I started off the idea of this trip, planning to ride solo to the tip of South America, but the reality is I have been surrounded by other riders most of the time. We sat on the Stahlratte, floating somewhere in the Caribbean Sea, listening to plans being hatched for where to ride once we hit land again. Most were heading south, but the detour to Venezuela with 3 other riders sounded fun. It was then that Deb, the only other solo female motorcyclist aboard, asked how many days have you ridden solo? The answer: 11. Of the 50 days on the road, 90% were accompanied. Did I enjoy those solo days? Yes. Have I enjoyed the group days? Yes as well. And I figured I would take them while I have them since I imagine it will get quieter the farther south I go. But what that also means, is that there are a lot of us doing this trip.
So off to Venezuela we went, but entry was not as easy as the road to get there. Any extra day in Cartegena to enjoy the city landed us at the border on a Sunday. Usually it’s open, but elections forced border closures, and us to stay in a town nearby until the office opened in the morning. We could exit Colombia, but then there was nowhere to go until the aduana opened at 10am.
We stayed in the oh-so- lovely- is –that-music-blaring all-night border town of Maicao, Colombia… with lots of friendly guys who seem really interested in … motorcycles…
And then into Venezuela!
A long day of crossing the border and many miles of riding got us into town late at night, breaking the rules of don’t ride after dark, but since we weren’t up for camping in the bush, we rode to Carora and found a hotel there.
The next morning was when we all though adventure begins. Take some backroads, some dirt roads, do some camping. Then, at one of the many military checkpoints, a uniformed man motioned with his rifle to pull over. I thought it was going to be the usual passport check, but Paul spoke with the guy at length and he kept saying “no.” No we can’t go here. No we can’t go there. Look at other roads on the map and No. There were guerillas on the road (not the fuzzy kind) and recommended to not travel off the main highway in these areas. So, of course we listened and proceeded with long boring hours of hot super slab highway.
And that is what Venezuela has been so far. Hot. Long days of riding many miles. Freeway views. Traffic. Lane splitting with crazy drivers. Exhaust fumes that makes my lungs burn. If you ever wondered where that mid-70’s big-block GM sedan went…it’s here in Venezuela. One upside is practically free gas. (4 bikes, 50 liters of fuel, $5 Bolivars – about $0.33… that’s right, $0.08 USD to fill my tank.) You have to change your money at the borders to get the black market rate of $15BF/$1usd instead of the $4BF listed as normal exchange rate. Otherwise Venezuela is an expensive country.
Days of riding through savannah like conditions were finally broken by an ascent into the beginning of the Andes. Riding through thick fog was like we were transported from Africa to Switzerland in the matter of hours.
After a day in Merida, I realized I don’t have much time to spare like these round-the-world guys and I need to head back to Colombia. So Dylan and I pull into San Cristobal to be sighted by a Venezuelan BMW GS rider and escorted to his friends hotel where there are rows of bikes parked. He invites us to dinner. At this point we accept, thinking it’s a night on the town. As we get into a car that evening, being driven further and further away from the town center, we keep looking at each other. I should also add, since we are crossing the border tomorrow, we kept limited bolivianos on us. We pull up to the nicest restaurant in town and look at each other wondering how do we explain in broken spanish we can’t afford this place. Luckily, (from best of our understanding) it was the owner of the hotel very graciously treating us to dinner. So Venezuela ends on an unexpected high note.