© 2012 . Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Venezuela-177


Our flight to Caracas brings us to Aruba airport early in the morning. When we drop off our luggage at the counter, the staff informs us that the two airlines who are getting us to Caracas don’t have a luggage agreement and that are probably going to miss our flights. Confused we look at our tickets. Bought online as one single ticket, we naturally assumed that our luggage would be checked through. We decide to check with the second airline and the suspicion is confirmed: The luggage has to be picked up and dropped off again. Good thing our first leg to Curacao is delayed. When the doors open we jump out of the plane and run to the luggage belts. But is the Caribbean and of course they forgot to open immigration and although we were the first at the belt we have to go back to immigration and queue behind everyone else. When we finally exit the airport with our backpacks we only have 30 minutes before our next flight is scheduled to depart. We rush to the luggage drop off only to gave the lady in charge send us back to the end of the queue. Convinced we would miss our flight we wait our turn, then run to the gate only to hear the announcement just that second. Our flight will be delayed for more than two hours. In Caracas it takes forever to clear immigration and then customs. When we finally exit the passenger terminal we are being greeted by tens of luggage handlers. The first one who talks to me first asks us where we are from, then where we want to go and finally if we would like to exchange money. Since you have to use the black market for money exchange in Venezuela we quickly decide to trust the Venezuelan with the lazy eye and money quickly changes hands in front of a ticket office. He is nice enough to show us the bus station and on our way he tells me that “you can trust Orega, tell your friends to always go to Orega”. I am still not sure if he is looking at me or Birte.

Our room in Caracas

We board the bus to Caracas central and reach the last stop around 2h later. Due to the gasoline prices, less than $2 for a full tank, the streets in and around Caracas are packed with cars. I am surprised they even have public transport. When we ask the bus driver for directions to the metro station he warns us that it is to dangerous and we should take a taxi. Trusting his judgement we head to the taxi stand only to refuse the first taxi that offers us a ride. Rusty and old, the taxi sign held in place by a copper wire, we remember the stories about taxi robberies and wait for the next one. At the bus terminal we are confronted with unfortunate news: The bus to Ciudad Bolivar is full. Tickets for the next day are available. What to do? The lady at the counter sends us to the info booth where we get a list of other bus companies with phone number and tells us to use a public phone. Only those public phones need telephone cards which of course we don’t have. We ask a woman sitting at a table with a phone in front of her if she would be so kind to call one of the numbers for us. Ten minutes later Birte and me have three personal assistants phoning every single number on the list to find a bus for us. Without any luck we go back to the ticket booth only to find out that the lady ahead of us bought the last tickets for the bus the next day. Stranded in Caracas we ask a local for a nice place in Caracas and show him the options in the Lonely Planet. Too dangerous, he said, you cannot be in those areas at this time of the day. He recommends a hotel in a safe neighborhood and we take a cab. Our room has a 50s kind of charm and lacks, to Birte’s discomfort, warm water. When we go out to get some food at the restaurant around the corner we ask for a supermarket nearby to by some drinks. A customer who hears our question asks in reply “How much is your life worth to you? Just buy your drinks here, it is not worth losing your life over it”. So much to relaxed holidays in Caracas.

Our plane to Canaima

The next morning we ignore the bus driver’s advice and take the metro to catch the bus to Caracas’ biggest bus terminal. Fortunately we get tickets to Ciudad Bolivar and arrive around 11pm. The moment we step off the bus, we get approached by a tour operator and book the tour to the Angel Falls for the next morning.

Boat ride to the falls

First thing in the morning we drive to the airport and catch our small Cessna which brings us to Canaima, the starting point for our Angel Falls adventure. On the flight I keep listening to Karneval music (it’s 11/11) and celebrate it Venezuelan style. We drop our luggage off at the hostel and only bring a day pack to bring to the campsite. To get to the Angel Falls we need to take a small lancha for what is estimated to be around four hours. Due to low water levels it takes us more than six hours and the guys on the boat have to jump off every five minutes to push the boat upstream. All the girls are allowed to stay on the boat and while I work hard to get us to the Falls, Birte demands candy. We arrive late at the campsite and our guide decides we will hike to the Angel Falls with sunrise. It is my first time sleeping in hammocks and I have to admit, I like it. Way more comfortable than it looks. At least for me, Birte hates it. While we unpack, a more unfortunate group that started hiking to the Angel Falls comes back in pouring rain. Our tour guide wakes us at 5 and we start our hike right away. About an hour later we reach the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. My first question: “Is this really almost 1000m?”. It looks tiny. After we return to camp we have breakfast, start our return and realize that all the rainfall from last night has turned the our little stream into a proper river, we basically fly back to our camp. Back in Canaima we have lunch and in the afternoon start our next waterfall tour. All around Canaima are different waterfalls that the locals have turned into tourist attractions. You can walk through and behind them, but unfortunately never jump.

