A Travellerspoint blog

Ciudad Bolivar and Angel Falls

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So after a long long bus journey from Merida with a window that wouldnt stop whistling, we arrived in Ciudad Bolivar at about half 6pm. Normally this would be plenty of time to get sorted with a hostel and get some food, except everything shuts at bang on 6 for some unknown reason in Ciudad Bolivar. So we quickly checked into a small pousada and legged it to a bakery in town that was still open.
The next day we did a bit of shopping around to find a tour to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world (nearly a kilometer high). After looking around a bit we realized that most tours were the same, and most tour groups got lumped together anyway, so just went with the cheapest company- one that also gave us a couple of nights free in their hotel which was a bonus. We spent the rest of the day walking around the town, which was relatively pleasant by day, and watching fishermen chucking fish nets into the Orinoco river to kill time.

The next day was an early start to get to the airport, even though we spent a good 2+ hours sitting around doing nothing. Finally at about half 8 we bundled into the tiniest little Cessna airplane, that had room for just 5 people and the driver. Sadie was properly bricking it at this point, saying things like ´its too small´ and ´my car is bigger than this´, but by the time we´d taken off she was enjoying it. Got some awesome views of jungle and Venezuelas famous ´tepuis´, or table top mountains.

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Once we arrived in Canaima, the launch pad for Angel Falls, we had a few hours to kill which we spent on the beach. Its really strange because it looks almost like a seaside beach, with white sand and palm trees and that, but a few hundred meters away there are these two giant waterfalls, which is quite cool.

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After lunch, we got taken up to these falls to see them closer and then went for a little walk through the jungle to get to these two waterfalls that you could walk right underneath. You can actually cross from one side of the river to the other by walking behind the water, which is really cool- although you get completely soaked and the ground is pretty slippery. We also climbed up to the top of the waterfall for some really nice views of the mountains and jungle all around.

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That evening we went in search of a place selling beer, but to no avail, so a french couple shared some rum with us and we sat up chatting for a while before heading to bed. Just before settling down, Sadie made the discovery that the bathroom sink was only attatched to the wall with glue when she tried to rest her foot on it to put on some insect repellent. To most people, it would probably seem like a sensible idea not to rest your foot on the sink again, in case the sink took a bit of a tumble. Not Sadie. I was sat on the bed getting ready for the boat trip to Angel Falls when I heard a massive smash come from the bathroom. A couple of seconds later, Sadie emerges, ashen faced from the bathroom- having completely desecrated the sink, leaving shards of porcelain everywhere. Luckily we didnt have to pay for it, but I just hope it gives people an idea of what I have to put up with!

So after that small episode, we all set off on a 4+ hour boat ride through the jungle to Angel Falls. It was a really fun journey, despite all getting numb arses, with amazing views of all the table top mountains. Apparently, these tepuis were caused by millions of years of erosion, and life up there on the tables has evolved differently from anywhere else- so you get loads of endemic species of reptiles and plants, which is where the idea of The Lost World came about. Its a really cool experience being surrounded by all these bizzare rock formations jutting out of the rainforest- it almost does feel like being on a different planet!

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So eventually, having navigated some fairly tricky rapids in the canoe, we arrived at the trail head for Angel Falls. You could see the falls in the distance, and to be honest they did actually look a little more impressive from a little further away, as you get a better view of how high up they actually are. Nevertheless, we started along the trail head throught the jungle to the falls, which took a good hour and was a sweaty experience. Here is a good point to state that our guide was crap- he was about 16 years old, didnt speak any English (we had a group of non spanish speakers on the tour, who didnt have a clue what was going on), and knew less than I did about Angel Falls and the area (good old Wikipedia). We did manage to get him to tell us how high the falls were- 976 meters. Pretty big. The viewpoint of the Falls was cool too, you can see it really close up and it looks all big and waterfally.

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After that we went off to a little pool at the bottom of the falls that you can swim in in the dry season, but because its the rainy season, the currents were too strong. We had to head back pretty quick too because our guide liked to run on ahead and a bunch of Germans got lost in the jungle. So we raced back, narrowly avoiding a dangerous encounter with a deadly poisonous snake, and found them at the start of the trail head safe and sound.

