What intrigues me about the most visited tourist places is that which isn't shown at first sight, because I think that the wonders of a place are the opposite of what the man already touched; and although this is one of the most popular viewpoints of Venezuela what really makes it an attractive site is what hides behind it.
The Cerro El Morro of Lecheria is one of the main tourist places in the Anzoategui state. It's a relief that borders the CaribbeanSea, exceeds 100 meters in height and has an extension of 15 kilometers.
But this isn't like any hill; its virtues have been highlighted through the conditioning of the land, with the construction of roads, delimiters, traffic signs, ornaments, light poles that work with solar energy, and more. All to facilitate the passage and comfort both tourists and residents who reside in the variety of buildings that are built there.
The popularity of El Morro is mainly due to its viewpoint. From the top you can see the infinity of the ocean: nearby islands, the Bay of Pozuelos and the coasts of Puerto La Cruz, and there it doesn't matter if it is day or night but the landscape is always impressive.
Another attraction is the Fortin de la Magdalena, a castle of historical value for the state, from where our coast was defended from the looting of pirates during colonial times. In addition, the amplitude and diversity of the spaces of the hill are a special scenario for athletes, who in addition to tourists, are the most frequent site.
However, this post isn't to tell you the same thing you can read on the internet about El Morro, on the contrary, I want to teach you what you can't see from your heights, but which is equal or more impressive.
🗺️ The route
I was born here in Venezuela, in the state Tachira, but 23 years ago I live in Anzoategui and since I have use of conscience I remember that my dad, who loves to fish, took me to explore the corners of El Morro; thanks to so many visits I learned to perceive its value in many features more than in a privileged view, and that is the essence of the following photographic record.
The day I decided to do the tour I had to get up earlier, because I left my house when it was already very sunny, and 5 hours later I had no water, I was insulated, I was hungry and my legs hurt.
The truth was that the journey would last less, but I got so distracted that time flew by. Now, if at any time you think about knowing it, I recommend you go very early in the morning or when the afternoon is ending; Unless you are lucky and you manage to go on a cloudy day.
Although the good thing about visiting El Morro when the sun is at its maximum splendor is that the colors and figures of nature look sharper, it's as if the light made them take more life. And that's a show!
Once you get to the foot of the hill you have two roads: on the right is the main road, it is paved and suitable for transit, that takes you to the viewpoint; while on the left is the dirt road towards the back.
By taking the path on the left the first image you come across is a dazzling landscape of blue sky with birds planning, the turquoise sea navigated by oil tankers, a multicolored foliage of diverse vegetation, stones of various sizes on all sides and a sand road.
Then, the rest of the landscape is basically similar but as you go you will find details that make it even more incredible; everything will depend on the angle from which you look at it. And captivated by those details in total I walked around 10 thousand meters surrounding everything El Morro; I know it sounds like a lot but when you are in front of such beauty every step is worth it.
The term "accident" doesn't always have a negative meaning, for example the Cerro El Morro is one of the wonderful geographical features that shape this state.
It's formed basically of Sandstone, Silicious, Dolomitic, Clay and Shale rocks, with the predominance of clayey and sandy soils.
I don't know how many years this relief may have but its current appearance indicates that a continuous process of erosion and sedimentation has been generated over time.
At that time of my childhood where I was accompanying my father to fish, they had already begun to modify the hill for tourist purposes.
In addition to the constructions in the front area, roads and a boardwalk were being developed along the entire coastal strip of the rear area. That allowed free access to tourists, and then it became very popular.
But now it is totally different: the vehicle passage is closed, and of those modifications only remains that have been invaded by the same nature. The roads were not completed, and the sections built are occupied by vegetation or covered by stones that have collapsed; while the movements of the sea broke the boardwalk leaving only banks with pieces of concrete.
I think that if they had completed that job, it would be a great tourist project, but nothing would surpass the beauty of this place as it is. I consider that a natural space of this magnitude, unless modified by man, is more attractive.
On the other hand, those hundreds of meters of crumbling boardwalk contributed to give back to the hill the natural aspect of its coasts, which have very particular characteristics. The color and texture of the "sand" vary throughout the coastline as does the swell, depth and transparency of the water.
The beaches of El Morro are not like the traditional coasts, here the banks are formed by rocks of different sizes, with very few areas of fine sand, since in general thick grains mixed with small stones abound.
