Tom Faulkner

Joined February 2017
  • Day49

    Week 7: Brazil to Caracas (in the Beetle

    April 23, 2017 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    After an incredible week hiking and camping Mount Roraima, me Nathan and Adrian returned to Shrek (the green VW Beetle) and hit the road for an eventful week of travel. The plan was to return North to Caracas and stop at places on route, a mammoth trip itself but first we headed south to the Brazilian Border. It wasn't really planned, but as we were so close, why not go to Brazil? And once we were there, why not spend the night? So that's what we did, in an interesting town called La Linea.

    We drove freely accross the border not being stopped once at 'checkpoints', and arrived in the busy and very different town. First off, everything was Portuguese and no-one really spoke Spanish, so that made things interesting. Secondly, in Venezuela there is a shortage of pretty much everything (but the essentials), but this town had EVERYTHING, and so many options and places to buy. Thirdly,  it was of course a different currency, the 'Brazilian Real' and things were more expensive. We found someone who would change US Dollars for Reals and then paid for a hotel for the night. I was getting dark, so time to get on the beers and go for steet-food. We sat out on the main street and had various skewered meats, and experienced the town go from super-busy to dead in an hour. After being hassled by some funny Brazilian hipster for about ten minutes, Adrian bought a shitty bracelet in the hope he would go away, but he stayed for another half-hour, lol. After we headed to a couple of 'bars' then carried on drinking back at the hotel on the balcony.

    Our first and last morning in Brazil started with a great breakfast and more hassle from street sellers. Adrian gave in again and bought 3 ridiculous straw hats, which we would wear for the rest of the week... We wandered around the town and spent the rest of our Realis before heading back for Venezuela. We witnessed somebody pay for groceries in Bolivars, in which stacks of bills were pulled from a rucksack and weighed on scales because it was quicker. That's inflation! We drove back accross the border (without being stopped) and saw people waving big wads of cash at the passing cars. Of course, we stopped and asked, to find they were selling Venezuelan Bolivars for Brazilian Reals. The interesting thing was they had all new banknotes (up to 20,000's) which are rarely seen in Venezuela. We asked a guy if he could change dollars, and he wacked out the calculator. After simple negotiation we got the desireable new bills worth 200 times more than the standard notes (and importantly  weighing 200 times less!), everyone was happy.

    We filled up petrol in a town called Santa Elena, which was another hour-long chaotic ordeal, and continued on the Road North, a 200km journey back through the national park to Las Claritas. We stopped in Kumarakapay again for lunch, and the same gas station that we waited 2 hours for last week, only this time no queue at all, bizarre! The charming shit-hole of Las Claritas welcomed us wierie travels with much needed chicken, beer, and champions league football! I bought some rum and coke to drink back at the Posada, and we got an early night.

    Wednesday was the long stretch. A 400km drive to Puerto Ordaz, the place I started this whole journey. We stopped at a riverside tourist camp that reminded me of the Orinoco  delta lodge; a beautiful place with facilities and rooms, but zero tourists... sad to see. Anyway we had specially cooked breakfast and chatted with the owners son for a while before getting back on the road again. Our next stop was for fruit at the side of the road in some random town, where we met equally random 'gold-boy'. We bought bananas and coconut when a young man approached and un-discreetly opened up a small wrap in front of us. Expecting a white power or some other drug, we were suprised to see a chunk of gold. We got talking, i held it (suprisingly heavier than it looks) and we talked about prices and how he makes money etc. He wasn't really trying to sell it, more showing off I suppose, this little chunk was worth more than most people make in a year here! It was a truly random 5 minutes, then we were back on the road.

    We arrived in Puerto Ordaz late afternoon to begin an unplanned eventful evening. After the long distances shrek had driven on poor roads, he started backfiring (sounding a lot like gunshots) so we search for a mechanic. We found a small place where a guy took a look at the exhaust, and admitted he didn't have the part we needed, before three guys all started messing around under the car and bending a random piece of metal and other parts into a makeshift bracket with a hammer. After half an hour of labour we paid the equivalent of 1 dollar and headed to our home for the night; the lovely home and very welcoming family of Nathan's friend. His friend wasn't actually there so it was a little awkward (especially as they had never met me) but we were fed great food and had some broken conversions in Spanish. However, we decided it would be better to go out for a while in the town, which would turn out to be a bad idea...

    We drove to the central mall (where I had been before with Romel) but soon realised there had been protests all over town against the government. Everything was closed, there were national guards with riot-shields lining the streets, and it was getting dark so protests had dispersed and there was no-one around. First thought, back to the house. But, there was a giant fire in the middle of the main road lighting up the area. We take a detour to avoid it, but every way we try to go there is some obstacle; a purposely fallen tree, makeshift road-blocks or fires in the road in protest. We end up doing a really long detour to get on the highway, and when we pull off at our exit, in the now dark night, a large 4x4 pulls alongside and forces us to stop. 6 national guard jump out with Ak-47's shouting 'fuera del carro!' We get out hands above our heads, Nathan converses with them, and we show ID's. They soon realise who we are and calm down, but demand we empty our pockets and they search the car. I guess with all the protests and happenings in the city they are on high alert. Anyway after 5 minutes they appear to find nothing and swiftly jump back in the jeep and speed off. It's only 5 minutes later when we get to a bar that Adrian realises they stole his expensive Sony Xperia Phone. In the space of a few days he lost a new go-pro and a phone, some $1000 of expense, but also all his photos and videos from the trip...

    That Night we drank a few beers and tried to brush off the whole ordeal (feeling sorry for Adrian) before returning to the friends family home. The next day we were again cooked for and had an awesome breakfast, and in return I smashed an ornamental plantpot with a chair. It was accidental of course but I felt terrible and must have apologised a hundred times. After saying our goodbyes we hit the road and laughed about our bad luck in the car. We headed to El Tigre, but first stopped in Ciudad Bolivar, a lovely riverside city with colourful buildings and charm. We didn't stay long, and kept going until we reached a hotel in El Tigre mid-afternoon. This place (called 'Las Palmas Resort') was huge, really nice, and had a large swimming pool area with tennis courts, gym and everything. Of course, it was all dead so we enjoyed beer and tapas while playing frisbee in an empty pool. Later we went to town for food and beers, and ended up buying a bottle of gin. After asking a taxi driver to take us to a bar of his recommendation, we ended up in a dingy 'strip-club' with equally ugly girls. We took advantage of cheap beers and headed  back to the hotel.

