Where am I?

Created this blog to document my travels, experiences & thoughts thru Central & South America but hell plan to blog my travels to where ever. Goofy harmless Free Spirit hoping to spend most of my time with locals & enjoy the world! So hang on as I travel, drink cervezas, raise a little hell, maybe piss off a few people & hopefully not give Canadians a bad reputation! Of course don't do these things on purpose but while having a good time well "Shit Happens"!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ended up staying almost 3 weeks in Venezuela! Cuz found Chavez Country interesting!

The 2 things that make Venezuela interesting to me are Hugo Chavez and where he’s leading the country. Also it’s about the currency rate you change your foreign currency on the Black Market! So when I entered Venezuela from Columbia I took about 1,600,000 Pesos which is about $800 USD. If I was to take $800 from the ATM I’d get the official rate of 1600 Bolivars. While if I exchanged it on the Black Market I’d get about 4000 Bolivars. This Black Market rate fluctuates but around 5.1%. So a person can make their stay in Venezuela almost affordable by exchanging on the Black Market! So in a weird way it’s a challenge to get a good exchange and make money to spend!

Venezuela is an Opec country and the 5th greatest oil producer in the world. However you’d never notice it cuz the infrastructure is falling apart! But their gas prices are the lowest in the world. A person can fill their car with 45 liters of gas for 2.5 Bolivars or $1.50. So most of the people drive ands a lot of the cars are old beaters – like my old Betsy!

Hugo Chevez just got a Si vote in the Referendum vote 2 wks ago so he is basically the president for life! I’ve talked to a few Venezuelans and most don’t like Chevez. But it’s like Bush, everyone hated him but he still got elected. He is anti American and takes pride in it as he seems to saddle up to countries opposed to the US.

He also has some really odd policies that leads to problems within the country! H has told the poor people that they can go build homes on large farms of rich people who are using it productively! This leads to skirmishes as the owners are protecting their farms! Before his last Referendum Vole he told the people that people owning more than 1 car may have the extras taken away and given to poor people! Most of these policies smell of Communistic ideals!

One thing that’s great about Venezuela is the bus trips are cheap! I tavelled from Columbia on an overnight bus across the country and it cost me about $10. Must say the food sold at Rest Stops in Venezuela are both non appealing and a bit strange. We stopped at a rest stop in the middle of the night and I bought an octopus sandwich! Now I don’t mind pickled octopus but it kind of makes the bun soggy. But it was either that or some greasy bun! I must say I ate a few of them and think I gained some weight travelling there! The buses in Venezuela are really great and better than the planes except they take so much longer! The problem in Venezuela is the same as all Central & South American country as they keep the a/c in the buses at the same temperature day or night! I can get by with flip flops, shorts and a long sleeve shirt! But most people wear coats and bring blankets or sleeping bags!

The bus stations are a lot more efficient than the ferry terminals. We had to take a ferry to Isla De Margarita to go to the airport to get to Trinidad/Tobago cuz the ferry going there only ran Wed to Wed. So we had to wait in line for 2 hrs to buy the tkt for the 2 hr ferry!
When I returned from Trinidad to Venezuela well true to the Trinidad culture the flt back was late! So it was 8 pm when I went to the ferry terminal to catch a ferry back to the mainland, I waited a hr in line only to get to the front and find out that the person ahead of me bought the last tkt. Now I had paid 50 B or $13 for a taxi from the airport to the ferry. Then another $13 to go back to town for a hostel that night! Then early the next morning had to spend $13 to get back to the ferry. So I spent another 2 hrs in line only to find out that there was no ferry running due to the Referendum Vote! But it’s hard to get information if there was going to be a ferry or if it was cancelled. So I spent another $13 for a taxi from the ferry to the airport only to find that flt to the mainland was full that day! So I said shit on it and bought a tkt for the next day! So I had to return to town for $13 and return to the airport the next day another $13. So I paid $78 for taxi fare cuz I missed the ferry by one person.

