Friday, July 30, 2010

Viva Venezuela! El Ultima Parte

Okey dokey, this is my last honeymoon post.  If you can make it through this doozy of a recap, you get mad props cuz it's a long one.

Anyways, although we gladly would have stayed another week relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Los Roques, adventure was calling our name and so we embarked on the second half of our Venezuelan trip.

It took us three different planes to get to Canaima, the tiny indigenous village in the southern part of the country.  The village is only accessible by plane; there are no roads because it is too remote and it would be too dangerous to try and drive from the nearest big city, even if there were roads.

So we took a plane that looked like this:

It sat a whopping six people (Mr Trail Mix was the co-pilot) and the fuel gauge was broken.  When we pointed this out to the pilot, he just grinned and gave us the thumbs up signal.  Sweet, dude, now I feel much better...

Thankfully, we had enough fuel to make it to our destination and were greeted with this view as we landed.

We stayed at a delightful posada called Tapuy Lodge, which was right on the lake pictured above.  All meals were included and there was a beach on the lagoon for swimming, which was lovely.

Our room was great and the best part? We had our own little patio, complete with a hammock, perfect for lazing about and reading a book while indulging in a beer or two. Brilliant.

The town of Canaima is part of the Canaima National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This means that it is protected against development and has been recognized as a unique culture worthy of preserving.

There were a series of waterfalls (called "saltos" in Spanish) that created the lagoon on which the town was centered around.

While our primary reason for visiting Canaima was to see Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall, we had several days there to enjoy the various other waterfalls in the region.  Our first day, we booked an excursion to see Salto El Salpo, another fall that we had heard was beautiful.

We thought it would be a mild hike to the top of the falls, we'd ooh and ahh at the view and bing, bang, boom, that would be all.

We were so, so, SO wrong.

First, we took a boat ride across the lake.  The boat was in the style of a typical indigenous canoe, which was pretty cool.

Then we hiked for about an hour up to the top of the falls.  Great,we thought, excellent excursion, well worth the price of a guide. Little did we know what we were in for next...

Our guide had warned us in the beginning of the trip that we would get wet but we thought he meant from the mist of the falls.  That turned out to be an incorrect assumption because the reason we got wet is because the next part of the hike led us behind the waterfall.

And let me tell you, folks, this ain't no little mild-mannered, trickle o' water flowing down.  This was a rushing, raging, crazy-ass, angry-at-the-world, full-due-to-the-rainy-season waterfall that we somehow traversed behind, clinging for dear life to a rope that lined the 2-foot-wide path while getting absolutely drenched.

At one point, we had to turn our backs to the falls and hold on to the rock wall while sidling along like deranged crabs as the water poured over us and created quite a strong wind, making it hard to even breath! I just remember saying to myself "Holy sh*t, holy sh*t, holy sh*t" until we made it across.

Whew, it was such a rush and definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life!

We survived, huzzah!

And the funniest part was that once we got across and saw the falls from the opposite side, the only way back to our canoe was...You guessed it, back through the waterfall. Good times, good times....

The next day, it was time to head off on our two-day excursion up to see Salto Angel (It's the waterfall from the movie "Up" if ya care..."

Our posada booked our tour and dropped us off at the docks, along with four other tourists, an Aussie couple on their extended honeymoon tour of South America (so jealous of that!), one British mate on holiday and one absolutely nutty Czech woman who spoke no Spanish and very little English.  All in all, a very engaging and interesting group to converse with while motoring up the Carrao River in our motorized wooden canoe.

We stopped for lunch at a little waterfall (called Salto Feliz, or Happy Falls) and got to have some fun swimming and jumping off the rocks.

We also passed an over-turned canoe, which Eduardo, our guide, gleefully told us had capsized the day before.  Luckily, everyone aboard was fine, although he did make some sort of joke about the piranhas eating all the luggage.  At least, we think it was a joke...

Finally, after four hours of motoring up the river, along with some hiking, lunching, swimming and exploring, the falls were in site.  And friends, it was such a glorious sight.

We had heard from others whom we had told that we were heading to Angel Falls that it was a very special place and that the native indigenous population consider it a spiritual experience to visit it but honestly, nothing had really prepared us for the grandeur of the falls and how damn big they are!

