It was bound to happen sooner or later that my magical mystery tour would turn sour and lead me to a place I despise. I feel it right now, this is a live report. I am sat on a comfy settee with sweat dripping down me, I smell terrible, my hair is greasier than a Belfast pastie supper and I go to Suriname in less than 48 hours still without a Visa for it. But that part is OK – when they finally let me into my fucking expensive hotel room, I will be able to shower, relax and head straight to the proper Suriname Embassy to get my Visa. This is the Altamira District of Venezuela’s unfriendly capital city, Caracas…
So where did it all go wrong in Venezuela? The answer to that is, ironically Columbia. The previous country I was in – and was still in as of yesterday morning. I’ll recount in future the horrendous bus journey from Sopo (near Bogota) all the way to Cucuta – a dreary dreaded unwelcoming city in Columbia, which is one of the border points for entering Venezuela.
I have no real idea why I decided to come to Venezuela in the first place, but I can’t say I regret it – at least I’ve been here to have this negative experience. Just as I type this, three Venezuelan dickheads have just sat down right beside me and their noisy mate sits on the only usable customer computer here which has internet (I don’t – I’m typing this offline initially, when you read it I will have uploaded it later on). I was comfortable here for at least a moment, but not now. Venezuela is the worst country I have ever been to. I wish these 4 dickheads would shut the fuck up and give this Ulsterman some peace.
So I’ll start in Cucuta, that Colombian border city which is famous for being shit. The Lonely Planet book describes it as “hot, uninspiring city” which “unless you’re en route to or from Venezuela, there’s little reason to visit.” Not only would I agree but I’d even add “even if you’re en route to or from Venezuela, try not to linger in this smoggy, dirty, grey, dreary shithole.”
Never normally do I describe places so negatively, and there are only a few saving graces from the last few days to reassure me that life is OK again and travelling is still my favourite hobby. I won’t excuse the swearing either – forgive me if I swear too much in this post but Venezuela and my journey here fucking deserves nothing better – it’s a shit hole!
So on arrival at Cucuta, I check my watch (by the way these Venezuelan dickheads in the hotel are hovering over me like hawks at the moment – I really fucking hate them – and they are staying in the same posh 3 star hotel as me – which I decided on last night because I wanted a hotel here to find “peace”) to find we have arrived around 8 am. This is 3 hours later than scheduled, as the bus was meant to get in at 5 am. The bus journey itself was very unmemorable.
In South America we always hear stories about theft and one of the common ones is having your stuff stolen on a bus – particularly night buses. I have taken about 10 night buses so far in South America and normally I deliberately don’t sleep on them, as I’d rather have my eyes on my bag the whole time. I carry two bags with me. One is my big rucksack, which is mainly clothes and always goes in the hold (baggage parts of bus and planes). The other is my wee rucksack with my important stuff – passport, laptop, photos, books, travel notes etc. This bag I always keep beside me.
Indeed two nights ago on the bus to Cucuta, I kept it at my feet, with my feet wrapped round it. I decided not to sleep much and the kids behind were all staring at me on a bus where I was blatantly the only foreigner. My Spanish had got pretty good and helped a lot in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. But the Spanish in Colombia and Venezuela is very hard for me to understand, they talk fast and in some kind of fake “hard” accent which I despise. I couldn’t even understand the bus conductor on this bus.
Despite me feeling dodgy, I had a nice seat by a window (which incidentally I didn’t move from once in 18 hours! – didn’t even need the toilet) and had 3 different next door neighbours in the seat beside me from Sopo to Cucuta, we had a few stops on the way notably at Tunja (a dark dreary city with arching houses on hills) and Duitama (where shit loads of local people got on, some of them paying less to stand in the passage/aisle of the bus). At Duitama a guy swapped with a kid, and the guy who sat beside me would play a helpful part later on actually.
I’m always checking my bag on buses – it’s amazing how these local dickheads manage to steal so much from foreigners on buses without them knowing. At one point in the night I thought I felt something on my leg, coming from the seat behind, so I stared back for a fair few minutes evil eyeing every dickhead sat there and kicked my feet back too. One of these dicks had seen my bag and was trying to steal from me. Which I thought at the time, but didn’t know for sure – there was nothing I wanted to do but stay awake to Cucuta. It was very dark and I couldn’t see anything, I quickly checked my bag and felt my laptop still there at least so I was happy.
On arrival in Cucuta, I found that they had knifed a hole on the side of my bag and had been attempting to nick something from me. Well fuck them! They didn’t manage to nick anything, but I had a gaping slit down the side of my bag, the type that fellow Antarctica traveller Haya Harpaz had warned me about. That was the first in a run of things I have hated in the last 30 hours. I am not 100% sure, but would be inclined to believe those trying to steal were Venezuelan, as most of my bus was heading to Cucuta for the border crossing to San Antonio Del Tachira in Venezuela.
These fucking 4 Venezuelan dickheads are doing my fucking head in here – sat across from me acting all hard like dicks – fucking hate them. Was tempted to put my laptop away and stop typing but it’s better to continue as they shouldn’t put me off what I’m doing.
OK live post over, I’m off to my hotel room and then off to find the Suriname Embassy. I’ll walk there. Looks about 30 minute walk on the map. And that photo there is live too – probably one of the worst photos of me ever, but real.