I’d been trying to ignore the fact that Venezuela and Colombia weren’t talking to each other as I travelled though the former on the way to the latter. The two countries have never been particularly fond of each other and shit went down a couple of days after I got into Venezuela causing Chavez to cut off diplomatic relations with his neighbour. On account of the fact I’m completely ignorant to politics or anything that requires strenuous debate and the ability to win an argument as opposed to cracking the shits and leaving the room, stamping my feet and slamming the door behind me, I have no real idea as to what happened but I think Colombia accused Venezuela of hiding FARC rebels and Venezuela accused Colombia of doing nothing to stop drug trafficking.
Something like that anyway. I believe relations were restored once Venezuela stopped sulking but I had no idea what the border crossing would be like, Venezuela un-nerved me enough as it was with the constant threat of robbery and police corruption. In fact it was the police corruption stories that freaked me out more than anything, I’d heard so many first hand tales of people having their bolivares taken off them because they couldn’t prove they weren’t from the black market (spoiler alert: they were likely from the black market), people had their American dollars taken off them under the excuse that they weren’t allowed to carry them in case they changed them on the black market (this, by the way, is completely untrue, you ARE allowed to carry dollars) and other bribe attempts. I discovered that underwear is a fabulous place to keep your cash as well as your minge.
So the easiest way to cross the border near the coast is to get to Maracaibo then walk out of the front of the terminal and wait for someone to shout, “ColombiaColombiaColombiaColombia!” at you. Then you get into a por puesto, give them BsF70 and off you go to the border. It takes so long to get anywhere on account of the military checkpoints every 3 minutes, most of the time they just want everyone’s ID, sometimes they want to see inside the boot, thankfully on this trip they didn’t want to search anyone. That can be a lengthy process and shit it was hot. After sweating in the queue for the Venezuelan exit stamp you walk over the border to the Colombian side and instantly the stress lifts. You wait in line and are ushered 7 or 8 at a time into an air conditioned room for your entry stamp. The guy who stamped my passport was just happy to practice his English. Then it was back out into the sweltering heat and the por puesto to head to Maicao, the nearest Colombian town to the border, to get a connection somewhere else.
But yeah, I did it, I survived Venezuela. It’s a shame it’s so stressful to be there though, it’s such a beautiful place that so many people avoid for the same reasons I cut my trip there right down to the minimum necessary to do just the things I wanted to. I didn’t explore or relax, I got in, did my thing and got out. I have nothing to bitch about though really, I have no police horror stories from the country, I’m glad I didn’t skip it altogether and let’s face it, there are much worse ways to get from Brazil to Colombia ay.
So anyway, first stop was Taganga on account of the fact it’s is known for its cheap SCUBA diving. I figured it’d be a good place to do my advanced PADI course but scrapped that idea in favour of just a two tank fun dive when I realised I had no money left and I’ve got to be honest, I’m glad I skipped it. It’s a pretty average dive site but hey, I guess you get what you pay for. They take you out to a site in Parque Nacional Tayrona which is meant to be a stunning place full of coral reef and colourful fishes. Erm… yeah… there’s coral but it’s all pretty dead. It’s like the abandoned town of dive sites, as if someones taken a photo of a sparse reef and turned the photo that sepia colour. You could almost imagine the cars up on bricks and the broken TV sets in the back garden. The visibility was pretty poor but there’s nothing you can do about that ay. I guess I’m spoilt, I learnt to dive in Fiji in the Bligh Waters and I did a Discover SCUBA thing on the Great Barrier Reef. I have high expectations of life underwater. I demand that they paint the coral pretty colours for next time.
Taganga itself isn’t known for its beach either, it’s a small bit of dirty sand but hey, it’s somewhere to lay your towel out and to go for a swim. It’s all you need from a beach at the end of the day. The town is pretty but again, it’s just a small town. Taganga and Santa Marta are the gateways to the Parque Nacional Tayrona which I’d heard was stunning; beautiful beaches etc. Given my financial situation and the fact I wanted to get a move on to catch up with Freddy in Santa Marta I opted for a day tour to one of the supposedly nicer beaches. Another fucking let down, seriously, it’s just a beach! And an overcrowded beach at that. I was chuffed I hadn’t wasted time and money spending any more time there ay. I’m really trying to see where the reputation comes from, I really am, but it sucked hairy balls. Yeah it was a good group and a nice day out but it didn’t blow my box apart.
What else can I tell you… Oh, the decor in the place I stayed at, Hostal Moramar, that was a bit mental. Heaps of random stuff badly stuck together with plaster, posters pasted to the wall with the same plaster and a blue line drawn round it, cages with fake birds inside, a pool that had a shower running into it and a mural on the wall of a beach with a palm tree and a small dinosaur. I didn’t recall seeing any dinosaurs on the beach in town though. Must have been an old painting.
Stayed at: Hostal Moramar