Trust no one here!!

Trip Start Dec 12, 2007
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Flag of Venezuela  ,
Thursday, January 24, 2008

As we flew over Cuba again for the 3rd time, and Haiti, we were soon hit by nothing but ocean for quite some time.  After a while I looked out the window and there it was ...South America!!  I have been waiting so long to see this continent, and seeing this made me feel so alive.  As the plane descended over Venezuela, the mountains rose higher and higher which were covered in thick, dense, deep green jungle.  The mountains rose directly out of the water straight up to a height of 2km´s.  In the distant background I could see mountains peircing above the clouds of atleast double that height.  I was so excited to have reached this part of my trip, the continent I have been dreaming about for so many years!!
 
Caracas is flanked by huge mountains towering over the city towards its north and located on the coast.
 
My excitement unfortunately was soon replaced with fear.  The local sitting next to us spoke out as we were close to landing on the airstrip.  "You guys know not to step food outside at night right?", "Dont even think about going to central or western Caracas, it will be your last destination", "This is not United States anymore you guys, if you slip up... Your dead!", "and dont trust the police, they're all corrupt and will take your money!".  This was not the most welcome experience I´ve had!  So we were a tad frightened as to what we were getting ourselves into.  We entered through the gates, after attempting to 'charm' the female immigration officer in an attempt to distract her from the fact we had no place to stay or no ticket out.  It worked a treat, haha!  Our fear shortly got worst as we struck what seemed dejavu all over again with Cuba.  We couldnt withdraw anymoney from any atm or any banks.  We were so so annoyed and thinking that we are really up shit creek now, not wanting to even venture outside as of yet.  No money in one of the most dangerous cities you can rock up in - not exactly my idea of fun. 

2 Hours had passed and we finally managed to extract some money from a lady above the bank through credit on our cashpassport cards (after alot of convincing might I add).  This is where I met Henry.  Henry is a 19 year old Peruvian guy, is studying in Washington DC.  He speaks both English and Espanol very fluently.  He is a really nice guy as well and he had been wondering around with the same problem as myself, haha.  Unfortunately, none of us were told about the black market in Venezuela.  In the black market they will exchange 1 US Dollar for 4,500 Bolivares and up, where the official exchange rate banks do it at is only 1 US Dollar for 2,150 Bolivares, which we had to do unfortunately as we didnt have any US dollars on us.  Henry´s mate Glenn was outside chatting to Matty, so us 4 teamed up and caught a bus into the city, which I swear had steel metal poles for suspension.  On that bus I also met another bloke that is doing volunteer work in the southern mountains, trying to stop the violence by educating kids at a young age about the issues in the city.  He had been here for 4 months, and informed us quite a bit about the area.  Apparently its #1 murder capital in the world - great!  He kindly bought us underground tickets (only 500 Bolivars, 25cents), and guided us to Sabana Grande, which is where we are saying.  Apparently its an 'alrightish' area for Caracas standards, that being no comfort.  There a Swiss bloke also joined our convoy.  We seemed to be the only tourists in all of Caracas, as the airport is only filled with locals.  We hiked to the most popular and recommended dormitorio in Caracas, in hope to find some other travelers, but there were only 2 or 3 more people there.  I definitely get the impression that tourists simply do not come to this Caracas.  Merida in the far west is Venezuela's tourist town.  The swiss bloke is doing a similar trip to us. 

5 of us immediately made good friends and headed on off to grab a slab of beers and something to eat before it got dark. ...more rice!  Upon returning to the dormitorio, we walked passed the police, which they grabbed us all and took us into their little tent.  They made us hand over our passports and empty all of our pockets so they could frisk us.  We had heard all about how corrupt the police were here, and now we are finding out.  This took about half an hour, as none of us had any cash really to give them, (i had hidden approx $50USD in my underpants).  They kept trying though to get dollars from us, even wanted to come back andsearch our room for money.  We finally got out of it, and our stuff back (supprisingly the beers too).  Their excuse was that we should of had a bag on our beers?? (rubbish!)

We got back to our room just as night was falling, and all were already sick of this city, so we stayed in our dorm for the night drinking lots of beers!

On the 24th, we all slept in and had breakfast outside on the balcony before trotting off for a bit of a walk.  We found a brochure for Saltó Angel (Angel Falls), and headed to the office to find out what the deal was.  We whipped our credit cards out to get the black market exchange (as the company had banks in the US), and booked it so that a local Indian in Canaima would take us to Salto Angel.  Already having enough of this place, and hearing bad stories from the other 2 people in or hotel, we purchased a night bus outta the place for Ciudad Bolivar.  We packed everything we needed for the next 4 days in our small daypack, and headed off, leaving our backpacks in the dormitorio.  The idea is to catch a 12 hour night bus to Cuidad Bolivar, then hop on a plane to Canaima, which is in the Gran Sabana region of Southern Venezuela.  Then from Canaima head to Salto Angel. - So excited about this!  Salto Angel is so very remote and difficult to get too, and its the tallest waterfall in the world.
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Comments

starlagurl
starlagurl on

Scary scary
That's crazy foreshadowing (the guy on the plane), too bad you had such a bad time! It's good that nothing really bad happened.

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

jaqs
jaqs on

You are the man!
My hats off to you mate. Courage and steely reserve obviously form your composition. I would have turned to water! Keep safe and happy travels. Will be waiting to hear from you on the other side of the Colombian border when you safely reach Santa Marta. Best, love JAQ.

aachica
aachica on

strip searched by police
dude... just to warn everyone else out there. i just got back from caracas where i had the following experience. me and my friend arrived at the airport and took a bus from there to bellas artes . from there we took a taxi to the sabana grande area where the following happened. unfortunately we didnt have the latest copy of lonely planet cuz that copy has the warning about corrupt police. while we were INSIDE our taxi ... stuck in a traffic jam . with the windows opened a police on his motorcycle spotted us. stopped the taxi and asked us for papers. we showed our american passports at which point we were made to go to the police station . they proceeded to interrogate us for the following three hours accusing us of crazy things like bringing money without declaring it (even though we had waaayy less than 10000 dollars ) accusing us of bringing in items wihtout declaring and searching us (including a strip search) for money. now you gotta realize i am of latin decent and my friend is philipino decent. as such we dont even fit the usual tourist look. we could have passed as any other venezuelan if it wasnt for our luggage inside the taxi and the fact that my friend looks asian . since i speak spanish fluently they mostly took turns interrogating and intimidating me. at the end we were able to go without giving money and this is a miracle straight from God cuz they made us count all our money in front of them and they wanted $300 dollars.
crazy.

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