I’m an explorer. A traveller. I love the good life, I love the tough life in travel. All kinds of destinations intrigue me, whether it’s lying on a tropical beach surrounded by just beautiful colours, or stumbling through rough and ready quirky towns, intrigued by the different life you are experiencing.
Venezuela right now, is not the most popular place in Latin America for tourists. Backpackers do go, the ones with the more adventure and curiosity and also necessary confidence. However, given the political issues throughout the country, Venezuela is one of the most dangerous countries in the world right now. Caracas, it’s capital, its #3 in most dangerous cities, only behind places in Honduras and Mexico.
People warn as they read the news. People warn because THEY are afraid. I think going to Venezuela and not, if you are travelling South America for example, in this time, can illuminate the kind of travellers there are. Sometimes, we all, want travelling to be easy. We get a nice comfy coach, put our music on, eat cheap food and rock up to our hostels. We meet fellow backpackers, we share a beer, visit a beach, an attraction, we briefly touch the surface of a place. I guess that’s what travelling is about in alot of places. The gringos trails, the main loop. We are there because we want to see something different and indulge ourself with something more exciting and unknown, but we do need a little help along the way, wherever we go. Places like Venezuela bring out the fire in me to get to the most untouched of places. The challenge itself, the potential cause of something wrong and the self-satisfaction are all examples of factors of why I like these kind of locations as much as the more travelled ones. Saying that, I wouldn’t go to a country at a time if I didn’t feel I would be interested in something there. My problem is, everything seems to interest me in terms of travel. Venezuela, is home to some of the most beautiful wildlife, cultivating surroundings and most exotic beaches. Coupled with its thick Latin culture, it’s passion for life and wonderful climates, being in Latin America, I think, How Could I Not Visit Here? I would only gurn regret if I didn’t, and feel a sense of guilt for ‘backpacking out’ of an opportunity. Remember, we regret more things we DIDNT do in this life, than we did. That’s my ultimate consinousne.I’m too curious and of a free spirit, a singleton at heart, selfish for myself, not to give something a go. This feeling and addictive way of living, is something I thrive on and cannot nor wish to vanish just yet.
I don’t speak Spanish. I mean, basic Spanish, but not intermediate. I can ask questions and respond with answers. However given destinations I’ve already travelled, my picking up on signals, explanation of things in broken words and signs, I have a fair bit of composure in sticky situations when travelling, so I feel I can pull through. And if not? Well, it’s an experience to learn from. Planning this trip, I didn’t want to enter Venezuela alone in all honesty. However, it came to the point where I would rather, giving the options of travellers I had. Sometimes being with someone can make you worry more or feel more anxious than when you are on your own, in charge of your own decisions. So I ended up here, alone.
These are the places I visited, and a short description of what I did there. I do however say, without a strong personality, the ability to communicate well, travel experience or an adventurous nature, Venezuela right now, may not be for you.
Giving my location in the Caribbean in Trinidad, after an amazing time in Guyana, I could fly to Isla Margarita with the rest assured feeling of easing myself in to this country. Margarita is an island and for tourism mainly. The feeling when you arrive is of calm, and I knew getting to know this part of Venezuela would help me along.
I decided to stay in a couple of areas of the place, really because I didn’t know where a good location was. I stayed at Hotel Patrick, in Juangriego, a small old town, which is quite a bit run down. The locals say its like the Ghetto of Margarita, but I didn’t feel that way. Hotel Patrick was a decent location. Bars and restaurants around, the shelled beach 10m away, and the famous Fortin Galera 10 minutes walk to view the whole of Juangriego. The weather was nice and hot. I ventured to the beach and into the town, visiting the fort and making new friends. This place was more for the life of it, the surroundings, getting a feel for the place. I hired a car for around 25 Dollars for the day including gas (which is extremely cheap here). I toured the island from top to bottom. I hit all the beaches, Playa Del Agua being the most talked about one. They were nice beaches, non tropical, but warm with good atmospheres on most. The drive was particularly exciting, up and down mountain roads going through different towns and past different viewpoints. I visited Pueblos De Margarita, which was a historical site, based on how Venezuelans use to live in previous years. Everything from old bars to school halls to doctors offices. Great to get an understanding of Venezuelan history and to take a few snaps. I partied at Bora Bora, a new night club down past Porlamatar. It was fancy, the guys dressing sharp and girls looking gorgeous. Posada Tukisito was my final location I stayed, a very nice family run posada. Room for expansion here, free WIFI and breakfast included. Marlene was really helpful and studied English in the UK at one point so I was able to communicate with her really well.
Puerto La Cruz
A short stay here after catching the 3 hour ferry ride from Margarita. I stayed in Hotel Gaeta. Nice, small room and a good location amongst the sea front and tourist destination. I ate at Buffalos where the owner was Lebanese and spoke English. Good food and a good atmosphere. I managed to change Dollars here also, going rate is 70-1.
