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South America » Venezuela
January 1st 2013
Published: January 2nd 2013
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Our taxi from Maicao - Maricabo

Cabo de la Vela to Coro.



Monday 17th Dec 2012.

We left Maicao for the 12 km drive to the border at 9am via a Por Puesto ( very old ,fallen to pieces taxi car). They drop you off at the border and you go thrugh immigration to get your Colombian exit stamp. Then we walked about 50 metres to get our Venezuelan entry stamp. Meanwhile our taxi drove along side us. After getting our entry stamp we hopped into the taxi and together we drove through the checkpoint. That easy. This takes all of 30 min or less depending on the line up.

Then we drove for 2.5 hours to Maracaibo, but don't put your passport away. 5 passport checks later arriving in Maracaibo. Here we got dropped off at the bus terminal and get on a bus for Coro. While waiting on the bus a man come and asked me for 2 Bsf ea for the fair. I thought he meant 200 so I handed him 200 to get a reaction of I want dos each . I thought that this was a very cheap bus for 4 Bsf and a 4 hour trip, so I
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2 of the horse drawn carts
gave him 4 Bsf and he as happy. When we started to go, another man came up and asked for 100 Bsf ea. I then found out that the 2Bsf is a tasa (tax) that you have to pay at all bus stations.

The views along the way were very boring Venezuela hasn't a very exciting countryside. No passport checks this time, but once we all had to get off the bus with all luggage and go thru a portable x-ray machine. Arriving in Coro at 6. 15 pm we got a taxi to Pasada Turistica El Gallo where we were staying for 2 nights. This is a wonderful old colonial home owned by a Frenchman (Eric) and his Venezuelan wife ( Nella), who speaks very good English. Note: We found out that the supermarket shuts at 6 pm so the only food you can get is from a bakery close by.



Coro




Tuesday 18th Dec 2012

Coro is an old colonial town. Some of the central homes take up a whole block and a lot of others take up half the block. They are huge, hidden behind great big concrete walls.
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street view
Some have been repaired and are open for you to go through at no cost. One we visited was, Casa de Las Ventanas de Hierro ( the Mayors house at that time) which has been restored to original complete with all furniture , photos, paintings and 3 carriages for the horses. You get a spanish speaking guide as well. Entry free.

At 4 in the afternoon we left for a sunset at PNN Medanos de Coro ( sand dunes). Nella gave us the info on how to get there. We purchased a cask of wine and some fruit and away we went. Highly recommended. The only thing we regretted was not getting there earlier to enjoy the huge sand dunes more and also by not taking a torch because the park closes at 7 pm, and after the sun sets it's difficult to find your way out.

Walking back to the bus stop you go past the monumento de la Madre which was all lit up with xmas lights in different designs. There is also about a 1km walk down the avenue to get to the bus, which has dual access and a nature strip down the middle.
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old fashioned suitcases
This also had lit up archways on either side approx. every 50 metres with lit up xmas trees, flowers, stars, all in lights between each arch. We sat and watched cars doing bog laps up and down the avenue in the most clapped out cars that you have ever seen.( in australia the ones we have in our garages because you can't drive them)

Hint: Bring lots of American dollars with you when you visit Venezuela. Venezuela has 2 markets for money. You have the Standard @ $1 = $4.50 Bsf and the black market @ $1 = $15 Bsf. If coming from Santa Marta, you can change your money at Maicao in Columbia they pay between 14 and 16 Bsf, at the border they pay 12 Bsf. Ask at your hostel if they can change money for you on the black market. They will do it or get it changed for you. All prices are set fom the black market. Don't use an ATM or your visa card as they will only give you market price at that time.





Coro - Chichiriviche -Valencia - Merida



Wednesday 19th Dec 2012.
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Sand dunes


Knowing we only had a 4 hour trip we casually had breakfast and then got a taxi to the bus depot. We found a bus for Valencia. This time I was told that I need to go to the Tasa booth and get a ticket before we could enter the bus. 3 hours later we got dropped off at the Chichiriviche crossroads and got another bus for the last 12 km to town. We drove past lakes that were filled with hundreds of pink flamingos.

Arriving around 12 we started looking for a place to stay. Most ranging from 20-40 / n. While walking around we decided to look at the beach, it was full of seaweed and the seaweed continued out to sea for about 20-30 metres. No snorkeling on this beach. There are islands around but it costs $15-$20 each to get there. The town had nothing going for it so we decided to get back on another bus to Valencia. Passing the town of Tacacas and Puerto Cabello which has "El Palito" Venezuela's petrol refinery. It was huge and went for miles. Arriving in Valencia at 6pm.

We searched for a bus to Merida
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my dream car
and found one leaving at 7.30 pm. Good time to get some food as we hadn't eaten since breakfast.



Merida.



Thursday 20th Dec 2012.