Met a Moroccan & Canadian guy one night on Margarita one night as the Moroccan owned a stand that sold sharwarma’s (or gyros, donair) which is the Arab name for it. There are a lot of Arabs & Iranians in Venezuela as Chevaz is saddling up with the Iranians. We got to talking and they told me they could get cheap plane tkts in Caracus using Black Market money. So I told them I had to return to Canada for a month so Tony the Moroccan said he could get me a cheaper tkt. He was going to Caracus the largest city in Venezuela for business the next day. So we took the same overnight bus and got there at 6 am. He got a hotel to shower and go to a meeting which let me sleep and wait for him. I had a few USD so we went to a money changer Cambio. Then he got me an Air Canada tkt Caracus to Vancouver to Caracus for $825. He told me he could get a plane tkt to Caracus cheaper at any time.

I had to wait 10 days to get my flight so I decided to head to Merida which is a great outdoor adventure area! But here’s where I screwed up things! I was short of Bolviars so I thought I’d go to the ATM and take just enough to cash to get a bus to the Columbia to get some Pesos so I could exchange them on the Black Market! But like a fool I took 1000 Bolivars and not 300 Bolivars like I planned to do! So I basically took out $500 instead of $200 as I planned. So I had more than enough Bolivars to get a bus.

But like an idiot that I am I bought a ticket to Maracaibo and not Merida! But it was still close to Columbia. So I thought I’d take the shared taxi to the border and not a bus! So I went down and caught a taxi but there was only me and I was too impatient to wait for 3 other passengers. So I took the taxi myself and it cost me about $100. Yeah that was my biggest mistake! But when I went to the ATM in Columbia I made a mistake and only took $200 in Pesos and not $400 as I had planned.

I took an overnight bus to Merida and was planning to go on a Paragliding flight and a Wildlife Trip! But I realized that I didn’t have enough Bolivars to go on them. So I could either forget about doing it or I found out I could get money wire transferred to this Tour company’s US bank account. So I contacted my ex-wife in Canada and had her wire the funds. So I got enough Bolivars to pay for my Paragliding and Wildlife Trip!

They were both fun and great to do!

My money hadn’t been received yet but decided what the heck live dangerously so went Paragliding hoping that my money gets wired OK. Heck u probably think that Paragliding is living dangerously. But hey the only danger I felt was that most people get a feeling of seasickness when going down! Well I get a lot of motion sickness anyhow but shit can't let that stop me! I'm not really able to scuba dive as get claustrophobia! So I have to head up to get my adrelaine rushes! I've tried Sky Diving and it was awesome So I've always wanted to go Paragliding and/or Handgliding! I like the feeling of floating like a bird with out a care! As it makes me thing of being a true Free Spirit!
Merida is in the start of the Andes here in Venezuela. It's a place where a lot of travellers and vacations come to hike, paraglide, rock climb, see wildlife that only exists in this area, camp, etc. Paragliding here costs approx $60 to do which is a lot less than back home! Of course I had to go tandem with an experienced glider1 But I wouldn't have it any other way! He was a Venezuelan guy who has paraglided and handglided for 25 years here in Venezuela, Canada & Europe! Since it was my first time we waited till late afternoon till the winds calmed down. The mtn we went to has a lot of winds coming up from sort of a desert type area. So there can be a bit of turbulence from the heat rising up the side of the mtn. So we drove up a mtn that is about 1800 m. The drive and view a lone were awesome. But when we got to the top there were a lot of other gliders. Some doing it alone but a few tandem like we were doing.

