The ferry from Trinidad to Venezuela
Trying to find info on this ferry is a nightmare. The Venezuelan embassy has never heard of it, the ppl at the airport in Trinidad have never heard of it, there is no website... But it does exist! It sails once a week.
Trinidad to Venezuela was one hell of a journey. It started at 6.30am on Wednesday the 9th when i jumped a couple of buses to Pier 1. That was where i met Julia and Patrick, a nice Swiss couple who had been travelling around the Caribbean for a few months! Nice huh. So that was my entertainment sorted for the 3.5hr trip to Guiria, the port on the eastern most tip of Venezuela. Everything was going surprisingly smoothly until we were about 30 metres from the dock. The captain cut the engines and we sat rocking backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards on the waves for 45 minutes. Unbeknown to me a little boat with two people wearing face masks was making its way out to meet us. Once on board we were told to line up with our documents ready to be interviewed one at a time. The interview went something like this...
"Do you have a fever?"
"Do you have a sore throat?"
"Do you have a headache?"
"Where are you going?"
"Puerto La Cruz"
"If you start to feel ill go to the hospital in Puerto La Cruz, you might have swine
flu and it could kill you"
"errr yes OK, thanks".
That utterly pointless process took about an hour. Why they couldn't just make an announcement about it I don't know.
After the H1N1 police left the boat was docked and we were joined by two ladies from immigration and we queued for our next interview, gringo´s last. I was pretty worried that they wouldn't let me into Venezuela because I had no onward ticket out of the country and i had heard that if you couldn't not prove your intention to leave they might send you straight back to wherever you came from. So I was prepared for battle. I had copies of my flight reservations from Mexico City to NY and from NY to London, maps of my intended route overland and copies of my bank statements to prove that I had sufficient funds. Luckily for me as soon as I said that I was headed for Isla Margarita they all got a bit excited and started oowing and arhhhing and telling me the names of good bars to go to and seemed to forget about asking me for my return ticket. So i was in! High
five for me!
Next task, find a way to Puerto La Cruz, the city that i was meeting Italo (the hot Brazilian) in, an estimated 180 miles away. Myself, the Swiss couple and Felix, a nice Venezuelan guy, decided to share a van to Carupano, a town roughly half way to Puerto La Cruz, and if you like facts, the town from where 70% of Venezuela´s coca is shipped from. From Carupano I could find a bus to Puerto La Cruz and the others would head south. Our driver was an absolute loon. He had clearly been smoking something, or drinking, probably both. His eyes were like the devils. When they were actually open!
I arrived in Puerto La Cruz at around 10.30pm that night after getting stuck in Carupano for a couple of hours and then taking another equally scary taxi ride after which even the driver was kissing his fingers and making the sign of the cross whilst he told me that he was happy to be alive because he had a very dangerous job!
I met the hot Brazilian boyfriend in a bar that night and was pleased to discover that he was not
an old man, that there was a distinct lack of saggy man boobs, that he is indeed hot and that he is not an axe murderer. Or at least if he is, he´s taking a long time to get down to business.
We took the ferry to Isla Margarita, or as i have chosen to call it, Margarita Pizza Island, the next day. We stayed in Juan Griego, a sleepy fishing village, in a room with a balcony overlooking the harbour. The sunsets were spectacular. Actually the sunsets were the reason why we opted to stay on this side of the island as opposed to the more tourist orientated Porlamar.
I have to say, I don't really like Venezuela. Actually it sucks. Don't come here. It isn't particularly nice, the people are not very friendly and the economy seems to be fucked. A full tank of petrol costs 3 Bolivares. if you go by the official government exchange rate that's about 85p, if you go by the black market exchange rate its about 35p. That's for a tank, not a litre. Now compare that to the cost of a taxi ride. On Margarita it costs 40 Bolivares (4.60
GBP by the black market rate) to go 20 minutes! And I don't mean in a fancy car, in a pile of shit that's falling apart. From Carupano to Puerto La cruz the taxi was 210 Bolivares and the driver told me that he could do the trip twice on a tank. So that's 420 Bolivares for 3 Bolivares of fuel. Go figure that one!
I´m not 100% sure what the deal with the 2 exchange rates is, but it is because Chavez (the President) fixed the ´official´ rate in 2002 and it has since devalued in relation to other currencies. The black market represents the free market. In other words as other currencies (like dollars and euros) have become more popular it costs more Bolivares to buy one. Not that you can legally buy them in Venezuela, it is a punishable offence. So changing money is not always straight forward. I got 5 Bolivares to the dollar off the crazy driver with devil eyes, 5.9 off a shop keeper in Juan Griego and 5 from a guy in a back office in Caracas bus terminal.
Anyway back to the travels...
We spent a few days on Margarita
Italo relaxing on the trip from Margarita Pizza to Puerto La Cruz
We were better prepared for the trip back and had the hammock at the ready - see i knew it was a good purchase! God bless amazon.com
Pizza Island and then decided that it was time to get out and head to Columbia. 5 hours on the ferry to Puerto La Cruz on the mainland and then a 4 hour bus to Caracas. Well that's how it should have gone but the bus was full so we squashed into a ´taxi´ with 2 other guys instead. I´m starting to think that the transport fairy does not like me very much because what should should have been a straight forward 4 hour drive turned into 8.5 hours of hell cramped up in the back of a tiny car stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. When we finally got to Caracas our driver couldn't find our hostel, we were driving around for ages, and Caracas really isn't a city you want to be curb crawling in at 2.30am. Eventually we spotted the Police. Bumping into Police in this situation would be a good thing in any other country, but not in Venezuela. With their hands on their guns they told us to get out of the car. They then searched us and our bags. They asked for our passports and wrote down all of our details. They had Italo
spread eagled, hands on the car whilst they went through his pockets and kept asking him if he had been drinking or smoking weed. Italo definitely got the worst of it, the officer taking my details was only young and every time he asked me a question I replied and then said, in my very un-spanish accent "et tu" (and you) which he found quite funny. So I found out that he was called Juan and was 22 years old. Needles to say Italo wasn't very happy to see me laughing and joking with the cop whilst the other officer was trying to get him to say that we had been taking drugs.
No thanks to the police we found the hostel in the end and got our heads down for a few hours before going to the bus terminal to sort out tickets to Columbia...
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