat trip down south to the reef but it was worth it. In the morning we spotted two gorgeous eagle rays and in the afternoon we spied a nurse shark sleeping under a small ledge. Eugenio grabbed the shark's tail and annoyed him enough that he took off and we got a good look at him. Lunch was on a tiny little sand bar which was more tiny scatchy pieces of shell than sand. The water here is an amazing blue-turquoise and changes rapidly depending on the depth of the water. Did I mention this was paradise.
We arrived back on Gran Roque just in time for the last of the Brazil game and then a I headed down to watch the sunset with Sophie and Pierre. Fish dinner (I think it's fish every night), more drinks and chatting and then bed. My last day on the island was filled with football and short hikes around the island. The beach around the island is covered with boats waiting to take tourists over to other islands for the day but I'd had enough of boats. I just wanted to relax. 6pm came much too quickly and from takeoff to touchdown we were in the air only 30 minutes. I took the bus and metro to my old hostel in Caracas and was happy to see my big backpack waiting for me. Two whole weeks without it I must say I was missing it a bit. I talked to some fellow travelers who had just arrived and talked them into meeting me at the Diablos Danzantes festival the next day. I drew them a map with instructions and headed to bed.
I was up and out of the hostel somewhat early to make it San Francisco de Yare for the festival. The other travelers I'd spoken to wanted to go later but this festival is the whole reason I came to Venezuela directly from Ecuador and I didn't want to miss a second of it. When I arrived at the church at the center of town it was in a sea of red. Hundreds of men and boys dressed in a red costume atop of which they each have a big colorful mask. They were dancing in small circle to the beat of a drum and maracas. It was mesmerizing. After about half and hour they stopped and the church service began which included lots of Latin-African music and singing streaming out of the loud speakers. I ran into the travelers I'd met the night before and we hung out alternating between eating ice pops and drinking beers in the hot sun. Once the service was over, the priest was carried out of the church on a white and gold throne. All the devils got into position and walked backwards in a long wide line in front of the throne like the priest was driving them out. What an ending! We hung out for another hour or so drinking a few more beers and having a quick lunch. We were about to go when a commotion started a few meters in front of us and all of a sudden we realized that a guy had just gotten stabbed in the shoulder. Looking around I realized there were easily ten times as many people in the streets as there were when I'd a arrived a few hours before. Definitely time to go. By the time we made it back to to the hostel I only had about 15 minutes before I had to head to the bus station to catch my bus to Merida. What a week!