Ciudad Bolivar – After queuing up early for a ticket to Cuidad Bolivar from Puerto La Cruz, only to find I just had to ask the right person and I’d get on a shared minibus anyway without any queuing, It took around 5 hours to get to Cuidad Bolivar. I met a travel buddy, Chris, who I had spoken to via Lonely Planet and on one of my Facebook Groups (South America 2014). We stayed at Posada Don Carlos which is a German run Posada right in the middle of pretty area Casco Historico. The place is an old elementary school, beautiful designed. The lighting reminds me of what ancient Greeks or Romans would have had to deal with, colonial designs with a Latin American spark decorate the place. The rooms are cheap at 500 each for a fan and double bed, although outdoor dorm bunks and hammocks are available for about half that. Cuidad Bolivar offered a long strip of markets and food stalls across the River Front. Around Casco Historico are Police Departments and Cathedrals, with small museums also. Iguanas happily waddle around on hot, dry day. Cuidad Bolivar is a stopping point for anyone going to Salto Angel, Angel Falls in Canaima
Canaima, Salto Angel
A 3 day tour to this place including flights, accommodation, the tour, transfers and food is 240 US Dollars. You can get cheaper through different agents however through Martin at Don Carlos, it’s a safe bet everything will be provided. A short 1 hour flight on a chartered plane gets you to Canaima, a beautiful flight with outstanding views warms you up for this experience. Waterfalls are as you land into Canaima airstrip, surrounded by mountains of dense Jungle. Either day you do it, you head to Salto Angel Camp via boat down a long river, spanning most the day. The views are spectacular, and although you get a little wet and the ride can be a small bit bumpy, it’s well worth it. The boat trip alone for its winding bending views of the Roraima-like mountains are incredible, under-rated when it comes to doing this tour. Once arrived at camp, there are plenty of hammocks for all, dinner is provided too. The mosquitos and peru peru are quite intimidate here however, cover up or get mauled like I did. And I covered up! So take extra precaution.
The next morning is spectacular. 6am rise to a 7am start, you begin by walking past a viewpoint from near your camp of the towering Angel Falls, only to further yourself deeper into the jungle. The hike is trickier than one would imagine, with several members of my group moaning at this. It’s uphill over tangling hardened tree roots and blocks and blocks of awkward rocks. It’s hot and humid too of course, but beautiful to be surrounded in such nature. Once arriving at the first viewpoint, gasps are heard all around. You see Angel Falls at a close up from below, seeing its towering water flush down to another smaller waterfall. You can then venture further to this point and swim in the water, refreshing and cold, it’s well worth it to wipe your sweaty brows away. The same day you visit the Sabo Waterfall which again is amazing, A lot smaller but the power of the water hitting the lagoon is blinding. You can walk underneath the water for a wet adrenaline buzz, I’d never done anything like it. We got back to Canaima airport camp and hit the local disco for beers and rum. Sleeping the night is well welcomed before the flight back in the morning.
Caracas is known to be one of the world’s most dangerous cities. However, the Centro, is actually okay in Caracas, a view trendy colonial area in the central with the Plaza Bolivar, Cathedral and Metro in surrounding areas. The place has some beautiful architecture and sites for photo taking. Markets are available and lots of food shops. The hostel I was staying in was literally the only one in Venezuela, an Argentinian guy running it from his flat. Very hospitable and welcoming. The area was good, being in an area off the street and in the centre of Centro. I found it a very cool and interesting city, with plenty of life and things are of value here. If trouble wasn’t as publicised or as common, I can imagine this being a very popular tourist destination. I myself loved it, it had a sense of a modern vibe but with the Latin culture. I toured around Caracas taking photos of buildings and life, followed by a movie watching the Liberator in Spanish. My time here was quick. I still managed to find a cafe that sold beers and had EPL on!
Los Roques Islands
This place is awesome. Pure tranquillity and must be one of the last areas on earth now swamped by tourists. I mean, there are tourists there, mostly Venezuelan. However to get there you MUST fly on a charted plane normally. Most posadas are all-inclusive for boat trips, accommodation and food. Gran Roque is the place where people stya, the only one habitable. People walk in bare feet around Gran Roque, no cars or vehicles in sight apart from one tractor doing work and the selection of air planes out-of-the-way on the runway. The water is crystal clear, the sand pure white. Your transport is via boat from the port. There are so many islands to explore. When you get there, there are no shops, no bars nor touristy stalls, it’s just beach and sea. You take your own refreshments, can hire a umberalla and chair, along with snorkelling equipment. Most people dream of this. Peace and quiet next to the ocean. The sun sizzles and got me a slight tanned colour after a couple of days being near pink. I had an immense 3 days there but was very relaxing and almost a detox from life itself. I chose to scuba dive one day and snorkel the others, with the waters visibility being amazing, the fish all bright and colourful and the coral plentiful also. It’sexpensive however but for someone like myself, maybe only one chance I could get to get there. Luckily I got hooked up from a friend in Venezuela who arranged it for me, all the tickets otherwise were sold out. Great seafood as you would imagine here, and the vibe is a very chilled one.
Venezuela for me has been amazing. In Salto Angel and Los Roques, too of the most truly remarkably activity based experiences I’ve ever to do in my travel time. My plan went according to the plan and I’m so happy with myself how I managed to let go of any temptation to follow other plans or wishes. There is alot more to explore in Venezuela than I did, spending near 3 weeks there. The country is beautiful, but at the moment has got political problems which does make it unsafe. You will not find the singlet wearing party go-er here, no way, it’s not for that at the moment. And hopefully it doesn’t get like that. Venezuela has a uniqueness about it, almost a gem discovered but not unearthed. Let’s hope more so for the people of Venezuela that sooner rather than later this country will move on from the after effects of Chavez death, and like most people wish for, will make strides just like Colombia has done, for its own and for its waiting travellers to arrive.