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    • Day 5

      Crazy Caracas - Friday

      March 10, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

      Today I managed to get out and see and experience a lot more of the city. Early morning Joel managed to get some money for me and Sergio before going to work. Me and Serg then spent the whole day together! He took me round the city, on the subway, through the rough 'barrios', and to his appartment. I got a really good feel of life here for the locals, and could appreciate the constant struggle that Venezuelans face.
      Our highlight was taking the 'teleferico' cable car from the city to the top of Mount Avila. The incredible mountain separates Caracas from the Caribbean Sea, so you can imagine the views from the top were insane. We had some more local food at the top whilst taking in the views. I didnt take a phone or camera for fear of being robbed, and we got some dodgy buses to and from the cable car, as well as being hassled by various locals, and on entry i got charged ten times more for being a white European. So, I was constantly reminded of where I was...
      After the mountain we walked down the main commercial boulevard and through the city centre as the sun set. This was an experience in itself. The place was very busy and packed with people, desperate beggars, street sellers, and the corrupted police. I wouldn't feel safe if I was alone. It was around 7pm, and Sergio was explaining how everyone was rushing to get home, shops were closing, and the city disappears before it goes dark. After 7.30, you see no-one on the streets, the thriving city becomes a ghost town, thanks to its dreadful reputation at night. However, I can understand why; we saw an angry driver pull out a gun and point it down the street shouting in road rage, and this was earlier in broad daylight!
      Anyway, we arrived safely back at Joel's place after an amazing day together, and started the Friday night drinking before heading to Andrews house once again for a bit of a party. Rum, music, and Chinese takeaway saw us into the early hours and I had a great last night in Caracas.
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      Janet Faulkner  Glad you are posting - although i hate the sound of what it's like, it's peace of mind to know you are ok. Are you moving on to your volunteer post today? Love you xx


      Tom Faulkner  Yeah I should be getting the overnight bus later if all goes well! X


      Andy Faulkner  I wouldn't bank on it, someone might nick the bus!! Good to hear from you son anyway, the pictures are incredible and glad to hear you're still enjoying the somewhat hair raising experience, but could do with a little more frequent updates for piece of mind at this end. Looks like you need to carry a magnum 45 around with you. Keep safe.

    • Day 6

      Week 1 - Caracas, the crazy capital...

      March 11, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

      Car Horns and tyre screeches, gunshots and police sirens. The sound of the concrete jungle that is the capital of a country in despair. A normal day in 2017 Caracas is chaotic. With the highest inflation rate of any country ever, Venezuelas economy looks beyond saving, which hits the capital hard. The middle class have left, businesses gone bankrupt, people are hungry and what little money they have is worthless. About 5 years ago the rare 100-Bolivar banknote was worth $20. 2 years ago it was worth 50¢. Now so common, it makes good toilet paper, with a value of 2¢. Most of the problems I have seen are because of this horrific situation, and it seems people are desperate, unhappy and just trying to survive. Large favellas called 'barrios' surround the city and are some of the most dangerous places in the world. I've seen these places from the safety of an unlicensed, 50 year-old broken fully-packed vehicle called a public bus. I've seen people routing through bins,  police forcing bribes, and even a gun pulled out of a car window in road-rage!

      However, if you see past the reality of these problems, you experience a city with charm, natural beauty, and some really cool people! Groups of brightly coloured Macaws, vultures, and tropical birds fly around the city and are very vocal. Towering palms, mango trees and thick vegetation line the streets, and in the local park there are iguanas, sloths and other wildlife. Caracas is in a beautuful valley, and separated from the Caribbean coast by the impressive coastal mountains and El Avila national park. I took a long cable car ride to the top of the Avila mountain with Sergio, a cool local Venezuelan who, like most people, is struggling to live and wants to leave the country. The views on both sides from a sunny 9,000ft were incredible, with the bright-blue carribean sea to the north, and the expansive  Caracas to the south. Being with Sergio for a couple of days was very eye-opening; I learnt a lot about the city, country, and the spanish language, but was constantly reminded of the problems Venezuelans face.

