As we hinted before, we decided on going through Venezuela from Colombia to Brazil. Even though the country is going through a lot of turmoil right now, we felt that it was a journey that was worth taking, and that by traveling with 2 trucks that we were always in sight of each other we would be in a safer position than many solo travelers. If we had gone from Colombia back to Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia and then to Brazil, it would have been a huge backtrack as we had explored those countries to a degree that we felt we had seen them in enough detail. By backtracking, we would be just zooming through six or seven thousand kilometers of roads and countries that we had already seen. Sure, there were a few national parks and museums that we had not seen, but at this stage we have Museum, Church, Mirador (Lookout point) and “quaint colonial/indiginous/rural town” overload. Traveling north to Panama, and on to Alaska would be super, but then we would never have seen Venezuela or Brazil in the same detail that you can when you spend a few months driving through. We doubt we will be back this way (South America) anytime soon as we need to get back to jobs, earning income, replacing full passports and refilling our piggy-bank. So, on 18th of March we crossed the border at Maicao from Colombia to Venezuela.
Entering Venezuela was slow and frustrating, it was probably the slowest and most manic country entry we had done. We were in “super cautious” mode so no photos were taken as all our cameras were locked up safe. Looking back now, it was a bit over cautious, but better safe than sorry. If you are going to enter Venezuela this way, give yourself loads of time, and double check the paperwork as both ours and Jurgen & Ruth’s were wrong and we had to get the Venezuelan Aduana to re-do it, and they still got ours wrong the second time, but close enough to be ok.
We were in Venezuela! The country where even Venezuelans had told us not to visit as it was so dangerous. We had noticed a pattern as we traveled, when we were in Europe, everyone said South America was dangerous. When we landed in Uruguay, they indicated we should be careful in Argentina. When in Argentina, the Argentinians told us to be careful in Chile. The Chilean’s told us that Bolivia was wild, and a dangerous place to visit. The Bolivians were not too worried about Peru, but the Peruvian’s warned us about the Ecuadorians. In Ecuador, they told us to be on our guard in Colombia as it was a very dangerous place. In Colombia, they thought we were mad to want to visit Venezuela. When we were way back in Argentina, we met a Venezuelan guy who told us that all of South America was very safe, but whatever we did, do NOT visit Venezuela as it’s so dangerous. Needless to say we were a mixture of skeptical, and careful all at the same time.
Our first night after the border brought us to a small town called Sinamaica. We went to the police station to ask where was safe to park, and we were allowed to park right behind the station house in their parking lot. This was right beside the main road, and would be noisy, but we were sure it would be reasonably safe. After 30 minutes of walking about the village (Downgraded from town to village due to the lack of anything in the town), we felt really good about it, and decided to park for the night at the side of the Plaza. We usually like to park in remote places where the remoteness makes us safe, or if that’s not possible, we park in the most visible place we can which gives a sense of safety as so many people are watching the trucks. We had a grand quiet night there, and ended up having a short conversation with a student who was home for the weekend. We asked was he protesting during the week, and he was almost surprised that we had to ask, of course he was. He went on to explain it was for the future of Venezuela as he could not see that it has a future the way things are now. This was a message we were to hear a number of times during our overland travel in Venezuela.
The next day we went through the city of Maracaibo. It was the only city we had no choice but to go through. We stopped off to get some Venezuelan SIM cards for our phones, and to buy the local road insurance. We were advised on a route through the city by some police who were fascinated with the trucks, and despite (or because of?) their best efforts, we ended up meeting a student protest coming towards us on a pretty large road. They were really relaxed and peaceful, and when they spotted that our trucks were foreign we got a huge cheer and loads of waves.
The detour around the march brought us to a roadblock, but it was abandoned by whoever built it and set it on fire. Jurgen cleared a path for us (I was busy with the camera…) and we passed by without incident. That was to be the only sight or sign of protests we experienced first hand in our 4 weeks in Venezuela.
After this, we were on our way to our next overnight spot, the town of Coro. This was a nice town, and we felt really safe there. We parked for the night outside of a Church, and right beside a small craft market. They were really friendly, and had some weird biscuit things for sale at breakfast time, which I tried. They did not last long enough to take photos, Sorry…. Our real purpose in this town was to change some cash, US$ into Bolivars. There are 2 rates, the official and the black market. The official was in or about 11 Bolivars to the Dollar, but the Black market floats up and up from that. We exchanged at a rate of 60 Bolivars for the Dollar, meaning that everything we bought from then on was almost 10 times cheaper than it should have been. Crazy.
They do have a load of really nice looking old american muscle cars still in use, mainly by taxis. As fuel is almost free (more on that later), the size of the engine does not matter. Some of then are stunningly well maintained, and some look like they were robbed from the scrap yard after they were almost finished scrapping them!
From here we went to the coast to the small town of Chichiriviche which is a little seaside town. Sarah was on the lookout for a new pair of flip-flops, and this was a good place to look. We had a bit of a walk along the promenade, lunch in a restaurant, a bit of shopping, and then parked on the quiet end of the seafront. It was quiet until 10 or 11 at night, when every radio, cd player and motorcyclist who thought he could do a wheelie turned up, along with everyone else in Venezuela who wanted to watch and drink beer. We could not even have a conversation in the truck it was so noisy! Everyone was friendly enough, but we wanted to get to sleep before 6am, so decided to move. We then parked outside of David and Mireya’s Posada, and had a great night’s sleep. David had looked us up earlier in the day as he heard from another overlander we were in town. The next morning we had a look at their Posada – wow!
After here, we headed for Morrocoy national park, which is a set of sandy islands that you visit by boat. They were really pretty, and we enjoyed a few days exploring them.
After there, we bet a track for the big one – Angel falls. But first, we had to get through the center of Venezuela