That night we headed across the river and ate and slept (in hammocks) in a small shelter right across the water from Angel Falls, which was awesome. We got to watch the sun set across from the waterfalls from our shelter which was nice.

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The next day we got up at 6 and ate breakfast while watching toucans and macaws fly past the falls, and then got in the boat to head back to Canaima just as a load of clouds rolled in and obscured all the views. The journey back was a lot of fun too as we were going with the flow of the river so we sped down the rapids, nearly wrecking the boat at a few points. The views of all the tepuis covered in clouds was really eerie and cool too.

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So after flying back to Ciudad Bolivar, we spent another day in the free hotel and then hopped on a nightbus to Santa Elaina near the Brazilian border. Time was running out for us, and the country was getting expensive because we had run out of all our black market bolivares, so we darted straight across the border to Brazil and caught another nightbus down to Manaus, where we are now. Smack bang in the middle of the Amazon. Which is pretty cool.

Ps- Its 40 degrees in the shade here- killer!

Posted by St Martins 11:07 Archived in Venezuela Comments (0)

Mompos to Bucaramanga

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We left Santa Marta to try and get to a river town called Mompos. It was not an easy job, all the busses to Mompos leave at 7.30am so we decided to head to Cartagena for the night, enjoy the old town one last time and head off early the next day. On the bus to Cartagena however, we ran in to some trouble. The lady at the ticket booth had given us the wrong ticket and the conductor wanted us to either get off or pay again, so after about 30mins of discussing this in broken Spanish we gave her half and said thats all the cash we had. Was only about $3 but still it was quite annoying, but it just showed us that we should check our tickets better in future. The next morning we headed to a place called Manganue, it was not a nice place, as soon as we stopped loads of touts started shouting through the door and as we were getting our lugguage some ****-muncher tried to pick pocket me, so roughly that he nearly ripped my trouser pocket off. Luckily there was nothing in my pocket but it was a pretty horrible experience. We decided to leave the town as quickly as possible and jumped on a boat that would take us closer to mompos, after the boat we also had to take a shared taxi and finally we arrive in a the quaint river side town. We wandered around the hot streets and had some lunch at the riverside. Because its quite an effort to get to, theres not many tourists and the locals are really friendly. When we were walking back to our hostel some boys wanted us to take photos of them jumping off a derelict building in to the river, and they were really good jumpers, doing backflips and things.

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In the evening all the locals pull there rocking chair outside their houses and enjoy the evening breeze and as you walk round the village you see loads of bats flying out of the eaves. Its a really strange and lovely place. After a few days relaxing there we decided we should move on and try to get in to Venezuala. We went to the city Bucaramanga which was ok but not that interesting, the best thing about it was our room, it was pretty cheap and it had air-con and a plasma screen tv! Thats one of the good things about untouristy areas, you get more for your money! We vistited the Venezuelan embassy and they told us we needed a tourist visa and it would take three days to get. We´d heard you could get these from the border so decided to risk it and head for the border anyway and try our luck, since we couldnt be bothered to hang around for three days. Another problem was Venezuelan money, i won´t go in to it cos its confusing but basically the president wants the currency to be strong so has fixed the exchange rate at 4.3 bolivares for one dollar and it makes the country really expensive. So in the end we changed up colombian currency and got a really good deal (about 7.9 to the dollar)! So it was all good.

We headed to Cucuta which was a pretty ugly place and got a taxi to the border, we had to walk over the border and round the town looking for the migration for Venezuela and we were getting pretty worried that we were gonna get turned away. But they stamped our passport and gave us a tourist card no probs.

We´re in Merida now, its quite a nice town and theres alot of adventure sports to do here but we´re just using it as a stepping stone to Cuidad Bolivar. So tonight we´re heading on a mamoth 23 hour bus journey! But we got BusCama (bus with beds) so should be pretty nice!
So far venezuelas been good. The people are quite friendly and helpful! We´ve heard lots of bad stories but all of them are from the capital Caracas so we´ve decided to skip that!

