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


Laguna Mucubaji


Approaching the top of Eagle Pass, 4077m

Thursday 16 May - Monday 20 May

Muchuchies is a small town which gave its name to a breed of dog that comes from here. Our guidebook blithered on about the irresitable cute puppies for sale on the streets. Fortunately we only saw a few examples held up by the side of the road as we drove in to the main square which was pleasingly full of schoolgirls instead of puppies...maybe we should have bought one afterall.

After a couple of chicken empanadas (a bit like a pasty) for lunch, we headed upwards to lake Mucubaji which is 3600m above sea level and is quite a sight. We went for a hike to a waterfall among the strange plants called frailejon which have big soft furry leaves, a bit like a muchuchies puppy. After the lake we crested the highest road in Venezuela and the highest the landy has been so far, 4077m, before descending into fertile valley terrain once more and on towards Valera which is supposed to have wicked pizza restaurants due to the influence of Italian settlers. This wasn't nearly true, we ate probably the worst pizzas of our lives and then T spent the whole evening ejecting his pizza from both ends. Fortunately we were camped in a lorry park by the side of the road and there were plenty of bushes to hide behind.

Goat meat for sale, on and off the hoof

bread van driven by a blonde doris

useful fluids

We drove on through dry hilly countryside until Barquismeto which seems an unappealing city, except for the Lucas diesel specialist we spotted who sold us a couple of diesel filters. All along the route were the usual stalls selling fruit or oil ($0.70 a litre) then there was a series of places selling freshly skinned goats, often with nervous looking living goats tied up nearby. The terrain turned more green as we approached Valencia which has a serious traffic problem, largley due to the current construction of a metro system. As it was Friday night we stayed in the Castle Hotel, a grandiose castle-like building opposite some metro works and then went out. After a false start in a posh area of bars and clubs where everybody was trying hard to be cool and nobody was particularly friendly, we ended up in a much better place well out of town and full of sweating people having a good time.

Plaza Venezuela

Typical congestion

Which street am I staying on?

It rains a lot in Caracas

Saturday saw the ihana bandwagon roll into Caracas. We found a place to get the photos developed, which turned out to be very poor qualtiy prints, and after a quick snoop around town we went to the airport to pick up T's doris who is visiting from Peru. Luckily she has a very hospitable aunty living in Caracas with a nice apartment, who was happy for us to stay for a while. Saturday night and we hit the bars and discos of Mercedes only get totally soaked by a tropical downpour which dampened the hairdos and hence the festivities slightly. Despite that B met his dream doris but unfortunately she stayed that way.

Caracas sits in a lush valley flanked by mountains rising up to 3000m. The urban sprawl consisting of many skyscrapers built during the oil boom years surrounded by shantytowns stretches more than 10kms east to west. There's a good metro but the traffic is still pretty bad with the usual crazy manoeuvres and vendors darting between the cars selling everything from cold drinks to world cup paraphernalia.

Wicked views of Caracas...

...from the cablecar

the old...

...and the new

We took a trip up to El Avila national park in the expensive new cablecar, which is an Austrian ski-lift - the attendant made us promise to sit down all the way as its dangerous to stand up apparently, judging by the rusty remains of the old system it was a good move to replace it. The views of the city are spectacular.

This week also saw the new digi camera arrive, courtesy of Allison and Marty of TWR, so a massive thanks to them for sorting it out. They are back in the US now after landying about in Central America for a bit, keep an eye on their flashy new website for more news on adventure travels.

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