Venezuela Pt. 1

December 12, 2011

I knew little about Venezuela, apart from winning lots of beauty contests and having a president that could be in some circles described as a crazy man I arrived with no expectations. It’s always better that way.

The usual border hoo-hah ensued

That is, until we got to the Venezuelan side. We can’t come in apparently… everyone is on strike. (“everyone” being the people that import our bikes). We push, and push, and after some walking around find a friendly security guard with keys who seems to know what stamps to use.
We enter the very elaborate building, which is shared just by us

And his majesty.

After almost 5hrs, we are in Venezuela
Not long before we hit snag #2, or should I say, strike #2, someone else is on strike, and they are blocking the only bridge from the border. We are stranded for our first night.

After some fine talking from Henry, a lady rides off on a motorcycle, and 30 mins later we are allowed to pass, the locals not.

So far Venezuela has looked very poor, the roads terrible, and they are filled with old 70’s and 80’s American cars. I feel like I should be in the Blues Brothers.

We hit Maracaibo, and things change instantly, there appears to be money here, and a lot of it. Oil.
We also discovered that Venezuela is substantially more expensive than its neighbors, at the official exchange rate cheese is almost $50 a kilo. Which brings me to one of Chavez’s little tricks, the exchange to the currency is pegged at about half what it is actually worth, you have to stock up on US dollars prior to entry, and exchange money with people on the street (almost everyone will)… thanks to Encho for giving us this advice before hand.
His other little trick is gasoline prices.
Less than 1c per litre, or about 3.5c for a gallon… and it has a smell of C16 race gas. I still can’t get over the fact that it would be a $1.50 to fill up my old F350, when often I paid 100 times that.

We find some more “scenic” routes

I am further impressed by Venezuelan’s choice of vehicles, F-Series and Landcruisers (not the soccermomobile ones, the weigh it down to its bump-stops, cross the Sahara 5 times before changing the oil models…).

Do some road side tyre repairs

We found a road north to Puerto Colombia with Henry showing us how to scrape panniers in the corners

We make it to Playa Grande where we make camp on the beach, impressive scenery

And sand flies

Met a crazy guy, 57yrs old, climbs five 35ft+ high coconut palms each day, not sure if his safety gear is Occupational Health and Safety compliant.

We skipped Caracas on accounts of it being a large city, and one where the propensity to be shot and mugged was higher than normal (it is considered the most dangerous city in the world I believe)… and moved onto the beautiful Venezuelan coast line.
Now, this motorcycle caper… often it has been mentioned to me that its dangerous, my response of “well, it isn’t if you don’t crash” I always felt had some solid merit, and up till now my motorcycling crashes had been not much above walking pace.
Not so much now. Coming around this corner, in the patch of shade, was also a patch of oil.

I was doing about 50mph (80kph), but bike and me are fine. Henry also hit the deck in the same patch of oil, fortunately he and bike are also unscathed.

Typical Venezuelan hospitality ensued, a local walked off to get us some banana’s, cold water and some potatoes for us to cook. He accepted no money, or anything in return.

More beautiful beaches followed, I thoroughly recommend this coastline east of Puerto La Cruz, the scenery and roads are just incredible.

Found a good campsite and called it a day.

We headed inland, checked out some impressive caves and stopped at a small town for dinner. We inquired as to local camp spots, and the owner pointed at the floor beneath us, between the local lady selling DVD’s, the blaring Carnival music, and the guys who were drunk on homemade liquor. We inquired if something quieter was available, his garage was next door, we became an instant hit with the local kids.

And slept on the roadside stall owners roof…

We stopped in Cuidad Bolivar, with hopes of seeing Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world. It takes a plane ride in a Cessna, a boat ride, a hike, another boat ride, and another hike to get too… typically taking 3 days in total… Niagara Falls it is not.

Our boat (a canoe with an outboard), which we went up rapids in the dark…

A sleep, and we awake to this…

More walking…

And a closer view…

More waterfalls…

Even some you can walk behind… quite a rush.

More to come…

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One Response to “Venezuela Pt. 1”

  1. Steph Says:

    Loooooved this entry! Good call on skipping Caracas
    .. So scary you had that fall too..hope you are really ok! Aide, you continue to inspire me..especially reading this after a rough day at work. Can’t wait for the next one, as always :stay safe my friend
    Xox


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