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August 28th 2010
Published: August 28th 2010
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Hey Guys

Me is back in da London Town, wicked! Had such an amazing journey, 4 weeks of seeing some really great places and meeting some great people, but now am so glad to be back in my own place, with my own bed waiting for me upstairs, typing this blog entry on my own laptop, and about to have an obscenely stinkingly hot bath very shortly. Bliss!

Thought I’d write one final entry to round things off for this trip, to let people know I’ve arrived back safely, and safely being the operative word when we’re talking Caracas and Venezuela it seems, and upload just a couple more photos from my last few days of travel.

Also to say thanks for reading my blog. It’s been a really great way of travelling, and unique, and while exploring some crazy places and having some quite tough times, it’s always something I’ve looked forward to writing and uploading photos onto. And now I’m gonna read all my entries and start to consider the outcome of this trip, what it’s meant for me and all that. First impressions though, pretty darn good!

Didn’t do much on my last two
Ciudad BolivarCiudad BolivarCiudad Bolivar

Cradle of the Venezuelan nation, born here by Simon Bolivar in 1819
days in the country, actually just stayed mostly in bed in my hotel room in Caracas as I got blighted by both a cold and stomach issues at the same time. Indeed, got talking to an English guy on the plane out of Caracas, and we came up with this theory (cos it always happens to me, and to him too) that you always get ill either at the end of your journey, or the next day after you get back. This is because your body is picking up all these bugs as you go, but knows that it ain’t a good idea to succumb to them and fall ill as you’re in the middle of manic bus journeys, dusty streets and what have you - not the ideal place for you to be under the weather. Instead, it stores ‘em all up until your journey is over and your body is able to drop down a gear. May really be some truth in this, as it literally does happen to me right at the end of every journey…! So not much extra really seen in Caracas apart from the inside of the Hotel Altamira (actually, not that I would have seen much else given my current sentiment of the city…)

Just a final couple of words I think before I sign off, and apologies if the following seems like a bit of a rant, but just wanted to let off a bit of steam about dat der Venezuela. Beautiful landscapes, great people, but I do think my final impression now is no, “No estoy con Chavez”. Venezuela could seriously be one of the wealthiest, most developed countries in the world, but I haven’t seen a happy populace on my trip testifying at all to this. Just a few sour points of note:

Although I do remember stating when I touched down in Caracas that the service was friendly there, I’d actually like to take this back now and put this earlier comment down to my excitement of being in a new place. On the whole, I found people in the service industry in Caracas to be rather rude and abrupt, although I do take into consideration there is a certain amount of fear and mistrust of the other person there in that city, for reasons mentioned in my previous entry.

Also, I didn’t mention this before,
Jimmie Angel's PlaneJimmie Angel's PlaneJimmie Angel's Plane

Crash landed atop Auyantepui in 1937, said pilot giving rise to the name of the waterfall dropping off the edge of this plateau-topped mountain
as I was a little paranoid about being “found out” as it were (as I read this dodgy internet article before I left that Chavez has agents working around the country arresting people for this…), but there exists in Venezuela a Black Market for changing dollars. At the “official rate”, you get around 4 Bolivares Fuertes to the dollar, at the black market rate, it becomes 7.5. This is because dollars are not allowed in the country, and with rampant inflation, there has arisen this large black market where ordinary people are desperate to get their hands on hard currency. The number of times I was propositioned both by less savoury and more honest meaning people to change dollars was numerous. In the end of course I changed my money on the black market rate, making Venezuela probably on a par with Spain for cost of travelling (still fairly expensive). If not, it would certainly be the most expensive country in the world. But I do feel sorry for the locals though, who see their hard earned money just slipping away as the inflation rate increases, and they seem to have no chance of keeping hard currency unless they accost backpacking individuals like myself.

My final point, as I believe I mentioned before, is just the overwhelming and exaggerated police presence in the country, as well as bureaucratic nonsense (not so in Colombia at all). Am a little tired after my long journey (22 hours door-to-door), but I think the stresses of leaving the airport in Caracas also had their toll. Queuing up for check-in, I was approached by a spotty-faced army recruit who asked me as seriously as you can get at least 10 questions about who I was, what I was doing in Venezuela, how long for etc. Once checked-in, you pay an airport tax of $20 (at the black market rate, around $40 at the official rate), plus another tax to a rather rotund, laughing man in a white shirt for $5 I still couldn’t figure out what for. Security meant putting your bag and shoes into one electronic scanning machine, and then a couple of paces further down the line, putting your shoes and all personal belongings in another. I then got pulled over in the passport control line by another spotty-faced teenage army recruit to spend about 15 minutes being questioned by his colleagues with questions starting with “what are you doing in Venezuela”, which actually ended up towards “what do you think of Venezuelan girls?”, “and Colombian girls?”, “what about English?”, all with as serious a voice as they started with. My impression was that they had previously dared each other to ask as silly questions as possible while trying to keep a straight face... I then was placed into a full-body scanning machine, told to breathe in as deeply as possible, front and back, and then do it again around 5 more times, while 3 cadets pointed interestingly and quizzitively at a monitor in front of them, for some strange reason. Upon being put back into the passport control queue, I was laughed at hysterically and pointed to by the controls guard as he’d mistakenly asked me if I have permission to travel, thinking I was under 18 (which of course I was quite flattered about!), but his way of laughing at this and at me to his friends was not particularly polite or welcomed. Finally, once boarding the plane, it took 1 hour 15 minutes to get everyone through the pat-down and extra body search that was carried out there -
My London road from above!My London road from above!My London road from above!

As viewed from the Heathrow flight path. Unfortunately I missed off no. 36 by about 4 houses to the right...!
all ladies boarded first, presumably patted down by female officers, and then all men. I mean, if you’ve read thus far, I think you’d appreciate what I mean by an overly-bureaucratic police state the country has become (assuming as locals say it was never this bad before…).

Alas, I should not let my final blog entry be a rant, and apologise if this brings the tone down somewhat. My final thoughts have to be what an amazing country and people it really is, beneath the hard exterior, and great stuff of course in Colombia too. It’s been a truly fantastic trip!

Thanks y’all for reading, and hope it ain’t been too much of a grind. Gonna upload some final pictures now, and sign off until my next trip - will probably start thinking about this first thing tomorrow morning!

Right now, got me a bag to unpack, some clothes to wash, and a hot bath a-waiting for me - can’t wait!

Take care, un abrazo, y saludos a todos.

Alex


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