Askari Cruise Page 18

Askari Cruise — As told to Diane M. Byrne — April 2003

The Time of Their Lives, Part III
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Kate’s Diary
• Part 2: Kate’s Diary
• Part 3: Kate’s Diary
• Part 4: Kate’s Diary
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• Askari Cruise, Part 1

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We had the rare opportunity to visit a “pan yard” and experience the music first-hand. We watched in awe as a local steel band turned ordinary-looking oil drums into wonderful melody makers. The music they produced was so loud that it could be felt for blocks away. The band was composed of Trinis of all ages, but the most impressive drummer was a teenage boy who played without missing a note. We listed to the steel orchestra for well over an hour, and we were thoroughly amazed at their performance and impressed that each played without any sheet music. As we walked away, I imagined what it must sound like during Carnival when hundreds of bands compete for the prestigious title of Steel Band of the Year. I’d really hate to be a judge faced with the responsibility of choosing a winner, but I’d love to be a spectator one day!

Our quest for the perfect island paradise led us to a large island off the coast of Venezuela. However, our expectations of white sand beaches surrounding cute little towns were quickly trampled when the high-rise hotels and office complexes of Isla Margarita came into view along the horizon. As we pulled into the crowded and dirty cove, we noticed that over half of the towering structures were unfinished and unattractive. The remainder of the city was occupied mostly by large, expensive gift shops and clothing and jewelry stores. The area resembled much of what is seen in the United States. With shopping so easy and convenient, we decided to take advantage of this commercialized island. We hired a taxi to take us downtown, where we visited some gift shops and grabbed a bite at an outdoor restaurant on the shore. Believe it or not, this was the highlight of our adventures in Isla Margarita until the following day, when we took a taxi tour across the island.

Fortunately, the view from this side of the island was several steps closer to our idea of a Caribbean paradise. Upon our arrival in Laguna de la Restinga, we were informed that we would be taking a river tour through the mangrove trees. Our party of eight was quickly divided into two groups, since each boat could only hold four people. We passed our belongings into the hull of the boat and headed up a series of shallow, narrow canals that meandered in and out of the mangrove patches that were anchored solidly to the muddy bottom. The innumerable mangrove trees, growing into, around, and above each other, apperaed to be intertwined into one huge mangled knot of roots.

At the end of this massive mangrove maze was a beach unlike what we’ve seen so far on our island-hopping. The sand, coarse, and chunkyu pieces of shattered shells outlined the water’s edge. As soon as our river tour ended, we unloaded our bags from the boat and darted toward the waterfront. We were fascinated with the large, unbroken shells that were randomly scattered across the shore, and the sound of our feet sluffling through the sand mimicked the soundof a continuously flowing rain stick. We cheerfully collected seashells and sand and quickly packed them into plastic bottles to take back to Askari, in hopes of creating our own Caribbean rain sticks to remind us of our adventures.

After meticulously choosing the filling for our rain sticks, we had a delicious seafood lunch at an open-air restaurant on the beachfront. Before heading back through the mangrove canals, we passed by a few vendors and purchased some souvenirs. Even though Isla Margarita wasn’t a picture-perfect paradise, the sights at Laguna de la Restinga made this visit one of a kind.

After our disappointment with the vastly populated, commercialized Isla Margarita, we were relieved to find that our next port of call was a beautiful, uninhabited island far from the hustle and bustle of city life. La Tortuga was a small, elongated island surrounded by calm, transparent water, and observing the ocean floor from the surface was as clear as looking through a freshly poured glass of water. The numerous coral heads visible through the lucid turquoise water were open invitations for us to grab our gear and go snorkeling.

Next page > Diary, Part 3 > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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