Saturday, April 28, 2007


Salvador´s turned out to be a bit disappointing. It´s the 3rd largest city in Brazil, and is known for its strong African roots. I´d heard a lot about the music scene, Capoeria (a Brazillian martial art) and the beaches.

The historic centre was nice, but after Sao Luis and Olinda, it didn´t seem like much. It was also very touristy, and by the evening it seemed a bit unsafe. I´m staying in a nice hostel next to the beach, but even the beach is a bit small and overcrowded. I guess I could have tried to go out a bit at night, but after a series of long bus rides to get here, I just didn´t have the energy. Somehow, I haven´t taken to the city at all, and I spent most of the 3 days here lying on a hammock on the hostel porch and reading.

Leaving for Rio tomorrow and I´ll have a flat and an office for a month. My flat´s 2 minutes from Copacabana beach, and my office is on a hill overlooking Ipanema beach.

That´s it. Nothing too exciting or interesting happened over the last 3-4 days. Next post should be from Rio.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I´d heard about Olinda from another traveller I met on the way to Sao Luis. She´s from Berlin and we´d spent quite a bit of time talking about Berlin. It was a city which really stunned me, and I was telling her that I want to go back to explore the cultural side of Berlin. Since it´s cheap a lot of young, creative people have moved there making it very hip in Europe. She told me that I should definitely go to Olinda because it´s got a great history of being an artist city.

Olinda´s on the northeast coast of Brazil and it was about 24 hrs on a direct bus. It´s essentially a suburb of the big city of Recife, so it took a while to get here. At the tourist office in Recife, I asked about a cheap hostel to stay in Olinda and was told to go to a place called Casa du Hilton. It´s my first time in staying at a place called the Hilton! It´s an interesting place though. It´s run by 2 young Brazillians, and is very basic but clean. Most of the other people staying here are Brazillian, except for 2 Germans (they´re everywhere) so it´s a nice change from some of the other hostels/posadas I´ve been staying in.

After the long bus ride, I was quite tired so I took a short nap. Spent the next half of the day, walking around aimlessly and was surprised by Olinda. I was a bit wary of coming here and expected to see a few art galleries geared for tourists and tonnes of foreigners. It´s quite unlike what I expected. There aren´t too many tourists (local or foreign) and the town is teeming with small art galleries. Most of the galleries are old houses where the artists are either working inside or sitting on porch staring at the passersby. It was easy to walk into any one and just try chatting with the owners, who don´t seem too desperate for you to buy their stuff. They seemed happy just living here.

The whole town is built around a small hill and feels like a big art exhibition. A lot of art on the walls, brightly coloured houses next to each other, a spectacular view from the top of the hill and quite a few old, rundown but comfortable cafes. It´s not too expensive either, and it´s very common to see a lot of old and young people just hanging around. Late in the evening, one of the cafes had a small band playing and it looked like it was a regular feature. The food and beer were cheap, and most of the people seemed to know each other. The whole place has a very authentic feel of being an artist colony. I spent 3 days here, doing nothing apart from wandering aimlessly through the streets, stumbling into small ateleries and enjoying the views. Since it´s the low season, there aren´t many tourists around, so I´ve been lucky to enjoy Olinda without any crowds. Even the hostel I´m staying in is full of Brazilians, and going out with them at night has been fun.

I´d spent 3 months living in Montmartre just before heading out to South America, and Montmartre has a history of being an artist enclave. Unfortunately, it´s become very gentrified and expensive and it´s driven away a lot of creative people. In cities like New York, London and Paris it seems almost impossible for someone to survive now as an artist, unless you move off to a cheaper suburb. How much longer, I wonder, before Olinda gets taken over by developers and yuppies?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Beach Bum in Brazil

After getting off at Sao Luis, I realised my Japanese friend wanted to go to a place called Barreirinhas. I´ve been travelling without a travel book, and have been relying only on recommendations from fellow travellers and locals, so I decided to follow him. He told me that a friend of his had told him to definitely go there because of the sand dunes and lakes.

