Trip to Ciudad Bolivar
Trip Start Jun 03, 2010
129Trip End Feb 04, 2012
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Where I stayed
Couchsurfing with Jose
My adventure-within-my-adventure begins at the Delta Lodge on Wednesday morning. Azu and I are set to leave the lodge, heading for a tour in Canaima. We have to take a lodge boat to a water taxi to Tucupita, where we'll catch a bus to Cd Bolivar, then fly to Canaima. So as we load up onto the first boat at about six am, it starts pouring (of course). Luckily I had my poncho I bought a couple of years ago at the Dollar Store. It saved me in Canaima, too, but more on that later. So we go about 15 minutes and are let off on this random dock that is clearly a family's house. After about 10 minutes standing in the rain, the man of the house invites us to stand inside. It's a house with a packed mud floor, one big room with a little partition towards the back. About a minute after coming out of the rain we hear something. Is that a boat coming? Yes, it is, we should go out so it sees us. Well as soon as we step out of the house, we see the water taxi fly by at full speed. Waving our hands and shouting does nothing to slow it down. Well shit, now what do we do? The man is telling us something in Spanish, but we don't understand a damn thing. We're assuming there's another taxi, but who knows when? We think the man is saying 8 o'clock. Well five minutes later another taxi comes. This time we have a white T-shirt to flag it down with, so all is good.... until we stop ten minutes later in the middle of the river next to two other taxis. We are all sitting there side by side by side, and I have no idea why. Then everyone from the middle boat starts clambering over into our boat, which was already packed so full I had my legs up on all the luggage. With our new passengers, we finally take off and make it to Tucupita.
La Guardia Nacionale (sp?) is waiting at the dock with their big guns. I've heard bad stories about them hassling tourists, tearing through your luggage looking for valuables to confiscate or reasons to charge you for something. I'm hoping to get by, but sure enough one comes up to me and says something in Spanish. I've also heard you shouldn't talk to them in English, because that's putting a target on your back, but I don't have any idea what he's saying, so I tell him "No hablo espangol." He asks for my passport and starts flipping through. I think I would have had no trouble, but they held up Azu for a while. We think because he's black, they thought he was trying to sneak in from Trinidad. Anyway, we got away with our belongings intact. A quick but death-defying taxi ride to the bus terminal (no seatbelts, barely functining car, crazy drivers), and we're ready to go. Or so we think.
Turns out there is no bus to Ciudad Bolivar, despite what we had read online. Instead, we have to take a pupuesto (sp) to San Felix, then catch another pupuesto to Cd. Bolivar. A pupuesto is like a group taxi that goes long distances. After some more not-understood Spanish instructions, we hop in the car with a mother and daughter and another man. After about an hour and a half, we drive right up to the edge of the river. I'm thinking either we're here, or this is the part where he puts the car in drive, jumps out, and sends us all into the river. Turns out we were waiting for a ferry to carry us across the river. We drive right onto it and head across, then continue on to San Felix. Luckily for us, there is a bus from there to Cd. Bolivar. It's 11:55 am. The buses leave at noon and 5pm. Perfect. We settle in to relax for t he remaining however many hours we have to go (we estimate between one and four). The driver decides to blast the music the whole way, so we spend the trip covering our ears or sleeping.
Once at Cd. Bolivar, I call Jose, who I had found two days earlier on couchsurfing. Oh yeah, Azu had a cell phone. He comes and picks us up and takes us to his house, where we relax for a coupl hours. Now at this point, Azu and I haven't eaten all day, so our priorities are getting food and booking a tour to Canaima the next day. Places close at 6, so we decide to book the tour first. Jose has a friend with good deals (everyone in Venezuela has a friend who can help you somehow, I realize), so we head to the airport. Problem is neither Azu or I have enough Bolivars or dollars to pay for the trip and using a credit card would double the price of the excursion. After debating a while, the guy (Guillermo) says he has a Bank of America account, so we could just do a bank transfer. An hour and a half later, I still can't get it to go through. I'm starving at this point, and getting a headache. Turns out even though Guillermo has a Florida address, his main address is Venezuela so the transfer won't work. Foreign ATM cards don't work in Venezuela, so we can't get cash. Never go to Venezuela without a large stash of dollars. Azu decides to try his bank to do an international transfer, but it had to be during England businness hours, so our only choice is to do it in the morning before flying to Canaima. We're both starving and starting to feel sick, so we head to the closest food, McDonald's. I don't make it in time, and my headach spills over to food-won't-even-help mode. Even though it's only 7:30, we head back to Jose's house and I go to sleep. In the morning, Azu tries the transfer, but doesn't know which bank numberof Guillermo's to use (neither does Guillermo), so we give it our best guess and head to the airport.
That concludes this segment of the series. Stay tuned for my Canaima adventure (aka AMAZING and I Almost Died).