Angel Falls

Behind waterfalls near Canaima

After two days in Canaima we fly back to Ciudad Bolivar. When the fuel gauge is at 0 even before takeoff I inform the pilote of this (hopefully) malfunction and he just laughs and takes off. Uneventful 60 minutes later we land safely. Out of the airport one of the attendees notices us and asks us if we need a taxi. He points to the nearest exit and adds “Just pick a good taxi, please”. “How do we know if it’s a good taxi?” “You never do.” Good riddance. Well, it turns out, we pick a good taxi, get our tickets for the overnight bus to Barinas. A bus ride that was supposed to last roughly 14h (you will get there at 10, the latest) actually takes us 24h. During the night the air conditioning keeps us at cozy 7°, as soon as the sun rises it breaks down and we sit in 35° with a very distinct stink from the toilet. Awesome. Road blocks and a broken engine make it a very fun ride. We finally reach Barinas and try to find the bus to Merida, but we are told the last one already left and the friendly helper offers his pilot services for the incredible offer of $100 per person. For no apparent reason we don’t trust him and keep asking. Obviously there is another bus and we get right on it. We are on the road for 28h when we finally reach our hostel in Merida. Here we actually meet three of the guys who did the Angel Falls tour with us but skipped our waterfall tour. They ask us if we would like to go mountain biking with them early the next morning. I’m inclined to do it but it is too early and Birte not really down with it. When we wake up, fresh and full of energy, I tell Birte we should have done it because I love doing outdoor activities and have some crazy drivers with me. Two of the three return around 5pm, looking miserable. The third of the bunch, Rich, decided it was a good idea to take a turn downhill at 80km/h, missed it and flew off over his handles into the next rock. The fifth hospital they get the poor fella, who by the way is in agonizing pain, is finally able to help him. Broken femur (german: Oberschenkel) and wrist mean the end of Rich’s three month trip after just one week of traveling. They can operate him after three days and everything went smoothly. I think he has now returned back home, “safe and sound”. Funny side note: Apparently the insurance company booked him a night in a whorehouse thinking it is a fine hotel.

Best ice cream in the world… NOT

Meanwhile Birte and me try to find a tour to Los Llanos, the waste prairies in Venezuela’s south west. The tour operators keep telling us “tomorrow, tomorrow” but in the end they all lie. We end up eating some weird ice-cream (Ham&Cheese and chicharrones (pig’s skin)) and explore the city a little bit. When we cannot get our tour on the second full day in Merida and it does not look like it will happen any time soon, we decide to leave town. Easier said than done. When we get to the bus station they tell us all (!) buses leaving town in any (!) direction are sold out and they only sell tickets the same day the bus leaves. For our 21:30h night bus we still have to get to the bus station by 7am when the counters open. We arrive at 6:45 and there’s already more than 100 people queuing at 5 different counters. Uncertain what to do we randomly pick two and just wait for the counters to open. Of course Birte and me picked the one’s opening the latest and I was almost sure we would not get to Colombia any time soon when a guy comes out of the door and starts yelling. I am listening to music at the time and when I get the in-ears out I can only get that all buses have been canceled. People start to get mad but it seems like not all buses have actually been canceled. Turns out just Caracas and ours are still going. Since almost everyone has left the queue by now I get our tickets within minutes. The weather is really nice as well so we decide to spend the day going paragliding. So much fun, really recommended!


Our bus to Maracaibo has problems again, we actually leave Venezuela with a perfect score on this, but we get to town on time to still be able to reach Colombia. On the internet it was recommended to take private collectivo cars to the border, but the drivers do not want us in their car and send us to a bus instead. It is supposed to leave “in 15 minutes” and we pretend not to have any money anymore (because we think they are trying to rip us off) and end up paying less than all the others who pay the original asking price. Around two hours later we leave and Birte and me have exactly the amount of money needed to leave the country in our pocket. Ten minutes in we have to pay the first bribe to a military post “threatening” to search every piece of luggage on the bus. When we reach the border after seven horrible hours instead of three, we have paid off 15 posts. Also out of the 11 people on the bus, 3 (including Birte and me) have proper documentation. The rest of the bunch bribes policemen, jumps out of the bus ahead of controls and gets on motorbikes or runs through town to get back to the bus. At one point even the bus driver is so annoyed that he makes one of the “illegals” buy beer for everyone on the bus. Unfortunately the post where have to pay the exit fee is a couple of kilometers before the actual border and Birte and me are out of money. The woman with a proper passport turns out to be an angel and lends us the money to leave the country. At the border one of the illegals actually starts crying in front of the border control, talking about helping a brother out and finally gets a stamp in his “passport” after paying about $20 in bribes. On the Colombian side we get a friendly “hello” and without paying any bribes or being harassed at all finally enter “civilization”.