Monthly Archives: December 2007

Getting Kissed by a Toad

December 22, 2007
Day 815

Angel Falls Trip Day 3

Picture of guy.

Lake Canaima.

The first thing we did today was take a boat back downstream to Canaima. The rain barely let up before we left, but the sky was still really cloudy, so there wasn't much to look at. It was amazing how different those boat trips could be depending on the weather conditions.

My tour would have been over, but I still had to go to Sapo Falls because I missed it on the first day. Once again, I had to wait at the house, this time for four hours. The reason given was that fuel was expensive so they wanted to wait until enough people showed up that the boat was full. Regular gasoline in Canamia costs 1000 bolivares per liter, which was indeed far more than the normal price, but that still only equated to $0.75 per gallon, so I think it was just an excuse. Finally I was joined up enough people that we were able to leave.

Picture of Sapo.

El Sapo Falls.

I piled into another boat with a bunch of random tourists and was driven once again across Laguna Canaima. It still was a jaw-dropping view with its seven massive waterfalls, behind which were forests and tepuis, with the occasional bush plane making a flyover. We were led around the set of rapids that the lagoon drained into, then upstream a bit to reveal Salto El Sapo (Toad Falls). It was far wider than any of the other waterfalls, and behind it there was a secret waiting for us. Instead of flowing down the rocks and into the lagoon, the toad leaped over a cliff, creating a pocket with a makeshift walking trail. We carefully made our way to the other side and got drenched by the awesome power of so much water crashing down right next to us.

One we had gotten across, we were able to take a quick breather near the swimming pool, then walked to the top of El Sapito, the toad's little brother. It was another great place, with a panoramic view of the lakes, waterfalls, and tepuis. It would have been the perfect place to have lunch and relax all afternoon, but unfortunately, we only had a few minutes to enjoy it before it was time to leave.

I spent the night in Canaima and got to know some of the local people. A few were farmers, but the village mainly existed for tourism. Everything was expensive because there were no roads leading there, but it seemed to be a prosperous and tranquil place. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry to do anything, but after witnessing that slow pace of life the last few days, it started to make sense. Why hurry when you live near Angel Falls?

The trip to Angel Falls was filled with slow parts, but still worthwhile. For me, the journey was even better than the destination. Flying over the jungle, boating in dugouts, meeting the indigenous Pemon people, and seeing nature at its finest were the highlights of this trip.

The photo album for this entry is here.

Don't Talk to Me About Waterfalls

December 21, 2007
Day 814

Angel Falls Trip Day 2

Picture of me.

Me at Angel Falls.

Last night we learned that we wouldn't be able to camp at the high camp near Angel Falls because "It was flooded." However, we met another tour group coming down from that camp early in the morning and confirmed that it wasn't flooded at all. All was well, though, because one of the tourists told me that camp sucked anyway. "Why was that?" I asked. "Because the toilets were gross and there was no coffee." "But what about the highest waterfall in the world?" "Oh yeah, that was nice, but at some point you still have to go to the bathroom." Everyone then proceeded to discuss that quality of the food that had been served to them so far. Some people I will never understand.

The boat ride up to the high camp took a couple hours, but it was too cloudy to see anything. From the campsite (which looked just like the other one to me), we walked without any coffee for about an hour through the forest to the waterfall's viewpoint.

Despite what you would understandably assume, Angel Falls was not named after anything religious. Instead, its name comes from an American bush pilot named Jimmy Angel who crashed his airplane on top of Auyan Teupi in 1933 and had to walk for ten days with his wife and two other companions to the bottom. Eventually people figured out that the waterfall that flowed over the top of the tepui was 979 meters high, making it the highest in the world.

When we reached the viewpoint for Angel Falls, it was cloudy and we were constantly sprayed by the waterfall's mist. After some patient waiting, though, the sky cleared and we got a good look at it. It was hard to believe the waterfall was really 979 meters high (more than twice as high as the Empire State Building), but then again it was pretty far away and there was nothing near it to give it scale. I was certainly impressed by the sight of it, and now I can say that I've been to all of the great waterfalls of South America: Iguazu, Kaieteur, Gokta, and now Angel Falls. So don't even try talking to me about waterfalls.

We walked back to the campsite for lunch, and I realized that it was definitely better not to camp there, not because of the toilets, but because it was only 3:00 and there wasn't much to look at there. We took the boat back down the river, and the sky was perfectly clear this time, allowing us to see all of the tepuis in the region. The scenery was absolutely incredible, some of the best stuff I had seen in South America. We didn't see much wildlife on the trip, but there were a few birds singing to us when we got to the lower campsite, and a rare cock of the rock flew past us at one point.

