Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Colombia to Venezuela, sooo much to say!

Kyaaaaaa! Where do I start...?
After my tranquilidad in the coffee region it was time to head to the big cities. Or you could say, it was time to get rained on in another location.

I fell in love with Medellin within the first half hour---nice people, veggie restaurants galore, free internet at the hostel, cool parks surrounded by coffee shops, and a metro system that includes a TRAM up a mountain, how can it get better than this? A friend I met in the hostel convinced me to go to a yoga class at the Hare Krishna center where I ended up repeating chants from the Bhagavad Vita in some Hindi language while contorting into positions that my muscles regretted for an entire week later. But it was worth the veggie lasagna afterward.

This is a METRO line!
I haven't seen such rain since my last typhoon in Japan. Holy RAIN! The hurricane over the Caribbean made the normally clear blue water splash brown onto the sidewalks of the city, with huge sections flooded and the streets resembling rivers at times. I had a "posh" $10/night hotel room with cable TV and caught up on my CSIs in the meantime. The colonial part of the city is just gorgeous, enclosed by a 500 year-old fortress. You can just imagine pirates waiting to storm the city. And I found the most delicious pizza served in the park...yum!

Cartagena fruit vendors

Cartagena old townAn hour outside of town is the coolest volcano with a crater 200 meters/yards full of nothing but mud. I took a mud bath and it was so weird, you cannot touch the bottom obviously, but you cannot sink, either. The mud keeps you afloat to your chest. Sometimes you can feel little rocks and air bubble up from the volcano. I wished I had one of these in my backyard.
Santa Marta/Taganga
I found Santa Marta to be the sweltering armpit of the Caribbean full of creepy catcalling ignorantes and rude women (I really hated it, nearly had a nervous breakdown at the money changer)---but the nearby fishing village of Taganga where I stayed was great. I went diving for three days in perfectly calm water with perfect weather, ahhhhhhh. Even the fish were chilled out here.

Crossing into Venezuela, Merida and Los Llanos
20 hours by bus brought me across the border, through oil-rich Maracaibo and into the mountain town of Merida. I wanted to go to Los Llanos, the "Serengeti of South America" according to the Lonely Planet.

Los Llanos is a huge grassland full of cattle and wildlife. In my three days there I saw hundreds of species of birds, caymans, an anaconda, capibara (the world's largest rodent), an anteater, and hoards of mosquitoes. Just loved it.

The funny thing is, with all the cattle around, it is impossible to buy milk in Venezuela. Chavez is fighting with dairy farmers and you can't even find powdered milk anywhere. I was ready to grab a cow and start milking for my morning cafe con leche (I love my coffee with milk). I kind of admire Chavez for standing up to the likes of my government, but here in Venezuela he's creeping me out. There is propaganda everywhere. He's wearing red and looking very revolutionary. They are going to vote Dec. 2nd whether to give Chavez more freedom to create a socialist state and extent his right to power (by constitution he can only serve two terms), and most people here agree that the results will be rigged. I only hope I am not seeing a Venezuela now that will never be again. Sorry, political rant. Next paragraph...

My tour was in a big bulky Toyota Landrover, but you wouldn't believe the price of gas here! A 15 gallon fill (58.76 liters) cost a total of about US$1.25---I shit you not. If you ever wondered whatever happened to all the huge gas-guzzling Chevy Impalas et al from the 80's, well, they're all here in Venezuela. Even taxis are huge and old. Who cares about miles per gallon when you can fill your whole tank for the price of a can of 3.2 beer?

Puerto Ordaz and Uri's house
From Merida I called my old friend Uri whom I lived with in Buenos Aires years ago. She's originally from Venezuela and though she works on fancy cruise ships she was going to be in town (well, in the country) to meet up. I found out she had a schedule change and only three more days in Venezuela!!! So I caught the next bus across the nation (20 hours, empty and cushy bus, $18---don't you just love cheap gas!) and am now at her house in Puerto Ordaz. It's so nice to catch up, it's been seven years but it feels like I just saw her yesterday!

I don't know what the next plan will be. Maybe Angel Falls? Isla Margarita? Los Roques if I can afford it. Definitely Aruba. I only have two more weeks before my flight to the States so will try to squeeze as much in as possible.

In the meantime I am getting very excited for my traditional American candy bar binge at the first airport I arrive to, then to seeing everyone! Soon!


Anonymous said...

How can you like the Tram Transit but still be terrified of the "Terrible Tram" at ski resorts? BOD

Shannen said...

I was terrified of the Tram Transit, too. But it's still cool. And quieter than regular subways and trains. Besides, I have to practice taking terrible trams for Montana, right?

Anonymous said...

Does a cobra have all that flappy skin on their neck? Did you see a wild cobra?

We are excited to see you in a few weeks!

sister Sam

Shannen said...

*Hey sister Sam*

Nope, no cobras for me. I think the skin is hard, not floppy? What a question, heehee.

Me, too! I wanna go now!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I guess I was thinking of the anaconda comment you made. Was the anaconda wild? I think Sir-Mix-a-lot sang a song about an anaconda once.

sister Sam

Bruno said...

Hi Shannen
I love your passioned style of writing...Isn't it must important to enjoy what you experience? Funny that the guy in the "volcan de lodo" still wares the same basecap as when I was there :-)

Anonymous said...

All alliterations aside, you are saying that you are "Terrified To Take The Terrible Transit Tram Too" a sociological condition otherwise known by its acronym "TTTTTTT". BOD

Moe: said...

Hi Shannen,

You're going to have to explain more to me why you don't sink in a bottomless volcano....or get stuck like quicksand or something.

Shannen said...

*Siser Sam*

You are your rapsters! haha The anaconda was wild (just a baby), but our guide grabbed him to show us. He is running away in all my pictures, poor snakie. I don't know if their grab or their bite is more dangerous, but they get gigantic.

*Hey Bruno!

Great to hear from you! I tried commenting on your blog and had technical difficulties...I'll try again. Great posting on the Galapagos!
Ha ha you recognized the masseurs (I spelled that wrong). Cool! Yeah, it was so fun, thanks for telling me about it!


Did I illiterate that much? haha I would illiterate a witty reply but I'm too braindead right now. Get me a TTTTTTTT doctor!

Shannen said...


Hmmm interesting question. By my little knowledge of physics I would guess that the width-density ratio of our bodies is less than that of the mud (it was very thick mud)...but that wouldn't explain why we sink in quicksand. Hmmmm

Imagine plopping on top of a big bottomless volcano of jello. You might break the surface a little but that's it. You could jump in from high, high above and would penetrate a little further, but you would still plop back up to near the surface. This mud was kind of like that, except it didn't taste as good.

Thank for the interest! I wish you had a mud volcano in your backyard to try it out!

Moe: said...

Well, my next door neighbors have a jacuzzi, I don't see why we can't have a giant mud volcano.

Thanks for the explanation!