Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spanish Lessons, Cuidad Boliviar, Venezuela

A look of bewilderment cloaked my expression of excitement when I found out that we weren't coming back to town that night. I definately need to brush up on my comprehension of spanish.
Jorge, Javier, Raphael & I drove in this jacked up Toyota Hilux out to a village some 200km east of Cuidad Boliviar. That being said, the drive there was done with no seat belts, 160km/hr and a truck full of guns. Where we were going, I had no idea, when we'd be back, I did not know, however, the cooler was full of ice, food, and water so I knew that it would be a while. Funny thing was, all I thought about was if my gear back at the Hotel would be safe all night without me.

Land yachts sail and dock in the hilly historical centre.


Sunset on the Rio Orinoco that flows past Cuidad Boliviar




The bike finally rolled the clock at 100,000km, hopefully it'll make the next 3000km to Columbia.



I pulled into Cuidad Boliviar just before dark as usual and pulled into a parking lot to check out my guide book's suggestions for accomidations. I happened to pull into the parking lot of a 4X4 parts and accessories dealer who's owners Javier & Antonio greeted me with open arms. They were asking me all sorts of questions and offering to guide me to where ever I wanted to go. I pulled out the guide book and showed Antionio the name of the Tourist hotel "Dan Carlos". Antionio called the number and ensured me that they had a room available. Meanwhile Javier returned from the store with a premium brand Castorol 10w40 oil for my motorcycle free of charge.
I agreed to return to the shop the next day and carry on the conversation. The guys closed up shop and lead the way to Don Carlos Hotel, a refurbished 500 year old mansion filled with antique german furniture and heavey dark wooden carved animals used as foot rests and heavey chairs.
The next day I spent the better part of the morning looking for a map of Venezuela with no success. I spoke to a military policeman and asked where I could find a map. He told me a whole bunch of jibberish which I couldn't understand. At the end of the conversation the man left me in need of more so I asked if he could cut off the Venezuelan badge sewn onto his shoulder and give it to me. He looked at the badge contemplated the thought for a second, and replied that he had no knife at which point I gave him my pocket knife. He dissappeared into his police hut and returned to the street with the patch. I gave him the equivalent of 3 dollars and he seemed pretty happy about this and simply walked away from his post to the store across the street and bought a coffee and a snack. As I was leaving his partner came out and wanted to sell me his patch, I replied that one was enough and he seemed pretty disappointed about that answer.
Saturday the 24th of April rolled around and I decided that I'd head back to my buddies 4x4 store and shoot the breeze. Apparently all the breeze shooting got the guys considering to bring me out to test their guns. I agreed that I'd go with them to shoot a gun and envisioned that we were going to some sort of shooting club, meanwhile I was having visions of uzzui's and other high power guns that I'd get to try.
The guys said that they'd pick me up at 3pm and that we'd head out to shoot shortly after that. I didn't understand anything what they were telling me apparently, as I noticed the city disappear on the horizon. I tried asking what time we'd be returning but that was a waste of time because Jorge kept replying, "tomorrow.....tomorrow"....."...tomorrow"? I kept thinking that he couldn't understand what I was saying until I realised that the back of the truck was loaded up with food and a large cooler full of ice and a 40 litre jug full of water.
In between Raphael and I were a couple of rifles, boxes of ammunition, two huge rambo knifes, and a couple of giant highpower spotlights. There were 4 military check points along the way and we had to cover up the gear and pretend everything was cool. I had no idea where we were going and didn't bring my passport or any ID so I was pretty sure that if we got checked out I'd be Venezuela's newest resident in a local prison.
We bombed down the highway at an average speed of 160km/hr with no seatbelts. I kept prying my hand between the seat cushons trying to find the female buckle but to no avail. Two hours later we arrived in a small community where all the local people gathered around the monster truck, mostly little kids, teenagers, and a few adults. Here is where we picked up 4 more men that all hopped into the box of the truck to help with the killing and to guide the truck through the multiple forestry roads here in this part of Venezuela.