The daily tropical storm hit us early in the evening and didn't let up all night. The rain here is far more powerful than anything I've ever experience in the US, and I was really grateful for the protection of the campsite's tin roof.

The photo album for this entry is here.

Like Watching Paint Dry

December 20, 2007
Day 813

Angel Falls Trip Day 1

Picture of plane.

Flying to Canaima.

Today started off on a slow note as I had to wait for two hours just to leave the travel agency, and another hour at the airport in Ciudad Bolivar. I was then driven all alone for two hours in a cargo van to La Paragua, the closest town with road access to Angel Falls. On the way there, we passed several illegal mining camps, which were a harsh reminder of my visit to the gold mine at White Man's Camp last year, not too far from here on the Essequibo River in the jungles of Guyana.

Once in La Paragua, we loaded a small airplane with lots of supplies, and I was flown solo to Canaima. It was a short flight, but a beautiful one over lots of jungle and rivers, including the sight of black-water and brown-water rivers coming together, the same natural phenomenon that famously happens at the confluence of the massive Amazon and Negro rivers near Manaus. I got a view of Canaima when we were about to land with its big lagoon filled with waterfalls and surrounding tepuis. Seeing how amazing the area was got me excited about the rest of the trip.

The main problem I have with tours in general showed up right away as I was made to wait for some other people inside a house, despite the fact that there was so much exploration to be done outside. A group of four Germans on their year-end holiday showed up, so I finally had some people to talk to, but clearly the whole operation was lacking organization. I could say a lot of things in that regard, but the best way to sum it up would be to point out that we literally watched a kid paint the house while we were waiting.

Eventually, we were joined by Marcos, a Chilean who had been living in Venezuela for the last twenty-five years. We were supposed to see a waterfall called El Sapo (The Toad) this afternoon, but after waiting for so long, there was no longer time and the waterfall would have to wait until the last day of our trip. So the only thing on our itinerary today was getting to the camp up the river.

Picture of girls.

The girls in the back of the boat.

First we rode through the lagoon and walked past a hydroelectric plant to the top of the seven waterfalls that emptied into the Canaima Lagoon, where the sun was bright and the view was great. Next we were led further up the river where several large dugout boats were waiting. The motor had to be driven to us, however, so we waited outside a house that really could've used some painting. Once the motor arrived, we had a short ride upstream until we got to a set of rapids. We were told that they were so big that according to safety regulations, we would have to walk around them and the driver would thrust the boat to the other side. But while us tourists had to walk for safety, the three five-year-old girls without life jackets had no problem staying in the boat. I felt like such a pansy.

Once we got around the rapids, we had a two-hour ride up the river to our campsite. This part of the trip was incredible as there were dozens of tepuis poking through the clouds in the distance. They were all surrounded by thick vegetation at their bases, but nothing grew on their sides because the sheer cliffs jutted out of the ground so steeply. Seeing the tepuis brought back many memories of climbing Roraima in Venezuela's Gran Sabana last year.

We got to the camp near dusk and just before the rain began falling. It was a huge shelter big enough to hold 150 people with a corrugated tin roof, full kitchen facilities, and flush toilets. Our group of six were the only ones there, so there was plenty of room for my tent, while everyone else slept in hammocks. So even though I spent six hours waiting for the tour company to get their act together, the flight and boat rides made today quite exciting.

The photo album for this entry is here.

What Time Is It?

December 18-19, 2007
Days 811-812

My bus pulled into Ciudad Bolivar at dawn, and right away I knew I was back on the tourist circuit. Two guys working for different tour companies grabbed my arm and offered me deals to Angel Falls before I could even catch my breath. The really good news was that they would both buy dollars for about 4500 bolivares, and I might even get 5000 elsewhere in town. That meant I could finally change money and afford to travel through Venezuela.

I found a hostel in the center of town with lots of other backpackers that proved to be a great place to relax for a couple days. The black market was on everyone's mind, and I guess I was lucky because at least I knew about the situation before entering Venezuela. A lot of people that I met didn't have cash so they had to change money at the official rate and could barely afford to breath. The financial situation was so unbalanced that I was able to get my own huge room and eat three big meals per day for less money than the people on the official exchange rate were paying just to sleep in a hammock in the hostel's courtyard. For people who wanted to go to Angel falls but didn't have cash, the travel agencies were recommending making the eleven-hour trip to Brazil just to get dollars and come back.