After leaving at 7.45pm we finally arrived in Merida at 7.30 am the next day. Man did we need a coffee. There wasn't much sleep on the bus as we had a cowboy driving, and numerous checkpoints. You spent more time stopping yourself from sliding forward as the driver only new 2 speeds. 140km/h or flat on the brakes.

While having our coffee a man approached us offering a Pasada called Casa Alemania-Suiza for $20 /n and the owner picks you up from the terminal. Being so tired we thought why not. It was a palace. The rooms very spacious, Hot water showers ( our first in 2 months), balcony views overlooking Sierra Nevada, Billiard room, wifi and the place was very new. Unfortunately he couldn't fit us in over xmas period so the next day we had to move. Marcos the owner was full of info and even exchanged our money for us. However there is no use of the kitchen but there is breakfast at an extra
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View from our room
cost.

Friday 21st Dec 2012.

We packed up again and got a taxi to Pasada Guamanchi. They offer their rooms cheaper if you do a tour with them. As we had planned to do some hiking this was not a problem. There are 2 kitchens, in the centre of town, and is very comfortable. After booking in we searched for a doctor for Burnie as she had a boil under her arm. After much confusion with the language we went back to the hostel and explained our situationto Jorge. He asked one of his friends to go with us as he could speak some English. Finally she got some cream and a jab in the bum. and another jab each day for 3 more days.

Saturday 22nd Dec 2012

Just walked around the city. Merida is the capital for sports, there is mountain climbing, mountain biking, water rafting, hiking, paragliding, bird watching and the highest and longest cable car in the world ( currently been closed for 4 years being repaired). The actual town hasn't got much for tourists to look at. Merida is at the foot of the Andes and is in between the Sierra
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overlooking the Sierra nevada
Nevada with many mountains measuring 4000 - 5000mtrs high and on the other side Sierra de la Culata with mountains between 3000 - 4000mtrs. Merida itself sits about 1600 m.

That afternoon we sat in a restaurant on the second story on the corner of 2nd ave and calle 26 drinking nice cold beers for $0.50c and just watching the people and cars go by. They do not have laws here for your vehicle, they can be as rusted as you want, panels missing or falling off, no windows. By the looks of some of the cars I think they have competitions for the worst car. Their stereos are worth more than the cars. Merida is also the first town that we have found in Mexico, Central America, and South America where there is no stray dogs on the streets.

Sunday 23rd Dec 2012

What a wake up, I looked out from our balcony over the Sierra Nevada and it had snowed last night. Some of the visual peaks were now white. Maybe our dream of our first white xmas may come true.

Venezuela is a very cheap place to visit. To sleep $10-$12/ d/ night
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Sierra Nevada
peak period, beers $0.50c-60c, eat out $3 - $8, sandwiches $1. For a 3 day hike with all winter clothing, backpacks, food, acc and transport included was $130 ea. Medicine for Bernie was 4 needles, 4 bottles of penicillin and sterile water to mix, some antibiotic cream, panadol x24, 6 gauze pads all cost us $17.00 and the doctor in emergency was-- free. Their fuel is only $0.48c/L. Yes that’s right they make the stuff so they sell it to their own people cheap. So therefore the buses are approx. $1 per 100km. Taxi are set at $1.50 in Merida and Coro. But travelling along their roads to get from one place to another is very boring as not much scenery.



Los Nevados 3 day hike.



Monday 24th Dec 2012

6am wake up so Bernie can get her last injection before we go on our 3 day hike. By 8 am we are receiving our backpacks, sleeping bag and clothing for the cold trip. By 8.30 we are in the car making 4 hour trip to Los Nevados stopping once at a lookout overlooking the town of Merida and later another lookout with views
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Los Nevados
of the sierra and valleys. We drove up and down dirt and concrete roads, many mountains and past many landslides, sometimes the road wasn't there any more only a track around it. But the scenery was amazing, but sometimes scary. Arriving at Los Nevados we went to Pasada Guamachi where we were spending the night, owned by the same company we were doing the tour through. For lunch they fed us vege soup, with mains of rice , tajada ( fried bananas) and carne mechada ( shredded beef in sauce). After lunch giving us a 2 hour rest before our guide ( Apalo) took us on a 1.5 hour scenery walk around local farms. That night feeding us soup with chicken mechada, rice and coleslaw.

Los Nevados is a small community somewhere in the Sierra Nevada approx. 2700m above sea level. It has a church, school, about 8 pasadas and maybe 12 houses all built on a hill with about a 1000 m to the bottom and approx. 400m to the top of the hill. Makes you wonder why they chose this area. In Venezuela they celebrate xmas on the 24th not 25th so that night they had a
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on our 5 hour mule ride
xmas theme and a sing along. We decided to join in with the townfolk.

