In this latest series, I will be going through all the countries I’ve travelled to on my mission to visit every single country in the world. In this article, we will be covering country #37: Venezuela. If you haven’t gotten a chance already, read this story first to find out why I’m trying to visit all 193 UN-recognized countries.
As far as I remembered, I’ve been plotting for a way to safely enter Venezuela. The first time I laid eyes on a picture of Mount Roraima, I knew that I would someday trek this magnificent table mountain. After years of planning, I found out that I can safely enter Venezuela if I enter from the Brazil side. That’s where my adventure to this dangerous country began.
VIDEO – Country #37: Venezuela
Blog post on Venezuela
- Complete Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil Spending Breakdown
- Exploring Salto Sapo in the Canaima Lagoon Venezuela
- Angel Falls – Journey to the World’s Highest Waterfalls
- Mount Roraima – Hiking “Up” the Lost World in Venezuela
- How to Safely Enter Venezuela from the Brazil-Venezuela Border
- My Top 10 Favourite Experiences During My 380 Days of Travel
- The Top 10 Friendliest People I Met During My 380 Days of Travel
Santa Elena de Uairen
I was nervously sitting just outside the Brazilian immigration as I wait for the tour company to pick me up. A man was staring at me as I sat there leaving me feeling paranoid. “Is he going to stab me?” I thought to myself. Not long after, the tour company came and helped me cross over to the Venezuela side.
I was curious to see what would happen on the Venezuelan side of immigration. “Are they going to shake me down for a bribe?” I thought to myself. Nope. Instead, I had a hilarious conversation with the immigration officer on losing weight after I told him I work in the fitness industry. “I will rather be fat than stop eating carbs,” the lady said to me as she stamped my passport allowing me to enter the country.
Before long, I have arrived in Santa Elena de Uairen at the Kamadac (tour company) office.
I owed Kamadac $962 USD for my 11-day tour of the country. The tour includes all transfers, accommodation, Mount Roraima trek, flight to Canaima National Park, and tour to Angel Falls.
Part of the money I owed them I paid in Brazilian Reals which is widely accepted in Santa Elena. The other half I wired from my bank in Canada to their American bank account. I was paranoid about the whole process because I didn’t know if the money was going to go through or not. Thankfully, everything went well and my 11-day tour was paid off.
I also took some of my Brazilian Reals and exchanged them in the black market for some Venezuelan pesos. Some of our meals weren’t included in the tour price and so we needed Venezuelan money for some in-country purchases.
After the transaction was complete, they took us to our accommodation where I got settled in before grabbing dinner at a local restaurant.
Santa Elena is pretty safe for tourists and there’s no problem for you to walk around and grab a bite to eat.
Mount Roraima day 1 – trek to camp #1
I woke up late the next day because I didn’t realize that I had to change my time one hour ahead. I hurried to the Kamadac office on foot with all my stuff. They were getting ready to leave but I didn’t get anything to eat yet. They were very nice and cooked me some eggs while I stored my valuables in their office.
Before long, they gathered us up and drove us to a local indigenous village where our trek to Mount Roraima would start.
Before we set off to trek, they prepared our meal that we were going to eat at camp.
Then, we took a group picture with my trekking companions. Basically, we have a Russian couple, a Brazilian girl, a woman from Caracas, a half German half Peruvian woman with her Belgian boyfriend. Basically, I was the token Asian in the group. I asked our tour guide, Marisol, if they get any Asian tourists to join their tour. She told me that I’m the third Chinese guy in her 20+ years leading the tour to join.
The first part of the trek wasn’t too bad at all. We were trekking on fairly flat or slightly inclined terrain. I trained my cardio in Colombia before my trip to Venezuela and I think it really paid off.
We had about two rest stops along the way before reaching camp number one.
The trek to the first camp probably took around 5-hours. If we wanted to take a bath, there is a river beside the camp.
They also provided us with a toilet which came with a poop bag. Basically, after you poop, you put some powder on your poop and seal the bag. This is how they keep Mount Roraima clean from garbage.
I found it hard to sleep at night because I find the sound of nature distracting. Laying there, I could hear all sorts of sounds from insects and animals. Whenever I left my tent to pee, the sky was so bright with twinkling stars. It was beautiful but scary at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life and it kind of frightened me.
Mount Roraima day 2 – trek to the base of the mountain (camp #2)
The next morning, we went to the river to fill up our water bottle with water. We never filtered any water during the trek. As long as there was running water, we were told that it’s safe to drink. And they were right as I never had any issues drinking the running water during my entire trek to Mount Roraima.