The other thing people were talking about was Chavez. It turned out that he had done a lot more weird stuff than I knew about. He changed the name of the country to La Republica Bolivarana de Venezuela, he added a star to the country's flag to reflect Caracas' importance, and he even changed the time zone so now it's half an hour ahead of Colombia “to give everyone more sunshine." Chavez must think he's God, but now absolutely nobody knows what time it is because every clock is either half an hour behind or ahead. That stuff sounds relatively harmless, but Chavez also increased taxes on certain food items to the point where it was no longer possible to turn a profit on their production. Consequently, it's difficult to find products like sugar, flour, and especially milk anywhere in Venezuela, or whatever it's called now. Despite all of this, he still has a lot of political support, but I guess that's not too surprising considering that if you can't afford cable TV (like the majority of the country), all you can watch are the state-run channels that broadcast Chavez spewing out his propaganda for at least six hours every day.

Despite the shaky (that's an understatement) political situation in Venezuela, there still are a lot of great natural attractions to see such as Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall. Until recently, I had been hearing mixed reviews about the falls, but the bad reviews were coming from people who went during the dry season. The daily downpours the region is currently experiencing and the positive reviews I heard from people who just went there convinced me to make the splurge and sign up for a tour. The only problem was, of course, the ever-changing black market exchange rate. The rate was fluctuating so rapidly, the price for the Angel Falls trip could change by as much as $50 in a single day. I figured out that I would only have enough cash to last a couple weeks in Venezuela, but that was fine because I couldn't wait to get out of the country anyway.

Lucky Me

December 17, 2007
Day 810

I got so San Fernando de Apure from my overnight bus at dawn and immediately went in search of a hotel. I found about five of them, but they were all full. It turned out that there was some sort of soccer tournament in town, so all of the hotel rooms were booked for the next week.

I figured since I couldn't drop my backpack off in a hotel room, at least I could leave it in a storage room at the bus station and go in search of the black market. There was nobody at the storage place's desk, and in the adjoining room, a lady told me that there was a party last night, so the lady that ran the storage place wasn't there yet. When I asked when she might show up, the only answer I got was "later."

The inability to leave my backpack anywhere didn't affect me too much because I could walk around the whole city in half an hour. It looked like a major urban center on my rudimentary photocopied map of the country, but it was actually even smaller than San Cristobal. And you guessed it, there was no black market to be found.

There were two main reasons for me to map my route through San Fernando de Apure: To avoid having to pass through the hell-on-earth of a capital known as Caracas, and to try to take a boat down the Apure River, which eventually connects to the Orinoco. Nobody would give me any info on the boats, if there even were any, but that didn't matter because I had no money, no way of getting money other than at the official exchange rate, and nowhere available to stay for the night.

The people of San Fernando de Apure were once again completely unresponsive to my attempts to strike up a conversation. If you want to go to a cheap, safe country where the people will welcome you with open arms and there are few tourists (because of an outdated bad reputation), go to Colombia. If you want to go a country where the people won't even say "hello" to you, where you have to worry about the military robbing you as much as the everyday thieves, where everything is expensive because the economy is collapsing before your eyes, and where there are few tourists (with good reason), head to Venezuela.

I decided that my only option would be to take enough money out of an ATM to last me the rest of the day, and skip the river segment of my plans by busing it to Ciudad Bolivar. I withdrew 100,000 bolivares, and sure enough, when I checked my bank statement online, I got charged $46, whereas I could've gotten the same amount for only $20 on the black market, if I could only find it. Man, Venezuela sucks.

There were no direct buses to Ciudad Bolivar, so I first had to take a bus north to Dos Caminos. I thought it would be a town, but it was just a place where two major highways crossed. I waited under a makeshift shelter with a bunch of hobos (don't get worried; they were the most jovial people I met in the country so far) for any bus heading eastbound, and eventually got one that took me to El Sombrero, a town consisting of a tiny park, a few houses, and a truck stop thirty minutes up the road. Tonight I got my first stroke of good luck in Venezuela. I got to El Sombrero at 5:30 and was told I'd have to wait until 10:00 at the truck stop for the next bus to Ciudad Bolivar, but I only had to wait until 8:00. Lucky me.

