It is hard to deny that the decision to visit Venezuela had some negative consequences. Once we decided to cross the border we were literally bombarded with unbelievable stories about danger, crime, and delinquency in Venezuela. It caused a fair amount of stress and anxiety and was the reason for much tension between us.
We wish to warn all travelers about situations like this. Stay sharp and don’t believe everything people say. We all like shocking stories and a bit of drama. Colourising and exaggeration is a part of our nature and we should remember that whilst being fed horror tales. Keep your focus but don’t let those stories get to you and prevent you from having an adventure.
The day has come and we passed the border to the “evil” country we’ve heard so much about. But….nothing happened. The life went on peacefully in the beautiful Gran Sabana and the Canada National Park. The indigenous people seemed calm and introverted. However, there was a serious problem with cash, getting hold of it turned out to be complicated. Apart from that, there was no difference between rural parts of Brasil and southern Venezuela.
The ambient changed right after we entered the mining area. Now, that was a real chaos. We were explained later by many people we met along the way that this area is completely out of law and control. The simple policy of this place is, the strongest get the most. It is the governments business to keep it that way in order to benefit from the diamond and gold mining. Fortunately, it was the only part of Venezuela which felt uninviting and slightly dangerous. Never again we felt uncomfortable there in any circumstances.
Once we’ve left the Gran Sabana we’ve encountered incredible heat. Going from one town to another, passing by Puerto Ordaz, Ciudad Bolivar and crossing the mighty river of Orinoco we entered the petroleum area. Kilometers of dry land cut with asphalt roads. The sun burning everything from plants to our skin. Huge flames above excavating areas and thick black smoke on the horizon.
The climate has changed only after we left El Tigre and Maturin and entered the state of Sucre in the northern part of the country. It reminded us of our days in Suriname and Guyana. Once again we were in the jungle, breathed humid air and passed by kilometers of wildly growing plants and trees.
Once we hit the shore we saw vast, white beaches and wonderful sunsets. We’ve spent a few days by the sea enjoying the sun and water, walking until the sun was setting into the horizon and letting the waves wet our feet.
Once in Caracas, we got surprising news. For weeks we were trying to get to Trinidad and Tobago. We failed many times and at this point lost hope to see this island. Suddenly we got a message that our tickets have been issued and we are welcome to travel in two days but the bike had to be left behind. Marta was really fed up with the whole struggle and didn’t feel like going there anymore. Ben was still excited about it. We decided to split for three weeks. Marta went to Poland to spend very precious time with her family whom she missed so much. Ben undertook another solo adventure and had an absolute blast exploring Trinidad. This time apart was unexpected and quite a shock after being together non stop for so long. But it felt good. We reunited happier and somehow refreshed, ready, for long last, to enter the Andes.
One of the highlights of the second part of our trip through Venezuela was surely the plains. Days before entering the mountains we passed by green and soothing countryside. We visited Socopo, a lovely little town where we have seen ancient petroglyphs carved in rocks. We’ve also met wonderful and kind people who made us feel at home. We even got the chance to go rafting on a nearby mountain river. For Marta, it was the first time on a raft, and we had a lot of fun and excitement during this adventure.
The real struggle started with the first climb. The change of climate was wonderful to us. We could breathe properly and didn’t care about being a little cold. During our days in the mountains, we’ve met fellow cyclists who took us into their homes and fed us well.
We even broke the hight of three thousand meters and our personal record by bike. But we striving for more. We climbed Pico El Aguila and were over 4200 meters above sea level.
We found some real tourist pearls in the Venezuelan Andes. Incredible valleys, amazing little mountain villages, cozy and inviting guesthouses. We ate loads of soul and body warming food, drunk delicious hot chocolate and bathed in natural hot sources. For the first time, we tried meat with strawberry sauce and started days with Pisca Andina- a breakfast soup with milk and poached egg- perfect for cold mornings.
We slowly but surely learned how to deal with our problems. Due to the hyperinflation of the local currency nearly all vendors except dollars. The best is if you carry one Dollar bills. Another option is to change your money before entering the country. Unfortunately, with this method, you are going to lose quite some of your cash. The third option is to make friends with a local and with a bit of luck you can use his bank account during your stay and reimburse him on PayPal or any other way. Due to the inflation, you need to get rid of your Bolivars quickly as they lose value very fast. However if done right you will live like a king or queen. Venezuela in 2018 was the cheapest country we have ever traveled to.
Apart from all the great features, Venezuela certainly has its downsides, and they are many. We wrote all about the political situation here so we will not repeat ourselves. Believe us if we tell you that there are shocking things happening in Venezuela.
The first thing that struck us was the complete passiveness of the people. We’ve met hundreds of Venezuelans and spent countless hours listening to their complaints, which is understandable. Some of them were certainly valid. There are people who want to work, open businesses, develop and learn but their own government prevents them from doing so. It’s heartbreaking to witness such huge potential being wasted.
But most of the people we’ve met, no matter how kind they were, didn’t do anything to change their lives and the situation in the country. Too many Venezuelans are still waiting for better days and it seems they think the change would come without any effort. Surely it is not easy to archive the fall of the brutal and unscrupulously dictatorship.
Maybe we are wrong but it sure seems like people got used to receiving goods, apartments, and jobs from the government. Chavez’s nationalisation of all businesses and factories made them lazy, passive and demanding. They are still waiting for a Robin Hood to take from the rich and give to the poor. The sad thing is, there is nothing more to give away.
Each day we spoke to Venezuelans who spent days on their porches complaining about the lack of food and money. The only thing they had, and plenty of it, was time.
The second thing is the incredible pollution everywhere you look. Plastic bags are used and thrown away without any hesitation. Even though on the walls of many buildings you can see slogans about protecting the nature. They apparently have no effect what so ever.
The country spends money on billboards to raise awareness to the pollution of our planet earth. Yet the smoke filters at the refineries are ancient and need maintaining. There are no enforced laws or standards concerning environmental protection. That’s a sad view of a country which reached a certain wealth but lost it all due to the lack of the right attitude.
We’ve spent in Venezuela far more time than we planned. One thing is for sure – we know the country pretty well and still didn’t figure out why there are no tourists. Maybe because of this need for sensation and exciting stories. Our truth about Venezuela remains, and always will, the same. Venezuela, mainly because of its people, is a beautiful country of great potential. Don’t let anyone prevent you from seeing it.