This is an article that I’ve submitted to NUHOC’s annual magazine “Excelsior!” It’s modified from a previous post that I wrote up, with a unique set of pictures attached.
Exploring the mountain streams of Venezuela
** This is an excerpt from my adventure blog, specifically from my travels in Venezuela. The short back story is that I graduated from NEU, worked for about two years, quit, and am now traveling around the world. Venezuela was my first major stop, and at the time I was staying with a pair of Couchsurfers named Savas and Ana Karina. Enjoy!**
I woke up when Ana nearly kicked the door in with the assistance of her friend Andrei. It was nearly noon, and I had slept through Savas getting up, his Dad leaving for work, and a huge pool party right outside. Damn but I’m good at sleeping. Respect.
Anyways, Ana, Savas, Andrei and I ate a quick breakfast and headed out to grab a small townie-bus up to the Barrio South of the city, up in the mountains. Now two quick definitions for you: the townie-bus? That’s a gutted molester-van with its windows knocked out and the engine barely running. But by god it made it up that mountain like nobody’s business, and it was DAMN awesome. And the Barrio? Think Favela’s of Brazil or the deeper ghetto’s of LA. Sketchy, but if you’re from there completely cool. And luckily for us, we were meeting two of Ana’s friends who lived in the Barrio; Yelvin and his younger brother.
After we got off the bus and did introductions we hit the trail heading the rest of the way up the mountain to the main river. That was the goal of the day: hiking up the riverbed to a great swimming pool that Yelvin knew. We walked through the Barrio for about ten minutes before breaking out into the river area where a lone water transfer station marked the end of town. This river is the primary water source for the town, so the path that we took was actually a maintenance trail used to keep the water systems running. We took off our shoes as soon as we got to the river and headed up barefoot on Yelvins recommendation, so that it’d be easier to hop between the river and the path. The path itself swapped between concrete walkways with handrails, bare packed earth, and extremely sketchy rock traverses that wouldn’t be out of place on the rock walls of New Hampshire. Ana and Savas ended up swimming through the river instead of attempting the traverse, but thanks to rock climbing, I was able get across those sections without much incident.
The ascent itself was about two hours of hiking through some of the most beautiful country-side that I’ve seen; The river had cut a valley through the mountain, and the steep sides were covered with fruit trees – none ripe yet, unfortunately. But the views were amazing, and one very nice upside to where we were hiking is that, since it’s the main water supply, there were a good number of water transfer stations that we could drink out of. I tried to keep the drinking to a minimum to lower my painful-stomach risk, but I will say that the water I did drink was amazingly clear and crisp. We’ll see if I regret it in the future. (Editors note: He did regret it, but not too much so. A light case of bathroom “oh god why hath thou forsaken me!”, but it only lasted for half a day or so thanks to Azithro). As we ascended farther and farther we passed a good number of Barrio dwellers in the river; bathing, hanging out, and generally living life. I guess Sunday is an international rest day, so there were a ton of families out with the kids playing and grills set up, swimming and cooking… I have no idea what kind of meat was being cooked (and don’t want to know), but damn it smelled good.
And then we were there: an opening in the river-bed had created a large area of shallows backed by an extremely deep section carved out by a waterfall. Perfect for cliff-jumping, though I’ll admit that I bailed out at the last minute and didn’t jump. We swam and chatted, climbed the side-walls and danced as befitting the perfect scenery surrounding us. The river was cold, according to my Venezuelan compatriots, but perfectly warm according to Bostonian water temperatures. I took the chance to give my dreads a good soaking, took lots of pictures, and enjoyed the sensation of the riverbed between my toes. Sounds dumb I know, but the riverbed was this amazing mix of clay and sand, so it felt really neat, especially on all the bug-bites that I’ve been getting.
Before headed out I was treated to an impromptu “new life ceremony” courtesy of Andrei; I guess the primary reason for walking up here today was so that he could “turn over a new leaf” in his life. I hadn’t realized when I met him, but this dreadlocked and tattoo’d guy had only just turned 18, and so had decided that now was as good a time as ever to drop all his bad habits and rebuild his life to be cleaner and simpler. Him, Yelvin and Savas all did a neat Hindu ceremony of… something… (not sure, sorry!) where he chopped off his dreads and all his hair, and discarded all of his vices: weed, cigarettes and booze specifically. Then, we burned it all. Luckily the smell of burning Wine, weed and tobbacco over-rode the smell of burning hair, so it wasn’t really that bad.
After the ceremony we headed back down to the Barrio for some well earned snacks. I’ll admit, when Yelvin started asking around for something, getting directions and furtive answers from the residents of the barrio, I was half convinced we were trying to find the resident coke-dealer. Turns out the target of his hunt wasn’t the resident DRUG dealer, but the resident POPSICLE dealer, and I was treated to an amazing chocolate-milk pop. Awesome!
While cooling off with the pops we took another sketchy bus back down to La Guira, and headed towards the closest surfers-only beach. I guess bathing in the ocean is a fairly normal occurance, so this beach had huge signs all over reminding people that they can’t get naked and get their soap on here, it’s a strictly surfer-dude-only atmosphere up in here. Kinda nice; I’ll never complain about not seeing naked old dudes, and only seeing smoking-hot surfer chicks instead. The beach was quite excellent, but before long the sun was setting and I was getting on the bus headed back to Caracas so that I could head back to the hostel to prep for my flight to Buenos Aires.
Ana and I had planned on going to a concert that night, but when we learned it was nearly 400 Bolivar (only $50, but I didn’t have that much changed) we bailed on it, since we couldn’t find anyone to change the cash. Thus, the bus ride was solo for me, though I think I was technically in a threesome on the way back… The folks sitting next to me were a surfer couple who were, literally, having sex next to me. And by “next to” I mean “his leg pressed up against mine thanks to the small seat,and half of her ass-cheek gyrating on my lap”. Yeah… awkward, to say the least.
After getting back into the city I unsuccessfully hunted for the Metro… I had intended on getting off at Gato Negro, one of the main metro stops, but either I had missed it, the bus driver was wrong, or it was closed. I’m leaning towards the later, since I did find an obvious station that was quite definitely closed. So a little scared and worried (since it was night, and the area looked pretty bad) I did what any red-blooded Jewish-American boy would do: I ordered myself a fucking HOT DOG. WITH EVERYTHING. And, much like the hamburger of yesterday, everything means everything in Venezuela, and this thing had condiments all up in its business; they ran the gamut from onions and cheese to mayo and french-fries. And damn but it was good.
My belly full and my mind distracted from my predicament, I went about solving my problem. Keeping my head on a swivel and dodging around the sketchier groups of people (I did get a few called of “Hey! Gringo!” from the groups, which I ignored) I picked out the best looking cab and jumped in, telling him the closest metro station to where I wanted to go. On the ride we chatted (my Spanish is getting better, yay!), and I found out that he studies at the university near my Hostel, that he wants to visit the US, and that his English was impressively bad. Heh, almost as bad as my Spanish.
But soon the ride was over, my adventures for the evening completed. I settled into the Hostel, watching some stupid Youtube clips and typing up some stories.
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