The Royal Treatment

December 16, 2007
Day 809

As soon as I got up this morning, I tried to figure out how to change my dollars into bolivares on the black market (this is technically illegal, but everyone's doing it nowadays). I quickly learned that in Venezuela, the most often used word is "no."

"Do you know where the black market is?"


"Do you know where the bus station is?"


(If I'm on fifth street) "Do you know where sixth street is?"


Everywhere else I've gone in South America, people will make up a lie rather than admit that they don't know something, but in Venezuela, even if the people know the correct answer, they would rather not waste the oxygen required to tell me a complete sentence. "NO NO NO" was all anyone said.

I finally got someone to mention an actual location to me, so I figured it'd be a good place to start. I took a taxi there, but soon found out that it was a shopping mall, not a district of the city like I had thought. The mall turned out to be very modern and clean unlike the rest of the city, and there were indeed banks in the mall that would change my money, but at a rate of only 1900/dollar, which was even worse than the official rate.

I finally pulled enough teeth out of the bank teller's mouth that she suggested downtown as a potential location of the black market. I had to ask a security guard where downtown was, and he looked at me like I was five years old because obviously everyone else he had ever met in his life knew the answer. So the people here won't throw the tourists a bone for their unavoidable ignorance either. Downtown was crowded with people selling everything imaginable on the streets except bolivares. Once again nobody would talk to me, and my trip turned out to be a complete waste of time. It's strange that I went from the country with the nicest, most welcoming people (Colombia) to the one with the meanest (Venezuela) in just a few short hours.

Despite knowing about the black market discrepancy before entering Venezuela, I underestimated its importance. I figured the prices would be the same as in Colombia because the currencies have the same official exchange rate, but today I learned that most of the prices in Venezuela have been driven up to the black market exchange rate. For example, a cheap hotel in Colombia costs 10,000 pesos ($5), so according to the official exchange rate, the same hotel should cost 10,000 bolivares ($5) in Venezuela. However, the cheapest place I could find was 40,000 bolivares, which would be $20 according to the official rate, or about $8 by the black market. If you're reading this from the US, $20 might seem cheap for a hotel, but it's ridiculously expensive in a country like Venezuela. So to make a long story short, changing money on the black market doesn't make things dirt cheap like I thought it would; it just serves to bring you back to even. Therefore, it is essential to enter Venezuela with enough dollars for your entire stay there, and change all of your money on the black market. Except, after searching all day, I realized that the black market didn't exist in San Cristobal.

I barely had enough bolivares to go to my next destination of San Fernando de Apure, so I figured I'd take my chances and head there in search of that city's black market. The only good thing money-wise about Venezuela is that gasoline only costs forty-eight bolivars per liter, or about three American cents per gallon. Because of this, a bus ride of ten hours only costs 30,000 bolivares, whereas the aforementioned cheap hotel would cost 40,000, so if you're just looking for a secure place to sleep, it's actually cheaper to ride around on buses all night than to stay put.

The only problem with leaving the city was once again the military. As soon as my bus was out of San Cristobal, we got stopped at a military post. Just like yesterday, a guy checked everyone's ID and told me to come with him as soon as he saw my passport. Except unlike yesterday, this guy searched through my entire backpack and managed to find something wrong with everything of mine. Here's how the conversation went:


"Where are you from?" (This is a highly ambiguous question when asked in Spanish, De donde vienes?, and I can never figure out how to answer it.)

"The United States."

"No, I mean where are you coming from today?"

"San Cristobal."

(Takes out my camera.) "What's this?"

"My camera."

"Let me see your pictures."

"I don't have any."

"Why not?"

(That would take awhile to explain fully.) "I already downloaded them."

"I think you're lying to me."


(Continues searching and pulls out my drugs.) "So tell me, why do you have these pills?"

"They're antibiotics." (For the extreme vomiting and diarrhea I suffered from last week.)

"Liar! You cut them up and sniff them don't you?"

"No." (But go ahead and shove them up your ass for all I care.)

(Takes me into a room that's not visible from the street.) "Lift up your shirt." (Again with the abs of steel!) "Now lift up your pant legs. Now lower your pants." (Luckily I was wearing underwear.) "What's that?"

"My money belt."

"Let me see it." (Hold the phone. Now we have a situation. Nobody has ever looked at my money belt in two years in South America, and it will be very easy for him to rob me now.)

"What's this?"

"A traveler's check, I can cash it in case of an emergency."

"Why is it worth so much?"

(Because you're such a moron that you don't even know the difference between a serial number and the check's printed value.) "It's only worth $100." (Yes, he actually thought I had a check for like $100 billion.)

