Living dangerously

Trip Start Nov 05, 2009
1
9
32
Trip End Apr 26, 2010


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Where I stayed
A hell hole in Puerto La Cruz

Flag of Venezuela  ,
Monday, December 28, 2009

Firstly....Happy new year!.....I hope the next year is full of fun and happiness for you all xx

The journey continues....
Caracas is a very scary place....rated in the top 5 most dangerous places in the world with one of the highest murder rates...as one kind person told me as I left lovely, sunny Tobago. I have to admit that I was petrified about arriving, particularly as the airport is one of the dodgiest places. I think the most unsettling thing is that you can't even trust the police as they are renound for being incredibly corrupt - planting drugs on tourists, extorting money etc etc. The taxi drivers also are not to be trusted as it is common place for tourists to be driven to cashpoints and forced to withdraw cash at knife/gun point. In a place like this who the hell can you trust?

Drugs traffiking is obviously a major issue here and I got my bag searched....I was petrfied that they would find my illicit stash of pesto and pasta that i had hidden in my rucksack for an emergency dinner....thankfully they didn't find it so all is well.

Before I had even collected my bag from the luggage carasel I had been dealing on the blackmarket, exchanging some US dollers for some local currency with a guy that seemingly had some official capacity at the airport. It seems that corruption and dodgy deals is a way of life here. The official exchange rate is half that of the blackmarket and if you don't use it Venezuala is a very expensive place to be. The guy warned me not to walk straight out of the airport as it is very dangerous...what the hell am I doing here?....

Caracas is a very busy, dirty, frantic place...the complete opposite of Tobabgo and a total shock to the system.I had researched exactly which buses I needed to get to reach the main bus terminal so that i could whizz out of venezuala as quickly as possible...hmmmm...but this is S. America!. The bus station that i ended up at had maybe 100 buses but none of them said where they were going and no one could understand where i was trying to get to (I later read that this bus station should be avoided at all costs as it is very unsafe....eeeek).
 
It was here that I stumbled across my first guardian angel of the day. He was the only respectable looking, well dressed gentleman in the place (in retrospect I think that he might have been head of the bus mafia as he accepted hand fulls of cash from a couple of buses we passed) and despite not speaking any english and not understanding any of my feeble attempts at spanish we managed to communicate on some level. It became clear that the bus I needed did not actually run from here and I would somehow have to get across the city to another bus station. I had already had enough by now and was feeling pretty worried about how the hell i was going to get out of here, particularly as you can't even get in a taxi without the chance of being robbed or worse. But my angel came to my rescue and I broke all the rules and accepted a lift from him across the city. Under any other circumstances I wouldn't have done this but I weighed up the options - a) Alone with crap spanish, no idea where i am going, potentially surrounded by lots of people that could harm me or b) get in a car with one person that could harm me....b) sounded like the better option and I had a good feeling about this man.

Thankfully I was right and he very kindly took me directly to another bus station where I eventually understood that there were no buses running to the south until january....arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Enter stage left my second guardian angel....a guy that had lived in London and spoke English....hurrah! He said that my best bet would be to get one of his taxis to a lovely (hmmm)place 4 hours away along the east coast called Puerto la Cruz where i would be able to get a bus very easily. I was suspicious as ever but again felt that under the circumstances I had little choice and I had no choice but to just trust the guy. I felt better that there would be 3 other passengers in the car too and they were all locals.

And here begins the most frightening journey of my life.....
The driver was a little weasle like venezualen guy who spoke quite good English as his Grandfather was from Manchester (what a great combination Manc and Venezuelan).

He loved speaking on his mobile whilst driving which is bad enough but he also loved to use his hands to express himself as he talked, consequently there were many times that he had no hands on the wheel at all as we careered through the streets of Caracas. Very aptly he was playing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody on his stereo and I clung onto the lyrics 'Mama...oooh...I don't want to die' as a mantra in the many times of stress for the rest of the trip. It got worse as we got out of the city and we hit the winding, potholed country roads. We spent more time on the wrong side of the road overtaking anything in our path, hurtling head on towards lorries and buses, swinging into the other lane at the last possible moment, even when there was seemingly no space to move in to. Maybe it was his Manc genes that gave him his perchant for driving on the left? Stopping distance...what stopping distance...for the majourity of the 4 hours we were 2 - 3 inches from the back bumper of whatever was in front...at one point we were overtaking another car that was also overtaking....is that double taking?? We travelled at all times at nothing less than 150km per hour unless we hit a traffic jam which didn't stop him as he would just over or undertake it. By the end I wasn't sure which was worse - busy roads, overtaking at 150kmph or travelling flat out on an empty very windy,narrow,pot holed road at 170kmph+. He found it particuarly amusing to turn around to talk to me and to see the look of horror on my face. But as he said he has been driving this route everyday for 15 years and knows every bend and pot hole like the back of his hand. Despite the driving and when my eyes were open I could appreiate that the countryside was very beautiful with lots of mountains and woodland.

Our driver was actually a really nice guy and turned out to be my third guardian angel of the day. He offered to come into the bus station with me to help buy my ticket. Sods law that the bus had just left an hour ago and there was not another one until the same time tomorrow (so much for the 10 buses a day in my guidebook!). He said that i had to be at the bus station at 6.00am the next day to ensure I got a ticket for the 3pm bus. He offered to drive me around the town to find a hotel for the night...alas being new year and peak season there was no room at the inn. We eventually came across a hotel that had a room and he went on his way. What a lovely guy.