    Friday was a long boring drive on a 200km straight road through flat scrubland. We were supposed to go to stay at a cool ranch that Nathan had been in contact with, but we spent a long time trying to find it and had no luck. It was getting late and we were exhausted, so instead went to the nearest town of 'Valle de Pasqua', another delightful shit-hole in the middle of nowhere, and another night in a hotel. The next day was our final 350km back to Caracas, and a much more interesting drive.

    We started Saturday on a twisting 'Road' that was labelled a national highway, but was in extremely poor condition. The surface was terrible, a mixture of torn up concrete, gravel and dirt, with potholes the size of the moon, big pools of water to cross, and a heard of a hundred cows to wait behind. The scenery was cool though, and after an hour we made it back to actual roads and continued a few hours more, through a few towns until being stopped by police before the mountains. We said we were heading for Caracas but they were telling us to turn around and take the other really long route. They were actually being helpful as they explained the road ahead through the mountains is ten times worse than our previous one and for large 4x4s only. Of course we had no way of knowing that just following a map, and now our journey just got a whole lot longer.

    A few hours later we hit the mountains again on the different road, and begin to drive through a green dense jungle-like environment in a valley. 10 minutes into this cool road we hit a random queue of cars at a standstill, and cant see how far it goes for. After half an hour we finally start moving, and later pass some people stood by fire and debris who had made a road-block in yet another act of protest against the government. The rest of the way back to Caracas was quite beautiful, but the topic of conversation was the problems in Venezuela due to the socialist government. I had a sort of history lesson and understood a bit better what the protests were all about, and the struggles that people here face.

    We passed through numerous towns, suburbs and barrios (favelas) before finally entering the capital city. Caracas looked cool in the evening sun, with a backdrop of the enormous Avila mountains high in the clouds. After a little trouble navigating around the chaotic city and a few large street protests, we finally arrived at Nathan and Adrian's appartment block. There we were greeted by another of the English friends 'Booth' and some beers. We would drink and tell stories in Nathan's flat before Joel and Sergio turned up with rum to start the party. We went to a nearby Chinese restaurant and kept the beers flowing, before going to everyone's favourite place; 'Mr P's'. It was a swanky place and had good music, but in reality it was just another strip-club. Of course I woke up Sunday morning on Nathan's couch with a headache by a saucepan full of sick. From what I could remember it was a great night and a good way to end the epic Road-Trip...
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  • Day43

    Week 6 - Expedition Roraima

    April 17, 2017 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    (Read previous blog before this)

    We were up at 6 on Wednesday and met our guide Toni, and Porter Leo at the tour company, who were both really cool. Toni was a short and chubby middle aged man, who had surprisingly climbed Roraima 70 times, and also worked as a judge for the local indigenous population! Leo lived in Kumarakapay, and was younger and fitter, and could carry an unbelievable amount of weight as a Porter. The 5 of us, a driver, and 3 random people crammed into a big 4x4 Land-Cruiser with all our gear on the roof-rack. We set off at 8am, driving up a dirt-track for an hour to reach the town of Paraitepuy and the starting point of our hike. The road was rough, angled and twisting; only a large 4x4 could make it up here, and ours felt close to rolling over on several occasions! Anyway we arrived at a small national-park-office, signed our names, and began our 6-day 100km hike in the Gran Sabana.

    We began slow with our guide Toni, but Me Nate and Ade had too much energy, so kept walking ahead, having to wait for him to catch up. In the end we set such a fast pace that we just left him behind, and walked on the clear path with the Roraima mountain emerging from the clouds directly ahead. The landscape around was, somewhat like the English peak district with open rolling hills and grey skies, with the exception of the enormous tepuis in the distance. After 4 hours hiking we arrived at the first camp, and had to wait over an hour for our guide Toni to catch up. We had hiked at an incredible pace with big heavy bags on our backs, but still had the energy to play Frisbee while waiting for him, and our porter Leo joined in. When Toni did arrive, we hiked another hour to the empty camp 'Kukenan', where we would stay that Night. We set up our tents for the first time and went in the Kukenan river right by camp to wash ourselves and our clothes. We ended up hilariously 'swimming' down some shallow rapids while the evening sky cleared and the two tepui mountains (Roraima and Kukenan) dramatically appeared from the clouds in the background. Messing in the river was a highlight of the trip, and after drying off we started a camp fire and ate our first meal cooked by Toni and Leo in the dark empty camp.

    The next day started wet, overcast and miserable. After a carb-filled breakfast we smashed a '4-hour' hike to Base Camp, and to our suprise made it in 2! We had Energy and speed, and didn't stop once. The hike was shorter than the previous day but more uphill with steeper climbs and descents. The scenery became greener and the dramatic Roraima and Kukenan Tepuis got closer. Base Camp was at the foot of the mountain, so when the weather cleared in the afternoon, Roraima looked incredible.

    Just after arriving at Base Camp, we were suprised to meet the other group of 12 who were making their way down! Joel and everyone from Caracas (who I saw in Puerto Ordaz) had made it, and had just descended from the top that morning. We caught up and spent a good hour chatting, playing frisbee, eating lunch and taking photos. They told us all about their trip, and when they left we were ready and eager to climb to the top! However, we had to wait for our guide and porter, who wouldn't arrive until the late afternoon. We were a little frustrated, but had a late second lunch when they arrived and set up camp for the night. We would have to wait for tomorrow to make the climb. In the meantime I had a wash in ice-cold stream-water and we played Frisbee target games before eating late dinner and stargazing in the clear night sky.

    Friday. Today was the day. The big climb. 1000m gain in altitude to the top. Steep climbing on slippy rocks and dirt paths, through humid dense jungle under the heat of the tropical sun. It was exhausting, but made even more difficult by the size and weight of our backpacks. Again, we set a ridiculous pace and stopped infrequently, so i was constantly out of breath and tired. But, we all had the same 'challenge yourself' mentality, and kept going all the way to the top. We passed through jungle, forest, streams, and an incredible 'waterfall' that poured over the edge several-hundred feet above and cascaded down into a fine mist our a rocky path. Staring up in awe and watching the water fall from such a height was surreal. Equally, the views became more amazing the higher we climbed, until we made it to the top...

