Trading one storm for another

Trip Start Oct 08, 2007
Trip End Dec 16, 2008

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Flag of Venezuela  , Andes,
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Merida is a bit of a mess with the student protests. I'm not thrilled by the prospect of staying home all weekend, so I sign up on a trip to Lake Maracaibo, the largest Lake in South America, but also home to one of a kind natural phenomenon - Catatumbo.
Catatumbo is a thunderless lightning that illuminates the skies over the lake near the river basin of lake Catatumbo almost every night. It is beyond my capacity to explain what causes this meteorological phenomenon, so I included below a link to a website that talks about it. The most interesting and important fact about Catatumbo however is that this phenomenon alone is responsible for about 3% of the annual ozone production on earth and therefore can be considered as one of the main individual regenerators of the ozone layer on the planet. Fascinating, ain't it.
It was a bizarre (but not necessary unpleasant) night in a small house perched on concrete columns in the lake, cumbia blasting from the house next-boat to us, while the skies were being illuminated for hours by lightening. In addition, there was a whole lot a bird watching, monkey spotting and alligator hunting, and a little bit of hiking, beer drinking and Spanish speaking. In general, a great trip. Venezuela ranks amongst the top 10 countries with largest biodiversity in the world. The nature is very, very beautiful.
Ah, and I found out how much a litter of gasoline cost in Venezuela - between 0.7-0.9Bolivares - less than 50cents!!!, less than bottled water. For real.  
I would definitely reccomend the agency that took me to Catatumbo: Guaguanco Tours. They are right at Plaza las Heroinas and do not rip you off: Ask to go with Eli - he is a truly nice and knowledgable guide.

For more on the lightening of Catatumbo read on:
The text below is a copy/paste from that website. I think it is an English translation from the Spanish Wikipedia.
"The Lightning of the Catatumbo is a located singular meteorological phenomenon to the south of the Lake of Maracaibo in Venezuela whose name comes from the Catatumbo river.
This phenomenon is characterized for being an almost continued lightning, that takes place in clouds of great vertical development forming electrical arcs between the 2 and the 10 kilometers of height (or more) as the tradewinds penetrate in the surface of the Lake in hours of afternoon (when the evaporation is greater) and they are forced to promote by the mountainous system of PerijŠ and the mountain range of Venezuelan the $andes. So that the origin of this phenomenon is in the orographic effect of these mountain ranges that lock up and restrain to winds of the northeast taking place clouds of great vertical development, concentrated mainly in the river basin of the Catatumbo river. This phenomenon is very easy to see from hundreds of kilometers of distance, that is to say, from the own lake (where clouds usually do not appear during the night) reason why also it is known like the Light of Maracaibo, since the boats which they furrowed the zone could sail during the night without problems at the time of navigation to candle. It has an annual occurrence of 140 to 160 nights, lasting up to 10 hours per night and taking place up to 280 unloadings per hour. In addition, these electrical storms anywhere in the world produce a 10% of all the generated ozone layer reason why the lightning of the Catatumbo can be considered as one of the main individual regenerators of the ozone layer in the planet because it produces a approximate one of 1.176.000 atmospheric electrical unloadings."

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Hugs & Kisses, Vik

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