Here we are with a Norwegian couple that we made friends with during our trip to Canaima (they were the other passengers in our teeny little plane and it's amazing how you bond with people when you're all absolutely terrified.) They were the chillest kids ever and engaged to be married next summer, so of course I told Kjesti (the girl) all about Weddingbee!

These pictures do not do Angel Falls justice, it's simply impossible to capture 3,000 feet of waterfall on camera.  I read that about 1/3 of the water actually evaporates before it hits the ground since the drop is so long.  Cool, right?

And then we got to swim at the base of the falls, making sure to stay close to the edge so we didn't get sucked into the rapids from the water flow.

Because it had taken us so long to get up to the falls, we spent the night in a lean-to of sorts in the jungle, complete with hammocks and mosquito netting. 

Our guide along with some helpers cooked us this incredible dinner of chicken roasted over an open flame, spanish rice, salad and bread.  I don't know why but whenever I'm camping, food always tastes so good and this was no exception. Mmmmmmm, another one of our favorite meals from the trip...

The next morning, it was raining and we were cold and sort of cramped from sleeping on hammocks (which are not as uncomfortable as one might think but still not anywhere as comfy as a bed.) 

We headed back down the river on our canoe and were thoroughly glad to finally arrive at Tapuy Lodge and change into some dry clothes and stretch out on a bed for a nap.

We spent our final day in Canaima hiking to another set of falls, exploring the town (which is extremely rural and poor) and making friends with an alcoholic parrot while watching the afternoon World Cup game.

And because I've mentioned before that I am incapable of writing a honeymoon post without a sunset photo, here's my favorite off the lagoon where our lodge was situated.

And with that, my friends, our Venezuelan adventure came to a close.  It took us four planes and 20 straight hours of travelling to get back to New York City and I think we both spent the entire time re-living the trip and marveling at all that we saw and experienced.

It was truly the vacation of our lives and I will always cherish the memories from our Venezuelan honeymoon.   Viva Venezuela, siempre en nuestras corazones! 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Viva Venezuela! Part Three

I last left off our honeymoon recaps with a general description of our time in Los Roques Parque Nacional in Venezuela.  To sum up the last two posts? Total awesomeness.

And since I've realized that writing detailed recaps are not really my strong suit in the blogging department, I-ma let the pictures do most of the talking and show off some of the cooler things we saw/did during our 5 days in Los Roques.

First off, it was fish central.  Bone fish, barracudas, squirrel fish and parrot fish, to name a few, abound. (Also, lest you think I am a dorky, fish-freak who knows all these names and species, let me assure you I am not.  It's Mr Trail Mix who is supplying me with all these names.  He's the fish-freak!)

 Here's a shot I got of a trumpet fish we found while traversing the shallow waters of one of the islands...

We also found many different types of crustaceans, including starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins, crabs and many, many various sea shells.  One of our favorite activities that kept us entertained for hours (because we're five years old) was finding large rocks underwater to overturn and see what was underneath.

Check it out...

Not exactly your typical-looking starfish but mad cool nonetheless!

A different type of starfish...

Ooooooh, lookie at all those starfishies.  Run, fishies, run! Good example of why turning over rocks was so fun!

And yet another variety of starfish.  This one was pretty! And please note, all the hands shown in these photos are Mr Trail Mix's.  I was way, way too chicken to pick one of those suckers up.

One day we went kayaking around the islands to see what we could see.

Better not step on one of these monster sea urchins.  Ouch! 

During our kayaking adventures (for the record, those suckers are not as easy to maneuver as they look) we happened upon a little beach bar on one of the islands.  The cost for four cans of Solera beer (a Venezuelan specialty) and one platter of fruta di mar? A whopping $12, if you do the conversion from bolivares (the currency of Ven.) to dollars.  And I'm really not exaggerating when I say it was the best meal we had during our entire trip!

Fresh mussels, clams, shrimp and various other seafood sundries over pasta.  God, it was good...

We recreated Lady and The Tramp by splitting that plate of pasta and slurped up every last bite of seafood goodness.

We also took a day to snorkel with the sea turtles that live and nest in the area.  With this in mind, I now present to you all the dorkiest picture of me ever taken...