Got there around noon, and after 5 days on a boat, a 12 hr overnight bus ride and a 4 hr ride, I was exhausted. I also had a slight cold and fever, probably due to all the travelling for the last 3 weeks, so I took it easy for the next 3 days. The only thing I did, apart from lying on a hammock and reading, was go with some other people on a trip to the sand dunes and swim in the lakes.

Barreirinhas is a bit of a resort town, but it´s low season right now, and it was quite deserted. There were a bunch of cheap posadas waiting to let out rooms at low rates, and we picked a nice one on the waterfront. It had hammocks dangling along the river, and only 3 other occupants in the entire hotel. All of us were solo travellers, who´d been travelling for at least 6 months each.

The Japanese guy opened up a bit finally and told us how he started in Mexico city, went all the way down to Argentina, took a cruise to Antarctica, came back up to Venezuela and is now heading down to Chile. In the next week, he plans to do 2 long bus rides of 48 hrs each. He barely speaks Spanish and Portugese and is probably the quietest, loneliest traveller I´ve come across. It´s his 4th trip of about a year in a different continent so he seems pretty comfortable travelling his own way. I asked him considering the Japanese work so hard and travel very little, why he travelled so much. He said - I don´t like working.

One of the other travellers is an American, who´s on a 5-6 year trip around the world on his motorcycle. He started 2 years ago from Colorado, went up to Alaska, then all the way down to Argentina and is now back up north. He´s had more problems with visas and permits because of his motorcycle, and was telling me about how he´d sneaked across various borders to avoid getting his motorbike impounded for lack of registration or insurance. Unfortunately, he´s heading further north and not south, otherwise I could have dumped some of my luggage and gotten a ride with him down to Rio. Another time. This is the link to his website.

The other two travellers are more normal...just backpacking around Brazil for about 6 months. There were headed to Sao Luis, so I shared a car ride with them. Sao Luis is a beautiful city. It´s a world heritage site with lovely colonial architecture, friendly people, great nightlife, nice beaches and .... not much else.

Will head out of here tomorrow to Olinda, spend a few days there, go down to Salvador, spend a few days there, then reach Rio by May 1st. If you look at a map, you´ll understand the title.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The boat ride

Just reached Belem after a 5 day boat ride. Yes, 5 days. Till now, I´d never been on a boat for than a few hours. Exactly a year ago, I ran the Boston marathon. After this boat ride, I feel like I just finished another marathon.

The 2 Australians I´d met last month had told me that they really enjoyed the boat ride. Since there were 2 of them, they shared a cabin, which wasn´t too much more than going hammock class. When I reached Manaus, I expected to bump into some other backpackers, who´d be willing to share a cabin. It´s the low season right now in the rainforests, so I couldn´t see any other tourists. After the jungle trip, I went straight with E to the docks, bought a hammock, a ticket for hammock class and some water.

The first day was the hardest. It was hot and humid, and the boat was packed. The big boat (which I was taking) goes from Manaus to Belem only twice a week, so it´s both a cargo and passenger boat. I managed to push my way through the crowds, picked out a nice spot for my hammock and tied it up. There was a deck upstairs with a small bar and music played non-stop, so I decided to head up there. Took out the most essential items into the top of my big packpack (which doubles up as a big pouch) and headed upstairs. If someone wanted to steal something from my bags, then they would have to wade through some smelly clothes.

The Manaus port is a big hub of activity. The crowds, noise and chaos resembled a major train station in India and till the last minute, there were a lot of people jumping onto the boat to sell stuff. The boat left about 2 hours late, so I just sat upstairs, bought a bottle of beer and listened to some Samba. Went down later at night, and had a very uncomfortable first night. An elderly lady´s hammock had torn its rope, so she´d tied it to mine and was directly underneath me as a result. I couldn´t understand what she was saying so I didn´t object. I could make out she was grateful for me not complaining. It was weird sleeping on a hammock on a boat as it kept swaying gently. While it helped to put everyone to sleep, there were times when the boat got unsteady and everyone´s hammocks swung like pendulums and bumped into each other. Somehow pulled through the first night.