    The landscape changed completely. On arriving at the top of Roraima I was suprised to be walking on a different planet. It was an enormous, flat, rocky plateu with little signs of life; no trees, insects or birds. There were small pools of water eveywhere, with some plants and fauna in places, and a constant blanket of cloud close to the surface, so visibility was poor. We managed to find the cave which we were to camp in (with the help from a random guy), and set up our tents. This cave was cool; it was set back from the cliff-edge and was a natutal overhanging rock feature sheltering us from rain and wind on 3 sides. The open side was facing over towards the edge and where we had come from, so when the cloud cleared, the view was spectacular. We had arrived, set-up, and eaten lunch before midday, so we relaxed, slept, and waited for Toni and Leo, who arrived 3 hours later!

    That evening we hiked a short distance up to the summit, a point 2,800m right on the edge of the west-facing tepui wall. Peering over the edge was frightening; a sheer vertical drop of 1,000m, How long would it take to fall a kilometer? Everything below was so small, and you could barely see Base Camp at the bottom.  The other tepui mountain to the north, Kukenan, looked spectacular and dramatic battling with the low clouds. We took some great photos at this point and enjoyed the awesome view over the Gran Sabana; you could see for miles. Later, me and Adrian would climb to another high point and sit watching the sunset over Kukenan. Another incredible sight hard to describe, and Ade captured a cool sunset time-lapse on his go-pro.

    Saturday was our first full day on top of this giant mountain. We would do a 25km-round hike to 'Punto-triple', a point where the borders of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana all meet. The walk there was a long 3-hours with no change of elevation or scenery, and a constant cover of cloud and mist. The point itself was just a stone monument, but nevertheless it was cool to be sat in all three countries at once. On our return we took a different route and visited 'El Fosso' (The gap). This was an enormous pool sunk 50ft below the surface, with a stream cascading into it. The only way to get down to the pool was a long and difficult clamber down some steep rocks into a crevass which led to a network of caves and eventually the pool. It was so ridiculous that Adrian dropped his new go-pro 5 down a deep crack, and although we crawled through dark underground caves trying to find it, it could have gone anywhere. An hour of searching was useless, and he'd lost all his footage of the trip...

    We did still go to the pool, which was awesome, and showered in the waterfall before making the climb back out. The walk back to camp was long and the mood subdued, plus we were tired and hungry. It felt like forever, but we did pass through the 'valley of crystals' where there were thousands of natural large quartz crystals scattered everywhere in the pools. Much needed food awaited us on return at 5pm, and later we played cards in the tent before an early night.

    Sunday was the long descent, and probably the hardest day. Before we made our way down the mountain, we took at 2 hour hike in shite weather to a popular viewpoint where we couldn't see anything. I was gutted, as Leo was describing a usual incredible view over Guyana, but low cloud and rain meant we couldn't see more than 10m. We were cold and wet, and wasted time and energy, so a great start to the day...

    The way down was the same 'path' we took up, but it was more difficult going down on steep slippy rocks in the dense jungle, so we all fell a few times. Once we were off the mountain and out of jungle, the path was easier and the sky cleared, making a pleasant afternoon walk. The scenery of the dramatic sun-lit tepui mountain now behind us was incredible, and the sun was out the whole way to camp. We had to cross 2 rivers which were now at peak flow so we got wet feet and Nathan even fell in, lucky it was shallow. On arrival at our campsite 'Rio-Tek' we pitched the tents and went for a wash in the river. There was a bizare deep blue pool hidden  in the trees which we bathed in to an incredible  background of the Kukenan tepui in a now completely clear sky. It must have been the first clear sky of the trip, and it lasted all evening while the sun set and the stars appeared. We played cards and drank rum in a busy campsite, and made friends with a group of Venezuelans. However we were exhausted and had to be up at 4.30, so another early night.

    We got up ridiculously early to start our final hike in the dark, and make it to the Base town before anyone else. We had a long 4-hour hike with wet boots and tired heads. The sun rose over the mountain and was in and out of clouds all day, but we paid little attention to scenery as we played verbal games the whole way, not stopping once. We arrived in good time, so relaxed and waited for Toni and Leo. Our transport (the same 4x4) arrived late at midday so we were back in Kumarakapay for 1pm. After much deserved beer and lunch at Lineker's place (again), we got to the car and on the road south to Brazil. What an incredible week...
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  • Day38

    Week 6 - Venezuelan Road-Trip...

    April 12, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Monday 10th April would be the first day of a 2-week road trip around Eastern Venezuela. I was picked up from Romel's place in Puerto Ordaz by Nathaniel and Adrian, 2 brits working as teachers at the British school in Caracas. I had met both of them before but didn't know them well at all. Nathan is 27, from London and has been here 2 years so speaks reasonable spanish (which would turn out to be lifesaving!). Adrian is 26, has been here for 7 months and is our driver and owner of an awesome 1996 VW Beetle. My face lit up when I was greeted by the little olive green car (appropriately named 'Shrek'), and I soon realised it would be a tight squeeze and one hell of a journey! Shrek was small and had no boot so along with our bags and supplies, the three of us would just fit in the car! Anyway, we set off on our 600km journey to Kumarakapay, where we would climb Mount Roraima.

    Within a couple of hours I'd got to know Nate and Ade quite well, along with some of the Venezuelan countryside. Our first stop was for fuel in a town called Guasipati. Typical in Venezuela, there was a long queue of cars stretching down the road, but Nate chatted with a Guardia (National Guard) and offered a small bribe to get us to the front and we were filled up within 10 minutes. His Spanish and big balls saved us an hour or more, and would be very useful for many future situations. There are Armed-Police and Guardia checkpoints on roads all over Venezuela, so having someone able to explain in Spanish upon getting stopped was great, and that happened to be a lot... We even got a police dog thrown into the car to search for drugs on the first day!

    After another few hours of driving we reached the town of Las Claritas. This place was chaos - people, cars, motorbikes, stalls, shops and street sellers all concentrated on the main traffic-filled dirt-road through town. It was incredible to see, but it felt unsafe, especially standing out as 3 white guys in a Beetle! Anyway we grabbed some good food and stayed in a Posada (like a motel) 10 minutes out of the town, where we felt safer. That nights entertainment involved Nate and ade injecting eachother in the ass, which was hilarious. They'd bought 'Miovit' in Caracas; a supposedly 'insect-repelling' vitamin medicine, but they didn't realise it was an injection and had no time to find a nurse. Ade nearly passed out, but it was funny...

    The next day we would drive the rest of the way to Kumarakapay. Early morning we crawled through the busy town traffic again, with the intention of getting fuel. We were met by a network of chaotic queues from all sides of the gas station blocking several roads. There were all kinds of vehicles in total disorder, well over one-hundred, and a suspected 4 hour wait in this dodgy area. Fuck. That. We knew the next station was far, but with 2 jerry-cans of fuel in the car for backup, we fancied our chances.