Look closely, do you see what takes this photo to a new level of silliness? That would be my socks.  Hey, it helps prevents blisters from the flippers but I still felt stupid.  And the t-shirt was because my poor, sunburned skin could just not take another moment of sun exposure.

As you can see, we did buy an underwater camera but the thing had clearly been sitting in the souvenir shop since about 1995 because when we developed the photos upon our return, they were pretty much all blank, due to sun exposure of the film.  Sadness (and a waste of 20 bucks!) So I have no photos to show you all of the sea turtles but trust me, they were frickin' awesome.

We also saw a sting ray at the end of our day of snorkeling, right on the shore line, while we were taking a break.  I'm quite glad it happened with about only an hour left of beach time because neither one of us wanted to go back in the water after that.  For those that don't know, sting rays can really, really hurt ya if you step on one, not something we wanted to experience on our honeymoon!

And because I just can't help myself and am apparently incapable of writing a honeymoon post without a sunset photo or two (or twelve,) here's a series from our last night in Los Roques (tear.)

Our stay in Los Roques was really perfect.  Delicious food, lots of relaxing beach time with cool activities interspersed, and we didn't have to worry about or plan a thing, our posada took care of everything.  Los Roques is an awesome honeymoon destination and I highly recommend it for a couple looking to break out of the all-inclusive Carribbean resort mold!

Up next, we fly in an even smaller plane (betcha didn't think that was possible after our first one, right?) hike behind a waterfall and sleep in the jungle in a hammock.  Oh yes, the chill part of our honeymoon was done and it was time for some adventures!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Do You Ever Take Your Ring(s) Off?

I was having brunch a few days ago with Mr Trailmix and several of our friends, a few of whom are engaged.  The subject of wedding bands came up and one of his friend's fiances asked to see mine.  I eagerly raised my hand (come on, you know you all love to show off the bling, I'm not the only one!), only to sheepishly lower it when I realized that I had forgotten to put on my rings that morning.  And then to make matters worse, when the subject turned to men's wedding bands, we all realized that Mr Trailmix's hand was naked too! (In his defense, it's at the jewelers getting resized. But still...)

So there we were, a couple of newlyweds not even married a month, and neither of us were wearing our wedding rings.  We did get a few raised eyebrows and surprised looks when I explained that I don't wear my set that often, to be honest.  When I'm sleeping, cooking, cleaning or running, I take them off.  When I take a shower or go swimming, I take them off.  Sometimes, I just wear one band (I have two bands plus the engagement ring, all different.) because it's easier, especially in this New York City humidity, where my fingers resemble plump, Italian sausages.  I always wear them when I leave our apartment, except when I forget to put them back on.  Which happens, sadly, more often than I would like to admit.

Back at brunch, one of Mr TM's friend's commented that she never takes hers off, ever.  Another said she takes hers off when she goes running because she doesn't want to run (harhar) the risk of getting mugged for it, but other than that, her ring stays on all the time.

Truthfully, I was a bit surprised to hear I was in the minority for taking mine off all the time, I kinda figured most women were more like me.  And I may be acting a bit over-sensitive here (Granted, I was hungover, which never helps the situation :)  but I also felt s light attitude of judgy-ness in their surprise over the fact that I don't wear mine that often.  It's not that I'm trying to avoid showing the world I'm married.  Quite the contrary, to be honest.  My sentences are peppered with the phrase "my husband" (Gosh, I love saying that) to the point where friends might be starting to get annoyed.  I'm not trying to mislead anyone or appear to be single, I'm just forgetful (that might be the understatement of the year.)

And fine, if we want to get down to the real nitty-gritty, I suppose the forgetfulness stems from the fact that I don't put much stock in symbols like a ring.  I know I'm married, I know I'm committed to my husband and he knows it as well, but I don't feel the need to share this with the entire world.  Really, it's a piece of metal on my hand and if I don't wear it one day, it doesn't mean I'm not any less married than someone who wears theirs all the time, ya heard? And I refuse to be defined by my marriage or let others define me by my "wife" status.  But really, mostly, it's just that I'd lose my head if it weren't attached to my shoulders and I simply forget to put the rings back on after showering/running/cleaning, etc.

