May 10, 2006 GMT
Iran and Japan

Venezuela can be a little Iranian - it has fuel coming out of its ears, the fuel is very cheap (by global standards), but petrol stations can be hard to find.

When I left the border town the only petrol station was closed; I therefore stopped at the next one, 60 miles up the road (in torrential rain, of course). The delivery tanker was in. "OK," I thought, "shouldn´t be long." Wrong. The chaps were in the process of repairing the electric pump which transfers the fuel from the tanker to the storage tanks.

"How long?"
"Don't know."
"How far's the next petrol station?"
"100km."

Umm, not sure about that.

So I waited. And waited. And got chatting to the rest of the crowd who'd turned up. Turned into a picnic party. Coffee was provided by someone or other, Juan insisted I help myself to bread and sandwich spread from his van, and a nice government lady illegally swapped a few dollars for some bolívares (I'd not been able to change anything at the border).

It took two hours in the end, which rather ate into my hours of daylight for getting to Ciudad Guayana, not only in terms of seeing where I was going but also because there's a curfew on bikes in Venezuela. Having said that, much traffic law here seems to be purely theoretical. Red lights certainly are: I'm now very used to sailing through red lights along with everyone else. This isn't as mad as it sounds, though: most intersections have left-turn filter lights which go green while the straight-on lights are red; so if there's nothing coming towards you in the left-turn lane it appears to be at least normal (if not permitted) to simply go across on red.

And there's money. Venezuela is like Japan in this respect, in that magic holes (ATMs) don't accept foreign-issued cards. So you have to go into a bank, queue for hours (well, not really), have your photo taken, do the paperwork . . . it's straightforward but rather long-winded.

I'm in Caracas (drying out again) and planning my route south-west to Bogotá. Not that easy at the moment, because the huge amounts of rain have caused landslides and washed away bridges and roads, and there are reports of FARC livening things up a bit on the Colombian border.

As they say, "Es la vida."

Posted by Cynthia Milton at May 10, 2006 06:00 PM GMT
 
 

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