    We were soon driving on cool winding roads through forests, and gaining altitude before we entered the Canaima National Park. Shrek managed about 300km before we ran out of fuel, so we poured a Jerry can into the tank to get us to the next gas station, which was in the middle of a hot baron nowhere and had a queue of around 60 cars for as far as you could see. We tried to play the tourist card and offer a bribe, but with no luck we would have to queue for 2 hours. Me and Nathan walked off down a dirt track to a random campsite where we found a river and small waterfall. It was midday and hot, so drinking and diving in the water was really refreshing. Poor Adrian stayed with the car, but made a friend in the queue...

    Franyer, a middle-aged Venezuelan, was behind us in the queue, and after talking we discovered his interesting way of life. He would queue for fuel here early every morning, then once filled up, siphon it out of the tank and into jerry-cans hidden in the boot. He'd repeat this 3 times before driving 3 hours to the Brazilian Border, where he could sell the fuel for 2,000 times the price. In Venezuela petrol is as good as free, but prices in Brazil are comparable to the UK/US. Franyer would pay the equivalent of  2p for 100litres (worth over £100 in Brazil) and sell it near the border for about £40. Authorities are aware this happens so they don't allow people to fill Jerry cans anywhere, hen email why Franyer would queue multiple times and siphon the petrol out of the car each time. Clever!

    Anyway, we were also asking him about Roraima and he knew a friend who worked for a tour company in Kumarakapay, Perfect! After filling up, we would drive there in Convoy and find his friend, which we did, but it took a painful 2 hours of negotiation and language difficulty to organise and pay for our 6-day Roraima trek. But, it was done, and we were starving so went for lunch accross the road at a small place, one of only a few 'bars' in this very small relaxed town. After talking with the owner named 'Lineker' about the football, ballsy Nathan managed another trick. Lineker would get his TV and satellite dish from his home, bring it accross town and set it up so we could watch live champions league football  while we ate and drank beer (Juventus 3-0 Barcelona). Ridiculous... but it was awesome, and after the game we would be even cheekier  and manage to pay with a 50$ note, receiving a big bag of Bolivar cash as change (which we needed). After a bit of shopping and beers elsewhere, we packed our bags ready for Roraima and got an early night in a Posada. The following day would be the start of our 6-day adventure into the wild, and we were excited
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  • Day35

    Week 5 - Return to Civilisation

    April 9, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    My final week in the Jungle was a short one, as I left on Friday, but I had a great final few days. Me and Orlando spent Monday morning in laughter whilst moving mattresses, bed frames and furniture around cabins in preparation for future guests. We used the old boat to help (I got to drive it!) and did a lot of messing around as were both in a giddy mood. The day became even better when after lunch we headed to the jungle. We had to cut, carry, and transport bamboo from the jungle to the camp for building material. It was hard work, cutting down enormous shoots with a machete was one thing, but dragging them back to the boat through a dense, muddy, hot wnd humid jungle was unpleasent. We needed 20 large bamboo, but the machete broke after 10, and thank God it did - I was fucking exhausted. Before leaving the jungle, Orlando climbed vertically up a 50ft palm tree to get coconuts. It's normal practice for the people here but I was scared for him; one slip is all it takes... Anyway we ate some coconut and i drove the bamboo-filled boat back to camp. At this point I wanted my bed, but I still went out in my kayak for a few hours down the jungle-river to complete an awesome day.

    On Tuesday afternoon a new volunteer arrived. Maycon, A 28-year-old backpacker from Brazil, had just come from Roraima (my next destination) and would spend a month at the Lodge. He'd lived in New-Zealand for 2 years, and in Brazil he was an English teacher, so speaks perfect English, lucky me! He's a cool guy, and we worked all of Wednesday together so got to know eachothers well. We talked about our travel plans and it turns out we're both doing a similar route, so will probably cross paths in Colombia. He also told me all about Roraima and how awesome it was so I'm now very exited for it.

    On my last day in the delta, after packing and cleaning my cabin, I took Maycon on a Kayaking adventure down my favourite 'river'. We did it at peak high-tide, so the usual overhanging branches and vegetation were low and touching the water in places. It was difficult for me, but for first-time kayaker Maycon it was a challenging 3-hour battle. The river was super dense and there was shit everywhere so it was tricky and he really struggled. Anyway we emerged back out of the jungle 3 hours later; scratched, bitten and bleeding, just before it was going dark. We had a great afternoon, and for me it would be the last time Kayaking here.

    Friday morning was my departure from the camp. After saying goodbyes I boarded a tiny wooden boat with a local Warao family at 7am. It would take some 2 hours rough journey uncomfortably sat on the floor to reach Tucupita, the nearest town. There I met Orlando, who had just come out of hospital with wife and newborn baby girl Estelle. He helped me get to the transport terminal and onto a shared 'taxi' heading for Puerto Ordaz. Compared with my last Venezuelan travel experience, this one was fairly straightforward, and I even fell asleep in the car.

    Joel and 12 others were passing through Puerto Ordaz on Friday night, on their way to Roraima, and were staying at 'the Mara inn'. This is where I would stay the night, and I had no idea what to expect, but I arrived to a fancy modern hotel with a room-price to match (£20 a night is a lot here!). I paid, but was short on cash, so after talking to the receptionist, her friend drove to the hotel with a binbag full of bills. I gave him $150 (just 3 notes!) in return for 500,000bolivars (all in 100's and 50's notes) weighing more than my bag. Anyway, I had arrived safely and obtained cash by 2pm so had the whole afternoon to relax before my friends arrived in the evening. It was great to see everyone again; we had some food and then drank spirits all night at the bar. After a month without alcohol, it hit me pretty hard, so i had a good night! The next morning I would see them all again at breakfast before they set off on their 12 hour drive in the minibus.

    That morning (Saturday) i found a couchsurf host, so I checked out of hotel around midday and got a taxi into town to his place. Romel, a really cool quintuple-lingual local welcomed me with open arms and some incredible home-cooked food. We hit it off instantly and had loads in common so becme instnt friends. After chilling in his appartment we headed to the Parque Llovinza, a huge riverside park with several waterfalls, bridges and water-crossings. It was a beautiful place and we had a great afternoon; we ended up trekking 3 hours back in the late afternoon sun through scrubland, rivers and forest. And of course, we were chatting and laughing the whole way.

