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Five Days in Venezuela, December 1999

Day 5: The Great Venezuela Bus Tour

December 15, 1999

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Morning was strange as well. I slept fitfully after 4, thinking in dreams that I should get up and have a shower and hit the road. An early start would be better than later if I wanted to make Caracas before mugging time (although any time was mugging time in Caracas). The promise of hot water turned out to be a pipe dream. There was no water at all in the morning, not even for flushing. People there didn't leave the pumps on all night on the off chance you might want to shower in the morning. I was out the door by 6:30. There was no one around at all. I had to leave the 8000 on a chair in my room.

Even the streets, or more accurately, the one road, was practically deserted. There seemed to be no obvious place to go to get transport other than take my chances on what whizzed by. The only place that seemed to be any kind of transport hub was way back up the mountain and I didn't want to walk it. Eventually a cab pulled into view, a 60's American clunker. The driver seemed to be about to pass me by, but stopped up the road. There was already a passenger in the front seat and when I reached the cab I saw there was a boy stretched out under a blanket in the back seat. They were going to Sto. Domingo and offered to take me for 2000 bs. I readily agreed and hopped in.

The road went back by the park entrance which was completely fogged in. I wondered if it would lift, but good days had always had high cloud cover all morning, the mists only settling in mid-day. It didn't matter, but it looked like I had been there on a good day. The road then descended along the sierras till we came out of the clouds which hung above in an impenetrable ceiling while all was clear on the hillsides below. The scenery was dramatically alpine, with church spires poking incongruously above the trees in little villages from time to time. Eventually we pulled into Sto. Domingo and I was dropped at the square and told there would be transport there to Barinas.

There was no one in the square but me and a line of taxi drivers. One of the drivers pulled away with a passenger and upset some beer cans that had been left in the road. Amazingly, another driver came over to pick up the cans. I made small talk with him. He said people there had no conscience, just threw their trash anywhere. Sin basura mas hermoso was the imparque motto, and maybe it was trickling down to some of the people in the region. The driver told me a camionette would be along momentarily, and when it appeared he made sure that I knew to grab it.

The ride out of the mountains into Barinas was one of those local transport experiences. The road continued along the mountainside past a dam in the narrow valley that formed a lake amid the trees. The driver was road jockey and disk jockey, plying us with selections from screeching salsa to latino (what's the seattle sound). The music played continuously, the van had a wobble at low velocities, people got in and got off, and eventually we came out of the mountain roads where we'd been creeping along to the flat highway leading from Barinitas to Barinas.

Barinas was a sprawling city at almost sea level. Here I would start my bus journey back to Caracas on roads south of the coastal sierras. The van dropped me at the bus station at 10 and by 11 I was on a coach for Caracas. It was comfortable with reclining seats and low-key a/c. There were tv's on board but so far they haven't come on. It's even quiet now. Maybe I'll catch a nap. Not much to see out the windows. Just flatlands.

The next part of the story ...
Night 5: Running the gauntlet in Caracas

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Last updated: December 23, 1999