After breakfast, we continued our trek and the first landmark we saw was this random church in the middle of nowhere. I was puzzled why there’s a church here of all places. Apparently, Venezuelans go on a pilgrimage here in the New Year. And, many also climb to the top of Mount Roraima to celebrate the New Year.
After walking passed the church, we eventually arrived at the second river crossing of the trip. This river crossing wouldn’t be too bad as we just hopped from one rock to the next. The way back later on; however, would be a different story.
Along the way, there is wildlife to be seen everywhere. Most of the time, you will come across different insects. But, at one point, we even saw a snake.
The trek on this day is definitely more challenging than day 1. We were now trekking at a steady incline to reach camp #2. I felt happy that I held my own during the trek and I attribute that to my cardio training prior to this hike.
After a lengthy hike, I was the third person in my group to arrive in camp #2.
After settling in my tent, I went down a nearby freezing pond to take a bath. The water was so cold I was shivering! The Brazilian girl laughed at me when she saw my facial expression when I took a dip in this frigid water.
After a badly needed bath, we all went back to camp to enjoy dinner while the mosquitoes also enjoyed their dinner (us). The stars came out shining shortly after and some of my fellow trekkers took the time to do some star photography.
Mount Roraima day 3 – trek up the mountain (camp #3)
The third day would prove to be one of the hardest days of our trek. This time, we would be climbing all the way up Mount Roraima starting from the base camp.
We had a lovely breakfast while enjoying the view of the mountain.
After building up our energy with the yummy breakfast, it was time to start the ascent.
The first part of the trek would take us now to a completely different landscape. We would now be deep in the jungle as we made our way up the mountain.
On a random turn of event, I came across a trekker coming down Mount Roraima. Turns out he’s also from Canada like me. And, he lives in Surrey, British Colombia, which is just a 30-minute drive from where I live.
As the hike progressed, it definitely became steeper. I was separated from the group and ended up trekking with Miguel (one of the porters). We were chatting during the trek and became friends.
Not too long after, the Russian couple also caught up with us and we made our way to the final stretch to the peak together.
The Russian couple ended up being one of my friends on this trek. And, later on, we were traveling together again in Guyana and Suriname. In recent times, I even visited them when I took the time to travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg!
Mount Roraima peak
After an exhausting climb, we made it to the top but our adventure wasn’t over yet! We still had to hike to camp which took us another hour.
The top of Mount Roraima looked like an alien world. Plants grew up here but they’re carnivorous. Because of the lack of soil, the plants have to eat insects to get their nutrients.
It felt so good to finally make it to camp and just relax after a long grueling day.
The place to take a bath near our camp was a little bit sketchy. I was the only one that took a bath because the pool of water had some floating insects on it. But, I rather sleep all clean so I just went for it.
My Russian friends had a tarantula crawl on the rock ledge beside their tent which is creepy as hell. I don’t know how they went to bed that night, I would be scared to death knowing there’s a tarantula right outside my doorstep.
Mount Roraima day 4 – exploring the top of the mountain
After waking up the next morning, we started exploring the peak of the highest table mountain in Venezuela.
The peak is such a weird place. It’s unlike anything I have ever seen in my life.
We eventually made it to this big ravine by the edge of the mountain.
After, we went back to camp to grab a bite to eat when a big rainstorm occurred. Marisol told us to wait out the rainstorm before we would continue. I think this was a bad idea because later on, we had to hike in the pitch dark.
The second half of the peak hike
Once the rain has subsided, we proceeded to continue our exploration. We would be visiting a big quartz field that once contained a massive amount of quartz. According to our tour guide, the Japanese people took a helicopter here and took all the quarts. What remains is plenty of tiny quartz laying all over the ground.
Marisol did manage to hide a big chunk of quartz that she likes to show to tourists who visit here. I picked up a piece from the ground and gave it to my girlfriend as a special souvenir later on.
Not long after, we made it to this area with many pools. They called this place the jacuzzi; though, I wouldn’t say the pools look inviting to jump into.
The way back was quite bad. My Russian friend Aleksander suddenly fainted and had to be carried back to camp. Because it was dark at this point, this made the task harder as we traversed the peak in the pitch black.
Thankfully, he was okay. It was just the altitude that got him.
Mount Roraima day 5 – trek down the mountain (back to camp #1)
On the 5th day of our trek, it was now time to go down the mountain. This day would be the hardest and longest day. We would be hiking all the way back to camp #1 which is roughly a 10-hour hike from the peak of the mountain.