*Steps off soapbox.  

Ok, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I'm curious to hear from the rest of you guys...Are you in the "Wear the ring all the time, no matter what" camp or the "Wear the ring most of the time, depending on the circumstances" camp? 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Viva Venezuela! Part Two

We survived our tiny, scary plane ride and arrived in Los Roques Parque Nacional, ready for five days of sun, fun and relaxation and we were not disappointed in any way.  In fact, it was pretty damn near perfect.

Our routine went basically like this...Wake up, watch the first World Cup game with a bunch of crazy Europeans and eat a delicious, home-cooked breakfast of eggs, bread, arepas, churros, etc. (Breakfast was definitely one of the highlights of my day, it was SO good! And they served Pepsi at breakfast, which may not be the healthiest option to start off one's day but hey, I was on my honeymoon and Pepsi at 7:30 am hold a slightly trashy appeal :) ) 

After stuffing our faces and gathering up all our beach gear, we would head for the docks in town.  Once there, we boarded our posada's speed boat (posada is the Spanish term for "inn") and were driven to one of the many, many little islands that form the archipelago of Los Roques.

Since all meals were included in our stay, our posada packed us a yum-a-licious picnic lunch of fruit, sandwiches, salad, cookies, beer, soda, water, etc to take with us in a cooler and once we got to whichever beach we were visiting on that day, one of the workers on the boat would set up an umbrella and two chairs and ask when we would like to be picked up and brought back to the mainland.  It was that simple and yes, it was as amazing as it sounds. Ahhhhhh, heaven...

Here we are on the boat, heading to the beach on our first day there...

There were massive conch shells all over the beaches and the town.  In the town center, there was even a Christmas tree made out of them! (At least, we think it was a Christmas tree.  Otherwise, it was just a conical shape covered in conch shells, which is random.  But still cool.  And of course, I totally forgot to take a picture of it. Bad blogger.)

Oh, take me back there now, please.  Will you look at these beaches? Whose coming with me?

Los Roques has great fishing and Mr Trailmix is an avid fisherman.  He rented a pole and brought his own bait and tackle in the hopes of catching a bone fish or two, which are (according to him) great fighting fish.  Sadly, he was unsuccessful in his quest to catch a bone fish but he did hook a 6-foot barracuda!

Luckily, the thing managed to unhook itself after a few minutes of fighting because as macho as my man is, even Mr Trailmix knew that there was no way he was going to win fight a with a massive barracuda bare-handed.  Still, it makes for a good story and took away some of the disappointment over the bone fish.

See that figure all the way out there? That's Mr Trailmix out where the water drops off and where he snagged the 'cuda...

We lounged, we ate, we swam, we sunbathed, we took long walks on the beach and gathered up loads of sea shells...Just completely blissed out on the beach together.  Here we are, cooling off in the water because man, it was hot there. Being that close to the Equator really makes a difference!

We explored some of the island's rockier coasts, which sharply contrasted from the sandy beaches that comprised the other side...

And after we returned from the beach and relaxed for a bit, in the early evening before dinner, we'd hike up a mountain (it was a more like a hill but lets call it a mountain for posterity's sake) and watch the sunset. 

See that light house thing at the top? That's where we would hike to every night to take in views like this...

Gosh, I'd give anything to be back there right now...

So as you can see, Los Roques was a fantastic way to kick off our honeymoon.  It was relaxing, has unreal beaches, wonderful service from the posadas on the main island and plenty of activities to do, should you get bored of the beach (or in our case, extremely sunburned.)

Up next, a few of our more exciting adventures in Los Roques, including sea turtles, star fish and the best frutta di mar I've ever eaten!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why I Love Weddings

Allow me to interrupt my honeymoon recaps momentarily to wax poetical on why I love weddings so much.  Because I do, I really, really do.  And I'm guessing most of you out there love 'em too, or else you wouldn't be reading this blog and investing so much time and energy into your wedding.

We just got back from a wedding this past weekend, the first one since our own, and it was more fun than a barrel full of chocolate-covered monkeys (truth.) While I may have imbibed more than my fair share of adult beverages, embarrassed myself on the dance floor and eaten three cupcakes from the cupcake tower (shhhhhhh, there were still plenty left over and they were mmmm-mmmm good) that's still not why I love weddings.

