Further Up The Creek

Los Llanos – Venezuela

Last post I’d rambled on about various trips of a lifetime, one of which included Venezuela, and that got me digging out some of the photos from that little foray. Clicking through them revived memories of sights and smells, particularly from our exploration of Los Llanos (Loz Yanos) with naturalist and all-round nut-case Roger Manrique aka ‘Croc Roger’. Now, this blog is supposed to be about living in Turkey but as our trip started here I decided to stretch a point and share some moments with you.

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Los Llanos is a vast, semi-flat wetland area in Barinas Province. It’s criss-crossed by countless rivers that all feed into the mighty Orinoco River. Crossing one of the numerous bridges en-route to our base I was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been as the largest known oil reserves in the world are here) to be driving by a Venezuelan Navy base.

Due to flooding in the wet season all of the roads are raised up on dykes that have been constructed by digging out along each side. This means that during the dry part of the year great pools remain that attract the wildlife from all around. Observing at close quarters is ridiculously easy and when you add in river trips to seek out everything from anaconda to caiman to electric eels to iguana to piranha to giant river otters to pink dolphins to . .

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three different Ibis in one shot

What follows is a glimpse of what is in store for those intrepid wanderers who don’t take the plunge like Roger and stay sensible and fairly dry with fingers and toes tucked well in! Meet Pepe, an orphan Giant River Otter that was adopted by a local – he’s loving and inquisitive; fishing piranha for supper; getting wrapped around a male anaconda; three different coloured ibis in one shot and sunsets to die for!

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Roger catches young male Anaconda
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Roger shows Anaconda’s teeth
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Anaconda demonstrates use of teeth!
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J demonstrates her skill at snake charming
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Emerald Kingfisher
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Howler Monkeys (they really do!)
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J with ‘Pepe’ a young Giant River Otter
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Piranha – this time . .
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I get to eat you for supper!
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. . as the sun goes down
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. . the Iguana come out
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as handsome a vulture as I’ve ever seen
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domesticated bliss!
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a fishing eagle
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Anteater at dusk
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beautiful reflections on water
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Goodnight!

Alan, once upon a time up the Orinoco without a paddle!

Yet Another ‘Trip of a Lifetime’

J and I love the odd ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ every now and again! Since moving here to Turkey we’ve wandered off on the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow to Beijing; (salvaged from Archers of Okçular first posted February 2014)

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With many, many, many days spent rocking across the steppes in a daze (I never realised there were so many different types/flavours of vodka) there would come times when one needed a shower. Our babushka would hold up five fingers, snatch the dollars and direct you into her cubicle where sat one of these . .

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Your $5 bought you the contents of the samovar, a bit of rubber hose for the tap and a squat over the drain-hole in the corner – oh, and she kept guard in the entrance way and held your soap if required!

We’ve taken in the Panama Jazz Festival for no better reason than the delightful local pianist Danilo Perez invited us. We were also treated to passes that admitted us to everything (including many a meal). Danilo is the founder and the festival supports young musicians from poor circumstances with tuition, instruments and scholarships to Berkeley School of Music. Add to the glorious music some wonderful exploration trips along the canal and to beaches and islands and the vultures at sunset and you have a perfect encore.

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our son Ben, sound engineer of choice for many big names and venues, at the board in the beautiful old National Opera House in Panama City – on stage are some of the young and very talented musicians enjoying their very own gig

From Panama we wandered across to take in some of the revolutionary and ecological joys of Venezuela. In Caracas we met with Chavistas and the amazing Presidential Guards from Chavez’ old regiment who reversed the US instigated coup against him in days! In Merida up in the Andes we rode to the top of the longest and highest cable-car in the world whilst stubbornly refusing the available oxygen bottle and we got an OAP discount into the bargain! Then we found local field biologist, guide and artist Roger crocroger1Manrique aka Croc Roger who led us exploring the backwaters of the mighty Orinoco River where we wrestled with Anacondas and Iguanas (this is true), fished piranha for dinner (this is also true) and saw and photographed more wildlife than you could believe existed! We also spent a few days on the tropical paradise islands of Los Roques where, amongst other things, I was able to ogle the amazing creations that plastic surgeons can achieve in exchange for a lot of dosh – you are left wondering what keeps them up!

. . and now? We are in the early stages of organising a tour of the Glories of Persia – we are (visas and other things being equal) going to be wandering around in Iran for 16 days in April. We’ll be using as much local transport, buses, trains and the like as we can in order to be in contact with ‘ordinary’ Iranians.

Originally we’d hoped to travel by train from Istanbul to Tehran but I think a Turkish Airlines flight is going to simplify the bureaucracy. Then it’s off to places like Esfahan; Shiraz; Bam; Yadz and even Mashad way over in the east of the country before wandering back to Tehran via the Aborz Mountains just south of the Caspian Sea. So much history and culture and food and people to learn about before we get too cranky and creaky – wish us luck with officialdom!

Alan in Okçular