The fellows left me in the village for about 30 minutes by myself and the villagers while they went off to get gas or something. I didn't bother asking why I couldn't go too. A young fellow named Richard pulled up on a little 125cc motorcycle and introduced himself and began speaking english quite well. Richard invited me on a tour of his community which consisted of 3 separated little villages and two schools. He explained that there was a primary school and a highschool and that all the students attended school for 12 years. It was an interesting experience and Richard was a good guide. During the 30 minutes Richard doubled me on the back of his motorbike I met several of the towns people including Richards family, and we got to see a monkey that was best friends with a small white cat. It was a very welcoming village and every woman I met told me that she was willing to marry me if I wanted to! One woman even offerd me a BMX bicycle as a dowery (that one was hard to resist).
Richard returned me to the house where the truck dropped me off. There we 10 or 12 people all standing around me smiling and just waiting for me to say anything and laughing at everything I was communicating. Every few minutes someones mother would get her child to run over to me with a little snack to eat. Sometimes it was a small fruit from a nearby tree and other times it was nuts. I asked to see where the food was growing and the people were besides themselves showing me their way of life. This was definately one of the major highlights of my trip thus far. It is so difficult to gather up the courage to pull into a community like this by yourself, however, apparently it is totally safe and the people are so happy that you as a foreign visitor from another world stopped in just to visit them.
Once all the business was taken care of at the village the cry was made to get into the truck. Jorge motioned me to get into the back of the truck with him and the other 3 fellows from the village. We rolled only about 5 km from the settlement and at once we were in a managed forest. The forest was a mixture of natural dry savana forest and Red or Black Pine Plantation. The truck suddenly stopped and and the guns were pulled from their storage cases. Bullets jingled in their boxes and the "snap and clack" of bolt action and ammunition loading filled the silent night.
The truck essentially became an assault vehicle looking for unsuspecting wildlife blinded by high power night lamps being waived from either side of the truck while guns lay ready in the carpet lined trough of the box liner. I didn't bother mentioning how illegal this type of activity would be in Canada or the fact that we'd all be thrown in jail for months for this type of activity, not to mention huge fines and confiscation of guns and vehicle. Here, what we were doing was the best way to go hunting. Who in the right mind would go out in the middle of the day when the animal could detect you and run away?
The trip up the Amazon and the last couple of days sleeping in a tent and a hammock at the hotel have exhausted me. It seemed like hours had past and finally I decided to check the time. It was only 8:20 pm I calculated that we had 8 hours to go unless we killed something. At this point I knew that it was ethically irresponsible, but, I was too tired to worry. I tapped the light man on the shoulder and took over as animal spotter. I figured that if I could help in any way to get things over and done with and me back to town earlier I'd do anything.
We rounded a corner and the forest type changed and thus the man from the back took over my post. It was good thing as I was getting really tired and beginning to falling asleep standing up. Suddenly the truck stopped and Jorge swung a rifle to his shoulder. The spotlight illuminated the "Candelas" ( the glowing eyes of a deer). I plugged my ears waiting for the shot......BOOM..and the Candeleas were gone. Jorge missed his target and the little deer lived for another day. We pulled over for a midnight lunch before heading to a new quadrant of the forest. While cruising around I witnessed a shooting star that lasted for more than 30 seconds and also happened to notice that Venezuela's clear cuts were among the biggest that I've ever seen, stretching from horizon to horizon under the midnight moon.
Alas, the night wained on, and at about 2am the hunting party began to get discouraged. We called off the hunt and dropped off the guides and proceeded back to Cuidad Boliviar for the next two hours. I couldn't fight the urge to nodd-off and awoke with a stiff neck as we rolled into the city centre at 4 am. Arriving at my hotel it took 5 minutes of knocking and door bell ringing to get the night watchman out of bed to let me in. In the process I awoke the whole hotel and discretely crept into bed in the dorm room situated in a "lean-to like shelter in the open air.
I thanked the fellows for a great adventure and for treating me to a bit of their culture which was similar to my own. They we happy feeling confident that I expressed my feelings and gratitude and especially that I had a good time on their hunting trip which I was invited on specially. I fell asleep immediately among all the antique furniture and indeginous carvings contained within the walls of the 500 year old building for a short sleep until the early morning arrived a few hours later.

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