I did some thinking on the 4-hour drive back home, still smiling from the fun of the night before. Weddings are a celebration, pure and simple. It's two people coming together, two families coming together, two lives coming together to become inextricably intertwined.  There is no bittersweet in a wedding, only joy, laughter and love. And seriously kids, what is better than that? (The only two things I can think of that even come close are puppies and ice cream.  But no, actually, weddings are better than both those things combined.)

At the ceremony of this most recent wedding we attended, I watched the groom tear up as the bride walked down the aisle.  I thought about what a special moment this was for her and about my own incredible walk down the aisle barely a month ago.  The love you feel from friends and family on that day is truly awe-inspiring and the significance of the moment is not lost on anyone.  This day, your wedding day, is a momentous occasion in one's life, that will forever be remembered, re-visited and re-lived.

As I bounced around on the dance floor with old friends to "Shout" (which, for the record, gets my vote for the best song to play at a wedding ever.  Sure, it's a bit cliched but come one, everyone and their mother loves to dance to that song) all I could think were happy thoughts.  Happy for the bride and groom, happy for myself and my husband, happy to be surrounded by friends, happy, happy, happy. And that, right there, is why I love weddings.  The happiness and the love are what it's all about.  And there's nothing better than that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Viva Venezuela! Part One

First off, our honeymoon was frickin' awesome.  I still am in awe of the fact that virtually nothing went wrong  the entire trip.  Given that it was 10-days in a still-developing country (Venezuela) that included six domestic flights on airplanes that, at times, were definitely smaller than an American SUV, I think that's damn near miraculous.

Here's the rundown...

We arrived in Caracas around 5:00 pm Venezuelan time and went straight for our hotel.  Located about five minutes from the airport, the Hotel Eurobuilding had a beautiful outdoor pool and a delicious restaurant attached. We swam, we relived the wedding, we ate and we slept.  It was the perfect start to the trip, allowing us to catch up on some sleep and re-charge. And we were graced with this incredible sunset. Bonus!

Refreshed and ready to continue our travels, the next morning we made our way to the airport for our first domestic flight out to Los Roques Parque Nacional.  We walked up and down, looking for our airline, Chapi Air  but only after asking an airport worker, did we notice at the very end of the checkout counter was a small 8" x 11" paper sign taped to the wall that had the words "Chapi Air" printed out in black-and-white. This was our first clue that things were about to get a little bit more interesting.

The plane below was our second clue.

Not gonna lie, I was more than a little bit nervous to fly in a 12-seater prop plane but I had no choice. Deep breaths commenced.

Here we are "boarding" the plane.  Notice where Mr Trail Mix's head is in relation to the place.  Yeah, it's above  it. He was taller than the plane.  Big gulps and deeper breaths ensued.

Who has two thumbs and does not want to spend an entire hour in this death trap?

This girl!

And then we were off!

Los Roques is an archipelago, made up of hundreds of tiny islands.  It makes for some beautiful pictures while airborne. 


We touched down at the airport and I hopped out of the plane quicker than you could say "arepa." (Arepas, by the way, are fried cornmeal cakes usually stuffed with cheese or meat and were served with many of our meals.  I ate far, far more than was good for me :))

 Oh, and I use the term "airport" extremely loosely.  It was more like a hut, complete with a thatched roof.  But I didn't care, we had landed and we were about to spend five days of our honeymoon in a Caribbean paradise!

We through the little town of Gran Roque to our bed and breakfast,  Posada Acquamarina, thanks to the help of their manager, who met us at the airport.  It was absolutely lovely.

Every morning, all the guests would gather here in the Mediterranean-inspired common room to watch the World Cup. With such an international crowd (we met people from France, Italy, Brazil, Venezuela and Portugal during our stay) the games were really fun to watch. Also, the language barrier made for some hilarious charades when verbal communication failed!

Ahhhh, Posada Acquamarina, I would return to you for another vacation in a heartbeat, we loved our stay there. Stay tuned for our Los Roques adventures, including barracudas, sea turtles, kayaking, the freshest frutta di mar  on the planet, and many, many bottles of wine...