A bus journey takes us from the busy Caracas to the main road interface to the final destination.
Maracay has little to discover. Even with some time before the next call, shortly after we leave, we return to the terminal in search of some refreshing break.
We find him in the small juice house of Senhor Manuel who, nostalgic for the Madeiran origins, displays in his business several posters of the Pearl of the Atlantic.
We drink fearless mixtures of tropical fruits. Conversation leads to conversation, we delve into the origin of the owner:
“since I come from Porto Moniz, on the tip of the north coast of Madeira, I don't know if you know? If we look at things well, the scenarios over there, it's not even that different from where you're going now. It's the same kind of steep mountain covered with vegetation and the sea just below. I mean… around Puerto Colombia, the beaches are real beaches. Large sands, coconut trees, crystal clear sea. It's a little bit different. They'll love it. Soon they are in the water.”
From One Side to the Other of the Cordillera da Costa
We say goodbye. We got on the next bus that would take us to the historic towns inside the Henri Pittier Park.
Since a previous visit to Guatemala that we didn't see, in the Americas, a bus as colorful and folkloric as this one, painted on the outside in various shades of blue and yellow and decorated on the inside with decorative items, knickknacks and a colorful assortment of windshield hangers.
A weekend is approaching. The vehicle is filled with vacationing families from Caracas de Maracay, up to the Margarita Island.
As soon as the crowd is exhausted, the driver sets off up the mountain, with a ferocious drive that, despite entering a sanctuary of nature, sees deafening horns at every turn of the narrow route.
It was certainly not what Swiss scientist Henri Pittier imagined, in 1916, for the jungle he fell in love with. Already in his years of life – mainly from the 30s of the XNUMXth century onwards – he felt uncomfortable with the growing human disrespect for place.
The Struggle for the Ecosystem of the Cordillera da Costa by Henri Pittier
Henri Pittier decided to stay and fight for the cause. He made an old dwelling on a coffee farm his home.
After great resistance to the offenders and diplomatic persistence, he obtained from the president at the time, General Eleazar López Contreras, the official creation of the first national park in Venezuela, then called Rancho Grande.
Today, the Henri Pittier National Park occupies a vast area of the state of Aragua and the Venezuelan coast, along the steep mountains of the Cordillera de la Costa.
This mountain range was raised by intense tectonic movements.
They stand out from the seabed at 1800 meters of altitude from Pico Paraíso and at 1900 from Guacamaya. At these heights, despite the almost equatorial latitude, the temperature drops to 6º and some of the most diluvial rains in the country fall.
As in most of the Cordillera, the resident precipitation and mist keep the native flora lush and diverse, dominated by majestic trees, with leafy crowns that rob the ground of sunlight.
The fauna is not far behind.
The park has, in El Portachuelo, the main pass for about 520 species of migratory birds and many more insects (including dozens of types of moths) on the flight path that takes them from North to South America.
It is something that attracts, every year, to the local biological stations, thousands of ornithologists eager for study the birds rarer or simply more beautiful, like the anthill or the black japu.
Choroni, Puerto Colombia: Between the Cordillera and the Caribbean Sea
Choroní and Puerto Colombia appear sheltered in the marine foothills of the mountain range. These are the most important towns in the park. We leave the bus at the last one and look for accommodation there.
Of colonial origin, half lost in time, they separate the two people a mere 25 minutes on foot, always going up or 15 going down. Distance continues to play a crucial role in their different identities.
Choroni preserves intact the colorful Castilian colonial houses, built in 1616, soon after its foundation by the Spanish occupants.
The settlers hastened to subdue the local Indians with the same name and made the village expand below. Later, they endowed it with slaves brought from Africa.
Virgílio Espinal, in Pittier's Mode of Disciple
We dare not consider Virgilio Espinal a disciple of Pittier, far from it.
And yet, the guide presents himself as a serious fan of the region's nature and confesses that he felt at ease in the middle of that steep jungle. We contract your services without hesitation. We followed him for hours on end.
Kilometer after kilometer, always with machete in hand, this Aragueño forty makes its way through dense vegetation with incredible fluidity.
Virgílio had already lived and worked at the Brazil. He insists on us practicing his Hispanic-Abrasucado Portuguese: “Boys, these roots can reach ten meters and only on the surface.
Can you understand why the trees here easily grow to 50, 60 meters in height, even when growing on a sloping surface? It's wet isn't it? Go, don't complain.
In the end I'll take you to eat the best empanadas here in the area.
However, we return to the lowlands and towards the party that spread like a virus among the natives, the Caracas and some expatriates from Puerto Colombia.
The Coastline rumbero of Puerto Colombia
Latin music to rumble and beer they are everything any Venezuelan craves after a day of cards or chatting in cozy Playa Grande.
The outsiders, these, adjust to the wave and explore its unknown Caribbean-reggae facet. After a few days, many already behave like any indigenous people and dance along the malecon to the rhythm of drums and maracas.
Before we join the celebration. We still have time to climb the hill of Mirador del Cristo de Choroni.
From there, we admire the Caribbean Sea, intersected by the most advanced headlands of the mountain range, where pirates once sheltered.
We admire the rosy and purplish sky above, traversed by fast frigates and lined flocks of pelicans.
On the way down, a saleswoman tropicalian of drinks suggests a deserved reward for the effort of the climb, in the tender ways typical of Venezuelan women: “yes my love? I serve you a refreshment? "
The next morning, the first hours belong to the parents and children who, laden with glaciers, head for the white sands of the park until then, delivered to the coconut forest.
The laziest stay at this Playa Grande.
Other clans of holiday explorers find their starting point at the jetty located next to the malecon, from where they leave permanently peñeros towards Chuao, Valle Seco and Uricao, small villages and beaches accessible only by sea. We join the latter.
Chuao, Valle Seco, Uricao: Dream Coves at the Base of the Cordillera
Dock, fish market and pier share the inlet, which proves to be too tight and provides chaotic embarkation.
There, while fishermen unload and trade the newly caught fish, the opportunistic pelicans try to apprehend them.
In a distinct business area, vessel owners shout their destinations, haggle over prices and rush groups of passengers foisting on each other to optimize outflows and profits.
Despite being coastal, the routes taken by the peñeros they are beaten by great waves and fertile in emotions.
To compensate, Valle Seco and Uricao treat us to exotic and relaxing bathing retreats, lost among cactuses and sparsely populated.
In Chuao, we go back in time. We walk among the historic cocoa plantations brought there by Hispanic settlers.
On the way back, we socialize with the descendants of their slaves as they sift the last of the crops in the courtyard of the church that the village uses as a threshing floor.