Posted by St Martins 10:10 Archived in Venezuela Comments (0)

Taganga and Tayrona

More fun in the sun

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So after the stunning Playa Blanca beach we decided that we definately needed to see more of Colombias carribean coast, and so headed northeast over to the fishing village of Taganga, near Santa Marta. We arrived late at night in Taganga and headed straight on to Tayrona national park the next morning, so didnt really see much of the town until we got back from the park.
Tayrona park itself is a giant coastal rainforest, which conceals some pretty amazing beaches. Upon entering the park we had to wait a few minutes for a minibus to take us further into the jungle where the trail heads begin, so we sat watching a load of iguanas climbing in the trees till we left. Once we were dropped off we started the trek up to the first set of beaches, but shortly after starting a huge thunderstorm rolled in and we ended up spending ages navigating our way around giant mud puddles. An hour later we arrived soaked with sweat and rainwater at the first beach, a huge stretch of sand peppered with giant boulders, which was pretty cool- the storm gave it a eerie misty sort of look too, which made for a nice photo.

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We were dying to cool off in the sea, despite the rainstorm, but there were signs all along the beach telling us that hundreds of people had died along this stretch of beach because of rip-currents, so decided to keep going until the next set of beaches.
After walking along the coast for a while we made it to a cool little beach called la piscina, or ´the swimming pool´, which is a little cove sectioned off from the ocean by a load of partially sumberged rocks- by this time though the walk had taken us longer than we had expected and we wanted to get to a beach called ´El Cabo´ to meet some friends before it got dark, so we pressed on.
We finally arrived and got sorted with (expensive) hammocks in a little hut at the beach, where we met up with the australian couple we had spent Sadies birthday with, spending the rest of the evening watching the storm with some beers.

The next day was perfect weather and we spent all of it chilling on the awesome beach and swimming in the sea, that was peppered with shiny gold algae- giving it a really cool shimmering effect. The beach was pretty much my idea of a perfect beach, blue sea, golden sand, palm trees everywhere, and dense rainforest just behind the sand.

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That evening another massive electrical storm rolled in and we all sat there drinking, trying to get good photos of lightning, and trying to catch giant frogs.

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The next day we all trekked back through the jungle, having a lot of trouble getting around the mud left from the night before, stopped for an awesome fish lunch, and eventually made it back and met up for dinner in Taganga. We had a pretty cool night out, back in town where we ate the best steaks ever at about 4 quid a pop, took full advantage of 2 for 1 coctails and then went to a few bars- one of which was a open air rooftop nightclub.

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In the morning we spent some time exploring Taganga, which was actually pretty nice, with lots of fishing boats bobbing about, even though there wasnt really much of a beach, and the sea front was pretty touristy.

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We had planned on setting up a trek to Ciudad Perdida or ´the lost city´, which is a 6 day trek through the jungle to reach a really old set of ruins only discovered about 30 years ago. The problem was we couldnt be bothered; the heat on the coast was overwhelming, we had already done our fair share of jungle treks, and the thought of spending a whole week getting soaking wet and eaten alive by mossies wasnt our idea of fun at this point in our trip. So instead we decided to head back to cartagena and try and make our way into Venezuela.

Posted by St Martins 09:57 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

The Carribean

Cartagena and Playa Blanca

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We stepped off our comfy air conditioned bus in the humid heat of Cartagena! After a hot bus ride and walk in to town we checked in and headed out to explore the town. It rains alot in Cartagena, around 4pm each day so the first day was a bit wet but you old town was lovely, small streets full colourfull houses with flowery balconys, horses and carts, and lots of nice music flowing out of peoples houses in to the streets (they like there music loud in south america). The old town is also surrounded by a big wall made out of bricks, stones and coral! This was so that the pirates couldn´t get in cos the town was attacked loads of time! Walking round the town at night is lovely cos lots of performers and musicians take to the streets playing carribean music.

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After a few day exploring the city we headed off with some friends to a beach called Playa Blanca, you can either get there in 15 minutes by boat (the expensive way) or try to get there over land. So the group split, 4 of us tryed over land and the other two got the boat. We Started by getting a bus to a town on the outskirts of Cartagena then walking to a ferry crossing where lots of people were talking to us loudly in spanish trying to get us to go on their truck or bus, it was all very confusing. In the end a nice lady and her husband said they´d take us for a small fee so we all jumped in the back of their car and headed over the river on the ferry listening to loud reggaeton.

