2004 – My first ever visit to El Yaque – 10 windsurf centers – Over 100 windsurfers on the water – Windy every day.
2016 – My 8th visit to El Yaque – 1 windsurf center – 15 windsurfers on the water – Windy every day.
International news about Venezuela’s economic mis-management and safety concerns coupled with no direct flights to Porlamar Airport, only 5 minutes from El Yaque, has lead to a dramatic drop in the number of windsurfers on the beach.
Has that changed my El Yaque experience? Personally only for the better, particularly as there is more space on the water for me and the few other windsurfers to enjoy.
Though on the water it’s not particularly busy, the weekends at El Yaque beach are packed. This beach on Isla Margarita has become one of the hippest in Venezuela, in large due to the movie “Pueblo de los Campeones”. On Sundays and holidays there is often pumping reggaeton (latin pop music) and Cuba Libre’s (rum and coke) on one end of the beach, while sports enthusiasts enjoy the wind at the other end, where I keep my gear at Club Nathalie Simon. Lifeguards are on duty and keep swimmers safe by making sure they stay in the swimming area, while the watersports area is reserved for windsurfers and kitesurfers.
Many restaurants line the beach, some that have been around for years such as Sharks, and newer ones like Beach Bar. My personal favourite is a little lunch spot just across the street from the beach where I eat fish, rice, platanos, salad with a drink for 1000 Bsf (Bolivar Fuerte). At the black market exchange rate that is about $1US. Some afternoons I indulge and enjoy a dozen fresh oysters on the beach for 400 Bsf.
The government regulates food prices in Venezuela to keep a basic basket of foods affordable. The set prices generally mean that producing these items is no longer economically rational, – so they become scarce. When they are available in a store, long lines form to purchase these low-priced items. With the right contacts you can get these products without waiting in line, but you pay a price for it. For example 1kg of flour should cost 300Bsf, at the “precio justo”, which you would have to line up for, but if you buy it through “contacts” it costs 600 Bsf.
Other interesting expenses I have here (black market rate is around 1000Bsf = $1USD):
1000Bsf for 2 hours of tennis with racket and ball rental.
1000Bsf for a bottle of rum.
600Bsf for a movie ticket at the cinema.
The ridiculous aspect of this black market money exchange is that the largest denomination of the Bsf is 100Bs, around $0.1. So you’re paying for everything in dimes. It creates a system based partly on trust, taxi drivers often don’t count the bills, they just estimate based on the weight of the cash if you have paid the correct fare.
Exchanging money on the black market is very easy, in fact it’s much easier than exchanging money at terrible rates at any bank or exchange office in the area. With the high inflation in Venezuela anybody holding a decent amount of local currency will be willing to exchange for a stable foreign currency like USD or Euros.
In the nearest city Porlamar there are numerous big shopping malls, which resemble any 1st world country’s shopping malls. You can find all types of shops, food courts and large supermarkets “Sigo”, where you can buy nearly everything except for the few regulated products.
Speaking from my personal experience and what I hear, Isla Margarita is very safe relative to the mainland of Venezuela. In fact you even need to pass some sort of civil registry control (SAIME) when arriving in Porlamar Airport from Caracas. Entering El Yaque is like it always was, only one road in, and you have to pass a Guardia Nacional booth, keeping the “malandros” out.
There you go, some random and hopefully interesting details on the life of a foreigner in El Yaque for a few months.
***Hecho en Socialismo*** 😉