The hike down the mountain was rough. It was raining hard and the trail was flooded.
It took me a long time to finally make it back down to camp #2. There, a group of locals employed by Kamadac provided us with lunch before we continued on the long exhausting journey.
By the time I reached the second river crossing, it was flooded. There was no way we could cross on foot.
We were lucky as some locals were there and used a log canoe to ferry us to the other side.
After continuing on this brutal hike, I made it back to camp #1.
Only half of us
Unfortunately, only half of us made it to camp #1. The other half got stranded on the second river crossing and had to sleep overnight at that location.
As for me, the porters set up my tent away from the other trekkers because they said I was snoring at night. I thought it was a funny jerk move for them to do that.
Mount Roraima day 6 – completion
On the morning of the last day of the trek, I took the time to enjoy gazing at Mount Roraima one last time. The stranded group made it back to camp #1 and we all ate breakfast together before finishing up the hike.
It was a hot day that day and the hike back was challenging because of the intense heat.
When we reached the indigenous encampment, they drove us back to Santa Elena where we celebrated with a feast.
After a group picture with the Kamadac trekking group, we split up as the Brazilian girl and my Russian friends would be going back to Brazil. The German/Peruvian woman, her Belgian boyfriend, and the Venezuelan woman would be joining me in our next destination which is Angel Falls.
Long road trip to Ciudad Bolivar
The second half of my adventure in Venezuela would begin with a long road trip to Ciudad Bolivar.
It’s about a 10-hour drive there and there’s a military checkpoint at every 50km. The point of these checkpoints is to extort a bribe from the locals. As you can tell, Venezuela is a corrupt country thanks to the dictatorship regime of its president, Maduro.
One interesting thing to note is the cheap gas prices in Venezuela. This country has the most oil reserve in the world, even more than Saudi Arabia. Filling up a full tank of gas will set you back a hefty price of 25 cents USD.
The road trip wasn’t all bad. At one point, I ate some Venezuelan street food. The locals asked me if I liked the food and when I told them “yes!”, they kept feeding me more! I was full to the max but if I didn’t eat what they gave me, I would come across as an asshole. So I kept eating until I was dying from fullness.
This city was rated as the 8th most dangerous city in the world back in 2018. According to stats, there are 600 murders per year in this city, just second to Caracas.
During my time here, we weren’t allowed to leave the accommodation we stayed at.
Posada Don Carlo is the guest house we stayed in and it was rather nice. It’s owned by a German who immigrated to Venezuela back in the 1990s and married a Venezuelan woman.
He told us tales of when the country was rich and tourists flocked from all over the world. Nowadays, people can’t earn a living and poverty is at an all-time high.
He barely gets any tourists nowadays and has to turn to other means to make a living.
Flying to Canaima National Park
The following morning, the friendly owner of Posada Don Carlo took us to the Ciudad Bolivar airport.
After paying the airline tax, we boarded a 6 seater plane to take us to Canaima National Park.
The plane ride was awesome. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience to fly on an old 6-seater plane.
Just a little over an hour later, we landed in Canaima National Park.
Immediately, we paid for the national park tax and we were ushered over to meet up with our tour guide.
I’m not very fond of our tour guide. Actually, I think he’s shitty at his job and has no care at all for the wellbeing of the tourists. I’ll go over this more later on this story.
He’s quite pushy and rushed us to dump our belongings in the guest house.
Journey to Angel Falls
After dropping off our stuff in the guest house, the tour guide took us to the canoe. Our next destination is Angel Falls: the world’s highest waterfall.
The canoe ride to Angel Falls was one hell of an adventure. It was going to be a 4.5-hour journey to the base of Angel Falls.
Along the way, we also hiked through local indigenous villages.
On this part of the trip, we were also joined by a fellow Canadian from Edmonton and a guy from Switzerland who has a Venezuelan girlfriend (they’re married now).
I can’t describe how awesome this canoe ride is to the base of Angel Falls. It’s definitely in my top 3 best travel experience ever.
It’s not often I get emotionally moved when I see a world wonder. But seeing Angel Falls on the horizon as we approached it from a distance was a special moment.
My lower back was aching from sitting on a wooden plank for 4.5 hours. I kind of saw it as part of the adventure reaching this remote place on Earth.
After an hour of hiking, we finally made it! It was a surreal feeling to witness the world’s highest waterfalls right in front of you. I just stood there in awe. I felt gratitude and happiness to have this opportunity to see Angel Falls. This is why I travel, for moments like this.
