It’s OK to Travel with a Bathrobe #18: Los Roques
After a while discovering what life in Martinique had to offer, it was time to check out the rest of my beautiful surroundings, it’s not everyday that we live in the Caribbean, after all. I was longing for a sailing trip after I had quit the Danubio and, as it usually happens, the opportunity presented itself (as opportunities do). An acquaintance from the bar, Fabien, a French skipper that works freelance for all the sailing charter companies, asked me to join him as his crew for a boat delivery starting in the islands of Los Roques, Venezuela. Since I spoke Spanish, I would come in handy over there. How great it is to be requested to speak your own language, funny, it even makes me proud. How sad is that?
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be going to Venezuela, not only were we going to spend the night in a hotel somewhere in Caracas (as dangerous as everyone says it is) but there was all that political situation going on, the coup d’etat against Hugo Chaves and the counter coup three days later. Although, I must admit, we were oblivious of all that, because, living in the Caribbean is like living in Jupiter, you wouldn’t feel more out of this planet up there. So, shame on us, we ventured into the heart of the city, happy as can be, despite the huge display of military all over the place. Now that I come to think of it, it would have been nice of the charter people to educate us in the matter, just so we would have a clue which army to join in case.
We would arrive by plane in the evening, spend the night at some hotel in the capital, that I was in charge of finding, which made me, once more, feel very proud and responsible. Then take another flight to the tiny island of Gran Roque, early next morning.
We hadn’t even crossed the gate at customs when the comedy started, I took a five minute walk to the toilets and when I came back, the whole welcome committee was there waiting for me: a Navy officer, a military policeman, a customs agent, a regular policeman and a lady from the airport security. They seemed to be confused and strangely suspicious about the nature of the trip and about Fabien’s job, I said he was a skipper, a sailor “marino” and they said they needed a letter from the “naviera” to let him go. Fabien showed them the letter from the charter company once more, that was in English to begin with, and they returned it with a shake of the head asking, one more time for a letter from the “naviera”…
I started thinking we didn’t speak the same language after all and we were going to be sent back to Martinique, or put up in a cage at the airport when the navy officer explained to me, very calm because I must have been looking desperate, that he could not let a French Navy official get in the country and sail off with a boat, like that, without the permission of the French Navy as “it may cause an international incident”. I exploded in laughter, all those people thought he was a sailor from the navy because the “Naviera” in Venezuela means the Navy, in Spain we call it the “Marina”. Naviera, for us, is something private like yachts, usually cargo ships or oil transport. I explained the whole misunderstanding to him and he told the customs officer: Pablo, write down “TOURIST”.
I definitely have to get used to this place…