The next 4 days went by slowly, but I got used to the pace. Wake up at 6 for a basic breakfast of bread and coffee. Read a book till 11 and then have lunch. Take a short nap, walk up to the deck, have a coke, listen to music, watch the rainforests and wait till dinner. Dinner would be at 5 and after 530, it got a bit hard to kill time, especially if it rained. Nobody on board spoke any English, and after 2 days I noticed a Japanese backpacker who spoke some. It was hard to communicate, so the 5 days went by in a state of silence.

I guess the main benefits of taking such a long boat ride are the small things one notices. The thick jungle, the rundown huts and villages, the kids riding out on their canoes to catch a glimpse of the big boat and the small docks which were waiting eagerly for the cargo in the boat. Rivers are like highways in the rainforests as there are no roads. So the arrival of the boat is a big event in the small towns.

The most endearing moment was seeing a few kids paddle up very close to the boat, throw a hook onto the side and then climb on to the boat to sell some fruits. Thankfully, the crew helped them latch onto the boat and everyone the boat bought the fruits, bringing a big smile to the kids´ faces.

Anyway, I reached Belem this morning and from what I can make out it´s not a very pleasant place to stay in. The Japanese traveller is heading to Sao Luis, a small town on the coast and I´m heading there with him. Will probably spend a few days there before making my way down to Rio. It´ll take a while to get there. I didn´t realise how big Brazil is.

PS comments are open again, but please, don´t get too serious or personal :-)

Friday, April 13, 2007

The jungle

This was my first experience of a real jungle trip, though for an experienced jungle person it was probably scratching the surface. It lasted for 5 days, and though I´d like to do a longer one sometime, I´m happy I chose to go for just 5 days.

The beginning was a bit ominous. I woke up early and it was raining heavily. Left my backpack with the hotel and went to meet the trip organizer. The guide, E, showed up late. I asked about the other 3 Canadians who were supposed to come with me, but apparently one of them was sick and they´d backed out. So it was going to be just me and the guide for the next 5 days. Considering it was my first trip to a jungle, and I didn´t speak a word of Portugese (E was fluent in 5 languages though) I considered backing out. But decided to go ahead anyway.

We took a taxi down to the port, bought some food and then hopped on to a speed boat. Halfway across the river, we stopped, and E told me this was the meeting point of two rivers (Negro and Solimoes). It´s unlike the meeting point of two rivers. Rio Negro is black and fast, and Solimoes is brown and slow. So the two meet, but don´t merge and travel side by side for about 7km. It´s quite amazing to see and the boat switched between both rivers to show the difference in speeds. Got off at another point and then E took his own canoe with an engine and we headed off to the jungle lodge. It took about 2 hours to get there, and it rained off and on. It´s the winter here and so it rains a lot. It´s also the low season for tourists, so by the time I reached the lodge I was the only occupant. It was pretty basic, with a few rooms and one bathroom. Had lunch and since it was raining decided to take a nap on the hammock stretched out on the porch.

The rest of day followed a clear plan. Canoeing for a few hours through some creek, Piranha fishing, dolphin watching and alligator catching. Piranha fishing turned out to be deceptively easy, and I managed to catch about 7 of them. The first time I caught one, I got so excited and scared seeing it dangling in front of my eyes that the canoe almost capsized. E decided to refer to me as jungle boy after that, clearly laughing at my ineptness. Went alligator catching at night, and E is quite a daredevil. He´s lived in the jungle all his life and spent a couple of years in the army engaged in jungle warfares. He´s got a reputation of being the toughest and craziest guide around, and loves to show off. Watching him catch an alligator with his bare hands, play with it like a puppy an disdainfully throw it back was entertaining.

