Saturday 19th April 2014
Merida to Catatumbo River Lightning Site, Venezuela
Today we drove to Puerto Concha, the stop off point for transport on to Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in South America. We were heading off to see the place where there are the largest number of lightning strikes in the world. This phenomenon is caused by the temperature of the relatively shallow lake being so warm during the day and by the proximity of quite high mountains that are so cold – over 5,500m – in the eastern part of Colombia combining to facilitate the formation of violent electrical storms. Each evening, mainly in the wet season, these storms form and there are often spectacular lightning shows. To get to the place out on the lake, we parked the truck and caught speedboats for 3 hours, having a picnic lunch on the way, arriving out there at about 5:30pm. This lake is huge; it is about 150km x 100km and drains most of Western Venezuela and Eastern Colombia. In the south where we were, it is very flat round the edge and is quite featureless. Knowing where you were was quite a challenge but thankfully the boat drivers knew where they were! In the north are all the oil wells in Venezuela, which has the largest known oil reserves in the world. The accommodation consisted of some beds, some more hammocks or tents – we had decided on the latter. After we set up our tent, we sat on the pontoon out the front and watched the clouds form and saw some minor lightning flashes in the far distance. After it became dark our drivers (speedboat drivers that is) made dinner. And we sat around in the dark looking for lightning for a couple of hours before going to bed about 11:00pm. Quite an interesting day, but there didn’t appear to be going to be any storms tonight.