So I had arrived to Venezuela. All papers stamped. Behind me the goddamn ocean and finally i had 8000km roads (one exception) in between me and my first destination of my travels: Uruguay. Venezuela should be easy to cross. I knew that this was the beginning. My first objective would be to get a map. A map, water and toilet paper, that’s basically all you need on the road. All the rest you find on your way. Most important now was making a move.
As I stepped out of the dubious Immigration Office chance gave me a call and put a white Chevrolet in front of me with two men stepping out. I had already recognized them on the boat. Short question if they can pick me up. My first ride found me! We hit the road. The passenger was Croatian and the driver Venezuelan. He was going faster than all the others, I appreciated that. I had no idea where we were going since I did not had time to buy a map. But they ensured me it would be on the way. Also, they had beautiful latino music playing and I was able to enjoy my first south american kilometers with astonishment and delight.
The ride went on for several hours and it was already dark when we arrived to Carupano. To my wonder the city was right next to the ocean in the middle of the pirate and smugglers area. The beach was full with tires and wracked ship parts. Not looking like alot of beachlife is going on here. Some morbid charme was radiating from the city. Many things in ruins and run down. But friendly, somehow. I liked that place. First thing was to print my route to Brazil in an Internet Cafe. And then, finally, hitchhiking at night. I had waited long for that.
Venezuelian nights are long
But… joy found its depression on the way to my road. When I was captured by some Venezuelans, looking doubtfully at me. They brought me to their illegal house on the beach where the whole family was gazing at me, unbelieving what this stranger in the yellow suit is doing here in the night. Finally they put me to the local bus station close to the Internet Cafe. I shouldn’t be hitchhiking at night, that is dangerous, favelas, pistols and so on. Head-shaking. I was a little mad because I had walked so much for nothing and started again. I still wasn’t late and enough traffic passed the road. After paying the Internet Cafe another visit to get rid of my anger about Venezuelan concerns I stomped defiantly into the night heading for my road. I walked for about an hour meeting some old, russian captains on the way that gave me a ride and finally reached Ruta 10, the road to the Brazilian border. All the way this street. Let´s go for this.
The third car stopped. A jeep with three people. We drove until the next village where I was captured again and brought to another family where the father was supposed to speak German. It became apparent that he was a former tourist guide speaking a little German but perfect English. Wonderful. I received a map, showed them my way and they offered me a sleeping place at one of the jeep-people. I had a hard time accepting. Not my way. I wanted to hitchhike through the night. But since I had a pretty long route in front of me that I wanted to take on relaxed, I accepted. It will be one of the three nights that I don’t spend on the streets for the next two weeks. In the end it was a nice evening with some Brandy, broken Spanish and a lot of fun. I slept in front of the house on my camping mat and at sunrise my hosts would bring me to the next intersection 40km further.
On the next morning, back on the streets, now it’s finally time to start. Hitchhiking in Venezuela was harder than expected. At least for me as I was standing after the first ride for a long time at an intersection. Long enough for me to go to the nearby street kitchen for some food and watch the turmoil and as the people around me. At some point i just started to walk, as always. In search of some shadow.
The Long Distance Lift
After a while a small truck with open cargo platform passed by and stopped 100m further. First I didn’t realize it but then I saw beckoning hands in the distance. I jumped onto it. No boundary between the platform and the road. Some other guy was standing there already and I joined him grabbing the roof rack and we swooshed away. Nearly two hours I spent on there trying to communicate with my buddy in broken English, often interrupted from the heavy airstream. Suddenly I saw… mountains, forests and tropical vegetation. The scenery was beautiful, it reminded me of Asia, Myanmar. The ride started to sparkle me.
Pick-Ups are one of my favourite cars in general. On the platform you are exposed to the clear sky and you can watch the panorama 360 degrees around you, if you want to and if it’s possible, depending on the driver’s style holding tight might be the priority sometimes. I was very happy with that ride and fell in love with the northern part of Venezuela. There are those moments of absolute happiness while hitchhiking. This was one of them.