      Since arriving in Caracas, I have stayed with Joel, whos been in the city for 2 years, and is probably the coolest guy I've ever met. He works at the international school and has introduced me to so many amazing people; friends, colleagues and his family! It's been great meeting so many people, we've had some incredible food and a couple of great nights out. I'm very grateful to Joel for hosting and giving me all the help, and it's thanks to him for my amazing Caracas experience.

      I left England 6 days ago, and have had a great first week of travel. Thank you Vincent for hosting me in Lisbon, and thanks to Joel and all his friends in Caracas. I'll be back! Now it's time for a long overnight journey to East Venezuela, where the Orinoco Delta awaits...
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    • Day 89

      Weeks 12/13: Captured by Merida...

      June 2, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ 🌧 21 °C

      I somehow spent another 2 amazing weeks in Merida before crossing the border to Colombia. Me and Maycon successfully made it to the Pan de azucar mountain peak on our second attempt. The hike to the mountain through the national park mountain valley was long, but the scenery beautiful, and we camped at 4,300m at the Base. You could feel the altitude, and the next day we woke up to a few inches of snow in a very cold tent. We realised we were high in the Andes, and after an exhausting climb in the snow, we made it to the cold windy summit (nearly 5000m), and I couldn't feel my fingers or toes. The same day we hiked some 6 hours in awesome weather all the way down to the culata valley where we luckily hitched a ride with a Venezuelan couple back to the city. We even bought some local 'mora' wine, drank on the journey and ate food with them back in Merida.

      On Thursday we met up with Isobel and her uni friends, and the 5 of us got the bus into a scenic valley and found a great spot of grass to chill out by a river. We chilled all day in the sun with music and Mora wine, and ate loads of food. That Night I went to play pool with my drunk hostel owner, Hugo.

      At the weekend I showed Maycon the incredible Botanical Gardens looking over the city, and we sat through 2 hours of spanish 'pirates of the carribean' in the cinema. Friday night there was a party with lots of people at the hostel for someone's birthday, and Saturday we had a BBQ with Hugo and his wife, cooking 4 enormous steaks for about 2 dollars. The same day, Maycon also got his first tattoo! We had met some tattoo artists the night before and they came back to the hostel for maycons spontaneous arm tattoo of Pink Floyd lyrics. She did an awesome job, and it was ridiculously cheap, but she misspelt a word..  hilarious.

      I got Ill again for the third time (diarrhoea) after the weekend, but we still got out and walked lots around the city; and through several protests. On Monday we bought tickets for a bus to Colombia the following day, and as we left the bus terminal, a large group of violent protesters came down the main road. All the buses that were in the terminal left at once and the place emptied, security Gates closed, and shops shut. I guess some protest groups of young males are notorious for looting and vandalism, so everyone flees... Anyway we went for food and to a local pool bar

      On our 'last day' in Merida, we took a bus 2 hours North to the highest point of the road (4,000m) and to the supposedly spectacular mount Aguila. It was shit. Overcast and freezing cold weather meant we couldn't see or feel anything. We still walked to the peak but it was pretty pointless. In the afternoon we went to the 'La Musuy' thermal water for the second time, and it didn't disappoint. Again, we were relaxing in a natural jacuzzi high in the mountains with an incredible view, music, food and lots of sun. This has to be my favourite place in Venezuela.

      We were supposed to leave for Colombia on Wednesday, but crazy Tony still owed us some money (which we had been asking for over a week), and Maycon refused to leave without it. So, we stayed in Merida another night, and went out to a club with a group of Hugos friends. Terrible drunk dancing to awful music and mosh pit circles was all I remember. We agreed to do the 'world record cable car' on our last day, so we got up early, bought Colombia bus tickets (for thursday) and got to the teleferico early. However, after buying tickets and waiting for Isobel to arrive we missed the last cable car. I'd paid $50 (being a tourist) and couldn't get a refund off the stubborn boss, so our only option was to come back the next day, which meant changing our bus tickets yet again. I began to think i was never going to leave Venezuela, but on the plus side we got the money that Tony owed us, and spent the day with Isobel and her sister around the town.