    That Night we would go to a 'concert' with Romel's friend Thais, which in actually turned out to be an intimate gig on a terrace in the outskirts of the city. There was an awesome band, a female singer 'Mariana', and of course beer and food. It was a great way to end the perfect day, but Sunday would turn out to be even better...

    Romel's 34th Birthday started with home-cooked Arepes and music with the 3 of us in his flat. In the afternoon me and Romel got a haircut which was an experience; he had longish hair and a big beard, but came out buzz-cut and clean-shaven - a completely different man! We then headed to a hotel on the Caroni river where an incredible adventure would await. The hotel ran daily kayaking tours, so we geared up and met with the group we would be with. First, we would kayak a few kilometers towards La Llovizna waterfall, before getting out and preparing for a swim. We then swam around some rocky outcrops and into a hidden horseshoe of several incredible waterfalls. These waterfalls were enormous, powerful, and loud. The volume of water falling into this bowl made it difficult to swim close, so we would try a different approach...

    Following the lead of a guide, we vertically climbed a rocky cliff face (with difficulty) to get to a ledge high above the water. We were now stood right beside the main waterfall some 50ft up. There was only one way down, and of course this was the reason why we climbed in the first place. After a nervy leap, the thrill of jumping from such a height and feeling weightless made me want to go again. This time 3 of us would jump at the same time, which gave me some awesome Go-Pro footage. This experience combined with the awesome scenery and people was the highlight of my week. After, we would shower under the cascading water and climb around to the top for some incredible views in the late afternoon sun. Upon returning to the hotel in out kayaks, we saw capuchin monkeys up close with a background of the Caroni river and the setting sun. What an amazing day. To finish a great weekend, me Romel and Tais went to the Orinokia centre; a huge modern mall that you wouldn't expect to find in Venezuela. We ate loads of food and ended the perfect day with a shite film and buckets of popcorn in the cinema.
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  • Day28

    Week 4 - Guests from England!

    April 2, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ 🌙 7 °C

    Week 4, and my 3rd week in the Jungle started really well. The lodge was suddenly kicked into action for the guests (from England! - read previous blog). Although they only srayed for a couple of nights, the place had been decorated with fresh palms, tablecloths, cushions, and of course, the bar was now open. One of my jobs was waiter, and the food i was serving was incredible, nothing like the 'yuka' casava crap we have every day! It was cool being the 'rep' of the lodge, and I got to go on their day-trip with Orlando, our guide. It was an aweome day, and I felt part of the guests group.

    So the tour started at 9.30am when we set off down the sunlit river in a canopied boat; the 4 guests up front (cameras, binoculars, life-jackets and all), me and Orlando at the rear. Orlando is a cool lively 25-year old local who can speak near perfect English, so we really get on. We head down the same 'jungle' river I've been before, but within minutes Orlando is stopping the boat and pointing out wildlife so well hidden or far away it's unbelievable. At full speed he shuts off the engine and says 'monkeys'. Even when he pulled the boat up really close and pointed right at the tree, it took us 'gringos' a while for the 'oh yeah I see it' moment. Incredible eyesight! Anyway we see numerous howler monkeys, Tortoise, Snake, Kingfisher, and a wide variety of birds, before stopping to do some Piranha-fishing.

    This is my first time fishing, and I catch 4 piranha, each bigger than the previous. Orlando gets 5 but, funnily enough, between the 4 (paying) guests not a single fish is caught. We were there for almost an hour, so there was an air of frustration, but we had good fun and laughs, Orlando also held and force-fed a piranha twigs to demonstrate the sharpness of their teeth. After crusing around in the boat a bit more, we stopped for a jungle-walk. This was something I'd already experienced, but it was nice to appreciate the surroundings without having to work; we swung on vines, trudged through swamp, saw scorpions and bizare insects, drank fresh vine-water and ate palm-heart, of course all whilst being attacked by Mosquitos.

    We found a 'beach' so I had a quick dip in the refreshing brown water, then visited a small Warao community on the main river. They were selling alsorts of hand-made stuff all weaved from dried palms and you could see them making the next basket, bowl, bag or whatever. I bought a beautiful little 'dish' for my mum (after all, it was mothers day that day) for the equivalent of 15p. I'm telling you, if this shit were in selfridges it would be £15! Anyway we had a look around before setting off down the wide main river, where we followed a group of river-dolphin. These were smaller and less pink than ones I'd seen previously (they are somewhat common) but it was still special seeing them up-close, and one even jumped out the water in front of us. On our way back to camp we found more monkeys and interesting flora, before a passing downpour soaked us in the last 5 minutes.

    That Night, I would be waiter again for the guests, and bartender after their meal. This was a cool experience and we had some great conversations, particularly about how fucked Venezuela is, which was highlighted when it came to paying the tab... a little over 100,000 Bolivars (£30). Its cash only for obvious reasons (it's the jungle) and the highest bill is 100b. Hmm, let me just go get a bag of over 1000 notes weighing a kilo to cover it... ridiculous. Anyway we laughed about it all, as it took almost an hour to settle the tab, before I closed the bar for probably the last time.

    The next morning I served breakfast, and the guests went out in a canoe with Orlando. I followed in my kayak playing photographer in the awesome weather. By midday it was time to say goodbye, as they left in a boat, begging their journey to angel falls. So, by the afternoon it was back to cleaning bird shit off furniture and spreading diesel on logs. The guests had come and gone quickly, but it was great for me, and a highlight of my time here....

    Before leaving on Wesnesday, Anthony wanted to take advantage of my photography skills. Tuesday night we sat in the lodge together for a few hours on his laptop, and I copied accross all my photos, then gave him a long lesson in photoshop. Initially I showed him the basics; navigation, enhancing photos, adding his logo and saving for use online. It wouldn't have taken long, but anthony was full of questions, and wanted to know EVERYTHING. I was a little rusty, but the next couple of hours were spent messing around in the program and showing him all i knew. His reactions to some of the shit i was doing reminded me how awesome photoshop is. It was all new to him, but he was amazed by almost everything; removing people from photos, face-swapping, flying boats, giant-frog invasions and alsorts of silly shit.  I was showing off a bit but he was enjoying it and certainly learnt a thing or two! Anyway he appreciated the photos and is going to post them to the company website, instagram, Facebook etc. Exciting!

