Angel Falls by the wayside....

Published: August 10th 2008
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We had a brilliant time in Venezuela despite having heard various horror stories from other travellers (most of whom didn't actually go....) and we're so glad we went. It was more developed than the previous 4 countries, very green and we met some lovely people.

We had an absolutely brilliant trip to Los Llanos, an area of flat savannah the size of Italy. Our first day included a visit to a much celebrated small stone church which was built by hand, a nice walk between 2 lakes and a fun hour of white water rafting in a very fast river - as our guide Luis kept saying to us "welcome to the rainy season!" We stayed at a lovely family run posada (guesthouse) the first night in Barinitas and had a gorgeous meal, a big joint of beef cooked on the BBQ, washed down with Solera, our favourite Venezuelan beer. Most of the next day was spent driving in the pouring rain to our base for the next 2 days and it took longer than usual as we had to make a detour due to a bridge that was close to collapsing! Luis was great and despite getting drenched he
Simon BolivarSimon BolivarSimon Bolivar

liberator of Venezuela and many other countries in SA
still managed to secure 2 crates of beer to the roof rack of our land cruiser.

We arrived at camp at 4pm and had a late lunch before going horse riding. Ruth really enjoyed it and had great fun riding through the flooded plains despite getting soaked. (David opted to stay at camp in the dry.) We saw caiman and a giant anteater, plus loads of birds. More food followed then it was off on a great night safari sitting on the roof of the 4x4. Luckily it had stopped raining and was a lovely warm night. A second guide, Ramon, came with us and spotted loads of caiman and before long he was charging into the water Steve Irwin style and had caught a young caiman which we all got to hold. Only afterwards did he show us the big scar on his arm from a previous not so successful attempt! We also saw our first capybara (the world's largest rodent) and we all tried frantically to get a good picture despite it being really dark, although these pictures were all deleted the next day when we saw a family of 15-20 of them in the sun!! It
Hand built stone churchHand built stone churchHand built stone church

by San Rafael of Mucuchies
was a really nice evening and although bloody uncomfortable, it was lovely riding on the roof, seeing lightning in the distance, feeling the wind in our hair (and on our bald heads) with only the sound of frogs, birds and the squelching mud beneath us.....

The next day we were back on the roof for our day safari and luckily the sun was shining for us. Luis knew all the birds names in English, Spanish and Latin so pointed eveything out to us, especially the Kiskidee which is known as cristofue in Spanish as this is the song it sings and which Luis (and now David) sang repeatedly in a high pitched girlie voice to much laughter. This is the part of the trip where Luis and Ramon walk into the water to try and find an anaconda, but it took Ramon all of about 5 seconds before he came across a pregnant female about 3.5m long. He could tell from her size that she wasn't too pregnant and so was ok to hold which was great. We also saw loads more caiman and capybaras. Next was David's favourite part, fishing for piranhas!! And surprise surprise David caught 4 to Ruth's one, which was so small it was the only one to get thrown back in! We caught 18 in total and had them for dinner that night and they were really tasty! If you get the chance you should try piranha! It started to rain a bit on the way back to camp but we still sat on the roof, a good job too as Ruth spotted the day's only giant anteater which Ramon then managed to steer into the open for everyone to get a good view.

We had a great afternoon too, a boat trip along the flooded plains to the river where we saw turtles, capybaras, loads of birds and a couple of fresh water dolphins. Following Luis's lead, most of the boys jumped in having been assured that the presence of dolphins meant no caiman or piranhas. There are apparently however freshwater sting rays on the river bed! Just as we were nearing the end of the trip a couple of gorgeous scarlet macaws flew out of the trees in front of us which was the perfect finish.

We were all sorry to be leaving the next morning and the 2 of us would have quite happily stayed and done it all again. The only downside to the trip was that the food was so good and plentiful that Luis's promise of 4kg in 4 days was unfortunately probably true!! So Luis if you're reading this now......GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK!!!! Thanks for a great trip.

