Handbags at dawn

Maicao Travel Blog

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In the last few weeks, things have gone completely tits up between Chavez and Uribe, the leaders of Venezuela and Colombia.  They've had a little falling out over Colombia's decision to allow the US to use some military bases there. So Chavez has just decided to stop trade between the two countries and the borders are in chaos!! So it means whichever way you go overland, you are likely to have some kind of inconvenience.

From the LP's advice, I took a por puesto from Maracaibo to Paraguachon (BsF60/US$10/£7), which was pretty simple.  It was a lot quicker than the local bus and took only 2 hours.  It was also quicker going through the 6 or 7 military checkpoints on the way...on a bus it would take ages to do all the checks!  The driver dropped me off in Paraguachon to pay my departure tax (BsF55/US$9/£6.50) and then took us the Venezuelan immigration point.  Because of the unrest there are protests/blocks across the road, so it is difficult and slow for vehicles to get through.  As a passenger, it meant I had to get out and bascially walk across the border, about 1km through the no-mans-land until I got to the Colombian border post (signposted 'DAS').  It was simple enough getting in, just the usual questions about where I was staying and for how long etc, but soon I was all stamped up and ready to go!  I changed up some money, getting rid of my Venezuelan Bolivars for 280 C Pesos each.

The road is blocked on the Venezuelan side as well, so I had a sweaty 15 minute walk past the police barriers to the congregation point where cars and vehicles seemed to be holed up.  Quite a bizarre experience seeing loads of people walking each way with all their worldly possessions! There were no por puestos because of the dispute, just moto-taxis - so I had no option but to travel the 12km into Maicao on the back of a motorbike, 20kg backpack n all - safe??! The driver tried to rip me off for 20,000 pesos (US$10/£7), but I just pleaded ignorance and gave him 10,000 - I thought he was going to hit me at one point!  Stupid twat, there's creaming a little extra off because of a dispute and then there's just trying to blatantly rip people off.

Getting a bus for Santa Marta was easy enough, loads of people selling tickets and plenty of buses.  I got one about 15 minutes later and was soon snoozing off for the 4 hour journey, completely knackered, as the results of Miss World played on the TV (Miss Venezuela won yet again, what a surprise!!)....

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