Tuesday 25th Dec 2012 (Christmas day)

Well xmas day has arrived. What a away to spend it. As I sit on a rock 3200m above sea level looking out over the Sierra Nevada writing about our days journey. It started with a late breakfast as the family had celebrated much the night before. Then they loaded a mule with our backpacks and food, and we each had one as well. Ahead of us was a 5 hour climb on our mules from 2700m - 4200m to our highest peak and then 3 hour downhill walk to 3250m to camp.

We stopped for a picnic lunch next to a creek. Who would of thought, we would be having a sandwich at 3400m next to a creek for our xmas lunch.( Something different and special to remember). Once we got to the 4200m point our mule owner Carlos unloads the mules and us and then it is downhill from there on foot for us, while he heads back to Los Nevados with the mules.

We arrived at Pedro's place around 4 pm. Where he
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Bernie ready for bed.
welcomed us with a hot cup of tea and some bean soup. Pedro has lived in this very high (3250m )remote area (only accessible by walking or by mule) for all his life of 40 years. His grandfather Domingo Pena built the house here and was the first person to climb Pico Bolivar on 5th Jan 1935. The house is made out of stone and mud. There is power but no hot water. All cooking is done by a fire in the house and the soot around the kitchen shows they have been doing this for a long time. There is a small creek running through his property that supplies water which is even drinkable. He has the most awesome views and green lawn everywhere.

While we sat outside in about 2 degree temperature, and admired the very clouded view, I opened a bottle of red that I had brought to celebrate xmas, while Apalo was inside cooking us tuna pasta for dinner.

Riding through the sierra Nevada National Park on Christmas day 2012 on our mules named Prieto and Abejon was so special spending quality time with mother nature, the flowers and fauna around us. There was
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having xmas lunch 2012
some moments where it just took your breath away and reminding us of how good mother nature is to Us. Words just can't explain it.

Wednesday 26th Dec 2012

We woke up to the best views that you could possible want. No clouds anywhere. Now even Merida was visible in the valleys below us, mountains and snow peaks in view above and beside us, and nothing in your way. The views were picture perfect.

We had to wait for Pedro to light the fire so we could boil some water for coffee. No kettles here, back to basics for all cooking. Lucky no hurry today anyway. Finally having our coffee with some awesome views and fresh smelling air ,no pollution here. Breakfast was eggs and erapas. Followed by packing our bags, taking one last look and photo before heading back to the smog 1600m below us. 10.45 we left. Walking for about an hour before the landscape completely changed from small trees and desert like, to walking thru a rainforest. Another hour walk and we stopped for an apple and rest. Arriving to our pick up destination at 2.15 pm, and having a 40 minute drive back
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the canyon and our highest peak @ 4200m
to Merida.



Back in Merida



Thursday 27th Dec 2012

We were both a little sore in the butt cheeks today from the 5 hour mule ride. But will survive. After breakfast we went back to the doctor for a check up on Bernie's boil, as it had 2 more small ones growing next to the big one. The doctor this time put her on Antibiotics. She spent the day resting while I spent it doing the blog.






Merida to Pamplona, Colombia.



Friday 28th Dec 2012



We took a taxi at 7.30 am to the bus station so we could get an early start. There was a big line up so we missed the first bus. The second one left at 8.30 for San Christobal with us on it. Somewhere along the way there was a traffic accident so we were stuck still for about an hour.Going up the mountains near San Christobal, the traffic was also slow and bad so a four hour trip turned into 61/2.

When at the terminal there was a big line up for San Antonio de Los Altos (the border)
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Yes, we were above the clouds
four buses later we finally started our 40 km trip. This took us 2hrs as it was all mountains and traffic heavy. On our way there we noticed it was approaching 5 pm. The lonely planet says that the shop across the street, where you buy tax stamps for exit, closes at 5pm. The bus driver dropped us of at the immigration office at 5.30 pm. The shop was shut. We pushed our luck at immigration, entered and tried. The lady gave us a form to fill out and told us we need exit tax stamps. We thought we were going to have to stay the night there so I said the shop was shut so we will be back in the morning. She told me that it wasn't. So I went outside looked across the street to see that there is 4 shops. 1 out of 4 still open. Lonely planet wrong. Yeh got our tax stamps, got our exit stamp and got a taxi to the border about 3km from the immigration office. Walked into Colombian office, got another 90 days stamp, then walked to the bus for Cucuta.

San Antonio de Los Altos would have to
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Our wine and fruit to enjoy the sunset with.
be the biggest border town we have been to so far. With the population off 64,000 and the border on the edge of the town and 12km away on the Colombian side is Cucuta wth a population of 1.2 mil people.







See you in Colombia #2


Additional photos below
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Coro

Cheers. what a sunset.
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Coro

Walking down the avenue from sunset
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the road we came up.
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Pedro's place 3240m above sea level.
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Another road we drove on.
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Los Nevados

only street in Los Nevados
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A donkey's view
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getting close to 4200m above sea level.
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Pedro cooking our soup.


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