      My final day in Venezuela was awesome. We rode the world's highest and longest cable car to one of the highest points of the country (5000m) where it was seriously cold and we felt drunk from the altitude. It was a clear day in the mountains so the scenery and views were incredible all around. We later went out to the same night club, but had to leave drunk at 2am to catch our long bus to Colombia.

      My 90 days in Venezuela had come to an end, and what an incredible journey I've had through this unique country. On June 3rd I entered Colombia by walking accross the partially closed border at Cucuta, as I stood with my backpack looking forward to another 3 months in a new country...
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    • Day 77

      Week 11: What. A. Week.

      May 21, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

      What a week! After meeting my friend Maycon and getting smashed in the town at the weekend, we headed out of Merida on Monday morning to climb one of the tallest mountains in Venezuela. It was to be a normal 1 hour bus-ride followed by a 3 day hike, but that didn't happen thanks to protests.

      After walking to the very edge of the city and not seeing any buses (or many cars), we realised the one and only road North must be closed. Nevertheless, we continued to walk with our heavy backpacks along the incredible twisting valley road, trying desperately to hitchhike some of the 50km road ahead. Several armed 'motorbike special-forces' flew past, followed by an armoured truck and some other military cars. They were about the only vehicles who passed us, so we knew to expect something up ahead.

      We got lucky and hitched a few short rides in the back of pick-up trucks, before we came to the first of several street-blockades. Some were peaceful demonstrations; people chanting with signs, but others were not.. Someone had fallen an enormous tree across the road almost destroying a petrol station, and another protest further was like a scene from a film. There was a sharp bend in the road blocked by trees and cars on fire, and above stood hundreds of people atop a 50ft cliff. Me and Maycon came round the bend on foot and were greeted by a roar of chanting, molotov cocktails and beer bottles smashing on the ground in front of us. Luckily we were too far to be hit, and there was another route around by foot, but the military police would be in for a shock when they finally cleared the other protests and turned that corner. Surely enough, after 30 minutes more walking (and through more protests) we heard distant gunshots and explosions, and could only assume a war had broken out on that corner...

      It was getting late and after hours of walking and hitchhiking we were less than a quarter of the way to our destination. We came to a village where we jumped onto motorbike-taxis and began an incredible short journey through what looked like a battlefield. Us, 2 obvious tourists with large backpacks on the backs of motorbikes sped through and around the aftermath of several more violent protests; glass and debris, fires, fallen trees, burnt cars, an ambulance, military police and more; it felt like a war-zone. The journey was short as we couldn't get round a fallen tree in the next town. There was chaos everywhere, with cars and people stuck, all waiting for a man with a hand-axe trying to cut the enormous tree into two. We climbed over it and continued down the road until it became dark. We had only made it half way to the 'start' of our mountain hike, and we were knackered. After climbing a random side road up a hill we found a place to camp and began setting up out tents in the now rainy dark.

      Within a few minutes, a confused man with a machete came down the hill and told us we couldn't camp here. We explained our day to him and after realising we were backpackers, he showed us to a safer spot up the hill near his farm. He turned out to be a really nice guy and invited us into his home for coffee! We dried off and spent the next few hours chatting with him and his family. In the end we slept in his house in a spare bedroom and he kindly gave us a lift for free to our destination early the next morning! I offered some money which he refused, and we started our hike to 'La musuy', a famous thermal pool on route to the mountains.

