Santa Elena de Uairén

To be updated…  lots of Brazilian vacationers, Canadian John, mucho cerveza, big room/bartab, nice free waterfall with rum, snake put on our table, illegal to drink Friday/Sunday, dodgy bar, listening to Crowded House, Dutch Alligator & Australian Polly, generally relaxing boozy week.

Angel Falls

01 April

Talked to tourist agency – reckons that they managed a trip to the falls yesterday, and are going to try again tomororrow.  If we can’t make it by boat, the flight back will overfly it.  Get to see them one way or the other.  Very expensive though.  But – I take it.  Really want to see the highest waterfall in the world.

Spend rest of day walking around, drinking cerveza.  Everywhere closes in evening.  Ridiculously expensive hot dogs and cerveza from hot dog stand.  All booze stores closed.  Back to hostel for one last cerveza (all the way from Margarita).  The hostel locks it’s doors at around 8 or 9pm – owners can’t hear bell, guests have instructions not to let anybody in.  And we don’t have any way of leaving unless somebody else presses the button to release front gate, while you’re there to open the gate.  I want to leave at 6:30 tomorrow, lady assures me she’ll be up.

02 April

6:45 – no lady.  Climb-out/jump-off of window/mini-balcony.  Wait for ages at tour place.  Try to get cash out – no dice.  Will have to pay with Visa, with extra 10% surcharge.  10% of a lot is a lot.  Wait for ages at airport.  Offered free vaccinations for Yellow Fever, measles, and chicken-pox.  Get in plane.  6-seater (incl pilot), rather old.  Pilot wearing nice official looking pilot shirt, with tight black Levis.  I fall asleep in plane somehow, waking up just for awesome views, and landing.  Landing is approaching airstrip at right angles, banking steeply, and straightening about 10 seconds before touchdown.

Meet some of my fellow tourists.  A group of 4 christians.  One describes his job as “full-time evangelist missionary”.  He’s south african.  Another member is his american ‘workmate’.  Another young seppo, and the south african’s sister.  Also, 3 germans, an american girl, and 8 or so latin americans.  Split into two groups – I’m stuck with christians, and germans.  Germans seem alright.  Boat trip across Canaima lagoon to some waterfalls.  Walk behind one of them.  Pretty nice waterfalls.  Listen to missionary’s discussing the guide – and chances of conversion.  Go for a swim.  Small fish trying to eat me.  Catch boats upriver – over rapids – and get to ‘campsite’.   Big openwalled shed, with hammocks slung up.   After dinner – much chitchat at dinner table.  But – my choice of german conversation, spanish conversation, or fundamentalist christan conversation.  I opt for laying on grass outside by myself.

Today I saw: frog, crab, various birds, fish trying to eat me, giant bee, big loud cicadas.

 03 April

Not much sleep.  Plenty of rain overnight.  Lay there hoping that it was enough rain that the river level would rise enough for us to make it to falls, and for the clouds to disappear so we can see the top of the falls.  Had been told we’d be woken up at 5, as we had to leave by 5:30 to make it.  I got up at 6:15, was only person up.  Left base at 8am.  Venezuelan time – it’s marvellous.  Nearly capsize boat on first rapids we attempt.  Rest of the way – pretty easy.  Walk through jungle.  Pointed out plants/etc.  Get to falls lookout.  Top hidden by cloud.  And not much water coming off it.  Still pretty impressive though.  Tallest waterfall in the world, you know?  Slowly – cloud dissipates – get to see the entire thing.  Cool.  Walk further – swim in the pool at bottom of one of the bottom falls which make up the entire thing.  First attempt at using waterfall for waterslide – hit exactly the rock I was trying so hard to miss, with my arse.  Half somersault forward, and very very sore arse.  Very very sore.  Finally checked out the bruise about 4 days later – and entire left cheek was black & purple.  Nice swim though.  Using the largest waterfall in the WORLD as a massage machine.

Back to camp.  Next load of tourists arrive.  Including norwegian couple I met on Isla de Margarita.  With cerveza.  Sweet.  Campfire lit – listen to local legend about the falls.  Which leads to christian asking if the guide really believes that the water is magical.  Kruse grits teeth.  Gudies trying to get each nationality to sing a song.  South Africans sing national anthem – in Afrikaans, of course.  Missionaries have been chatting to our guide, Hector, about christianity a lot.  Systematically remove him from group, and then BANG.  That night, about 3am, the christian sleeping in the hammock next to me seemed to be sleeptalking – in tongues.

Today I saw – tallest waterfall in the world, Luxembourgian.

04 April

American girl tells me over breakfast that I remind her of a character in Lost.  A rock star.  I take this to mean that I both look like an actor, and like a rock star.

Boat trip back to Canaima.  Walk along beach.  Christian chatting to Austrian about EU.  “What about the religion of the EU?”  Just.  Doesn’t.  Stop.

Lunch, cervezas, chatting, swapping of email addresses, etc.  Go with 1st group to airport.  Wait.  Raining.  Wait.  2nd half of our group arrives at airport.  Wait.  Overheard between christians – “You think we’ve got enough time to finish with Hector?”  Pull Hector aside, and continue their three-on-one saving of his soul.  After several hours, after which even the souvenir ladies had packed up and gone home, we got told we could get on a plane.  I get stuck with christians, again.  No safety video about using electronic devices during flight, so I wasn’t concerned when pilot received and made cellphone calls while flying.  Landing at Ciudad Bolivar was same as at Canaima.  Approach from side, bank, touchdown.  Makes for easy air traffic control, I guess.

