4th January 2010 saw me take off from Heathrow for 3 months in Venezuela. Back then, we didn’t really have smartphones. Accessible wifi wasn’t really a thing. And when I wanted to call home, I used a phone. Like one plugged into the wall. Hard to believe that was five and a half years ago. It seems only fitting as, on the edge of turning 24, today I arrive back in Latin America for my third visit, to recap my first visit back when I was just 18.
The trip was my first ‘solo’ travel experience, and kicked off a 5 month gap year exploring Venezuela, New Zealand and Fiji. I went through a programme, the schedule including Spanish lessons, volunteer work and a 5 day trek up Roraima, a table top mountain in the South of the country. Our group became fast friends, as you often do when travelling, and we extended our trip for a few weeks independent travelling at the end.
So, the best bits. It’s hard to condense such an adventure down into 700 words and a few photos, but I’ll try.
Our ‘base’ was in the North of Venezuela in a little village called Playa Colorada. I’ll never forget the drive there, arrive under the spell of darkness and collapsing into the hammocks that were to become our beds to then wake up to a whole new beautiful world the next morning, so so different from just 24-hours previously.
We would kayak out to this little island where our beach clean-up project was based. One day we had dolphins swimming alongside us…
Halfway between the mainland and the islands was this beautiful little building. Apparently it used to be a restaurant but had long been derelict. There was just something about it that stole my heart…
In the mornings we’d walk the dogs up the nearby hill (whilst trying to avoid the entire village’s dogs coming along with us in the process).
Part of our project took us up into the mountainous area of Caripe, famous for its coffee and strawberries and cream.
We finished up the ‘organised’ section of our trip by driving hours and hours down to the South, where Brazil, British Guyana and Venezuela all meet, across dirt tracks and over steep rocks all to trek up this beauty, 3 days up and 2 days back. Clearly the first bit was flat and easy before the day long ascent up to the table top. Apparently, back in the day before it was explored people just to believe that dinosaurs still roamed around on-top, how mysterious…
Whilst we didn’t find any dinosaurs there were a couple of crystal valleys which were simply awe-striking. Sadly some are more sparse than others as people have stolen crystals from the national park to sell for profit, the park rangers now check your bags upon exit in an attempt to prevent this.
Then we headed up by ourselves to Merída, pretty much the adventure capital of Venezuela. There was paragliding, bridge jumping, rock climbing, canyoning and plenty more.
Finally, we spent a few days on Isla Margarita, probably best described as Venezuela’s Ibiza. It was so ridiculously beautiful. We stayed in crazy cheap accommodation right on the coast, complete with white sand beaches lined with palm trees. We drank cocktails fresh from coconuts and revelled in the fact that there wasn’t a single British tourist to be found. The perfect ending to the most incredible trip.
Venezuela will always hold a special place in my heart. It kicked off my love for the beautifully crazy continent that is South America and my love for all things Latino. I ended up writing my undergraduate dissertation on the place, and Lord knows you’ve got to like something when choosing to write 12,000 words on it. It introduced me to the world of (semi) solo travel and for that I’ll be forever grateful. So often now Venezuela is overshadowed by politics and the atrocities we read about in the news. But really, it’s just an absolutely stunning country nestled on the edge of the Caribbean.
Have you ever been to Latin America? Have you done much solo/semi-solo travelling?