      After only a couple hours hike into the sierra, and we couldn't believe what we discovered. After the highs of an incredible day before, we arrived at the natural hot-spring tucked into a beautiful valley 3,200m up in the mountains. Of course we stripped off and jumped in. Because of the altitude and crap weather, the morning was cold, so the hot water felt incredible. We would end up spending 4 hours chilling in nature's finest hot tub listening to music and eating food, along with 4 wild dogs for company. When we finally left to continue into the mountains, the rain got worse and we got soaked. After taking 2 hours to climb only a kilometer or so with the dogs leading the way, we were so cold, wet and exhausted that we couldn't carry on. We found a great spot and set up camp before falling asleep almost straight away.

      The next morning we descended down the beautiful valley in sunny weather, heading back for the main road. Thankfully there were no protests so we caught a bus back, and we're in Merida by the afternoon. We had failed the hike by a long way, our stuff was wet, and I got diarrhea, but it was an awesome and eventful trip from start to finish...

      On Thursday we went on a trip with crazy tour-guide Tony to the largest lake in South America: Lago Maracaibo. We went with 2 other backpackers; Miguel (spanish) and Hiromoto (Japanese) in a large 4x4 through the mountains and towards the lake. After, we took an awesome boatride in the afternoon sun down a jungle river that resembled the Orinoco. We saw hundreds of tropical birds, falcons, eagles, monkeys, and even a bright green iguana swimming accross the river and diving under our boat. The river opened up into what looked like the ocean, and we arrived at our home for the night: a huge open lodge built above the shallow lake, probably a kilometer from the shore. Here we were going to see to famous 'Catatumbo Lightning', an atmospheric phenomenon that originates from a mass of storm clouds and occurs during 260 nights a year and up to 280 times per hour for 10 hours.

      First, we did some fishing (for dinner) and between us caught over 30 catfish and bass which we later cooked. After food, swimming and an awesome sunset, it was time for the show. Well, not quite. The sky was perfectly clear, the water still, and the stars incredible. Instead, we slept in our hammocks and awoke around 3am to completely overcast skies, strong winds and heavy rain. The storm had begun, and we certainly saw a lot of lightning, but unfortunately it wasn't quite the show we expected as it was too far away and behind a lot of cloud. It was still an incredible experience to be so exposed in the middle of a dark lake to only see the water illuminated every few seconds by the flashes of an enormous tropical storm.

      The next day we returned to Merida, and what a day it was. I woke up to an incredible sunrise over the now calm lake, and we caught a boat back through the rivers to our jeep. On the drive back we were stopped by national guard. who checked our passports, and they were confused to say the least... In a country where tourists are rare, we were one English, one Brazilian, one French, one Japanese, one Spanish, and 2 Venezuelans. After some 30 minutes interrogation and amusement, we paid a small bribe and continued up into the Andes, where I realised I had diarrhoea.

      We stopped for a great Lunch in a mountain town a couple of hours outside of Merida, before taking one of the the most memorable and worst car journeys of my life. This mountain 'road' was fucking rough, and even in a huge 4x4 it hurt like hell. I felt very ill, and the road made it even worse, but just when I thought I was going to explode, we pulled up to an awesome waterfall, the sun came out, and we refreshed in natures cold shower. After, we bought some fresh coconut to eat and tony got some cacao from a random farm to use for making chocolate. Another horrendous hour passed and we finally reached tarmac, but also an enormous protest.

      We were less that 30 minutes from Merida (and a toilet) but the only road into the city was blocked by mayhem. A group of people stood around large fires and debris purposely blocking the road, and there were queues of cars on both sides for as far as you could see. Police and special forces were getting involved and It u in the baking sun to luckily get past the protests, but I left the jeep several times to vomit and shit at the side of the road as my stomach got worse (I also had to wipe my arse with banknotes as I had no toilet paper). However, the day was far from over, as we pulled up to a paragliding place. After a long drive and a long day feeling like shit, me and Maycon jumped off a mountaintop and paraglided high above the river valley while the sun set over the mountains. It was an awesome end to the trip and the views were incredible.

