Jul 21 2008

160 Days – Valencia, Venezuela – Cartagena, Colombia

Published by at 9:48 pm under xAmerica

Persistent rain on the road towards Maracaibo, the last stop on Venezuela, and it is impossible to see beyond 5 meters due to the amount of rain falling nonstop. Memories, goodbyes, joys, phone call to my hometown receiving not so good news and the first 500 kilometers traveling alone. A new feeling, filled with mixed emotions, with the music and the car as the only companions.

Memories of 16 countries, 43,000 kilometers and 160 days of travel rush to my mind almost at the same time, complementing the flood before my eyes.

January 26th of 2008, a small but warm farewell in Nogales, Sonora, to 3 young men who were going out to conquer the American continent with their eyes and be the first ones to travel around it by car. Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and we were feeling at last like true travelers, but in reality the budget was not enough and, on March 12th after a month and a half traveling, Abraham Guzman, one of our team members, says goodbye to us in a bus terminal to go back to Mexico and lighten the costs so the project can become a reality. Heading towards Ipiales on the border with Colombia his bus leaves us behind with sad eyes; Abraham hasn’t returned to Mexico, we believe he is still in Colombia.

Problems to obtain the Peruvian visa, an excellent friend and restaurant owner who lent us his hand in that country, “Don Clemente” is an extraordinary person, Machu Pichu, the Andean plateau that takes us to Bolivia where we made incredible friends that we will visit one day, Chile welcomes us with its desert, volcanoes and high cost of living, the beautiful lakes between Chile and Argentina, the desolated Patagonia which wrecked havoc to our tires and for the first time we had a problem with the car, something that was fixed soon and the bad moment was compensated with the beautiful snowy mountains and the Perito Moreno glacier, the Magallanes strait to reach the end of the world where a cold snow storm was waiting for us, Buenos Aires an incredible city that I will never forget, where we leave great friends who made me feel as if I was at home, the national press who treated us marvelously and has made us receive lots of e-mail1313 messages from every

 corner of the country, messages that I will answer one by one to thank and to help every one who wishes to travel around the world, Rio de la Plata that takes us to Uruguay and Montevideo which brings back sweet memories, the tropical Giant that with its size and the gasoline at 6.50 dollars per gallon we thought would never let us leave, Rio de Janeiro and an incredible week to recharge the internal energy, beautiful coastlines, nights at truck stops, the rodizio, the churrasco, constant rain storms, 8 days and 8 nights to cross the Amazon in a raft, with beautiful sunsets and lots of mosquitoes, the Gran Sabana in Venezuela, with the best waterfalls we have seen on the trip, gasoline at ridiculous low prices, only a few cents per gallon, saying goodbye in Caracas to Ulises who writes so well and always made this site have such a good account of things, and the rain with its bad visibility causes a car to enter my lane and makes me get out of the road and bring me back to reality.

Luis Manuel (P) would wait for me before crossing the bridge to Maracaibo (P) on Thursday afternoon to show me the city, and with the rain that continued they closed the bridge because strong winds come from the coast and it is dangerous for cars on the top part of the bridge. Luis Manuel, architect, guided me through the city and explained me some of the history, architecture, customs and way of life in Maracaibo. Modern city, regionalist and with big oil fields.

We wandered around most part of the city making the best of the night and the rain, combination that produced zero traffic, a strange thing in a Venezuelan city; delicious dinner courtesy of our friend, cathedral of the Chinita of Chiquinquirá (P), Bolivar Plaza, City Hall, Legislative Palace (P), shopping malls and important sites of interest in the city were showed before my eyes. It was late at night and I spend the rest of it in Luis’ house.

Six in the morning of Friday and we are ready to get to know more about Maracaibo. We begin early because that same day I would leave Venezuela to enter Colombia once again and we were hoping time would be enough to visit the oil wells and to reach a country house in Colombia with daylight to camp beside the beach. We visit the bridge, the wells (P), we have delicious little cakes of meat, cheese and chicken for breakfast, walk around the city talking, laughing, learning the Venezuelan language and listening to Latin music, something Luis is a big fan of, in fact he knows about the music of Northern Mexico perfectly.

I say goodbye to Luis around midday with my sights set on Colombia, little gasoline in the tank and lots of lines in Maracaibo to buy fuel. I continue on the road and matters get worse as I am getting closer to the border, and with no option I decide to get back in line in a service station where there were taxi drivers for the most part, but the military man in charge of the pump and the people who were also waiting to stock up, kindly invite me to move up front when they see my foreign license plates. Between jokes and smiles I was the first one to receive fuel, and even though it is not allowed they filled the cans that I carry on the car’s roof, which was great for me because it would allow me to reach Cartagena with cheap gasoline. All in all I paid six dollars for all the fuel.

Venezuela-Colombia border, the famous Guajira, women with colorful dresses (P), food stands, intense heat and once again border permits. Seals from Immigration (P), payments and I am set to enter the neighboring country, where it was actually the anniversary of the DIAN, Colombian Department of Customs, and even though it was only four in the afternoon they were not providing any kind of service for the admission of foreign vehicles. For a moment the idea of sleeping right there crossed my mind. By chance they opened the office door and in a discrete way I entered to speak with the Customs supervisor and I tell her that I’m coming from Mexico and that I need to enter her country. She thought about it for a few minutes and decided to help me.

Once again Colombian highways, military posts every couple of kilometers, almost memorized answers to their questions, tolls and the beauty of the region. Night came in unwanted fashion because I didn’t remember exactly where the country house was. Moving slowly and looking carefully, I try to find the entrance, which appears almost thirty kilometers before Santa Martha. Then, for the first time a country repeats itself, for the first time there is the same stop on the trip. It was a great feeling to see familiar faces and to have a place to sleep after traveling almost always with no course set; it was almost like getting home. Delicious fried fish and patacón (fried banana) were waiting for me in the Los Angeles country house, a nice beach, coconuts threatening to fall on top of the car and the excellent company of the owners.

Weekend on the Colombian Atlantic, waterfalls (P), jungle, white sand, visit to the Tayrona (P) park with the guidance and invitation of Nohemi Ramos, owner of the country house, a person always ready to assist travelers and tourists with her best spirit, willing to unselfishly help whoever needs it and provide certain peace of mind and calm which is so necessary when one feels lost in the world amongst the roads of America.

After a nice weekend, waking up with the sounds of the birds, dreams on a hammock and lots of new friends (P), in the early hours of Monday I go out with my sights set on reaching Cartagena to begin the search of a boat that can send my car to Panama.

Goodbye and until next time when America allows us to meet again.

To my readers, an apology for the delays in writing this chronicle. The loss of team members in this trip has affected the rhythm and state of mind. From this point on I will try to tell you every 3 or 4 days about things that America shows and gives me. Thanks a lot.


One response so far

One Response to “160 Days – Valencia, Venezuela – Cartagena, Colombia”

  1. Marc Kieleron 14 Jul 2009 at 7:23 am


    I just saw an article in some car magazine about your trip- saw your website in one of the photos and have been catching up on your experiences for the last hour. Incredible jouney you (and many others) will never forget. Thanks for sharing it with us. A trip as grand as this is one of my life long dreams that I will accomplish or atleast attempt some day. I am a gringo living in Hermosillo- Married a wonderful women from Magdalena so we are neighbors in a way. Maybe our paths will cross.
    In the meantime- be safe and enjoy the trip! I’m sure you’ve got a lot of support but if you ever get in a bind and need help- shoot me an email1313.

    all the best to you! Buena Suerte!

    Marc Kieler

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