Part 1 of our travels on Venezuela was in Los Llanos, where we met a lot of beautiful people (find it here). From here we drove to the Andes, which centered on driving mountainous roads through breathtaking landscapes.
As we drove from the boiling hot plains into the cool, green mountains it felt as if we were redoing our trip Kolkata to Sikkim (India), some ten years ago. As we drove higher, the region became cleaner. It was nice, for a change, not to see garbage all over the place. The asphalt was perfect, the air fresh. Although the views must have been stunning we didn’t see any because of fog.
We stayed in Mérida for a couple of days, mostly to sit behind our laptops in a hotel with WiFi to work on articles, websites and emails. The bomberos (fire station) let us camp in their parking lot and we could use their bathroom and shower. Mérida felt relaxed. We found a nice restaurant to eat good vegetarian food and tried to get some spare parts for the Land Cruiser. The latter was a bit of a struggle and the parts turned out to be of inferior quality.
Pico El Aguila (Collado del Condor)
In the Andes Mountains of Venezuela we came across one of our favorite mountain passes in all of South America (find more of our favorites here). Fortunately the weather had cleared, allowing us to take in breathtaking views of the surroundings. On our way up there we strolled around in a 400-year-old, friendly and colorful town called Mucuhíes.
We decided to drive on for a bit and came across a turn-off to Parque El Condor. It was not mentioned in our ten-year-old guidebook and a pleasant surprise. We camped in the parking lot, which was deserted after five pm, and went for a beautiful hike, if somewhat short because we arrived late afternoon.
The pass itself is at an altitude of 4007 meters. We bought a coffee at one of the road stalls on the summit, checked out the little chapel (closed) and continued a fantastic drive downhill. Hairpin curves, views, silence, perfect asphalt. A feeling of peace and tranquility reigned.
In Piñango we left the main road and took a narrow dirt road, which for small vehicles with high clearance is recommended (trucks probably won’t be able to cross the bridge in the village because of width). Stunning scenery. Lots of cloud forest.
Lago Maraicabo and to Valera
We camped along the lakeside after locals had assured us it was safe. We had hoped to see something of the lighting spectacle for which the region is famous but we left three days later without having seen any of it. The book says you should go in the dry season, the locals say it’s best during the wet season. Take your pick.
Meanwhile it was Easter and the roads were clogged. Lots and lots of checkpoints while we returned to the mountains. In Valera Coen saw the left-rear wheel covered in oil. Not good. Worse: it was Saturday afternoon. Everything would be closed until Monday.
Coen was fed-up with car stuff, it was bloody hot and humid, and hotels costs next to nothing so we treated ourselves to a stay in a three-star hotel! Even after traveling on the continent for eight years we have ‘firsts’ (the only two times we stayed in a hotel before was because I had food poisoning and needed to be next to a bathroom).
It took a week to get the car problem fixed. Through the Internet Coen met Ezio and together they shopped around, ended up bringing parts from A to B until all was well. Thanks Ezio, for your help! Meanwhile I amused myself by typing away behind on my laptop. I wanted to go for walks but whereas I felt at ease in Mérida, I didn’t as much in Valera. Downtown, yes, no problem, but just one or two streets away from the plaza and hustle and bustle I felt I shouldn’t walk there. Unnecessarily scared or intuition? I choice the latter.
I wanted to go for walks but whereas I felt at ease in Mérida, I didn’t as much in Valera. Downtown, yes, no problem, but just one or two streets away from the plaza and hustle and bustle I felt I shouldn’t walk there. Unnecessarily scared or intuition? I choice the latter.
In the Countryside
From Valera we took the smallest roads possible, wanting to extend our journey in this region. It was a lovely drive to and even though the weather wasn’t great and didn’t give many opportunities to take photos. Easter was approaching and on Good Friday people were preparing the Stations of the Cross for the procession (? if you call it that) that evening. They simply tagged a paper to the wall or made small altars or shrines to indicate the 14 stations.
The journey brought us through Trujillo (old, from 1557), San Lazaro and Santiago (both very colorful and clean), and Jajo.
We really enjoyed our stay in the Andes. After the heat of Los Llanos we appreciated the cooler temperatures. While we didn’t have as many special contacts as in Los Llanos, people in the Andes were very friendly and helpful. We wouldn’t mind returning here.
From here it was an absolutely boring, long, monotonous drive straight through the country all the way east, to Ciudad de Bolivar. Lots of checkpoints that caused many traffic jams. Officials have been friendly enough and haven’t given us any problems. And, of course, we continued to fuel up at the unmaintained gas stations. But he, who is complaining? The fuel is for free.