      On Saturday we went to a small zoo set in a steep mountain valley with waterfalls and big trees . In the evening we discovered a lively reggae bar with pizza and stayed all night drinking beer. Sunday morning at 11am there was a Football match in the city's stadium; Merida vs Caracas. Me, Maycon and our Japanese friend went to the game with Isobel, a cool local we met the night before. The match was good, a 1-1 draw, and after we walked around the city lazily and met another friend before going for food and more drinks at the reggae bar. What a week.
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    • Day 65

      Week 10: Volunteer life on a local farm

      May 9, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

      I had a great week living with the family and helping out around the farm. I'd be up early and  working hard most mornings; gardening, clearing, labouring, digging, painting or whatever else there was to do. The jobs were made enjoyable by the natural beauty of this place, good weather, and of course some music. Typically I would finish in the late afternoon and relax for the evening before an early night.

      The week started with heavy work. Monday I finished some 'hands and knees' weeding, before starting to clear the other overgrown garden with a machete and shears. Tuesday I met Gualo, a cool young friend of Bruni's, and together we dug a large metre-deep square hole for building foundations for a water tank. We really got on, and after working we went into town for a beer. It turns out he is also a mountain guide and he wants to take me up the Andes. Perfect.

      Wednesday I finished destroying all the plants and clearing the garden area, as well as helping a builder with construction; digging foundations, moving materials, carrying iron bars and such. I was painting in the house all of Thursday (doors, gates and window frames) and Friday worked with Gualo's younger brother moving bricks and cement. In the week I spent time bonding with the family also, particularly at mealtimes and in the evenings, and also went with Bruni on supply-trips and to a local town, Tabay. I even played videogames with the son Tomas, watched sustainable  agriculture documentaries, and talked music, spanish and culture with Raul, the grandfather. However, the best day for me was Saturday...

      Bruni and some women from the local primary school had organised for a community action-day working on improvements for the school. We were the first to arrive, and early, but by midmorning nearly 40 people had turned up! We had Latin music playing on big speakers, and groups of people all around the school working together on different tasks. I was with Gualo and a few other guys doing the hard labour; moving rock and dirt with spade and pick-axe to create garden space. It was great to be part of a community happily volunteering together, and of course the setting was beautiful and the weather incredible.

      We worked all day, then I collected my bags and said goodbyes to the family, as I headed back to Merida city in the evening. I arrived back at the hostel where to my suprise, Maycon (my friend from the Orinoco) had also arrived earlier that day. I had reccomended the place to him the week before, but didn't expect to see him! Although tired, we bought a crate of beer and got drunk with Hugo, the hostel owner, and went out to some bars, where we drank too much with some locals... Expectedly, our first full day in Merida was spent Hungover, but Me and Maycon got out and walked around the city. We walked all around the city, and even through protests, checking out different places. We came accross some tour agencies in the centre, and met Tony, a crazy Venezuelan local guide and outdoor/animal expert who spoke English. We talked for an hour or so, and planned some cool stuff for what would be an awesome week ahead...
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    • Day 63

      Week 9: City to desert to mountain farm

      May 7, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

      My plan was to leave Morrocoy and head to Merida in the Andes Mountains, but after my Dutch friend reccomended Coro, I thought I'd make a detour to check it out. Of course I was Hungover Monday morning and it was a bank holiday, so it took me all day to get there. Coro was the first capital of Venezuela, and the oldest city in the country, so it has rich colonial architecture. I explored the 'historical downtown' on Tuesday, full of colourful buildings, churches and cobbled streets, and met a local man Juan, who gave me a bit of a history lesson. Coro was nice, but really it was shit compared to most European cities I've   been to.