Regarding the color of the sand, its tones vary between orange, brown, gray and black. In certain areas the stripes have a common appearance, but in others they become striking, as in the stretches of beach with black sand. All this due to the types of rocks from which they come.
In those same visits I made to the hill in my childhood I found something precious. These were "magic stones", they were of various colors and they shone brightly when the sun radiated them. There were lots along the coast, and I liked to collect them.
At that time I didn't understand where they came from, but years later I investigated and they turned out to be sea stones, or rather, pieces of glass eroded by the sea. It really turn into something very beautiful, but I would prefer that we don't continue polluting the ocean.
It seems that over the years the hill has been disintegrating or moving, leaving its rocks scattered everywhere. Curiously, in some stretches you can see large stones protruding from the water, and at their bases the corals and mollusks developed their homes.
Many of these stones have served to build functional structures along the coast, such as the 6 breakwaters responsible for reducing the intensity of the waves, and which are used by fishermen to launch their hooks.
Those same rocks have also been used as ornament. At one end of the hill is the "Path of the Dharma", a point where many of them have been stacked on top of each other. For me this symbolizes the balance and positive energy that inspires the place.
The word Dharma could be translated as "protection", therefore traveling through here represents a circular path of protection. Unlike other modifications made by humans it seems to me that this is not destructive and brings spiritual value to the attractions of El Morro.
The hill also has a marine treasure: it is surrounded by coral reefs. There is even an area called "the aquarium" where the water is so crystalline that from the inside or outside you can see these structures and the fish that are sheltered in them.
That explains why on the route there is a Coral Garden, or at least that was the impression that gave me to find the remains of corals stacked like the stones of the path. All these white pieces of different shapes and textures are distributed over one of the few strips of sand on the hill. It's impressive to be able to detail the morphology of the corals, it seems that they had been carefully carved.
@engelmiranda, who accompanied me to the tour, told me that this place didn't look like a garden but a coral cemetery because they were all already dead, but it's already going. It's impossible not to find beauty in these remains! Although I want these deaths not to multiply, I prefer to see them from inside the sea.
All these details that I am sharing are only the general route, but there are many routes that cross the relief, some more extreme than others by the inclination of the slopes, but you can be sure that no matter which you choose on the way you will always find natural wonders.
The typical vegetation of the coasts of the state Anzoategui is the Xerophile Forest, a type of ecosystem able to adapt to the semiarid climate of the region, where it only rains in a specific season of the year, but in the other months it is very dry due to temperatures that exceed 30 ° centigrade.
The plants that predominate in the El Morro are the thorny, shrubby, herbaceous and wooded, and are abundantly present all over the place, reaching little height but forming a colorful foliage despite reproducing in a climate with that temperature.
The hill is a perfect observatory of Cactus; there is an important development of this family there, numerous species of this type of plants have proliferated, and although this has different shapes, sizes, flowers and fruits, it is possible to recognize them mainly by their thorns.
On this tour I took the opportunity to try for the first time one of the fruits of the Tuna. Like the plant, the fruit has thorns on the outside and inside it has seeds, it has a gelatinous texture and it has a very sweet flavor. After carefully removing the skin I bit it and my teeth and mouth were stained a color between fuchsia and purple.
These small fruits are not commercialized although many grow in the area; I really think they are very delicious but I think that is because eating them becomes painful if we hurt with some of their quills.
Some part of the vegetation of El Morro is very particular and even strange. On the way I found a tree that had a kind of elongated green fruit hanging on some branches, and on other branches hung what appeared to be the Same type of fruit but now gave the impression that these had been peeled like an orange, because its shell was hanging in spirals, but now revealed a bright red interior.
Although I didn't find exact data about this plant, I learned about the Dehiscence, the process in which the fruit opens naturally when it ripens, to release its seeds and spread them. And because of the way in which this fruit opens, I assume that it is this effect.
A few years ago I went with some friends to trek the hill, and ascending a hill where we practically had to crawl some began to shout that we should be careful with the Guaritoto, but it was late, and several were complaining about the burning in the legs. And the funny thing is that the cure was to wash with urine.
So it is true, that plant with beautiful white flowers, leaves and hairy stems and that seems harmless is a deception. Here in Venezuela has many names, Guaritoto is one of them but Pica Pica is the most popular, because literally the effect that causes when rosar the skin with its hairs is an itch that finally burns; and El Morro is full of them.
