Entering Venezuela, a very
-- Story by Erin --
Tuesday, November 26th: Crossing the border into Venezuela
was surprisingly easy. We had been warned that it could take 24 hours, but only took
about 1 hour to complete both the exit from Brazil and the entry into Venezuela. The
nearest town, Santa Elena .......... is only 12 kilometers from the border and set in a
beautiful green valley, the beginning of the large land area known as the Gran Sabana.
Before we arrived in Venezuela we had been in touch with a
couple of Venezuelan bikers on email. One of these was Andres Hibjan, who invited us
to stay at his cabin in Santa Elena. His caretaker, Amable, who is also a taxi
driver met us in town when we arrived and took us to the cabin. He and his wife
promptly took care of us for the next 24 hours, showing us around, feeding us, and doing
Wednesday afternoon we were finally ready to leave, but not
before Amables's wife cooked us a big spaghetti dinner to send us off with full bellies!
Before we left town we stopped at a petrol station to fill up our tanks. We
had heard that gas was cheap in Venezuela but were very pleasantly surprised indeed when
we discovered we could fill up both 27 liter tanks for under $5 US! As we left in
the late afternoon the sun's angle cast long shadows over the mountains and it was the
absolute best light in which to see the Gran Sabana in its fully glory. This huge
region of savannah plains also has some distinct table-top mountains that geologists say
are some of the oldest in the world. We only rode about 60 kilometers before decided
we really should stop somewhere before dark. We found an amazing river with a small
waterfall where national park rangers had built shelters and areas for camping. We
stopped here for the night and I quickly set about putting up the tent while Chris rode to
a little nearby village to get some food for dinner and breakfast. When he returned
it was fully dark, which made navigating the heavily rutted dirt road very difficult.
The night was completely black with tons of stars in the sky and a lightening storm
off in the distance occasionally lighting up the sky. We attempted to eat by the
light of our weak head lamps and noticed the numerous bugs that reside here were very
interested in our food as well. Besides the usual pesky mosquitoes, there were huge
cockroaches, beetles, spiders, and giant ants everywhere!
Our nice relaxing evening quickly came to an end as we
gobbled down what we could and jumped into the tent. Chris and I each zipped
up the two doors to the tent and promptly found that BOTH screen door zippers had broken
and split as they were zipped up. Chris scrambled outside and tried his best to
repair them. Despite his best efforts, we were raided in the night and found the
next day that each of us had at least 20 bug bites a piece!!!! The morning sun
didn't do anything to scare away the bugs. As we ate breakfast and tried to enjoy
the view of the waterfalls, we were nibbled at by tiny biting flies. Our plan to
relax and hike around the area until mid-day was quickly scrapped and we immediately broke
camp and got on the road again.
Because of Chris' broken shock we didn't want to do any
off-road riding and decided to ride directly to Caracas where we could have it examined
and maybe fixed. After that, we decided, we would then explore the sites of
Venezuela for a few weeks before having to ship off to Panama. Two more days of
riding and we found ourselves at the seaside city of Puerto La Cruz, where we met
Francisco Sanz, another friendly Venezuelan biker.
Francisco, a lawyer in Caracas, met us there in the
beautiful hotel Punta Palmas, together with his cousins Carlos (also a partner in his
firm) and Alberto. Francisco rode a Honda Goldwing and has a Valadero at home.
Brothers Carlos and Alberto both ride Yamaha Venturas. They treated us to a
relaxing stay at this luxurious seaside hotel, with a beautiful view, big bath towels and
huge buffet breakfast. That night we went to dinner, Chris and I riding on the back
of their bikes for a change, and got to know each other better. Francisco is
planning a big road trip to Buenos Aires next year, and both Carlos and Alberto want to do
more riding around Venezuela and explore "off the beaten track." Needless
to say the big topic of conversation was what kinds of bikes are suitable for longer,
On Sunday after breakfast, we mounted our bikes and were
escorted to Caracas via a beautiful road along the sea. When we arrived, they helped
us locate a good hotel and then we went to dinner together with their wives and children.
It was a great evening, both the company and the Creole food (blend of Spanish and
Venezuelan). The discussion at dinner was lively, but heavy with the talk of the
next national strike scheduled to take place the next day. That would be the start
of a whole new adventure for us!
For the past year, Venezuela has been in political and
economic turmoil. They've had other national strikes, demonstrations and a coup
attempt last April which removed President Chavez for a few days, before he was
Sunset in the Gran Sabana.
Camping near the waterfalls.
Our view at dawn from inside the tent.
The falls where we camped.
The Caracas Gang
(L to R: Alberto, Carlos, Erin,
Francisco & Chris)
View from our hotel room in Puerto La Cruz.