The first day had been a bit hectic so I told him at the end of the day that since I was the only one on the trip, I did´t mind skipping out on a few touristy things, but preferred to spend more time just doing a couple of things. They could be touristy or not, but I told him to pick out things he enjoyed. His eyes lit up at the prospect and his attitude towards me changed. We spent the next day canoeing down the river to a small village. He pointed a small piece of land which he´d bought a year ago and plans to build a small lodge of his own. It´s pretty far from Manaus and is a great point for catching both sunrise and sunset. In the distance is a small island which is a meeting point for two species of birds, and his neighbour is a herbal doctor. Also, with a glint in his eyes, not too far away was the house of the woman of his dreams. He showed me the plan, and we spent a while walking around the area where he plans to build it.

Spent the rest of day with his friends, and though I couldn´t understand a word of what was being spoken, had a nice time playing soccer with a few kids. E went out soon, caught a small pig with his barehands, and in front of me, cleaned it and then barbecued it. It was grotesque to watch but great to taste. While it was cooking, we headed out on the canoe in the dark to a few friends of his and drank caipirinhas till late. Thankfully, one of his cousins decided to ride the canoe with us, as he knew E was known to be quite reckless. It was quite eery though, canoeing back in the dark with E pointing out things in his semi-drunken state. Feasted on the pig and then passed out on a hammock in the porch with a mosquito net over me.

Woke up the next day with a bad case of diahorrea. It was bound to happen at some point and I felt foolish not carrying any antibiotics. E´s neighbour went out to some tree, tore off the bark, scraped it on something (the dried tongue of a fish), mixed it with water and gave it to me. It tasted horrible, but in an hour I was fine. I was given a bottle full of it, and am carrying it with me in case of an emergency.

Spent the next 2 days on a trek through the jungle. Since it was just the two of us, E took us to a fairly remote part along the river, through some crazy creeks and we got off. It was part of some forest reserve, and it was thick, dense forest. Just like I´d imagined it to be. The trek was completely different from anything I´d ever done. Instead of a tent and sleeping bag, we each carried a hammock and mosquito net, bugspray, a machete and some food. It was broad daylight, but deep inside the jungle it could have been evening. The light filters through, but to take any pictures I had to use a flash. Even when it rained heavily, I could hear it but not feel too much of it. Felt more like a drizzle. Walking through the jungle wasn´t easy and we had to use the machetes a lot to clear the way. Throughout, E told me about all kinds of plants and trees that we spotted, animal sounds in the distance and about his experiences fighting the Colombian guerrillas. It was a bit like being inside a National Geographic documentary.

Camped at a clearing somewhere, and had to chop some wood to set up the hammocks and plastic sheet for cover. It took a while for the food to cook, and E decided to teach me some Portugese. He dropped out of school at a young age, but has worked as a guide for almost 10 years and has picked up a lot of languages because of all the tourists he deals with. He did a great imitation of some Japanese tourists, who always said - Interesting, very nice. That became our motto for the rest of the trip, and each time he pointed out something, I would bow and say - Interesting, very nice.

The night of the trek was a bit scary though. After being harassed by bugs, I´d decided to sleep early and E also crashed out early. I was sleeping with my bug spray but somehow the jungle sounds kept me awake. After about an hour, I could hear E snoring quietly, and heard something which scared me a bit.

I could hear footsteps in the distance. First, I thought it was some other sound. After 2 minutes, it was clearly some animal as I could hear its breathing as well. There were obviously no humans around for miles, so I called across to E. He woke up, heard the same sound and hissed - stay quiet and don´t make any noise. The next 10 minutes passed very, very slowly. What added to the uneasiness was the fact that I was suspended in mid-air armed with nothing but bug spray. After 10 minutes, E said - Relax, it´s an amadillo. I relaxed, and then asked a minute later - What´s an amadillo? He laughed, and then told me it comes out a night to go hunting for bugs and insects along the river. I guess the amadillo was cruising the jungle.