Inside the car there were two woman, the driver and a young child, the child of my platform-buddy as I found out later. The small family was soon dropped at some city. We unloaded the truck, they took a picture with the strange man in his yellow suit and we drove away. Where to? South of Ciudad Bolivia they were going, half the way to the border. Wow, long distance ride, all in all I have spent 9.5 hours on that truck.
Military is my friend, more or less
In the evening we landed at Upata and again I was thrilled to – finally – hitchhike through Venezuela at night. But my ride dropped me out of safety concerns directly at a military checkpoint. Three uniformed men were sitting besides a table and were told my story. I was given a chair and advised to sit down. I had no idea what was going on so I sat down and watched the scenery. Many small trucks passed to have their papers stamped. Some of them put a wad of cash on the table, one of them 2 beheaded chicken for the soldiers, and all of them passed the checkpoint. After an hour with a lot of traffic my patience was over so I tried to explain to the officer in charge, that I would rather go into the dark after the checkpoint to continue hitchhiking as long as there was still traffic. Hey man, there is traffic. I cannot sit here and miss that. Of course he didn’t understand it and told me to sit down again and wait for a bus that would be coming soon. I always try to avoid trouble with authorities, especially if they don´t speak my language. So i sat down filled with a little bitterness.
A bus, my greatest nightmare. I don’t want to take a bus. I am hitchhiking! I was frustrated and tried to figure out how a paid bus would fuck up my hitchhiking statistics. After that I went for a beer, and another one and something to eat in a nearby pub. About two hours later the moment of truth was there. A bus stopped, going for Santa Elena, 550 km away, the last stop before the border. I was forced to charter the bus and the bus was forced to take me. Win-win situation… not really. Hitchhiking in a socialist country. First I wasn’t sure if I had to pay for it or not but figured that I could ride for free, what made me calm down a little. Technically speaking I was hitchhiking.
After arriving inside of the bus my bad conscience for riding without paying was dissolved since I didn’t even get to sit on the floor because the bus was so full. Standing. The tourist guide leading the bus was definitely pissed because of the situation but I tried to be relaxed about it. It wasn’t easy. In the middle of the bus, right behind the drivers, there was a box standing, terrorizing all passengers with way too loud latino music giving a strange blue light on each bass. I managed to get a seat on the floor after some time but it was right next to the box. It was horrible.
The ride on the bus was uncomfortable and cruel. It made me feel better to have gotten this shit for free so. But we were riding all night through and on the next morning I was at the border. As we arrived at the bus terminal I found myself in the middle of the Amazonas region, left the tourist group from the bus and wondered … where were all the trees? The southern part of Venezuela has nearly no vegetation anymore. No trees, no bushes, I still can’t explain what happened there.
I finally found my last ride at the city boundary of Santa Elena towards the border after 1.5 hours walking through the friendly equatorial sunshine. The border would cost me another 5 hours. There was a small container standing around for immigration business. Way too small for so many people. The line was approx. 50 meters long. Five hours later I was informed that this line was for immigration and for emigration there was another line. Very well organized here.
Anyway the waiting was very amusing since within the line an entertaining community constituted itself, shattered by scandal after scandal. At one point the order of the line was disrupted. People weren’t standing on their previous spots anymore, they started to discuss, to swear and always me in the center of attention giving a good point for orientation as the German in a yellow suit. People were complaining that I was now in front of them, others were told to get behind me. There was a line in front of me and one behind me and i was the center of all action.
Besides that, several old, helpless or resolute ladies periodically tried to get their stamps at the container – with brilliant theatrical effort. One lady I watched instrumentalizing her child to get to the front of the line. The mob was outraged. Everybody was watching, cursing or screaming and jeering applause rose as the officer in charge told her to leave. All the time something was going on at the Venezuelan border. At some point I had all the necessary papers and walked over to Brazil. Together with a polish bicycle traveller on his way to get some new dollars for the black market in Brazil and some Brazilian backpackers who had just visited the Angel Falls in Venezuela.
Next stage Brazil
It took me 42 hours in total for 1080km through Venezuela. I was really satisfied. Not much hassle and I managed to get through quite quickly. With Brazil in front of me I went for the upcoming 7000km with strong motivation. After filling my pack with water, a map, chocolate-milk and several Pandas. Toilet paper was still available.