Injury at Angel Falls
This is why I really don’t like the tour guide. Besides the fact that it’s obvious he’s drinking on the job from the alcohol that reeks off him. He also made a really bad decision that caused me to get injured.
After seeing Angel Falls, I wanted to go back down the mountain and he insisted we wait until it’s dark for us to hike back down.
Why the fuck should a bunch of tourists who have never been here, hike in the dark? When we finally made it back to the river, he made us cross parts of the river barefoot to reach our canoe.
I stepped on some pointy rocks that caused the bottom of my feet’s soft tissue to be hurt. To this day, I’m still doing physiotherapy on the bottom of my foot that was hurt 4-years ago thanks to the negligent asshole tour guide. Thankfully, I heard he’s been fired since then. I normally don’t like the idea of people losing their job in Venezuela but this guy definitely deserves it.
Overnight at Angel Falls
After crossing the river on the canoe, we made it to our shelter. We would be sleeping overnight on hammocks and taking the canoe back the next morning.
We ate some dinner and I was surprised they had electricity here in the middle of nowhere. They actually have a generator here that runs for 2 hours. This gives us time to use the shower (yes, they have a shower here!) and get settled in before bed.
The Swiss guy gave me some strong mosquito repellent that I sprayed all over my hammock. It did the job as I slept sweet and sound throughout the night.
Back to Canaima
The next morning, we took the canoe back to Canaima. It was raining throughout the canoe ride which may have helped speed up our travel time. Thanks to the rain, the water levels were higher in the fairly shallow river. We were able to get back to the town in Canaima National Park where we would get settled in before our final adventure here.
At this point, I felt tired and wanted to rest. But, the adventure must go on as we will now explore the Canaima Lagoon.
I was pleasantly surprised by this trip. I thought I’d seen it all after visiting Angel Falls. But nope, Venezuela continues to amaze me.
The Canaima Lagoon has three waterfalls that you can visit. The first part of our trip was a canoe ride to see them from the lake view.
One of them is a spot where you can go for a swim; though, it does require some hiking to reach.
To reach the swimming spot, we had to cross a sketchy area where the water can sweep you over the falls. We had to make a big line to prevent that from happening.
It was neat swimming here and there were tons of bubbles that are formed from the mineral-rich water.
The last waterfall we visited was the highlight as we got a chance to walk right behind a massive curtain of water.
This was the perfect ending to my adventure to Angel Falls before heading back to Santa Elena.
Flight back to Ciudad Bolivar and overnight in Puerto Ordaz
We flew back to Ciudad Bolivar the next morning. This time, we boarded a 10-seater plane and arrived in the Ciudad Bolivar airport shortly after.
Our driver from our long road trip picked me up and took me to another city called Puerto Ordaz where I would be spending the night.
I was all alone now at this point as the woman from Caracas, the Belgian guy, and the German/Peruvian woman would be going to Caracas.
I felt paranoid staying in this hotel as I was the only tourist here and I was constantly stared at by the locals.
After dinner, I holed myself up in my comfortable hotel room and relaxed before the long journey back the next day.
Long road trip back to Santa Elena de Uairen
At 6:30 am in the morning, the driver picked me up from the hotel. Our first stop would be a local grocery convenience store where we would be purchasing food and drinks for our long journey back to Santa Elena.
I was surprised to see the shelves were stocked with supplies. From the news, you hear that Venezuela has massive inflation and low on supplies. It seems that some stores have managed to stay in business and are still selling goods.
We were harassed by one military checkpoint but we managed to fend him off. It was a bit annoying that he held onto my passport for so long but we didn’t budge. We knew he wanted a bribe but he got nothing.
When we were nearing Santa Elena, we stopped at a gas station to fill up on gas. After what seemed like forever, we were finally on our way and made it back to Santa Elena safe and sound.
Back to Brazil
After spending one more night in Santa Elena, I was ready to leave the country. Hiram, the owner of the company drove me to the Brazil side of the border in the small town of Pacaraima. From there, I waited for 3-hours until the shared taxi had enough people to take a 4-hour drive to Boa Vista where I would be hanging out for the next 3 days.
I loved my time in Venezuela. I really did. But, I was also happy when I left. I didn’t like looking over my shoulder all the time. Being constantly paranoid is not a good feeling to have. Venezuela is easily in my top 10 favorite countries of all time and I do want to return again someday. I can definitely see myself travelling there independently once the country is no longer dangerous. Places like Lake Maracaibo, Isla Margarita, and Caracas are places I’d definitely love to visit once they are safe.
I’ll be back one day, Venezuela, one day.