      Another famous place here is the 'Medanos de Coro', a unique desert right next to the city. Locally it is described as the mini-sahara, as there are enormous dunes of sand for miles, and nothing else. In the day it is dangerously hot and dry, so I went to visit in the evening with Elias (some cool taxi driver) and his niece. There is a road that goes through the middle of the desert, and within minutes of driving out of the city, there were huge dunes spilling over onto the road. We stopped and climbed up the largest one close to the road, probably about 50ft tall, and got a good view of the desert from the top. We just caught the sunset,  before the whispy clouds were lit up in flames of colour accross the sky, becoming more and more vibrant. I took some great photos then bum-surfed down the steep dune-side back to the road. Elias then took us to a place with fresh coconut, before buying food and heading back to my Posada.

      On Wednesday I thought I'd head through the desert again and into the Pamagua Peninsula. I got a shared taxi from the terminal (with 5 other locals) to Adicora, a sea-side town. After the dunes, the road continued through a vast desert; to our left a flat, dry, dead plain, and to out right, the sea and unattractive shoreline covered in washed-up plastic bottles and garbage. After an hour we reached Adicora, and I got out of the taxi. What a sad sea-side town. I don't know what I was expecting but I should have done my research. There was fuck-all to do and the place was dead. I walked around for an hour but was so hot and bored that I just went back to Coro. Of course that meant waiting an hour for a bus...

      So my plan was to take the overnight bus from Coro to Merida, a 12-hour journey that I could sleep off and arrive in the morning. But, at the terminal I found that every bus going in any direction towards Merida was full. A 12-hour journey turned into 26, as I had to get a bus to Maracaibo, sleep in the terminal with a hundred other people, miss the bus to Merida, go to Valera, and finally take the long ride through the mountains. The journey from Valera to Merida was really picturesque, on a winding road through many quaint towns, up into the mountains, above the clouds, and into cold grey weather like England, before descending down into the city of Merida. I made a friend on the bus, Yasneri, and chatted Spanish (poorly) with her most of the way. It was almost dark when we arrived in Merida, so we headed straight for a hostel I had found on workaway. This place was awesome, it had loads of character (and hammocks!), and I met the people who ran it, their friends, and others who were staying there permanently. I told the French owner Hugo that I wanted to volunteer the following week and he said anytime is cool.  First I had another volunteer week planned at a farm out of the city...

      I arrived at Bruni's 'farm' around midday on Friday, after a long walk through Merida, a cable car, and a bus ride. This place wasn't a farm, but a quaint (and quite large) family home tucked into the hillside on the edge of a small town in a mountain-valley. I was welcomed by an entire family and spent the rest of the day getting to know people and taking a look around. The place is beautiful, and very green, in a natural environment full of trees and plants. There is a large full garden at the top, and more tree-covered space accross 3 other tiers below. The family use the garden to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs, but it's just a supplement. I found out the reason I'm here is to help with maintainence and working towards Bruni's dream of running a small hostel/campground here. Bruni is the woman in charge, but really nice, relaxed and even speaks English! I also met Soy, a family friend who lives in the annex and makes and sells organic soaps, shampoos, creams and perfumes using ingredients from the garden. It just so happens that the next day was the 'fortnightly organic market', and she invited me along.

      We took a couple of buses far north of the city to a small garden centre type place (in the middle of nowhere) where we found the 'organic market'. There were only 5 stalls (including Soy's soaps) so it was really small, but everyone knew eachother and were really friendly, so I got introduced to the family. Suprisingly quite a few people turned up  accross the morning, but I didn't see most of it as I wandered off. Soy told me about a cool Botanical garden just down the hill, so I went and explored it. The gardens had all kinds of flowers, trees and ponds, and with a backdrop of the clouded Andes Mountains it was really scenic. Down near the river I stumbled accross a Canopying place, with alsorts of obstacles, ropes and  platforms high in the trees. Of course, I did the course and finished with a 100m zip line back into the garden.

