Our first 24 hours in Venezuela was full of excitement, adventure, and SITUATIONS!
The day started as planned with the family ritual of adding the Venezuelan flag to the van. We were all fired up and ready to go!
#1 – The border crossing Situation
Honestly, this was one of the easiest borders we’ve ever crossed. The guards and officials were all VERY friendly. I think they were pretty surprised to see Americans. We did have one incident. I was taking video (see below) and as soon as I turned off the camera a guard was on me. He escorted me to the station where he and his boss proceeded to watch the video 4 times. They then handed me back the camera, shook my hand, and sent me out. I was shocked. I thought for sure they were going to take the camera. That’s what would have happened in Honduras for sure!
Border Crossing – Guillermo talks about Venezuela, watch now
#2 – The Water Situation
A couple miles over the border traffic stopped moving. We saw smoke on the horizon so we parked the van and walked toward the front of the long line of cars. There was a large pipe across the road and several fires burning. In the middle of the chaos there were a bunch of indigenous people, the Wayuu, shouting at some soldiers. It was a protest. More soldiers arrived and started to clear the road. Tensions were high, but after a while everything was cleared and we were able to drive on.
VIDEO – Out of Water
Road Block. Watch it here
We later leaned from Guillermo that the Wayuu had been without water for 2 months. The biggest problem in Venezuela is that there is no water to drink. The entire country is on water rationing. Water literally has to be imported. Despite having the largest lake in South America, they have no drinking water. Why? Because it has been polluted by oil drilling. This again reminds us of the famous quote…
#3 – The Gas Situation
Petrol is completely nationalized in Venezuela. We had heard that it was really cheap, like 8 cents a gallon. So we arrived at the border close to empty. BIG MISTAKE! NONE of the gas stations had gas to sell!
How could this be? We’re in Venezuela! Well, it turns out we had crossed at the worst border for trafficking contraband. Cocaine is smuggled from Colombia into Venezuela, and in return Venezuela sends guns and GAS! Of course, at 8 cents a gallon that’s big money. Our situation was fairly serious. We were out, and parked in a not so safe place. Guillermo went out on foot to see if he could buy some diesel on the black market. An hour later he returned with the good news. Did I mention I TOTALLY love this man?
VIDEO – Out of gas and trying not to act scared.
I got this! Watch the video here
Below Guillermo saves the day. We were able to buy just enough gas to get us to a major city where we filled up. Now get this, we filled an ENTIRE TANK for… $0.50 (4 Bolivarians). That’s right. Once you leave the trafficking zone, gas is basically free in Venezuela.
#4 – The Road Situation
We had heard of bad roads and no signs. Yes, I can verify this as true. Our GPS went rogue the minute we crossed the border, and the map is only as good as the signs you have to reference, of which there were very few. The roads went from being great in Colombia to fairly rough in Venezuela. I would compare them to the back roads of Honduras.
We’ve been through a lot of countries without road signs, but Venezuela seemed a little more challenging than most. Again Guillermo took the lead and became Sprinter Life’s new GPS.
(I was actually able to go online our first night and find better GPS maps for this country, so we are doing better now)
Making navigation even more difficult are the other drivers. Every country south of the US is more challenging to drive in, and Venezuela is no exception. Driving through the small towns is a complete shit show.
#6 – The Money Situation
The US dollar was devalued in Venezuela. This means that using an ATM machine or credit card to get cash only gets you about half the value of your money when you exchange it. However, there is a black market for US dollars. So, if you want the most for your exchange, you have to go out into the street, illegally. That’s what we’ve been doing. We haven’t been able to capture any photos because all street changers refuse to be photographed. We agree because frankly it’s already a little dicey to go asking around for someone to change dollars. Plenty of people will change it though.
#6 – The Internet Situation
Finding internet is never optional for us. We’re not on a trip and this isn’t a vacation. This is just our life, and I have to work! So far we’ve been really lucky in every country. There is wifi everywhere. We are finding it in Venezuela as well, but it is much more difficult. We’ll see how this situation develops!
And so that is the update. We are continuing to drive deeper into the country. We are feeling safe for the most part, and we are loving it. Stay tuned for more updates, and track our progress via our GPS page here… GPS PAGE – CLICK HERE
Translation: Country, Socialism, or Death. We Will Win!