Having flagged a bus just outside Tayrona National Park, which incidentally was the worst shed of a bus we have seen in Colombia, we arrived at the border town of Maicao into chaos. There were several men greeting us off the bus shouting “Maricaibo, Maricaibo, Por Puesto, Por Puesto”, traffic all over the place and no sight of a collectivo. We were closely followed and harassed as we tried to refuse to get in an unmarked bashed in shed of an old American Chevrolet as our taxi and headed over to the Brasillia bus terminal to be quietly reassured by the security guard that no – there weren’t any buses and yes it was safe to get in this random shed of a car with this big guy.
Having had the nod we decided that it was probably our only option to get Maricaibo in Venezuela and so wrote down the registration number, details of the vehicle (subtly) and jumped in with our driver and this other guy who obviously knows him. It sounds like this story is heading towards a kidnapping or robbery and we wondered that too for a while but these two HUGE caribbean guys turned out to a source of amusement for us, and us for them. They were totally confused when Emma insisted we took our bags out the boot (with a screwdriver as the boot had no catch) as we went to get our Colombian exit stamps and then stamped into Venezuela. Emma did have to persist for a good while to get the bags but did eventually without making too much of a scene.
Our exit out of Colombia was very easy – the guard didn’t even look at our faces through the hole in the blacked out glass, so we could have been anyone. Once we had been ‘seen’ by immigration and not had our bags checked (unlike all the locals) we got back in the car and as we feared offending these guys who were to take us to the nearest city we played it stupid and said “why did they not check our bags? They always check don’t they? Very different at the Ecuador border (it wasn’t we just told them that). Now we understand why we don’t need our bags ha ha” (in Spanish of course).
At the Venezuelan border we did the same – took the bags fully expecting to be searched as we’d come from Colombia but nothing, again the locals were but we weren’t. The guards on both sides obviously knew these 2 guys well. We weren’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.
The next hour of the road into Venezuela was punctuated by 8 checkpoints which involved us getting our passports out and showing a police officer who would either say “ah gringas” or “ooo ingles” then laugh and joke with our driver and passenger then we’d drive on. During this though it became apparent that our driver actually knew lots of the officers which we decided was reassuring because he couldn’t be bribing them all. They never checked our driver or dudes ID…we even picked up a police officer to give him a lift which was another point where we thought “here we go…” but they just chatted like old friends.
Anyway after relaxing and realising that this unmarked shed of a car was actually a shared taxi like they’d said, we enjoyed the scenery. They explained that the lunch we stopped for them to eat was goat – the same animal that was walking round the table – and we were amused by their cries of “mama mama” and drooling over any woman that crossed the road or walked down the pavement. Funny because they were both so big that neither of them have probably seen their bits for years!
We arrived in Maracaibo 3 hrs later – they dropped us at the bus terminal as they should do and after getting our bags out of the back to their now well rehearsed cries of “mi mochila” “mi mochila” we said bye. We soon bought a ticket for an overnight bus to Merida to return back to the Andes.
- We realised that as far as some of these dodgy old cars go ours was in quite good shape.
- Venezuela is expensive – like really expensive!