This is part of the eighth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Colombia
31/3/02 Unfortunately we chose Sunday to enter Venezuela. Trucks had been stopped by the military up to 60 km from the border on the Colombian side, we now realize, waiting for the customs to open Monday. Despite San Antonio del Tachira being the major border crossing between Colombia and Venezuela we are unable to process the motorcycle's papers because customs doesn't work on Sundays. Even immigration is not at the border crossing but is located in the middle of town, where you have to seek them out to have your passport stamped. A different border indeed. The National Guard won't let us leave town till we have the motorcycle papers cleared.
1/4/02 Despite customs having a holiday yesterday they still couldn't manage to open on time and it wasn't till 9.30 that we started to be served. The usual photocopies of passport, registration papers and licence plus another trip into town to purchase tax stamps, (near immigration) $US 4.00, a few papers which they helpfully completed and we were on our way by 11.00 am. All the large American cars from before the 1970's fuel crisis seem to have come to Venezuela to die as taxi's. Rust buckets now, suspension raised, wheels widened, hotted up with no concern for the cost of fuel which sells here for $US 0.08 cents a litre, 95 octane. They drip oil from their large engines and a wide black streak designates the centre of each lane. Cheap fuel brings affordable travel and the roads are busy, controlled by the National Guard about every 50 odd km's where there are security checks, particularly near the Colombian border. Stayed the night about 100 km short of Maracaibo.
2/4/02 The currency here has devalued by 20% over the last couple of months making it more affordable. An oil rich country, not using its wealth wisely. Dunlop had a rear tyre waiting for us in Maracaibo, but as we are not expecting another one until Buenos Aires we decided to carry it across the good roads of Venezuela and get another 2000 km's out of the old one. We ride straight out east, almost to Maracay, 630 km, along a four lane all the way, bumpy, a few pot holes, but generally excellent. We have been eating one main meal, comida (lunch), from roadside restaurants. For about $US 2.00 you get beef or chicken, with salad, boiled yam (sweet potato) and sometimes a soup. One meal a day plus fruit is enough.
3/4/02 Henri Pittier National Park lies between Maracay and the coast. The narrow concrete road hugs the mountainside rising to about 2000 metres in just 16 km. It passes through gradually increasingly wetter rain forests dropping as quickly onto the coastal side. We joined five Europeans on a boat ride to Playa Chuao, a small coastal cocoa plantation in a coastal flatland, surrounded by mountains and irrigated by mountain streams and accessible only by boat. We walked through the plantations, shaded by old large rain forest trees and watched the workers removing the cocoa seeds from their pods. You can eat the white milky flesh surrounding the seeds, tasting like sour sop, but it's the seed used for chocolate that they are harvesting.
4/4/02 Puerto Columbia is a small fishing village overtaken by tourists due to its proximity to a lovely yellow sand beach fringed with coconut palms between two rocky headlands. Fishing seems to be the mid week mainstay, and Caracas and a few western tourist's boat tours, the cream of business. The surf having slowly rolled across from the Caribbean arrives at the beach in perfect sized waves for me to catch, the only limits being my energy levels and the risk of bad sunburn.
5/4/02 Back over the mountain and we avoided Caracas by leaving the autopiste and taking a small road up through more rain forests and Gautopo National Park. The divide between rich and poor in Venezuela as expansive as the difference between the beautiful countryside and the ugliness of most of its industrial cities. We think cocoa must be one of the greatest crops. Not only is it responsible for chocolate and chocolate drinks but its cultivation requiring a canopy of shade means that most of the large rain forest trees are left in its cultivated areas. For about 100 km this was the coastal belt, cocoa trees, rain forest trees, shading the road.The countryside then dried out to almost desert and acrid smoke billowing, oil refineries. Stayed beach side at Santa Fe for the night.
6/4/02 Santa Fe is another fishing village that has been adopted by backpackers. Cheap posada's (accommodation) have sprung up along the waterfront, restaurants and markets for food. The bay here is protected by headlands and offshore islands, no surf but calm warm waters with wooden boats coming and going to and from smaller villages along the coast. It's away from the bustle of the large coastal industrial cities and life is slow. However it's not idyllic as just back from the beach the drainage smells and garbage litters the ground. With extra money and time the bars are busy from 7 am till late and drunken people wander home, glazed eyed, happy till the next morning.
7/4/02 We got lost heading for the Guacharo Cave and ended up following the coast right to the end of the Araya inlet and then up into the mountains. The guacharo birds inhabit the cave. They nest and roost in total darkness and only come out at night to eat fruits, mainly palm. The only bird of its kind in the world and only found in tropical South America. They use a clicking radar type system to find their way in total darkness. We arrived just in time for one of the last cave tours. The chirping noise of some 20,000 birds deafening inside the cave, up to 750m in darkness. We camped the night near the entrance to hear the radar clicking of the birds and watch as they left after dark to feed, and all night till about 5 am the clicking noise continued, until all the birds had returned to roost.
8/4/02 Travelling again, 600 km to El Dorado, ferry across the Orinoco River, before it broadens into its enormous delta, across dry savannah, reducing population and into more subsistence agriculture. We get the feeling we are heading for remote areas, the first time in South America.
9/4/02 El Dorado is one of those towns you wonder what keeps it alive. Every second building is either a restaurant or a hotel. People seem to just sit around doing nothing as time passes. There's a bingo hall and a lottery shop, gas station but no-one seems to make anything. We left and headed up into the mountains at the edge of the Grand Sabana National Park. The rainforests getting thicker, then shorter the more we climbed until on the plateau there are just grasses for miles with a few trees growing only in the gullies. A few of the older local indians still live in grass, stick and mud houses, carrying their load of firewood on a half basket strapped to their backs and happily wave as we pass. The plateau seems dry but many streams criss cross it and small cascades and waterfalls are everywhere. It was misty in parts and low clouds covered the tops of the tepui. Large flat top mountains that rise another 1000m's almost vertically from the plateau we were riding across. We rode to Santa Elena and did some minor work on the motorcycle.
10/4/02 It rained yesterday afternoon, overnight and drizzled almost all day. Something we didn't want to have happen heading into bad dirt roads in Guyana. We fitted the rear tyre, we have carried across Venezuela, this morning and managed to buy a tank full of fuel even though the country is supposed to be having a national strike caused by problems with the state run fuel company. Straight forward paperwork out of Venezuela, 20 minutes.
Move with us to Guyana via
Brazil, or go to our next visit to Venezuela.
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,