Venezuelan and Colombian border crossing

Trip Start Dec 12, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Venezuela  ,
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Our bus from Merida to Maracaibo was horrid, the suspension was like a trampoline, launching my head off the seat and back on multiple times a second, as a result getting not one ounce of sleep. Thats ok though because its happened a few times and now Im getting used to it, haha! It doesnt really effect me either! We immediately found a cheap local bus to drive us to Maicao, that is the first town on the Colombian side, after the crossing. They kept trying to make us pay 30,000 Bolivares when the locals only paid 10,000 Bolivares! They wouldnt budge, which is very annoying because we're getting charged 3x the amount because we have white skin and not a local. A local lady saw us trying to barter and came over and had a huge argument with the driver for attempting to charge us way too much, which was great! But we only could get it knocked down to 20,000 bolivares. The bus was great fun! Not only did it hae no suspension, its seats were barely bolted in and rippe apart, only half the windows were in and the ones that were, were broken and cracked. I would say the bus would be 50 years old! And im not being sarcastic, I really did enjoy the experience, im doing the type of travel that I have been longing for!! Every 15 minutes we would have to stop to let the Venezuelan military on, and as usual they would see white faces in the back and immediately hop on and demand our passport. This happened 12 to 13 times! We soon found out though that the bus wasnt actually going to Maicao, but dropping us off at the border crossing, typical!! We get off at the border in this dusty little backwater town that has a bad reputation the locals had informed us. People of all forms gather on both sides as well as military absolutely everywhere. We found a 4WD crossing the border that we jumped into to take us to Maicao for 10,000 Bolivares. We drove towards the border, getting stopped and searched one last time before reaching the small imaginary line between the Venezuelan and Colombian border spending every cent of our last bit of cash on the Venezuelan exit tax. The Colombian military getting us out of the 4WD and making us go into a small room behind a closed door, one by one. I was last out of Matty, Carsten and I. The guy searched me and went through absolutely everything in my day pack, even looking at all my photographs of friends and family. Another guy walked into the room for the guy searching me's handgun serial number. He gave it to him and the other guy left. The guy searching me is now standing infront of me with his hand gun out, and he then asked me in his poor English "you like this eh?". I shugged my shoulders as I wasnt sure what to say. He then raised the gun pointing it right at my head, and as I looked down the barrel he mouthed the words "POW!", as he pretended to shoot. Then laughing to himself. I had a dead blank look on my face not finding it funny at all. Bloody hell!!! I found out shortly later that they made Carsten take his pants off, haha!

We checked into immigration and they stamped our passport and we exited. Our backpacks had been dumped on the floor and our ride was no where to be seen... They had ditched us at the border crossing with absolutely no cash!! We are now officially stranded! As aussies would say "up shit creek without a paddle". We spoke to some truckie if we could hitch a ride with him to Maicao, and pay him a bit of cash when we get there after we find a bank. We agreed on 3,000 Bolivares as it was only 15km away. The only bank in the town was shut, and the atm's broken. Ontop of this, the stupid truckie is now demanding 30,000!!! This is absurd! No way are we paying that! We managed to get a local minibus company to pay him a few thousand Bolivares and we will pay the bus company once they get us to Santa Marta. We shook off the dodgy truckie and hopped on a por puesto (mini shared bus) to Santa Marta. I felt sorry for Carsten that did all of the bartering for us, for 45 minutes!! We all were buggered, tired and sweaty, so the air conditioned bus was a blessing!

The ride to Santa Marta took around four and a half hours, but wasnt exactly simple. There was approximately 20 - 25 military checkpoints along the way which constantly stopped the minibus and frisked the drivers. Alot of them stopped the bus and came in, immediately seeing us 3 white peope and forcing us off to frisk us as well and take our passports to study several times over, and over! We have heard from lots of sources and people how corrupt the military are here, so we were very suspicious as to what was going to happen. This happened a couple of times! Military was so numerous in this area due to the FARC, in which they are batteling against in the Southern Sierra Nevada area. FARC, being 18,000 strong are not to be taken lightly. FARC are currently being protested against all over South America as they have alot of political hostages, and only willing to release 3 as they currently are in the process of doing. One million people in Bogota have recently filled up the streets yelling "Colombia sin FARC" (Colombia without FARC), however the FARC also do have alot of supporters due to their political ideals. In my opinion, it doesnt matter what your political ideals are, when kidnapping and extortion are campaign funding tactics.

Travelling on a little local bus though had its benifits, as we largely slipped through the checkpoints unnoticed.
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aalverson on

holy shit.... are a brave traveler. I would have peed my pants with crazy man pointing a gun to my head!

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