Woke up next day, and got badly bitten by ants while eating breakfast. Went on the canoe up to another point and for a longer hike. By the later afternoon I was a bit tired with the bugs. Asked E about the boat from Manaus to Belem, and he said there was one on Friday and the next one left on Wednesday. I had no intention of staying in Manaus for 5 days, and the boat takes 4 days, so I decided to take it on Friday. That meant we didn´t camp in the jungle that night, but headed back to the lodge. It took a while, but after being attacked by bugs for 2 days, I was happy to be back in a clean bed.

Woke up on Friday, and headed back to Manaus. Bought a hammock for the ride (the private cabins were too expensive) and am heading off now in a couple of hours to Belem. Should get there sometime on Tuesday.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Reaching Manaus

Finally managed to get to Manaus, but it turned out to be trickier than I expected.

After writing my last post, I bumped into two Australian girls at the internet cafe. They´d both just come up from Rio to Venezuela, so I started asking them about the trip since my plan is to get to Rio at the end of this month. They told me there were two problems I was going to face - a return ticket and yellow fever vaccination.
The return ticket was something I knew I could manage. But the yellow fever vaccine was going to be a big pain.

The main problem was that I needed a certificate of the vaccine. If I didn´t have one, then apparently the immigration officials were very strict about it. Two British guys overheard us talking about it and said one of them had a hard time. He was refused entry till he got the proper vaccine. I asked if it was possible to get a vaccine at the border, and they said yes, but that´s not enough. The vaccine takes 10 days to set in, so one has to wait for 10 days after that. I asked the hotel manager about it, and he suggested that I go to the local hospital, get a vaccine and bribe them a bit to get it predated. There was no way I´d be let in without the certificate, he said.

I went off to the hospital, and they said they didn´t give the injection at the hospital. They did it at the border only. It was also Easter weekend, so my chances of finding anything open weren´t too good. I decided the only thing to do was to just head to the border and see what happens. Packed my bags, told the hotel guy that I might be back and took a shared taxi.

I went in to the immigration office, and saw two offices - one for passport control and the other for the yellow fever vaccination. Venezuelans and Brazillians don´t need visas to travel between the border, and a national ID card is enough. I managed to get my passport stamped and then walked to the vaccination office. There was a problem though.

The vaccination office refused to predate the certificate, and I realised that trying to bribe them in front of about 50 other people waiting in line would probably land me in jail. So I decided to not get the injection which led to a problem. Since my passport had the exit stamp, I had to leave, but with no vaccination certificate, the Brazillian immigration guys wouldnt let me in. I was sort of in no man´s land. I decided to just walk across the border and see if I could somehow work my way around it.

Walked for about 5 minutes along the highway connecting the two border points with my backpack, and get kept trying to come up with some excuse. Thought about lying and saying that I got it in Paris for the visa interview but lost my certificate while travelling. But I didn´t think it would work. Anyway, I walked slowly and tried to see if I could just keep walking without getting stopped. Realised that nobody really cared, but I also knew that without an entry stamp, I was going to risk deportation if I was asked for my passport sometime later.

Went to the immigration office, filled out the form, and after a couple of questions, they stamped my passport. Somehow they didn´t ask for the certificate. But I´d been told that the certificate is normally asked for by the customs people. The customs office was a bit further down the road, and I knew I had to somehow bypass that place.

In the road between the immigration and customs offices, there were a bunch of shops and a few taxis. Saw a family of three talking to a taxi driver, and went closer. Realised they weren´t speaking Spanish, so they had to be Brazillians. I knew that for a shared taxi, the driver always looks for 4 people to fill up the car and so the family was probably looking for a 4th person. I noticed that taxis weren´t stopped by the customs officials as they were carrying people with minimal luggage. It was the buses and private cars which were getting stopped. I also realised that Brazillian citizens shouldn´t need a certificate, so my best bet was to get in with them, and hope that the customs guys would think I was Brazillian.

There is only one road from the border all the way to Manaus, so I told the taxi driver to take me to Boa Vista, which is the first major town along the way. I hopped into the taxi, and kept both backpacks in the trunk so that I didn´t look like a tourist. The taxi went past the customs guy, slowed down for a few seconds and then got waved on.