But there is a tree and a fruit with which you must be much more careful when exploring the hill. His name is Manzanillo, although it was popularized as "Tree of death", thanks to the lethality of the liquid that segregate all its parts.
On the slopes of the hill there is a great concentration of these trees, and this is accompanied by warnings that alert passers-by on the poisons, warning them to avoid touching the Manzanillo.
I sincerely heard about the existence of the "most dangerous tree in the world*" thanks to those warnings that are barely a few years old, because previously these trees didn't exist and went unnoticed.
Of all the vegetation that makes life on the hill my favorite is the "invasive", I called it that because they are plants that grow in unexpected places, as if they defied artificial materials, to show that the planet as a whole is full of life.
For example, on the road there was something that caught my attention: a plant that rose from inside the hole of a piece of concrete. And just like that there are many more areas of the old buildings where these "invasives" have surprisingly taken root.
In my opinion El Morro is a place with an ideal natural diversity to study or simply to know the tropical flora. It's incredible to find plants with such different characteristics in the same place, and I consider it one of the attractions that can make you enjoy the hill a lot.
Before writing this part of the post I did a mental review of all the animals I have seen on the hill every time I went, and curiously I only remember having observed reptiles, birds, insects, fish and crustaceans. I find interesting how all these species adapted to live in the same place, despite being from different ecosystems.
Lately I have learned a lot about animals thanks to @engelmiranda, who since childhood has been in contact with them. The truth has always caught my attention, but before I only preferred to see them from afar because for some strange reason we grow believing that if we touch them they will attack us, or at least that is what most people accustomed to the city think.
However, I realized that contrary to that false belief, it seems that most of the animals are trying to run away from us. Do the experiment, get close to one and it is very likely to move away. The only way for an animal to attack you is for you to attack it first, so relax.
Now I try to make more empathy with them, and strange situations have occurred in which they approach me or they stay very calm where they are and allow me to approach them. As it happened with the next lizard, who was on a sign in El Morro "sunbathing" and posed nonchalantly for the camera.
The only animals of the hill that I haven't approached are the iguanas, it's said that the blows with their tail are very powerful and they use it when they feel threatened, so I prefer to observe them only for now.
They are all over the place. It is common to see trees full of them, and I have even seen them walk among the stones on the shore of the beach. What isn't so common is that they are friends with birds, because days ago I saw how a bird removed ticks to an iguana on the branch of a tree, it was very funny.
Walking between some bushes a figure of two colors that stood out in the middle of so much green caught my attention: it was the mixture between yellow and black of this insect, which surely is already a beautiful butterfly.
I discovered that it's the caterpillar of the Monarch butterfly, and that they only live as a caterpillar around two weeks and then become a chrysalis, enclosing themselves in their cocoon about 10 days, to finally become a butterfly It is fascinating!
When I go to the hill to exercise it isn't necessary that I use headphones to listen to music, there they already have their own orchestra. There is a varied amount of birds that seem to agree to sing, and they are professional singers because their sound is sublime.
There the birds always move in groups or in pairs, it is strange to see birds alone; They are usually flying from one tree to another. This type of birds are usually those that only eat seeds. Those that concentrate closer to the beach or fly over that area are the fish hunters.
If there is an animal that only thinks about eating those are the pelicans; Seriously, I always see them trying to hunt. For the fishermen they should serve as an alert that there are fish in the area, because I have seen them in numerous groups on the breakwater or in the water. Although they told me that at some point they were persecuted because they finished quickly with the fish and didn't leave enough for the fishermen. I don't think it is a "plague", the ocean is quite big and there is space for everyone.
In El Morro I had the opportunity to try to understand a little the way animals act. I think we are a kind of "evolved version of them", because they resemble us in many ways. They also have senses and through these is how we can connect with them.
💫 End of the road but not of history
I have to confess that I made this work with a lot of love, and every word or photo that you observed has impregnated a bit of my soul. El Morro is one of my favorite places in the world, and just by thinking about it I feel tickling in my chest.
When I started writing this article I thought about giving more priority to the photos than to the text, but as I went along I was discovering more and more incredible information and it would have been very selfish of me not to share such valuable apprenticeships with you. This tour, and all that I have done for the hill, represent an enriching experience for me.
Humans sometimes observe a landscape, a plant, or an animal and say "How cute!" and already, but when you investigate about them and know about their development, about their lifestyle and about the function they fulfill in an ecosystem, you understand that it is more than something "cute"; and that I corroborated in this journey.