"What are these?"

"My bank cards."

"Why do you have so many?"

(Another long story, but even so, three is not a lot.) "One old debit card, one new debit card, one credit card."

(Starts counting my cash.) "Why do you have $431 with you?" (Luckily he didn't find it all.)

(I didn't even answer that one. Isn't it obvious that I would need some cash to spend on the toilet economy that their idiotic president Chavez created?)

(Finds my leftover money from Colombia.) "Why do you have Colombian money with you?"

(Again that was obvious given that I was still practically on the Colombian border, and he must've seen the Colombian stamps in my passport.) "Because I came from there two days ago."

"Why did you lie to me? You said you weren't in Colombia. You said you started in San Cristobal." (Yeah right, like I took a direct flight from the US to that shitty little city. Again, the ambiguous de donde vienes resurfaces.)

"I never said that and you know it."

"And what do you do for a living?"

"Student." (Actually, that is a lie, but it probably sounds better than saying that I'm semi-retired at the age of twenty-nine.)

"Liar! What are you doing in Venezuela?"


"Liar! Why are you alone?"

(Because nobody wants to come to your fucked up country anymore.) "There's not many backpackers here. Maybe I'll meet people in Ciudad Bolivar."

"You're lying to me! Why are you really here?"

"Leave me alone, I told you I a tourist."

"Alright, now put that money away before you get robbed and blame it on me."

(I count my money in front of him before putting it back in my belt. Surprisingly, none of it is missing. I go through my backpack one more time to make sure he hasn't taken anything. The last thing this asshole needs is a bribe. He notices a lipstick tube sitting on the table and asks if it's mine.)

"No that's for women."

(He gives me a slight chuckle, I turn my back and walk away.)


When the military harassed me yesterday, I thought they were just busting my balls because I had just come from Colombia. (Colombia and Venezuela are practically at war with each other right now but I don't think it will happen because the Venezuelan government wouldn't know its ass from a hole in the ground.) But today's royal treatment makes me think that it will be the norm here. I just don't get it. I was in Venezuela for a week last year and didn't have to deal with any of this nonsense (the exchange rate problem or the military). Could the country really have disintegrated that quickly?

Still, I had no choice but to continue on my overnight bus, and by morning, I had already made it halfway across the country. I didn't want to turn back just yet. But I realized that it was time to hide my money better and to make a beeline for the more touristy parts of the country. Otherwise, my next bus ride could be much worse.

The Land of Chavez

December 15, 2007
Day 808

I rode for seven hours in a taxi to Cucuta on the Venezuelan border this morning rather than take the bus for the same price. Maybe the only reason buses aren't more popular in Colombia is because they should be way cheaper than smaller vehicles but aren't. At any rate, the ride to Cucuta first went way uphill to a very "cold" mountainous zone (about 45 F) where everyone was wearing jackets and still shivering, then back down to the hot climate. It was an amazingly quick change in temperature.

The bus station in Cucuta was crazy. Scam artists were working the scene everywhere, offering rides on buses and taxis that didn't exist. There were no ticket windows, so I had to ask about five different bus drivers before I found one that was heading toward the border. Maybe I was cuckoo for going to Cucuta too.

The border was marked by a long bridge, and on the Colombian side, I had to wait in line for over an hour in the stifling heat just to get my passport stamped. I thought the same thing would happen on the Venezuelan side, but strangely, nobody was in line. The friendly blond girl stamped me in and even gave me detailed instructions on how to get a bus out of town. Both times I have entered Venezuela have now been very pleasant experiences, but the niceness ended at the border.

I got on the bus to San Cristobal late in the day, and right away, the military stopped us. Everyone else on the bus just had to show their national ID cards (they were all Venezuelans), but a woman in uniform X-rayed my backpack, zoomed in and out on different parts, and stared at the images for several minutes. Then a huge dude took my passport and tried to make me confess to a crime I didn't commit. He made me show him my tongue, which was coated from the candies some kid had just sold to the whole bus (and incidentally, just about all I'd managed to eat in my rushed day), then he started poking me in the stomach and asking, "Do you have anything illegal? Are you sure? Really nothing?" Finally the prick let me go without searching anything of mine other than my abs of steel. The rest of the bus was waiting impatiently for me to return so we could get on our way.