The rest of our group (Nanou and Bruno from France, Valerie and Nicolas from Belguim and Michele from Italy) all stayed at the hostel in Barinitas on the way back as they were getting buses, mainly to Cuidad Bolivar and to Angel Falls that night, but we had decided beforehand not to go so had to go back to Merida for the rest of our stuff. However mid Los Llanos trip we'd thought sod it and so after a last night in Merida we too got a 22 hour bus to Cuidad Bolivar.

We got there at 7pm ish and the streets were dead, apparently it's not that safe a place. Luckily the first posada we tried had space but it was a choice between an expensive 4 bed room or 1 bed and 1 hammock in the dorm, which was really just the balcony outside. As the mozzies had taken a shine to David and the thought of having to try to sleep in a hammock after having tried to sleep on a bus the night before didn't really appeal, we chose 1 night in a nice room and decided to move somewhere cheaper the next day, which we managed, going from 95 Bolivars to just 50.

After moving we began to look for trips to Angel Falls, but after a couple of hours of looking we had once again decided we wouldn't be able to afford to go. It was just too expensive, especially at this stage in the trip, at between 250 and 350 pounds each for a 2 night trip. We struggled to find somewhere to eat that night as again everything seemed to shut and the people disappear really early. A very strange town.

Once again on the move we caught a bus the next day to Puerto La Cruz on the coast. It's quite an expensive resort town so we had to settle for a grotty room, that looking back made our first awful room in Delhi look ok! The water was the main problem as they kept turning the pump off so we had to go and ask the grumpy guy at reception to switch it on every time we needed a shower or a tinkle! Luckily Puerto La Cruz was the opposite of Cuidad Bolivar and there was plenty to do. There was a market every night on the sea front and sitting on the wall you could buy beer, ice cream, strawberries and cream and prawns (not in one dish). We had a really nice few days there, getting boats out to different island beaches and we were there over a weekend when the beaches are packed with families and their huge coolboxes full of beer so there was a great atmosphere. We had a brilliant day at beach El Faro on the Saturday as we got chatting (in our dodgy Spanish) to a group of young Venezuelans when they offered us ice for our rum, followed by helpings of their strong homemade rum! We went back to that beach on the Monday and it was lovely and quiet. We stood under a tree for shade and watched a tiny hummingbird fly around us and later we had to shoo away a hungry iguana who had his eye on David's big toe!

From Puerto La Cruz we got an overnight bus to Maracay then a local bus for the 2 hours to Puerto Colombia. It was quite a comical journey - so many hairpin bends, really loud music blaring out, constant beeping and David wearing earplugs.
We'd hardly seen any tourists in Venezuela but there were a lot more in Puerto Colombia, a nice small town with the lovely Playa Grande a 5 minute walk away with golden sand, palm trees and gorgeously warm turquoise water. With no bank we were on a limited budget so instead of fresh red snapper in one of the many restaurants it was tinned sardines for us! Again we experienced the opposite of what we'd been told Venezuela would be like when we were given free seafood soup whilst having a drink at somewhere which was closing for the day.

Having been unsure of what to expect in Venezuela we had a great time, and after a few days in Puerto Colombia it was back on the road to Caracas to fly to Sau Paulo via Lima. We're currently in amazing Rio but that's another blog.....

Only 16 days to go

Additional photos below
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Que pasa Italiano!Que pasa Italiano!
Que pasa Italiano!

Michele likes to touch!
Anaconda foundAnaconda found
Anaconda found

It took Ramon all of...hmmmmm....5 seconds!
Ramon looking for more anacondas...Ramon looking for more anacondas...
Ramon looking for more anacondas...

knee deep in caiman and piranha infested waters

7th January 2009

Great trip!
I'm happy to hear you enjoyed my country. It takes an open mind and an adventurous nature, but there ARE wonders to be seen!

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