Ciudad Bolivar in midst of Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations.  Purple-robed cultists everywhere.  As of tomorrow – no buses running fo two days.  Phone calls – all buses booked for tonight.  I catch taxi to bus station with american girl anyway – and hope for the best.  Two buses going to Santa Elena – both full.  I stand around, waiting for one to say that somebody hasn’t turned up.  The crappy little one does so first.  I get on.  Watch as whitey in front seat is told he can’t take his boots off, too smelly, and is forced to put his boots in a seperate luggage compartment outside bus, and wash his feet.  Meanwhile, my feet reek – and I discreetly slide off my shoes.  Instant smell.  But – everybody will blame other guy.  Sweet.  Very uncomfortable bus ride, but am escaping Ciudad Bolivar where shops are always closed.

Today I saw: birds; miniature frog/toad; ladybird ant; grasshopper attacking me with colourful pufferfish tactics; stick insect climbing on me.

Ciudad Bolivar

Well – more cervezas after last update, met up with old french lady & girl with koru tattoos.  Koru girl wanted to teach me the salsa.  We had one very short lesson – I think she was disappointed with my progress, but happy to have danced with me.

Next morning – after much stuffing around, went to Porlamar.  Walked one hour in very hot sunshine, with backpack – to expensive hotel part of town.  The Hilton, etc.  Went to scooter-rental place, no dice.  Cars – same story.  Decided for a $1 bus back into town rather than repeat the walk.  The walk wasn´t good.  Went to overpriced Budget car rentals – but closed, contrary to advertised hours.  A very long siesta.

Had enough of this.  Really wanted to see west side of island – but am tired, and am getting sick of paying heaps for accommodation.  If I´d sat down and had a cerveza/food to think with – probably would have caught bus (although unreliable) to western side of island, and taken my chances.  Instead – bus to the ferry port town, and caught the ferry back to Puerto La Cruz.  Stayed up entire trip talking to a tractor driver.  Another limited English vs limited espanol conversation.  Good times though.  Got off ferry at 2am, walked to a park, found a relatively hidden spot, and slept on a sarong.  Not a particularly good nights sleep, but cheap.

Today – got up at 5 or 6am when the bugs started coming out in force.  Walked around Puerto La Cruz trying to find accommodation – but everywhere I tried was full.  (Didn´t try too many places, but is Holy Week – everybody on vacation, and the first signs didn´t look good.)  Caught a bus to Ciudad Bolivar.  Pretty sure would be hard to find accommodation here too, but at least I can get some sleep on the bus.

Found a place to stay here, but rather expensive.  They have a much cheaper option of sleeping in hammocks, which I will probably go for if I stay another night.  Need to find out if I need my own hammock, and whether it´s worth staying here.  Here is supposed to be the ´base town´ for seeing Angel Falls.  But – dry season, so can´t go up the river to see it from below, and busy season – which means the village you have to fly to, to then fly over the falls, is completely full.


Kruse gets drunk.

Yesterday, after updating, I pretty much did nothing but cerveza.  Chatted with hotel owner and worker/guest/french-guy.  Met norwegian couple, tried to watch famous Juangriego sunset, but cloudy.  Dinner with the norse.  Back to bar where I was drinking the other night – more cerveza with old french lady.  Then – onto Maria’s bar.  More cerveza, with french lady, Maria, guy wearing rasta hat, and tall white guy.  Pretty much a cerveza day.

Today – hungover.  Went back to beach from couple days back.  More concerted effort to follow coast around, trying to find next beach.  Mucho time, sharp rocks, pain, etc later – I turn back.  Some swimming at actual beach.  Then, I watch a Euro couple leave their deckchairs under umbrella thing for a swim.  Tentatively go in knee-deep, and stay there.  I decide to show them, and the locals, some bellyflop bombs.

Met the bar owner on the way back to hotel – and received a compliment on my sunburn.  Some relaxing cervezas, and watching the french guy’s kid (3-ish?) run around.  Drew me a picture/scribble.  Little well travelled multi-lingual curly blonde kid with eyelashes is going to do very well with the ladies in 15 years time.

Another failed sunset.  Clouds.  Juangriego, famous for it’s sunsets and consistently sunny weather, has really let me down.  Plan for tomorrow is to go the island’s big smoke, Porlamar, hire a scooter, and go to undeveloped western half of island.  Maybe sleep on beach.  Will see how driving scooter with backpack goes.  Otherwise – probably another night here.  Have got to the stage where everytime I walk around town, I have to stop to chat with somebody I ‘know’.


Quick update for those who like to know where I am.  Just in case I go missing – and you need a starting point for the search party… have let laziness do my thinking for me.  Am staying in Juangriego, Margarita Island – for two more nights.  Original thought was to take up offer from guy I was talking to last night – a 6 or 8 hour taxi tour of island, with english speaking guide.  Really want to see west side of island, but it’s pretty much deserted.  Instead, am now going to go to Parlamar in a couple of days, and hire a scooter.  So – today was sloth.  Went to bus station, changed my mind, came back.  To delight of hotel owner.  Have spent afternoon drinking cerveza with him, and old french guy.  About to watch famous sunset.  So – Juangriego, Margarita Island for two more nights.