San Cristobal looked close on the map but it took hours to get there because of massive traffic jams. I had forgotten that everyone in Venezuela drove a big old SUV, pickup truck, or a boat from the 1970's. We were at a standstill for hours that would've had me thinking about walking had it not been for the pouring rain. So for all of my effort today, I only managed to go about 200 KM in thirteen hours of travel. I changed some of my pesos at the border for an equivalent rate of about 4600/dollar (the official rate is 2150), but I didn't want to change too much right away in case I got scammed. My big goal for tomorrow is to change a large amount of Venezuelan money so I can get out of town on a night bus.

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

December 11-14, 2007
Day 804-807

Picture of Ana Maria and Carlos.

Ana Maria and Carlos waiting for the bus.

I stayed at Eduardo's place again for a few days in Bucaramanga. I finally got to see his famed gallery of native artwork lots of exact copies of ancient pottery, statues, gold jewelery, and even a red coral necklace.

Ana Maria's friend Carlos was able to give me a lot of info about Venezuela, the most important being the monetary situation there right now. It turns out that Venezuela is going to switch to a new currency in January (where 1000 bolivares=1 strong bolivar), and nobody wants the old money anymore, so dollars are in high demand there. I'll have to bring US cash, but it should make things pretty cheap there.

Ana Maria and Carlos also showed me around town some more. We went to the main market, which had lots of fruits, natural remedies, meat, pets, fruit juices, and even witchcraft for sale. As usual, seeing the meat hanging everywhere at room temperature made me want to become a vegetarian, if only it were possible (such a thing doesn't exist here). The most disgusting thing was the skinned goat hanging upside down with its head still attached to prove to customers that they weren't buying a dog.

Picture of factory.

The tobacco factory.

We also went an historical town nearby called Giron. It had a much more laid back atmosphere than Bucaramanga, with several plazas and restaurants made from old mansions. Late in the afternoon, Carlos informed me that we still had time to go to either a Christmas decorations exposition, or to a cigar factory, and of course I chose the latter. We found the factory after lots of asking around, and after pleading with the workers, were allowed to watch them do their thing. The people separating the tobacco leaves, cutting the cigars, and bundling them together was straight out of 1950's Havana. We found out that since the tobacco is grown in the region, a roll of fifty normal-quality cigars only costs $1.50. When I told the employees that cigars cost $3 at home, their reaction was, "Wow, $3 per roll, that's a lot!" Uh, actually I meant $3 each, but that that would've been too much for them to handle methinks.

The photo album for this entry is here.

Smalltown Colombian Life

December 9-10, 2007
Days 802-803

El Cocuy National Park Trip Day 6-7

Picture of Rosita and son.

Rosita and her son.

I started my bus trip back to Bucaramanga, but met a girl named Rosita who invited me to visit her family in a small town called Tipacoque. It sounded like an interesting side trip, so I went along and hung out with her mom, son, sister, and nephews. The town had no Internet, only one TV channel, and almost no vehicles, but there was a nice swimming pool for entertainment. My reception was practically royal considering that almost no tourists had ever entered their town. The only sad thing was that a woman with liver cancer died when I was there, which put the whole town in a sad mood. So I got a slice of the local life, both good and bad.

A Rainy, Snowy Lagoon

December 8, 2007
Day 801

El Cocuy National Park Trip Day 5

Picture of valley.

The valley where I had lunch.

I was up at dawn again and started walking as soon as possible to avoid the daily bad afternoon weather. Today, however, was cloudy and rainy from the beginning. At one point, the freezing rain was driving so hard into my face that I had to curl up behind a rock to wait for it to pass. I couldn't see anything all morning.

After four hours I made it to my destination, a lagoon in the mountains. It was nice but I turned around as soon as I got there to try to get back before the weather got worse. But at the midpoint of walking back, the clouds suddenly cleared and I saw the mountains and glacier that had been hiding all day. I stopped and had lunch in an amazing valley surrounded by the beauty of the national park.

When I got back to the cabins, I finally met the owner and the rest of the family, who had come up for the day to decorate for Christmas. Although I was the only guest, they insured me that the place would be packed by Christmas with families from Bogotá. However, almost no foreign tourists ever bothered coming out this far from the cities. What a shame.

I originally had planned on trekking around the park, but the detour around the damaged road would cost me two days, and I didn't have the food or the motivation to spend more than a week there, so it was time to head down. On the way back to Guican, I got lucky and got a ride in the back of a truck. I jumped on a bus right away to Soata, where I spent the first night of my trip. If all goes well, one more long day on buses will get me back to Bucaramanga.