Santa Helena - crossing the border to Venezuela

Santa Helena Travel Blog

 › entry 170 of 177 › view all entries
Burning-off on the Gran Sabana, near Santa Helena, Venezuela.

25 September:
The night bus last night dragged on for 14 hours, then had to go another 4 hours on a different bus to get across the border to Venezuela.  The second bus broke down, so that added to the time - were very glad to arrive at Santa Helen this afternoon.  Did have a spot of bother leaving Brazil, though.  It seems that although we had written visas for 90 days into Brazil, when we came across the border at Foz do Iguassu, we were only given 40 days, so we`d actually been illegal for over 40 days.  They have charged us R300 each, which is paid next time we come to Brazil.  We intend to challenge this, as the border guard actually asked us how long we would be in Brazil, we told him 85 days, he said OK and gave our stamped passports back without making it clear that we had only been given 40 days.

Wildflowers in the Gran Sabana.
  We do realize we should have checked more carefully, but we did not think that a government official would be so devious as to do this - more fool us, and just one more reason that we do not intend to return to Brazil if we can help it.  It also turned out that everyone in our group who crossed at Iguassu had the same issue, and one other guy just scraped into his time, the 40 days finishing today!  Therefore, triple check your stamps if you enter Brazil at the Argentinian-Brazilian border and make sure you are given enough days to cover your trip.  Just because you`re entitled to 90 days, and there is no reason why you should not get it, you will not necessarily get the 90 days!
The hotel in Santa Helena (Backpackers, formerly Hotel Michelle) is quite basic, but Terry`s brother Rawlins lives across the street so we spent all of this evening over there enjoying ourselves.
Noel and Melissa at Jaspe Creek, Gran Sabana.
  He also does cheap food and phone calls, so called Melissa`s sister in Australia.  Went for a quick walk around town - it seems that pizzas and Chinese are the most popular foods here, because every second shop sells this type of food.

26 September:
Had a great day, an excursion to the Gran Sabana was included in our trip and it was fantastic.  Our guide, Roberto, was very knowledgeable and a fun guy - his iPod music was especially enjoyable!  Visited several waterfalls and swimming holes, including a creek where the whole river bed is red stone called jaspe.  It is very slippery, but quite impressive to look at.  Had lunch at a small kiosk at one of the waterfall parks, nice grilled chicken with rice and salad to which we added the local specialty - hot sauce made with termites!  It actually tastes really good.

Noel at a waterfall, Gran Sabana near Santa Helena.
  Stopped at an indigenous village on the way home, but very little was open.  Also saw a lot of burning-off on the savannah - the guide told us that the local indigenous people do it for agricultural reasons, but seeing as they don´t actually use the land for agricultural purposes, no-one is really sure of the point.  When we got home, Terry bought us all a delicious canteloupe melon juice, then went out and got rum, coke and beer.  Had a bit of a party tonight, most enjoyable evening.

27 September:
Did an optional excursion today, which was not quite so exciting.  Terry´s brother, Rawlins, took us out into the jungle along rough dirt roads, very rough at times.  Saw a dead snake on the road, and found out that it`s one of the dealiest in the jungle.

Wild orchids, Gran Sabana.
  It eats fireflies, and hunters often get bitten because it attacks their torches at night.  We took a quick walk into the vegetation (looking closely for big snakes with a diamond pattern on the back!) to try the water from a vine Rawlins cut - it leaks fresh, clean water when cut, and has apparently saved many people lost in the jungle. 
Our first main stop was at an illegal diamond and gold mine.  People just go in and set up camp, and the government doesn`t do anything about it.  We were given a demo of gold/diamond panning, but nothing came up.  The miners had a few stones in a little jar around their neck, and we could have bought a stone for US$50, but not very impressive.  The life looks incredibly hard, but they always hope for the big find.
Swimming hole, Gran Sabana.

Then arrived at a small cafe near a waterfall to try a juice made of a jungle fruit and a big slab of chocolate cake.  We walked down to the waterfall, but after the ones we saw yesterday, it wasn`t so impressive.  Also within 5 minutes of arriving, it got very busy with every man and his dog turning up for a swim.  Lunch was pretty ordinary - Melissa´s came with a bonus grasshopper, ant and chicken gizzard in the noodle stir-fry (more protein, we guess!).  Last stop was a climb up the mountain to the viewpoint where you can see where the savannah meets the jungle.  Noel did it, Melissa did not, and the delineation was not very obvious.  Seemed like a lot of hard-work for not a lot of reward!  Still, good exercise.We also apparently passed through a famous hippy village, but didn`t spot any hippes - in fact, almost didn´t spot the village either.  Home in time for a shower before getting on our very last night bus for the trip - yay!

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Burning-off on the Gran Sabana, ne…
Burning-off on the Gran Sabana, n…
Wildflowers in the Gran Sabana.
Wildflowers in the Gran Sabana.
Noel and Melissa at Jaspe Creek, G…
Noel and Melissa at Jaspe Creek, …
Noel at a waterfall, Gran Sabana n…
Noel at a waterfall, Gran Sabana …
Wild orchids, Gran Sabana.
Wild orchids, Gran Sabana.
Swimming hole, Gran Sabana.
Swimming hole, Gran Sabana.
Tepuy, Gran Sabana, near Santa Hel…
Tepuy, Gran Sabana, near Santa He…
Another swimming hole, Gran Sabana…
Another swimming hole, Gran Saban…
Panning for gold and diamonds, nea…
Panning for gold and diamonds, ne…
Some of our miner´s lucky finds -…
Some of our miner´s lucky finds …
View of the immense Amazon Jungle …
View of the immense Amazon Jungle…
View of a tepuy (table mountain), …
View of a tepuy (table mountain),…
Santa Helena
photo by: sissanoel