I am sure that the turtle can teach you a better way than the hare.
This quote is awesome! What a simple reminder to slow down and enjoy the journey. I love the beach. I love that I can be lazy. I love that I don’t have to think about anything. This weekend we had an opportunity to slip out of this craziness called Caracas and head to the sandy shores. Like a horse with a carrot dangling in front of its nose, I stayed focused. I planned and I checked things off of my list: beer, check, sunscreen, check, plantain chips, check, towels, check, cooler, check. We were set.
We needed to leave early Saturday morning to beat traffic. How early you ask? 6:30 early. I know, good thing we’re morning people, right? Now in reality, the beach isn’t far, but the traffic plays such a crucial role here that a 45 minute drive can take well over 3 hours. For the most part we were lucky. There weren’t any accidents and we made record time, just under an hour and a half.
After stopping off to get some empanadas and some well needed coffee, we dropped our stuff off at our friend’s condo and were on the beach just before 9. I understand how people love sunsets on the beach, but I prefer the mornings when the sun isn’t too strong, the beach isn’t crowded and the birds are searching for their breakfast.
Now I’ve been to enough beaches to know to apply sunscreen, but for some stupid reason I almost always forget to put it on one part of my body and at the end of the day I’m left scolding myself. I carefully applied the cream over my body, paying specific attention to my ankles (the former victims of my negligence). After waking up from a little snooze. Yeah, I had a nap…tee hee. Life is cruel, isn’t it? Don’t envy me yet. I discovered that unfortunately, this time was no different. I burnt my knees! Seriously, how did I miss them? They’re round, bony little things. Sigh. I think I need to make a check list for future applications.
Like a child, I was quickly distracted from my pain when I saw a vendor passing by selling jewelry. Normally I don’t ask them to come over because I feel bad if I don’t buy anything, but something blue caught my eye and I needed to see what it was. It was a pretty bracelet. I asked the guy to see it and he was obliging. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one with shells and some colored things that looked like little buttons(they turned out to be dyed coconut shell).
Anything natural with texture and color and I’m in. I think the most precious of art comes from nature or is at least inspired by it. I disregarded the first and focused all of my attention on the smooth shell creation. I tried it on and wasn’t at all surprised to find out that it was huge. I have child sized wrists. The guy said he could adjust it and sure enough he pulled out some scissors and a lighter. I put it on a second time, but for some reason I couldn’t figure how to remove it. He took it off of my wrist and told me that he’d make it better, prettier.
After settling in the sand to redesign my bracelet, we offered him something to drink while I keenly watched. He deftly thread the pieces on the string and tied knots at an amazing speed. His final design was simpler and indeed prettier than his last. I get so much joy when I look at it. I know it sounds weird. How can something that cost around $5 bring a smile to my lips? It’s difficult to explain. I get the same feeling when I’m in the woods staring at the leaves of a tree. One thing I know for sure is when I wear it I’ll remember him, the beach, the sun, but more importantly, it’ll act as reminder that the the simplest pleasures can be found almost anywhere.
Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Something strange happens here on Sundays, people slow down. It’s like they take a deep breath before the start of a new week or perhaps they have no energy from the week that has passed and just decide to go with it and relax. This doesn’t mean they stay at home and don’t do anything, on the contrary. It appears that everyone heads outdoors to spend time with family and friends.
Two fantastic places to do this are Parque El Este and the Avila National Park. Both, conveniently enough, are located in the city. Because everyone has the same idea, there are some serious lines to get into and out of Parque El Este. It’s a super crowded place on the weekend. Every group imaginable is there from yoga, tai chi, some sword fighting group, I even saw a wellness group where people were laughing so hard it was contagious. There are, of course, the walkers, the joggers, and basketball, volleyball and baseball players along with kids in strollers. Everyone is trying to get the most of the fresh air and their one truly free day.
There are kiosks of toys for kids, people pressing fresh orange juice, or serving chicha ( a semi-thick rice drink, not to my liking), there are even canteens selling empanadas and taquenos (I’ll write more about those when I have pictures of the good stuff!).
Parque EL Este is not a zoo even though it has some crocs, lots of turtles, a couple of monkeys, a few otters, and the odd large iguana running around. I particularly like watching the monkeys, but I love watching other people react, or not, to animals, especially children. People connect to nature differently than how they connect with people. In some ways it gives me hope.
I’m all about stopping and smelling the roses. Seriously, I think Juan gets tired of me picking up random things like seeds, or fruit from a tree, or feeling the texture of bark on a tree.
Take the Hura Crepitan seed for example. It stopped me in my tracks. It’s a big, hard seed which, when whole, kind of looks like a small brown pumpkin. Juan told me that people here make jewelry, key chains, or even art with them.
The tree is also referred to as the Dolphin tree because when you turn one part of the seed a certain way it looks like a dolphin. I think I’m going to try and make something out of mine. By the way, the trunk has thorns like a rose. Crazy, right?
Anyway, I like details; I like that I can think about shapes, forms, the how and the why of things. It gets my mind working and it calms me down. Nature is awesome!
After visiting Parque El Este we headed over to the Avila National Park for a little hike. The Avila is the mountain range that dominates all of Caracas. It’s a large dark green curtain of a mountain. It’s beautiful.
The beginning of our hike was, you guessed it, crowded. People with dogs, bikes and kids crammed the entrance. A few minutes later we were in our own little world. We went off of the beaten track onto a small trail.
The silence was most welcoming. It was hard to believe that solitude could be had in such a noisy city. I love this mountain for this reason. The air was pure, so clean. Caracas, unfortunately has no real air quality control, so cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles pollute in such a careless way that it breaks my heart. Huge black clouds of exhaust are everywhere.
Whenever we walk around for any length of time my nose and throat burn. It’s that bad. So the Avila really is the lung of the city. All I can say is thank god trees turn carbon dioxide into oxygen! If not, we’d all be dead from poisoning.
Walking through the Avila provided me with a great experience to discover new Nature. I saw trees and leaves that I had never seen before.
It gave me a chance to unwind, be at peace and reconnect with the most basic of things: silence, light, shadows, chirping birds and the sound of water pushing its way through rocks.
All in all, it was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday. So if you ever find yourself in Caracas and need a break, head to the parks!