I was still a bit paranoid that there would be another stop, but there were none. The taxi went straight through and 3 hours later I reached Boa Vista, bought a ticket for the overnight bus to Manaus and reached here in the morning. The two Australians had given me a lot of tips for Manaus, so I managed to find a nice, cheap hotel and will head off on a trip to the rainforests soon.

One more victory for me against immigration officials. Am heading out tomorrow for a 5 day jungle trip.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Just got back after a 3 day trek to Chirikayen. Chirikayen is one of the many tepuis (flat top mountains) in this region. I didn't know much about this part of Venezuela and only read about it 2 days before coming. Venezuela's amazingly blessed with natural beauty, but the Gran Sabana region with its tepuis is its most unique feature.

Roraima is the mountain which everyone normally tries to hike to, but when I got to Santa Elena, I realised it was completely booked. I've never been a big fan of going on a trek which is so popular, so I wasn't too unhappy about it. But one of the trekking agencies told us about an alternative, Chirikayen. The 2 Germans I met on the bus were keen on going, and we ended up meeting another British couple who joined us. Permits are required and the trek is through parts of the rainforests, so we decided to go with an agency, which provided us with a guide and a porter.

The trek wasn't too strenuous and it was only 3 days. The weather was awful and I was relieved that I didn't go on the 6 day Roraima trek. It rained a lot, but thankfully on the day that we reached the top, it was clear and gave some spectacular views of the Sabana and the rainforests. Having a guide was useful, as he told us a lot about the uniqueness of the region and the species which are found only on the top of the Tepuis. Having done most of my hiking in moutains, it was a new experience - camping on a flat top mountain, hiking through the jungle and seeing plants which are only found here.

Anyway, I'm back in Santa Elena now. It's a sleepy small town, but has a certain charm to it. I'm a bit tired after all the travelling and hiking, so I'm going to chill out here for a couple of days before making my way down to Brazil. Next post should hopefully be from Manaus.

Been trying to upload pictures to this blog, but it's taking too long. Soon, hopefully.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A day on the road

Wake up at 7am. Where am I? The sound of the surf. OK, I´m still at the beach. The World Cup was just a dream, or was it? Got a long journey ahead. Kiwis wake up, and in 10 minutes everyone´s ready. On the road again, Kiwi 1 mumbles. We´re all half asleep.

Walk 10 minutes through dirty streets to the Terminal. Buses don´t run for another 2 hours. Haggle with a taxi driver to take us three to Puerto La Cruz. Drive through winding roads, crowded beaches and islands on the horizon. Touts accost us at La Cruz. Ciudad Bolivar for me, and Caracas for the Kiwis. Quick handshakes, email addresses exchanged and we all head off. Me towards Brazil, them towards Columbia. Probably never see each other again.

The bus isn´t crowded. It´s Easter week and everyone´s headed to the beach. I´m going the other way, so it´s quiet for a while. Then, the music is turned on and Salsa blares loudly, drowning out my Ipod. I doze on and off. The countryside is pretty barren. Feels dry and arid. I know it´s blazing hot outside, but the aircon inside makes it freezing. I´m prepared with my sweater and jacket though after many overnight bus journies in this country.

Stop after a few hours at a dusty roadside stop. Greasy Arepas and fresh juice is my first meal of the day. Not entirely healthy but there´s no choice. A potbellied guy with gelled hair starts talking to me. Speak slowly, I say. He realises I´m an outsider and starts talking about his life. Hates America, lived there illegally for 7 years. Paid to get married to a Gringo to get a Green Card, but got deported. Works as a tourist guide now. Venezuela is 85% national parks and 70% of the population is women, he says. I nod and see him eyeing every girl who walks by. Girls half my age have makeup and flimsy clothes and clearly enjoy the attention from him. One girl walks up and sits next to him. His daughter, I think. No, his woman. Go hiking in the Roraim area he says. It´ll be like nothing you´ve seen. I make a note of what he suggests. Get back on the bus and a bunch of people get on trying to sell drinks and food. No Gracias.