      Sunday was my first day of volunteer work, and it was tough. I started early and spent a whole morning  on my hands and knees weeding the large overgrown garden. It was tough work under a hot sun, but when I'd finished it looked completely different. In the afternoon I went with Bruni and son Tomas to an annual charity event in the nearby town centre. There were old classic cars, bouncy castles, and tents with food and drink in front of a band on stage. I was introduced to lots of locals, had soup, and listened to the live music. It was a great way to end the week...
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    • Day 56

      Week 8: Caracas to Carribbean Morrocoy

      April 30, 2017 in Venezuela ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

      Week 8 started slow. Sunday was spent feeling Hungover and lying on Nathan's couch watching football. We did eventually get out, and went to a cool rock bar for food, football (el classico), and more drinks... We played pool into the evening before going to an awesome steakhouse with Joel's family.

      The plan for the week was to get to the Morrocoy National Park (on Venezuelas Carribean coast) as soon as possible, but i needed Monday to recover and research. I went round to Nates in the evening and cooked a spicy pasta dish, and ended up crashing of his couch again although I'd promised Sergio I would stay at his place. So, the next day I went round to Sergios, and we went on a bit of a tour around downtown Caracas. It was great to get out and see some of the city centre with a local, which was a suprisingly nice place. We walked around all afternoon in a huge loop, visited a friend, and didn't get back until dark.

      Wednesday morning, and i still hadn't left for Morrocoy. I had left some things at Joel's so me and Sergio took the long walk through a busy afternoon in protest-filled Caracas to get there. There were National guard everywhere, riot police and a lot of angry people in stand-still traffic caused by roadblocks. It was hectic to say the least, and motorbikes were using the pavements like they were highways, so even being a pedestrian was chaos! Anyway we arrived late at Joel's and watched the sunset over the city (with the Macaw's) from the roof of his building, and of course beer in hand. We went down the road for a Chinese wiyh sara, who after drove us to some empty restaurant for drinks. There Kelly joined and we started knocking back cuba-libre's (triple rum and coke) like they were water. The group kept growing and became a party when we all went to Sara's place for drinks and music. The last thing I remember was leaving the macarena to throw up in the sink...

      So I woke up on Joel's couch Thursday morning to one of the worst hangovers I've had. I convinced myself I could make the journey to Morrocoy but after standing up and still feeling drunk, it was back to sleep for me. Even when I finally got up in the afternoon I could barely function. In was my third failed attempt to leave Caracas, and I started to think I was never going to leave. However, after Joel returned from work (I don't know how he does it!) we relaxed and watched 'walk-hard', before an early (alcohol-free) night in preparation for my travel the next day.

      Friday, I FINALLY left Caracas. I didn't actually mind because I had an awesome week, but it was good to be back on the move again. I took a complicated 3-bus journey starting at 7am from a busy capital bus-terminal, but arrived in the coastal town of Chichiriviche by 2. This gave me time to find some cash, which took a while, and I found a licor store who swapped my dollars for the cash I needed. I headed to the harbour where I met a rogue boat-tour guide; Antonio. There was only a couple hours of light left so we went to the nearby island of 'Cayo Sal'. White Sands, crystal clear turquoise water, towering palm trees, and the low sun reflecting  off the calm sea. I felt like I was in the Caribbean (which I actually was) and got trigger-happy with my camera. Me and Antonio got to know eachother a bit, but he spoke way too fast so understanding was limited. He and his friends took me back to town and we made a plan for the following day...

      Saturday was the big boat-tour. Me and Antonio set off at 8am with grey windy weather and VERY choppy water. We were in a pretty small boat and had to battle with huge 20ft waves for about 20 minutes. Antonio was just going straight over and into them at full speed, so we had to hang on tight. It was rough, but once we'd got behind a few islands the water was calm. Our first stop was some random clear shallow water known for starfish. I dived in and brought one up to the surface, it was at least twice the size of my face, and looked incredible. After some photos we threw it back and continued to a couple other shallow water spots, mangroves, and island beaches.

      Antonio had assured me that the weather always improves during the day, and he was right. He dropped me off at Cayo Sombrero (the most famous island) around midday; the cloud had disappeared and the morning sun shone bright and hot. First I walked around the beautiful coastline with my camera, and found a huge reef on the quite side. I had all the gear from Antonio so I went Snorkeling for about 2 hours. It was incredible; the water warm, clear and blue, the corals colourful, and the fish plentiful. I must have seen a hundred different species of tropical fish, and took some great photos with my gopro...