I can quite see why the hotel had a room available....shithole doesn't even begin to describe it. It was located on the seafront....fittingly enough the road was called the Paseo de colon...this whole place is like something that has passed through many colons. My room was basically a windowless cell in the bowels of the building. There was an overwhelming smell of fish and something else revolting that i couldn't quite place. The room was filthy and full of insects, mainly cockroaches and their offspring. Some of which were crawling about on the bed...mmmm. Along with the lovely visual and nasal sensations there was the constant grinding sound of some sort of industrial machinery. I rigged up some rudimentary security measures and then stuck in my ear plugs so i wouldn't have heard them anyway! Thankgod for my sleeping bag that's all i can say.

The next morning i woke at the crack of dawn (yes I actually did sleep for a while) and headed down to the bus station to get my ticket. Puero La Cruz is a horrible place, very run down and smells disgusting. Suprisingly it is a popular holiday destination despite the oil distillery and the polluted sea. Litter is a real problem here in Venezuela which i just can't abide....grrrrrrr.

The bus from Puerto la Cruz to Boa Vista (just across the Brazil border) was amazing....very comfortable, with fully reclining seats and super strong air con ( I had to use my 4 season sleeping bag to keep warm). The journey took 20 hours in total including a chaotic border crossing. The lanscape in southern venzuela is very beautiful with sweeping savanna, gushing streams and table top mountains. Looks like a fantastic place to go walking and camping.

Arriving into northern brazil was fantastic...seeing the start of the rainforest for the first time was superb and a very exciting moment.

We had a day to kill in Boa Vista before our next bus to manaus at 9.30pm. I had met up with 4 lovely french guys and a guy from Chile on the bus so we spent the day mouching around Boa Vista which is quite a pleasant little place. I already much prefer Brazil to Venezuela.

The bus from Boa Vista to manaus (the capital of Amazonia) was very uncomfortable and due to the compacted mud track a real bone shaker....12 hours later we arrived in manaus.

UnfortunatelyI was unable to book the kayak trip because I am on my own and they have no other trips running that I could join, so have decided to get straight onto the boat that will take me up the Amazon to Peru. I will be travelling on a small cargo/ passenger boat like the one that Bruce Parry travelled on in his series 'Amazon'. The journey to the border takes 6 days and I will be sleeping in a hammock slung from the roof of the boat. I have heard that you are often the only foreigner on these boats so I'm hoping that my spanish/portugese will have a chance to improve. I leave tomorrow and am expecting a pretty uncomfortable journey with plenty of back ache, noise and lack of space....can't wait!!

I spent new year having some beers with a couple of Argentinian girls I met at the hostel where i am staying. After the past few days travelling I was exhausted but managed to stay up until midnight and see in the new year.....just!

I'll be in peru when i next update my blog.......Adios!

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Comments

Elaine on

Hi Sue, just sat down and caught up with your blog. Fricken Nora!!!!!! It all sounds amazing (and I think you're incredibly brave too). I'll drop you an email but just wanted to say Happy New Year and I hope that 2010 will just keep being amazing for you.. Elaine xx

Derek on

tldr but have a great new year! x

Sarah on

Hiya...nice relaxing getting from A to B then. You are very brave ...Hope the trip to Peru is better than your last leg!
Just had a flashback of that time it took you about 10 hours to get from Harrogate to Manchester that time and I ended up meeting you in Picadilly but left my shoes on the train!!!
Happy New Year Sue !
xxxx

Lou on

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! However, am very cross with you monkey. NEVER accept a lift with a stranger again!! Very relieved to hear you made it out of that hell hole in one piece and that u are enjoying Brazil. Take care and lots of love, Loui xxx

Julie on

Happy New Year Sue!!! Missing you loads. You'd be loving the weather ;o)
Be sure to collect many, many stories "When You're in Peru..."

Catherine Kilgour on

Finally managed a mo among all the festivities and trauma of moving to read your blog. Cripes Sue - that's Venezuela off my list! Relieved you got through safely and looking forward to hearing your tales from Peru. Happy 2010 to you! xx

Catherine Kilgour on

Finally found a mo to read your latest blog and cripes Sue, that's Venezuela straight off my list! Glad to hear you're safe and sound though and looking forward to hearing your latest tales from Peru. Take care of you lady xx

Catherine Kilgour on

Ah, my first comment worked! Well, here you are this is the third - making up for lost time! hee hee x

Wendy Shaw on

Happy New Year from Greece! Do call in if you're passing ...6 nights on a hammock is nothing compared to an hour in the company of my horrible horde. Just ask Barbs! Take care (seriously)

xxxx

Wendy

Katherine on

Oh my god! Sue you are so brave! Happy New Year and I hope you are having a much less scary time in Brazil. xx

enrique on

caracas is nothing diferent than NW side of miami,downtown and south of chicago, east of minneapolis, east of detroit, city of NY at night, Atlanta city, New Orleans, El paso .and thousands of others places where live worth shit. why dont you investigate the true and have a better knowlege about the country where you born. do you know the diferents between a true leftist and a right wing supported. It is and ease answer. you belief that the corporations should have absolutely control of profit of the state. for example the oil [a natural resourse that belongs to the people] are use to profit stocks holders . And billions of dollars disapears in the so called giobal market. Money needed to pay for education and money needed to feed the kids that by millions going to bed every night without eating a decents meal here in america. these Corp make sure to support media like the one you work for.And pay trips for people like you and make sure that you and your family eat well . In that way you can be a happy and blind supporter of this evil culture. do not think everybody is stupid. We are living in the nuclear era .and there is not doubt the entire world will be in fiames while people like you are where helping the corps. that make the bombs and pay your salary.

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