     The rest of the week would turn out to be a lot less exiting; the mornings and early afternoons occupied by boring jobs, the late afternoons out solo in the kayak. I did however discover something quite cool; a long, narrow, dense waterway through the jungle. It starts about 30ft wide at the main river, but soon narrows, before becoming almost unpassable in places. For a few miles, there's dense vegetation immediately on both sides and above, like a natural tunnel. The 'stream' opens out in places, revealing towering jungle palm trees, many birds, and the odd bit of sunlight. It may be narrow, but the water is quite deep, and teaming with fish, piranha and electric eel, which you can see constantly making a splash. It eventually becomes too narrow and overgrown to continue, but this has to be the coolest place I've ever kayaked, and I return the next couple of days with my Go-Pro and a fishing 'rod'. Truth be told, I'm shite at fishing, which is why I caught zero fish there, but on other days I've been trying my luck at the Lodge, and crully caught a couple piranha and sardine. Anyway, this week I have found my new favourite place in Venezuela, and I'll be back again a few times for sure before I leave the delta...
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  • Day21

    Week 3 - An eventful week at the Lodge

    March 26, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ 🌙 7 °C

    My second week in the Orinoco started off slow, very slow. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were forgettable days of work. Aside from the usual cleaning tasks, I had to spread every bit of furniture with diesel (to protect the wood), deep scrub all the cushion covers (to remove the stains and bird shit), paint a few things in the main lodge (that didn't need painting), and many other riveting jobs... Anyway in the late afternoons I made sure to get out in the kayak and go explore a little. I found a great spot in the jungle for collecting coconuts, and I've filled my kayak with them a few times, so at least I'm eating some fruit..

    However, the week was flipped on its head on Wednesday, when I was told to go 'jungle-logging' again with Piña, and a Warao friend, Carlos. I was definitely exited after last time, but it was one of those days where everything went wrong. First off, I woke up with diarrhoea, and there's a lack of loo-roll here, so not a good start. Secondly, the weather was miserable, so no glorious sun-lit morning scenery. Thirdly, after finding our first tree to cut, the chainsaw broke within 60 seconds, and we couldn't repair. Fourthly, after a long time of hand-axing, the bastard tree fell the wrong way and into the river. Fifthly, and most importantly, while chopping my machete, I released a 30ft branch from above straight down onto Carlos' head. It was an accident, but it was bad. Blood was pouring down his face from a 2-inch open cut in his head, through which you could see his skull. He had a lump on the other side the size of a tennis ball. He probably had concussion, and although the guy was tough, this was serious, and I felt terrible.

    We got on the boat and left the jungle straight away. An hour later we arrived at camp, Carlos had lost a lot of blood but didn't seem phased by it all, and just held the blood-soaked t-shirt wrapped around his head. It was quickly decided that he needed to go to hospital (in Tucupita), which was over an hour away on the fastest boat. To make the long trip 'worthwhile', Anthony (the boss) insisted we also took a faulty boat engine to the mechanic in town, problem number 6. This engine was large, weighed some 300kg, and took 5 of us to load it onto the fast boat. Problem 7 came when the engine on this apparently reliable boat failed to start. After some time trying to fix it we decided to take another boat, which also failed for an unknown reason (problem 8). By the time we got a working boat, made the journey to town, and waited at the hospital, it was some 5 hours after the accident when Carlos finally had the stitches he needed. Just to top the day off, during the wait I went junk-food shopping and lost my Spanish phrase-book. I've used this fucking book every day like a bible, and even when retracing my steps in this dodgy town I couldn't find it. This definitely was a problem-filled day, but on the plus side I didnt have severe blood loss and 10 stitches, or several-thousand pounds worth of broken boat engines, just diarrhoea and a lost book. Also on a positive note, the long boat-ride back to camp during sunset was spectacular.

    So, that was Wednesday in as little detail as possible. Thursday was much better; me and Piña went back out to the jungle to complete the logging job, and did so successfully. This time we had a working chainsaw (and parts for when it broke), so we got the work done fairly efficiently. Of course, it was still hard work and problematic from start to finish, but Piña was a genius and a powerhouse. Because of my mistake, I'd managed to drag out several hours work into 2 eventful days, but it certainly made the week exiting. Also, just when I thought to fun was over, I was back in the depths of the jungle again on a sunny Friday morning with Piña, this time to collect 50 large Palms to use for roofing repairs and decoration. It was however a relatively quick and easy job, and I was back to cleaning and painting by the afternoon.

    The last day of week 3 also held a nice surprise; I went on my second 'supplies-trip' to Boca, and experienced the Venezuelan gas station. We pulled up to the busy jetty with our several empty containers. Unbelievably, petrol costs just 80 Bolivars per Jerry can (60 litres), so for the equivalent of single penny you can fill a car! There's a single long hose-pipe extending from the gas station to the jetty, you wait your turn then go crazy and fill all the containers you have. Payment is just a guestimate amount and no-one really cares because it's so cheap, hundreds of times less than water! Anyway it was a good day, we spent a lot of time just chilling on the boat in the sun, waiting for Maria (Anthonys Wife) who brought  supplies in her jeep, and then welcomed us to a 'fin de semana' gathering at her families place down the river.

    Saturday also saw the lodge welcome it's first guests in over a month, so when me and Piña finally arrived returned, I was keen to get to know them. This turned out to be very easy, as they were 4 tourists (2 married couples) from England, on a two-week tour of Venezuela to celebrate a 50th birthday. I served them evening drinks at the bar and had a good chat, they're only staying 2 nights but it makes things a little more exciting, and I briefly experienced life as a bartender... 
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  • Day14

    My first 'Logging' Jungle Adventure...

    March 19, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ 🌙 7 °C

    The task was simple; to go with the master carpenter 'Piña' (yes his name is pineapple!) to get some wood for building, and pick up some locals on the way for extra help. However, the reality was an incredible and crazy calamitous jungle adventure that I will never forget. We set off at 7am in an old boat and cruised down the open river in glorious morning sunshine. We pulled into a Warao home and picked up an old man, then continued down the river. I was sat at the head of the boat capturing the amazing views with my camera, when we turned down a narrower tributary. Piña expertly threw the rusty boat around endless meanders and blind corners of the gradually narrowing river for almost an hour. We were deep in the jungle, and it was obvious. The foliage was dense, the air moist, the trees enormous, and wildlife abundant. I saw a Toucan fly from a tall palm, tropical birds of all shapes and sizes, colourful butterflies bigger than my head, and the jungle sounds were loud.