      After Snorkeling I continued down the beach to the busiest section. There were loads of people (almost all Venezuelan on a 'weekend get-away'), fancy yachts and music. I bought a Piña colada and found another great spot for Snorkeling. There was also a tent where a couple were frying freshly caught fish so I bought a meal with salad and platano, which was incredible. Antonio picked me up in the boat late afternoon and we crashed through some immense waves, where i was almost thrown overboard, on our way back to Chiciriviche. I found another shop to change dollars, bought some beer, and later met Antonio for dinner. We ate and went down a 'evening market' strip on the shore, full of Souvenirs, food and music. We chilled and drank beers whilst listening to music blasted out of the back of some pimped up cars with huge speakers.

      Sunday was the shorter boat-ride (paseo corto) around the inside of Morrocoy, this time with Antonio's cousin, Jose. We went to a Boat-wreck, through mangrove tunnels, and visited some incredible caves. Morrocoy has a huge tree-lined cliff-face straight into the water, and there are a few enormous amphitheatre-like open caves, over a hundred feet tall and deep, with vines and other fauna hanging dramatically all the way to the ground. After exploring them I was dropped at Cayo person, another beautiful and very small island. There weren't many people here and it was tranquil, but I met an English-speaking Venezuelan/Dutch man and his Dutch friend. They were cool, we chatted for ages and they invited me to their place for beer and BBQ later that Night. 

      After visiting yet another beautiful island and meeting more Venezuelans, I went back to the hostel to get ready. On my way to their place, I bought rum and a bottle of coke, but after 20 minutes searching (in the dark) and getting help from locals, I couldn't find the house. I was probably in thw wrong place and didn't even have their number, so I headed back to town a bit gutted and got some Street food. Then, by coincidence Antonio walks past. We get a flask, some ice, and start drinking the rum down by the shore with 2 of his friends. It's a similar setup as the night before with cars playing music and loads of people around. We finish the bottle in about an hour, and head to some wierd empty bar, where we drink more. The next morning I'd feel like shit once again..
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    • Day 38

      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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    • Day 35

      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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    • Day 28

      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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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Venezuela, ቬንዙዌላ, Benezuela, فنزويلا, Venesuela, Венесуэла, Венецуела, Venezuwela, ভেনিজুয়েলা, ཝེ་ནི་ཛུའེ་ལ།, Venecuela, Veneçuela, Venezuela nutome, Βενεζουέλα, Venezuelo, Venetsueela, ونزوئلا, Wenesuwelaa, Vénézuéla, Venezuèla, Veiniséala, A Bheiniseala, વેનેઝુએલા, Benezuwela, ונצואלה, वेनेज़्वेला, Վենեսուելա, Venesúela, ベネズエラ共和国, ვენესუელა, វេនេហ្ស៊ុយឡា, ವೆನೆಜುವೆಲಾ, 베네주엘라, Venezuêla, Veneswela, Venetiola, Venzwera, Venézuela, ເວເນຊູເອລາ, Venecuēla, Venezoelà, വെനിസ്വേല, व्हेनेझुएला, Venezwela, ဗင်နီဇွဲလား, भेनेजुएला, Veneçuèla, ଭେନଜୁଏଲା, Beneswela, Wenezuela, Biniswila, वेनेजुयेला, Venezzuela, Venezueläa, Fenisuweela, Venezuelë, வெனஜுவேலா, వెనుజువేలా, ประเทศเวเนซุเอลา, Venisuela, ۋېنېسۇئېلا, Венесуела, وینزوئیلا, Vê-nê-zu-ê-la (Venezuela), Venesolän, ווענעזועלע, Orílẹ́ède Fẹnẹṣuẹla, 委內瑞拉, i-Venezuela

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