Friday, January 14, 2011
Puerto La Cruz to Ciudad Bolivar. 211 miles
The ferry back to the mainland was better for us than going out. We were on a cargo ship and so were allowed to stay in the RV whilst at sea. Sailing at midnight meant we got to sleep in our bed during the journey and Winston was not crated, much to his relief. Truck drivers set up hammocks and after showering, most settled in for the night. We soon fell asleep to the gentle rolling of the huge ship and were awakened at about 5am to the sounds of car horns and truck movement. We lined up and were the first on the elevator. The ship is two stories and we, along with other smaller trucks are on the upper deck; the huge semis are on the lower. Two trucks fit on the elevator at a time and are slowly lowered. After getting off the boat, we immediately went to the Gran Casino to park the RV and wait for daylight. I stayed up and read whilst Tom went back to sleep for a few hours. After a quick breakfast, we set off for Ciudad Bolivar. This is a two day trip with the first night spent in El Tigre at one of the many gas station/truck stops. We found a supermarket, replenished our supplies and Friday morning found us on the road early. It is New Years Eve and we want to be in the town and parked before it gets too crazy. As we approach Ciudad Bolivar from the mountains we can see the Orinoco River meandering its way to the sea and the Angostura Bridge, the only bridge to span the Orinoco as all other crossings must be by ferry. The suspension bridge is gleaming white in the sunlight and the city looks huge with high-rise office and hotel buildings. The city, made famous in the early 1800’s by Simon Bolivar as his base of operations has been thriving ever since. There is a spectacular historic old town and it is a starting point for the small aircraft that take tourists to Canaima and Angel Falls. We are trying to find a posada that we had read about in a guide book and after asking directions and getting lost and then hiring a taxi only to have him take us to the wrong place, we were beginning to despair. Tom went into another posada (small hotel) and asked if they could help. They made a phone call and then told us to go back to Via Aeropuerto and look for a travel agency. Once there, a gentleman called Peter would take us to the posada. As we were driving on Via Aeropuerto, an SUV overtook us, pulled up in front and a man got out. “Are you Peter?” we ask. “No, I am Luis but follow me” he said. We passed the airport, turned off the main road onto a series of winding dirt roads and after about 15 minutes we arrived. We would never have found the posada without guidance. It is an oasis. A beautifully maintained, grassy, fenced and gated area with about a dozen cabins. A swimming pool glistened in the distance. There were also about a dozen Germans and more than a handful of Venezuelans milling around. It turns out that Peter is the owner. He is German but has lived in Venezuela for quite a number of years. Most of his business is via word of mouth and he has quite a large following. He also owns the travel agency, has his own aircraft and conducts tours not only to Canaima and Angel Falls but also to the Orinoco Delta and Merida. We are shown where to park and plug in for power. It is 5:30 and getting dark. Tomorrow we will discuss travel arrangements, he said but tonight we party, it is New Years Eve. He also asks if we want to eat with them. There will be a traditional holiday feast comprising of pork cooked with a variety of spices, potato and a few different salads. Our mouths started to water. “Of course” we said. Dinner is at seven, the party has already started, join us whenever you want, he called as he headed towards a big palapa that serves as a dining hall and general meeting place. We cleaned up and went to join the party. Most of the people spoke English and once again Tom & I are struck by the fact that Americans are totally unprepared in the second language department. Introductions are made and we soon chat with a variety of guests. The Germans are excited and monitoring their telephone screens. It is almost midnight in Germany. The countdown had begun. The dinner was good and the conversation better. More Venezuelans arrive, they on vacation from Caracas. They have bought champagne for everyone. I found it hard to believe when Peter called everyone’s attention, five minutes to midnight. The evening had flown by. We were offered champagne and as we stood and counted down the final minute of 2010, I listened to the voices, in English, in German and in Spanish. Tom and I hug and kiss and we move around, hugging and kissing our companions, strangers until a few hours ago and now friends that we shared a memorable evening with in Venezuela as we usher in the New Year and 2011. How far we have come and we are not even half way there. And how lucky we are. Happy New Year and to everyone we wish a joyous, healthful 2011.