    This has got to be the most remote I've ever been, and I couldn't help but think that my life depended on this smoke-puffing old boat engine to get us back out; if it failed we wouldn't stand a chance. Anyway, we started searching for ideal trees to cut down, and pulled up to several spots before settling on our first one. Armed with just a hand axe and 2 machetes, the 3 of us got off the boat, and the work begun. After slashing our way through the dense jungle, Piña picked out a massive redwood, over 100ft tall, wrapped in vines and alsorts. Some machete chopping cleared the tree, then he started swinging the axe. Piña was a machine, in less than 5 minutes the tree began to fall. First, the earie creaking and cracking sounds of the trunk splitting, then the almost slow-motion lean towards the inevitable. The falling tree picked up speed fast, and because of the shear size it destroyed everything in its dying path. Branches, smaller trees, and vines fell everywhere and after a quaking thud, the sunlight poured through the open hole in the canopy, illuminating the still-falling leaves and debris. After a gasp in awe and a brief silence, the machetes were swinging again, as we cut away some of the mess we made. The job was far from done

    Piña started axing about 40ft down the fallen tree, so we would have the cut log we needed. I had a few swings of the axe, but in truth I was useless, so i let the pro handle it. Then we cleared a 'path' from the trunk to the river; essentially swinging machetes to bring down anything that it may catch on. A long rope was tied to the trunk, fed through our path to the river, and tied to the boat at the other end. This log was enormous, a few hundred kilos at least, and the jungle floor rough with trees and debris everywhere. There's no way this old boat could pull a log of that size some 100ft through the jungle.  But, with some difficulty and several attempts, it did, and Piña strangely made it look routine. The last step was to somehow lift this mammoth log into the boat. By some unorthodox method using rope, wood, and 3 men at full exertion, we got the log balanced on the front of the boat, and with a lot of effort, pushed it into the hold. After an incredible hour, I smiled in a 'job-done' manner, and perched on the log sticking out of the boat. It was then I found out we needed 3 more...

    So, the whole process was repeated, 3 times, and each tree happened to be more problematic than the previous. I think the last one took 2 hours, almost everything went wrong but Piña was resilient and used many unconventional methods to get the job done. Unbelievably, by 2pm we had 4 logs balanced in the old boat and held in place by a network of ropes. We'd fucked up a few spots in the jungle, but we got what we came for, no-one was hurt, nothing lost or broken, and the smokey engine still proving to be reliable. We set off down the narrow waterways, with our new cargo seriously weighing down the front of the boat.

    Even with 3 men and all tools sat at the rear, water was thrown up from the front on both sides, relentlessly showering the whole boat. It was a long cold wet journey back to the lodge,  but we made it before sunset, the job was done, and I was exhausted.

    Oh and by the way, we had to unload the 4 heavy fuckers when we arrived, which was not easy at all...
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  • Day14

    Week 2 - Life as a lodge volunteer

    March 19, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    My first week in the Jungle of the Orinoco Delta (Please read my blog; 'An introduction to the Orinoco' before this)

    My first week at the Lodge has been a real mixture of highs and lows, hard work and relaxation, adventure and confinity, conversation and silence. However, it has been an incredible experience so far and I'm very happy to be here.
    Throughout the week there have been at least 7 of us working here, a few others have come and gone on occassion. They're all Venezuelan and seem nice, but are generally untalkative, and speak absolutely no English, with the exception of Johanna - the woman in charge. Immediately I found it difficult to communicate as my Spanish is poor, and when there is conversation I cannot understand any of it. The language here is spoken lazily, without proper pronunciation and at incredible speed! I have managed to have the odd short chat in broken Spanish, but rely on body language and basic phrases, something very familiar from Tanzania.. Anyway I can only really talk to Johanna in English, and mostly sit and smile in silence at meal times. This should be good for improving my Spanish, but only time will tell. The situation improved slightly on Wedneday with the arrival of Anthony, the creator and owner of the lodge. Originally from Palestine, Anthony is an American citizen who discovered the Orinoco Delta when backpacking Venezuela 25 years ago. He had the vision to create this place, and has built up the lodge from just a few initial cabins to the size of a village today. He's cool and speaks perfect English so we get on.

    The typical day here starts at 6.30am when the rising sun illuminates my cabin and the chorus of birds begin like the perfect morning alarm. Breakfast is around 7am, after which everyone gets to work doing various things around the lodge. Although the lodge could probably cater for 100 people, there have been no guests this week so not much to do as a volunteer. My typical tasks have been cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. Whether it be surfaces, furniture, floor or kitchenware, I've learnt that cleaning is a soul-destroying job that I will not be doing in the future. It's been difficult at times, as my willingness to help and asking for more jobs have been met with 'oh, can you please clean the...' *Eurgh!* Thankfully there are other less monotonous tasks like watering plants, feeding the Parrots, washing the dogs, and answering the phone. The others are busy with maintainence, gardening, fixing up boat engines and all sorts, but by midday everyone gathers for lunch and then the afternoon is a bit more relaxed for me.

    Since Anthonys arrival I've been able to play music through the bars speakers, making work more enjoyable, and he has taken a keen interest in my photography skills. One night I showed him some of my best shots from around the lodge and he was really impressed. We talked about his website and social media, and he is now asking me for photos inside guest-cabins and all sorts that he can use for attracting more guests. After telling him about my degree in design, he also wants me to photoshop edit the best photos at some point, and add logos etc. for posting online. Having a little side-project on the go is nice, especially when you're passionate about photography! Anyway, life as a volunteer is pretty easy and the incredible setting makes up for the boring tasks.

    This week there have been 2 stand-out days for me; non-suprisingly two boat trips out of the lodge. The first was a routine afternoon job to go to the nearest town of Boca with Callo and get weekly supplies. It was the first time I was able to enjoy the rivers, and sat on a comfortable boat with sunshine and a breeze in my face, it felt good. The boat was fast, but we still travelled 45 minutes to get to Boca, showing just how deep in the Jungle the lodge really is. We bought gasoline and supplies, filled 4 enormous Jerry cans with drinking water, and I went to a small 'shop' to buy a few bits. We then waited for Anthony, who arrived with his wife in a jeep full of supplies, which me and Callo loaded onto the boat before heading back to the lodge. The ride back through the open delta in the late afternoon sun was amazing, and I had a grin the whole way.

    The best day for me however was Friday, when a trip to get wood for building became a crazy day-long jungle adventure. This was the highlight of my trip to Venezuela so far, and deserves a separate blog post - please read it!

