One small step and it all became true
Trip Start Dec 03, 2005
38Trip End Jul 19, 2007
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You can't begin to imagine the feeling I had as we slowly followed the curves of the coast from Chaguaramas in Trinidad to Güiria in Venezuela. It was certainly the best way to come as it was a cloudy day so the view from above would not have been half as exciting as standing on the top of a ferry watching the coastline of Venezuela gradually get bigger and bigger as we got nearer and nearer. I had to keep pinching myself to remind myself that it was no longer and dream and was in fact reality. I may have had grins on my face as I walked through Madrid remembering those brilliant days as a student, but they were tiny in comparison to the grin on my face as I arrived here!
I was a bit apprehensive at first as I had heard lots of bad things about Venezuela and how dangerous it was. Luck seemed to be smiling down on me though as I met two other fellow travellers on the boat, Vicky and Philippe. The boat from Trinidad to Venezuela doesn't seem to be that well known amongst the backpacking world. From my research it seems that some time ago operations ceased and it was uncertain whether it was up and running again, so I took a chance and it paid off.
I honestly couldn't have asked for a better start to my trip. None of us were in a rush to get anywhere and Vicky knew of buses leaving the area so we decided to pass on the taxis and instead head into town to celebrate our arrival! The time it's taken me to do this trip pales in comparison to how long Vicky had wanted to do it (12 years!!!) so I don't feel too bad about harping on about South America for the last three years ;-) .
Soon after though we were accosted by some Trinidadians we had been talking to on the boat who were taking a taxi to Carupano and through some arm-twisting persuaded us to go with them. The cars over here are amazing, they are like ones from the 70s in America. As we piled our rucksacks into the boot (held together by string no less!) I noticed the registration of the taxi was BAD 375 and wondered if this was a bad omen but just laughed it off as I finished my celebratory drink and got into the back seat.
Oh did we laugh later. We had to make a stop to get some money and as we were about to take off again the car stopped dead. Not sure what the problem was but the driver got it started again about 15 minutes later. Off we went with all seeming to go smoothly until we stopped again for some refreshments. As we were about to leave, the locals noticed a bit of steam coming from the engine. So with the thought of the car about to explode, we all got out while the driver had a look. This time the fan-belt had broken! After trying about 4 different types of fan which didn't fit the driver decided to take the car to the shop, along with all our luggage! Well, that was it, either our luggage was gone forever or we would have a fairy godmother looking after it. So to keep our spirits high we decided to have a 'beso' (aka kiss) while we waited, these are delicious coconut and cinnamon cakes. And sure enough, here was the car back in full functioning order. It was getting late and our plan to catch a bus was looking less likely. So instead of tempting fate by stopping again we decided to head straight for Carupano and stay the night there.
Over dinner, we decided to head to the beach for a few days while we got used to the new land and culture. It was a toss-up between Santa Fe or Mochima. As we couldn't decide, we asked a few locals and without exception all voted for Mochima. They weren't wrong. It's a bit awkward to get to the beach as you have to catch a water-taxi but we didn't have much of a chance to do that in the end as Michael grabbed us and offered us a ride around the area in his taxi for a total of B5000. We bought a bottle of rum, some coke and some besos to keep us hydrated and fed. Needless to say, we had a really good time so when he offered us another trip next day to further out, we took it. Along with some snorkelling, we got to see some dolphins hunting with birds diving around them taking advantage of the offerings. 3 Brazilians had joined us on this trip and one, Eddie, agreed to be my slave in exchange for some rare footage of me on film!
Eddie was in Venezuela for the Social Forum taking place in Caracas. It is a grassroots movement who's main idea is to create awareness against neoliberalism, capitalism, imperialism, war and poverty. It was spread over 6 days with forums, discussions and meetings taking place in various locations around the city. There were attacks on Bush and the Iraq war, but also some concern over Chavez and Cuban officials who seem to have dominated the event. By the end of it, more than one hundred thousand people had attended. Most of those that I met who had been to the Social Forum were from Brazil and Colombia, but there were also a few from other countries around the world.
After seeing all we could of the village and not wanting to have to catch a water taxi to the beach, Philippe and Vicky decided to head off to Playa Colorada. I had Mérida in mind as my next destination, but when they asked if I wanted to join with them I quickly reminded myself that the word 'deadline' is in fact made up of 2 four-letter words and said 'yes'! After all, I have months ahead of me, what difference is 2 days going to make in the grand scheme of things??!!!
We finally parted company and I made it to Mérida a week later than expected (start as you mean to continue ;-) ). But we will probably meet up again as Phillipe is following me out this way later and Vicky is heading for Brazil which is the next country on my list. I was hoping to climb Pico Bolívar (5007m) but my gender and height went against me and I couldn't join up with another group of five men leaving in three days. This is where I discovered the cons of travelling on your own as most companies here require a minimum of two people to go. Unlike the companies at home who just give dates for excursions and mix everyone together, here they work the opposite and do an excursion when a group of people ask for one.
Not to be deterred, I headed off to the mountains near Mérida. On my way up to Apartaderos, I met with three chaps and didn't get a chance to look at the view on the way up as we chatted the whole way. As it turns out, Álvaro - the Colombian, wanted to marry me despite only knowing me less than an hour! Slave and husband!! What next???? At least he was on the right track with his charm factor, according to him I looked like I was only 20. I seem to have misplaced my rose-tinted glasses that morning and left Álvaro and his friends on the bus as I headed for the park near Apartaderos, the highest village in Venezuela. After a bit of a hard trek (it's about 3600m so I was feeling the effects of the altitude) I arrived at Laguna Negra. I got chatting to Francisco, a local guide, who had seen me on my way up to the park that morning and he offered me a lift back - on one of his horses! Ooh boy did my backside hurt the next day! I think he purposely gave me the horse that trotted with a jump. I kept being thrown up and down on the saddle while Francisco seemed to sit comfortably without a single movement! Grr!
Next I'm planning to head off to Los Llanos by which time Pat will hopefully have joined up with me after his trip to the Antarctic. I had met Pat in Vancouver on my previous RTW trip and as he had 2 months or so holiday, he decided to join up with me for part of my South America experience. We might even make it to Brazil for the Carnaval, although I'm thinking it might be a bit rushed to get to Salvador (better than Río apparently) in time for that.
Number of men met travelling solo : 2
Number of women met travelling solo : 4