May 2002 - big trip - diary - venezuela - may 2002


Wicked old landy

Church in old part of Maracaibo

Maracaibo viewed from the bridge across the lake

Friday 3 May - Saturday 11 May

Once through the border controls we came across our first Venezuelan road toll. We didnt have any Bolivars and only about $2 worth of pesos but luckily the toll is only the equivalent of $0.10 so we didn't need to worry. Just after the toll was a police check, the first of many, which was much the same story as other countries with the normal interest in the landy setup. Driving down the road to Maracaibo, the second largest city, built up mainly in the last 50 years on the back of the oil boom, passing vehicles would toot horns and wave thumbs up as they passed. Seems that the people of Venezuela are pretty chilled, friendly and like to have a good time.

Maracaibo is roasting hot and off the tourist trail but very welcoming nevertheless. We found a cashpoint and a chinky restaurant which served enormous meals and tasty fruit liquados, much to our delight, then proceeded to a cheapo hotel to get ready for a night out and to see if the American Chevy dealer, all those months ago, was right.

We wandered around for a bit and found a terrace bar. We sat down and the waiter came to our table and explained we could order anything we wanted, courtesy of a couple sitting at another table. This was a very nice surprise and typical of the good nature of the people here. We had a relaxed chat with them and they pointed us in the direction of E Zone disco, which turned out to be well wicked...the Chevy dealer might have had a point!

Standard equipped dorises in Plaza Republica

Crash in Maracaibo, click to see the full story

Saturday afternoon we found an internet shop, CanTV, which has a well fast and cheap connection plus reasonably priced national and international phone calls - a nice change from Colombia, which seems to have one of the most expensive phone networks in the world. That evening we went to meet some dorises at Mi Vacita restaurant. They didn't turn up but we enjoyed a great meal without them anyway then headed to Kamelot disco which was supposed to be good. It turned out to be pretty expensive plus a local vallenato group was playing, so we headed back to E Zone (you'll know why if you've ever heard vallenato music - its a bit like the stuff a 6 year old might produce using an old bontempi electronic organ with a squealing cat doing the vocals).

Sunday saw us head to the lakeside Parque La Marina where there is a 70m high viewing tower. The tower was closed so we went to Santa Rosa to see some traditional houses built on stilts which is supposed to be why Venzuela got its name - these houses reminded the Spansih invaders of Venice. We didn't find any and heard later that they've been demolished. That evening we went to Doral shopping centre to catch a movie, Panic Room, with Jodie Foster. Hanging about in shopping centres is a popular activity with the locals (as in most large latin american cities) and the sights in the queues waiting to get in was a lot more entertaining than the film.

Monday we headed to URBE university as a friend said it was possible to scan our pictures in at the computer department there. Some of the female students definately rekindled the desire to study too! The helpful doris did our scanning for us, but we found out later that she did it wrong so it was back to CanTV where they let us scan them for free anyway.

Oops, wrong way

One of many oil refineries in this area

Sierra de San Luis

Wednesday we decided to check out Coro and Paragua Peninsula but were a bit delayed on the way out of town due to T's daydreaming whilst in control of a landy. Arriving late in the dark we camped by the toll booths on the Isthmus, saving the sanddunes for the way back. After a patchy nights sleep regularly interrupted by passing lorries, we were up early and had a quick breakfast of empanadas, fried maize pasty type things filled with meat or chicken. We then hacked around the Peninsula which is very like the the dry, cactus infested terrain we encountered in Baja, Mexico. It was a good laugh to do a bit of offroading on sandy tracks again, and we didn't even get stuck or too lost either.

Jumping off the dunes

North coast of Paragua Peninsula

Landy beside a lighthouse


On the way back we jumped around in the massive dunes for a bit, the heat and sand obviously going to T's head, then had lunch in the unimpressive town of Coro before heading back to Maracaibo for another weekend of doris fuelled fun.

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