In Paragliding they have a rectangular parachute with a seat and of course straps to control the flight. The passenger (me) sits in front of the glider. We also sit in a seat and can take pictures or whatever. When u'r on top of a mtn it gets really windy and u figure u'd get tossed all over the place. But the most wild part of the ride is when u first take off. Cuz the parachute fills with wind and so most tandems have to get someone to hold u still until the glider gets the chute and straps in the correct position. Then the person holding u still lets go and off u glide! Wow it's a bit different than jumping out of a plane! But u still have the experience of floating off a the top of a mtn over a deep valley! The wind caught us and lifted us up and away but in a real smooth ride! It was amazing how much control the glider has to raise, lower and turn our position. It seemed like we could float on top of the mtn for as long as the wind was present. So we circled the people who were still on the ground and lowered to a height which was only a meter off the ground or we could have also landed if we wanted. But we could also rise to 50 m above the mtn in a few seconds. I was able to just sit there and relax without holding on to the straps! But being my first time I was holding on to the straps in the event I fell. But of course I was totally strpped on to the chute. My only feelings was a feeling of seasickness in my stomach but by taking in deep breathes and exhalling it was better. But the glider brought a barf bag just in case. We circled around and glided for 45 mins and loweed oursellves down the mtn as we went. I found that the descending down sort of gave me a feeling of seasickness. But I got some awesome views of the mtn, river and valley below directly above them. When we finally descended to the valley floor my stomach was realling turning but didn't barf!
My glider was very experienced and we landed right in the landing circle on the ground while others landed all over the place. Once we landed I got a real turning stomach, a bit of headache like I do when I get motion sickness as maybe it's from the circling to land! The glider suggested we have a cerveza but my stomach was turning and I had to turn him down unfortunately. I also suddently felt very tired even if I just sat there as the passenger. I was told my physical feelings were normal for my first glide! His theory is a person is so relaxed and free in flight that when we land all our old feelings return. I don't know if I buy that theory cuz can't say a person on their first fllight is totally relaxed. But I will say that it's an awesome feeling and will surely try it again. But would also like to try handgliding as my glider told me he does that too but the handgliding equipment is very expensive to do tandem but he has his own solo equipment and teaches people. He says he's gone a 100 mile handgliding and wants to go on vacation handgliding but his wife won't let him go alone!
Anyway even if I went paragliding without having the actual money to do in my hands I thought it was worth hoping my wired funds come in or the flight will be twice as expensive using my credit card!
I got some good pictures but feel I could get better pictures if I had been gliding before!

Went on a great 3 Night / 4 Days trip to check out the wildlife of Venezuela. Drove in 4X4 thru mtns to hike to hot springs& hike between 2 lakes. Then onwards to flatlands to see the wildlife there!

We needed to take a trip with a Tour Company cuz we wouldn't have found the wildlife or accomadations on our own out there! Got a variety of things seen and done! Plus we ate 3 awesome meals a day. Cuz as Luis the guide said 4 Kg in 4 days! Well if the food is all u can eat and good, well I like to get my money's worth! Matter of fact I think I gained 5 kg's but hey who's counting or cares cuz there can be weeks when I eat 1 meal! Heck when Snake and I did the 6 day trek to the Lost City in 4 days, my only regret was missing out on the 2 days of great comida!
Anyways we went out south east of Merida which is near the Columbian border. Merida is a great outdoor recreation area. I had to get out cuz I was spending too much time there.
But in our trip to Los Llamos we hiked trails between 2 lakes and also to a hot springs! Saw some Condors (the world's largest flying bird), caught an anaconda (3 meters long & powerful), saw multi Cayman reptile (looks like a small alligator or crocodile), Capybara (the world's largest rodent), giant anteater, fresh water dolphins, hundreds of beautiful birds, Venezuelan turtles, etc.

Went on a 3 hr ride on a horse with no restriction on whether we walked, trotted or galloped! Still have a sore ass on that one!
But I'd say that this trip was like a Safari I did in Kenya in 2007. But we could get out and check things out as I walked in my flip flops! Oh yeah we got to fish for Piranhas (am a shitty fisherman so didn't catch one) & then ate them as they are delicious!
Again it's hard to judge the beauty of the area from my crappy pictures!

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