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I think 3 facts are important in order to understand Venezuela: it has a lot of oil, it´s governed by a populist Hugo Chavez and finally, Simon Bolivar who liberated most of South America from Spain is regarded as god.  Venezuela is one of the biggest oil producers in the world.  However, most of this money is wasted on building something called Socialism of 21st Century.  Mr Chavez uses nationalistic slogans to gain support.  Posters advertise supposed achievements, but in reality life is hard for most people despite country´s wealth.  I found Venezuela poorer than Colombia, which was a big surprise.  One thing cheap in Venezuela is petrol - $1 fills an average tank!  I found it funny that the name of the country was changed to "Republica Bolivariana", and the government is called "revolutionary".

Pan de Azucar 4660m

I crossed the border in a big American cadillac used to ferry people between 2 countries.  There were 4 other people, and 2 of them were not Venezuelan citizens.  Once in Venezuela, we were stopped every 10 min by the police and papers were checked.  This resulted in $10 being paid by each of the 2 people without citizenship in bribes!  In total, they spend well over $100.  We arrived in Maracaibo and from there I took a night bus to the outdoor capital of the country, Merida.

There I packed my camping equipment and went trekking to the mountain of Pan De Azucar, 4660m.  The path lead through beautiful grasslands called Paramo.  I camped at the end of the valley, and the next day went to the top of Pan.  The views were fantastic of course, with low clouds filling some valleys.  That day I came back to Merida.

Los Llanos

Next, I went on a tour of Los Llanos, flat grasslands at the heart of the country.  First day we drove through the mountains and down to the hot Llanos.  We arrived in a small town of San Vincente on the banks of a large river.  We boarded a long, narrow boat and went up the river just in time for the sunset.  We saw  a lot of pink dolphins jumping in the river, and after dark we took photos of small alligators on the river bank.

The next day we drove along a straight and remote road in bad condition.  We stopped in places to look at wildlife, like alligators, capybaras and a variety of birds.  There was a small lake full of piranhas swimming at the surface.  Apparently, they were out of oxygen.  Around the lakes hundreds if not thousands of birds were taking refuge.
Later we went by boat looking for anacondas.  The guides caught a couple of small, 2m ones.  In the dark they got a big, fat one, which was very exciting.  We stayed in a jungle camp, where we fished piranhas for supper.  Overall it was a great tour, very informative and exciting.   photos