    However mind-numbing some of the work here may be, it's experiences like these that make being here so worthwhile. In the afternoons I have started going on solo Kayaking adventures too, and are aiming to do so every day to experience as much of this place as possible. To sum up my first week in the Orinoco Delta, I've worked hard, but for the rewards of this wild yet tranquil place, it's been worth it.
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  • Day8

    Arrival at the Orinoco Delta Lodge...

    March 13, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ 🌧 7 °C

    I have arrived in the Orinoco Jungle, at my home for the next 4 weeks, and it deserves an introduction...

    La naturaleza vive aqui, or 'Nature Lives here' is the moto for this place. The phrase is painted in 21 different languages at the entrance to the lodge, and rightly so. The Orinoco is a wild jungle; a vast network of waterways teaming with wildlife. In the skies I've seen Macaws, Toucan, Pelican, Eagles, and in the trees howler monkeys, bats, and tropical birds. I've seen giant lizards, toads the size of your head, butterflies bigger than birds and a variety of bizarre insects. The fauna is equally impressive with towering palms, banana trees, many colourful flowers, and in the water are plentiful fish, piranha, crab, and crocodile. I really am in the wild, and the sounds of the jungle remind me so; by day the incredible and diverse chorus of tropical birds, by night the constant chatter of a million cricket-like insects. Although very much loud and alive, this riverside paradise is the definition of tranquility.

    Upon arriving at the 'lodge' I was very impressed, not only by the beauty, but the size of this place. There is an enormous open central lodge looking over the river with decking above the water. Pathways extend from both sides giving access to the 40+ guest-cabins and other lodges that all face the river. Everything has been built by hand mostly with wood from the jungle, bamboo interiors, palms for roofing, and all surrounded by tall trees, thick vegetation, and swamp. The lodge layout is perfect; a well-established and harmonious part of the jungle.

    The transformation of the delta at dawn is incredible. I've woken up before sunrise a few times already to sit out on the river and absorb the tranquility. Before sunrise, the insects quieten, and the birds are still silent. The undisturbed water is smooth like silk, a mirror for the sky, and it is the only time when all is calm. The sky warms through shades of pink and orange, high wispy clouds become colourful, and the scene is reflected perfectly by the water. It gets brighter, the sun is risen, but it takes 30 minutes to appear above the high jungle canopy on the other side of the river. When it does, the lodge and jungle burst into flames of colour and character, and the orchestra of a million tropical birds fill your ears. A breeze picks up, the water is now rippled as if flowing, and the sounds and sights of the delta are transformed in minutes.

    The transformation of day to night is not as spectacular. I'm sure the sunsets here would be insane but the lodge faces East and the jungle behind blocks any view of the last hour of sunlight. Nevertheless, there's something special about dusk. As it darkens, the oil lamps lit, and the lodge lights switched on, there is a calmness again about the jungle. The water becomes still once more, and reflects what little light is left in the sky, as the army of relentless mosquitos emerge after dusk. On one occasion I witnessed a bright full moon rise above the palm trees just after sunset. However, most nights are clear, so when its dark the sky is spectacular. This place is remote, so the milky way shines bright (alongside fireflies) to the earie night noise of chirping insects.
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  • Day7

    A long journey to the jungle delta...

    March 12, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Today I got lucky. I'm genuinely surprised to have arrived at the Orinoco Delta camp with no major problems or hassle. Of course, that doesn't mean that the journey was pleasant, fast or safe.
    I started with a premature taxi ride to the Caracas Bus terminal. The driver says stay inside, it is not safe when it goes dark. My first problem is that there are no buses to Tucupita today (my destination town), so I buy a ticket for Maturin, a city close-by. My second problem is I'm very early, I have nearly 3 hours to wait in a scary run-down depot with everyone staring at you knowing you're a foreigner. Truth be told, the time passed and I got on the bus (realtively) easily after talking with a few locals. The bus set off (an hour late) and was quite empty, so i got some alright sleep.

     My third problem came when we pulled into some bandit-looking town and the driver instructs everyone to get off. We are about halfway to Maturin, and have to board another bus waiting for us. This one is old, disgusting and packed. We get on and fill every available seat with none to spare. Hot and cramped we set off with a bang and a grind. The drivers all over the place, probably drunk, and the sounds of the bus aren't comforting...

    It's 2am and dark. I have a good view out of the front window, and I see the distant sky glowing orange. As we get nearer, the sky becomes brighter. Then, over the horizon appears several balls of fire. We drive through endless oil refineries, with tall stacks that emit enormous bright flames 200ft above the ground. On all sides of the bus the sky is alight as though it were sunrise, from the countless columns of burning fire. Venezuela sits on the worlds largest natural oil reserve, and these refineries go on for hours...
    I eventually arrive at Maturin in an equally run-down depot and ask about catching a bus to Tucupita. I get very lucky, as one is just about to leave. The woman explained that if I were a few minutes later, I would have waited 24 hours for the next one...

    This bus is comfortable and I sleep into the early hours before arriving at Tucupita 8am. What a shit-hole, but I strike lucky again meeting Carlos, a man here to pick up his wife, and who actually speaks a little English. I gratefully take a ride with them to the river, where I will aim to hitch a boat-ride into the delta. However, he tells me my destination is very far and there are very few boats on a Sunday...

    On arriving at the river there are many locals gathered and police everywhere. We see the dead body of a national guard laid on the ground, and people mourning. The body is bagged, taken away in a van, and people leave. Carlos leaves too and I explain my gratitude for his help, as I am now left alone on the shore thinking what the fuck just happened!?
    I strike luck a third time. Within 5 minutes of the commotion, 4 guys lower a boat into the water, and I approach to ask about getting to the delta camp. After some awkward exchanges of broken Spanish, I realise they are heading to a settlement close to my camp, and after offering a generous amount of money, I climb on-board and we speed off down the wide open river. This boat looks shit, but my God is it fast!

    Problem number 4 came when the oversized engine blows up at full speed. Well, that's what it sounded like as I was thrown forward off the bench and the boat came to an abrupt stop. The guys didn't react much, and after pulling off the engine cover and sticking their hands in, the engine was started up again in minutes. It was music to my ears. I smiled and gave the thumbs up as a wave of relief hit me. It didn't last long though, as the same thing happened a few minutes later.

    After 2 hours, 3 stops, and 6 more 'break-downs', Venezuelas finest speed-garbage-can slowed down and approached the camp at 1pm. By some miracle, I had arrived safely (and with all my stuff) at my home for the next month in the heart of the Orinoco Delta. And this place is jungle paradise....
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