Reach Cuidad Bolivar at 3pm. It´s hot and dry. Get a ticket for Santa Elena for 8pm. 5 hours to kill. Leave my backpack with the bus agency. Walk out to a cyber cafe and it´s closed. Where else? Guy shrugs. It´s a Sunday. Everything´s closed. Anywhere in the main city? He motions towards a general direction. Very far, he says. No option but to go. 5 hours in the bus terminal will be boring as hell. Keep walking in the heat. A starbucks cafe, with comfy chairs, a cool latte and wifi would be perfect. Not in this bustling, dirty city though. The heat is getting to me now. Wait, is that an oasis? A 24 hour cybercafe. It´s open. It´s airconditioned. It´s got some drinks as well, and the connections are fast. Perfect place to kill 3 hours and catch up on what´s happening in the world cup.

Head back to the terminal and pick up my backpack and board the bus. Take out my sleeping bag as it´s a long overnight ride. 12 hours to Santa Elena, the border town. Doze off and wake up to see a Hugh Grant movie in Spanish. He sounds as stupid.

Reach Santa Elena at 8 in the morning. See 2 other backpackers in the distance and walk up. German, British or Australian? German. Thankfully, not from where I was a few months ago. Know a cheap place to stay? Ja, Ja. The bible is opened and it points us to a place. Want to share to make things cheaper? Ja, Ja. Heading to Brazil? Ja, Ja. Reach the hotel and look at the rooms. Another dingy room. A table fan, pink walls, 3 separate beds, and a private bathroom. The shower is a tap about 6 feet high. Good enough for a night? Ja, Ja. Should we get something to eat? Ja, Ja. How many months of travelling now? 3 months, they say. 11 months, I say. Want to go on a trek through the Gran Sabana tomorrow? Yes, I say. Got my own tent and sleeping bag so all I need is a stove and food. We get a guide, rent a stove, share a jeep and head off to the Gran Sabana for 3 days.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Santa Fe

Reaching Venezuela wasn´t too hard. Took a ferry from Tobago to Trinidad, stayed overnight at Port of Spain, and then headed to the docks in the morning to catch the ferry back to Venezuela. It left a bit late, so had to hang around the docks for a long time.

It was far more crowded this time and I met 2 backpackers from New Zealand who were in the Caribbean for the World Cup. They also found it a bit too expensive to stay for the whole thing, so were heading off to Colombia via Venezuela. One of them was on his first overseas trip, while the other had travelled all over the place, so it was funny to see the two of them. The novice studied his Lonely Planet like his bible, while the other guy just asked a few other people about how to get to Columbia, and what was interesting along the way. Since it´s cheaper to travel in a group, the three of us decided to head out from Guiria together, after a long customs check. Hopped on a bus to Cumana and stayed there for the night.

Cumana is the oldest existing town in South America, and also the hometown of a close friend. But it´s hot, and had nothing too interesting. Most of it was destroyed in a couple of earthquakes, so it seemed quite drab architecturally. I emailed my friend, and he couldn´t think of too many things to do, apart from heading to the beaches. So that´s what we did.

Ended up in Santa Fe, which is a sleepy fishing village about an hour outside Cumana. Unlike Tobago, the beaches weren´t as pristine and the accomodation wasn´t as luxurious, but it was cheap and right on the beach. There were also hardly any tourists around, so it was a nice place to spend 3 days doing pretty much nothing. Have been carrying only one book with me (apart from the Spanish phrasebook), so I managed to finally get around to reading it in peace. The only internet cafe in the village was very, very slow - a lot like the pace of life here - so all I did was sit in a cheap cafe, drinking some lovely fruit juices, eat fresh fish, and read.

Anyway, after almost 3 weeks of beaches (and some cricket), I´m a bit beached out, so will head off towards the south in the direction of Brazil. The two Kiwis are off towards Columbia, so we´ll split ways tomorrow.