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 excitedRead more