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We nearly got there but the road was too wet for their car so we had to get out and wade down a muddy track to the beach. We got there a found the others after about 3.5 hours. Took alot longer than the boat but was alot cheaper! The beach was beautiful with really clear waters and coral reef just off the shore, we had a swim in the warm sea and had a coconut then cracked open the carribean rum.

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Had a wicked night watching the sun set over the carribean and chatting with friends. We all slept in hammocks on the beach and all night you could hear crabs scuttling round underneath us. The next day we hired some snorkeling gear and had a swim round the reef, where we saw some awesome colourful fish and sea urchins.

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We decided to get the boat back as the return journey was quite cheap, and it was quite nice comming into cartagenas old town from, the sea- just like the pirates used to do! As it was the night before my birthday we all headed into cartagena town and went to a really nice club and had a great night (from what i can remember). You dont buy shots of rum in clubs here, you buy bottles, need i say more.

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It was a cool club too with a really mixed group of people inside so we had the chance to have a laugh with the locals and learn a bit of salse from them too, which was nice. The next day we were both a little hung over so we had a relaxing day walking round town, enjoying the air-con in our room and eating pizza.

Posted by St Martins 14:20 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Bogota and Medellin

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Well you can gather how much fun we´re having in Colombia by the lack of blogs! Colombia is amazing, theres so much to see and do and we´ve met some really great people on the way!

Our bus journey to Bogota was an interesting one, the engine cos so hot we had to stop so that the conductor could trow bucket after bucket of cold water over it, we also got stuck in traffic for an hour so arrived pretty late. The taxi to our hostel burnt out his gear box trying to get us up the hill and our hostel couldn´t find our reservation but they found us some beds and all was good. We were all really hungry but guess what... everything was closed so we went to bed hungry and got up super early to have some breaky. We went for a wander round La Candeleria (the old town) and it was really nice, lots of colourful old houses and cobbledey streets.

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We then headed to the Museo del Oro whish is meant to be the best gold museum in the world! It lived up to our expectation, one room had 3000 pieces of gold that hasçd been found in excavation of different areas of Colombia. Was also interesting to see different gold accessories the tribes used to wear. It was a huge museum and took us about 3 hours to walk round. We were all golded out after that! We also we went to the police museum which was really interesting, tells you all about the hnt for Pablo Escobar and his cartel..... it even had pictures of them all when they were dead. One guy had meen killed by a rival gang, they chopped his arm off and stuck it in his head, nice! We made friends with our english speaking police guide and he invited us out that night. We didn´t go in the end because it was a monday night and every monday the main street in bogota closes and lots of artists and musician and food stalls take to the streets for a bit of a party.

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It was really great and they had everything from rappers to mime artist. We went down with a group from the hostel and drunk some herbal tea and aguadiente (a horrible local drink that tastes like watered down sambuca). We also headed to the art gallery of Botero a famous colombian artist that paints fat people and fat things. There was also some picasso and dali in there too which was good.

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That night we went to this tiny tiny street lined with bars for some colombian rum. (its so small only about 5 people could walk next to each other). On our last day we headed out of town to the salt cathedral which was really impressive. Imagine a cathedral made out of salt and then put in underground. It was pretty spooky down there but really great to see.

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They had a really funny 3D film where a futuristic robot told you all about the salt mining!

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That night we headed off on a night bus to Medellin. We stayed in a really nice part of Medellin with nice parks and bars. It used to be one of the most dangerous citys in the world but they´ve really improved it and its really nice now. The centre itself in a bit dodgy with lots of homeless people lying on the pavements which isn´t great but it feels quite safe and its really easy to get around.

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We only stayed a few night. We tryed to do some Paragliding over the city but the weather was too bad so we went on a cable car over the city, went to the super market and cooked up some good home food, had a few drinks in the Zona Rosa and then headed off in an air conditioned bus to..... The Caribean!!!

Posted by St Martins 11:42 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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