Jun 30 2008

154 Days – Manaus, Brasil – Valencia, Venezuela

Published by at 1:00 pm under xAmerica

We docked in Manaus Sunday night, but we could disembark until Monday morning because nobody was working at that moment. Last night on the balsa; these days have come and gone in a blink of an eye. All that is relative to time, its relation with human acts, nature and the nothing-everything that surrounds us, has been proved during the opening and closing of the eyes before Monday’s dawn. Usual maneuvers to disembark, sincere goodbye from the crew; again on dry land.

Accompanied by Everton, (P)a member of the personnel of the shipping company Sanave, we were able to see some of the port: the fair, the market where, (P)we would know later, we said goodbye to the churrasco, the Amazonas Theater (P). Walls, oil paintings hanging from the vaults; spices that confuse your sense of smell (P), giant fishes, headless chickens, dead pigs with a smile on their lips, homeless people who look for life’s leftovers, women that nobody wants on their bed; delirious substance of Amazonic confusions.

After a brief stop in Presidente Figuereido to update the web page, we head on towards Boa Vista, very close to the Venezuela border, through a road that is destroyed (P)and practically impassable. This road crosses the Wamuri Atroairi Indian Reservation, over which we had received several warnings. The townspeople have defined a schedule from 6 AM to 6 PM for people passing through the area and it is not recommended to stop at any time during the trip. Some of the recommendations seemed exaggerated, some of the stories seemed ridiculous: kidnappings, reduced heads, I don’t know. At the end we decided to avoid proving the degree of veracity. The myth hunters pass using a different path.

Crossing the border turned out to be relatively simple (P). The penalty we had talked about was applied, but it can be cancelled if you go back to Brazil. We suffered a big scare, because by exceeding the valid term of the car permit, they wanted to charge us another penalty fee that was 10% of its value. For an instant everything collapsed inside of us (as Manuel Alejandro would say), but finally it was all settled among sad faces and pleas in Portunish.

On the Venezuelan side, first surprise, roads in perfect conditions (P). We had to find gasoline in Santa Elena and, second surprise, here it is very cheap: full tank for 4 dollars. After traveling through Brazil, this was a happy place for our eight cylinders. There we met brothers Victor and Moises Torrealba (personnel from the local government’s social communication department), who selflessly helped us find a place to spend the night, find economic food and have some cold beers (P). Also thanks to their help we avoided long lines to find gasoline, a problem directly related to the cost-benefit proportion of the gasoline between Venezuela and Brazil. We say goodbye to the Torrealba brothers, convinced that things would turn out well in Venezuela.

“The horse is given savanna because it is old and tired…” This verse is part of a typical song of the region known as Gran Sabana (Great Savanna), located in the state of Bolivar (P). It has an abundance of waterfalls to which you can get from the road, after traveling a few kilometers. (P)

If you have read “The Lost World”, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (better known for his “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”), or have seen the movie based on that novel, you must know that both were inspired by the physical geography present in the Roraima Park, (P)located in the surroundings of Gran Sabana. Pushed by the bad weather, we were forced to satisfy ourselves with a panoramic view, from the closest point you could get to on four wheels. It is possible to guess the mystery hidden by the mountains that guard clean water, gigantic ferns, (P)interweaved vegetation, natural and maddening silence. This combination of elements could make us remember, if memory wasn’t a human invention, a time without men, without names, without words.

The journey continues and guarded by the Orinoco River we resume course. In Bolivar city we made contact with Maru, Venezuelan friend who had followed our adventure with lots of interest since the beginning. At last, having Puerto Ordaz as scenario, we meet personally. Maru is a resourceful girl, determined. There are no obstacles between her and her goals for every day, every instant of an existence filled with sweet novelties.

With a temporary member of the crew we head towards Maturin where Ronald, friend of Maru and immediately friend of ours, showed us some of the city attractions: cathedral, parade grounds, shopping center, etc. All this while enjoying refreshing drinks of various brands, colors and tastes. Greetings to Ronald and his brother Olivier. We will see each other in Mexico, maybe. (P)

After enjoying a concert and an exhibition of photography, (P)paintings and sculptures in the La Llovizna park, we set camp in Playa Colorada following the instructions of Ronald, and on the next day we reach Valencia, the hometown of Maru and her family, where we were kindly received.

Under the guidance of Belky, a girl from Caracas with quick phrases and unbeatable willingness, we visited the Venezuelan capital, located two hours from Valencia. Bolivar Avenue, National Cemetery (P), Silence Towers (P), Government Palace, El Hatillo neighborhood. Caracas dazzles by its chronological mixture, ethnic combination that makes it set itself on the broadest of cultural spectrums. But it also suffocates with its terrible vehicular traffic, the city paranoia, fear lurking over every home (P). Perpetual claire-obscures of the Latin-American micro-history.

Good luck seems to reach us in Venezuela. We were interviewed by an important local newspaper, El Carabobeño (P), and a local TV station (P). We thank them for their interest and hope for positive results to our voyage. (P)

We also want to thank, and very specially, the Lozada family for all their attentions. Chatting with them meant recovering regional customs, family traditions, past times that take root in the deepest part of a genealogy of hospitality and good treatment. Part of our odyssey stays here, in the company of Maru, Mrs. Dulce and Mr. Pedro (P). Memories will travel frequently towards these hot corners of the Venezuelan soul.

We will be in contact soon. Goodbye, and until next time when America allows us to meet again

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