Andy Passmore and I flew down to South America for our Christmas vacation. We didn’t have a firm plan as such: we just bought a Lonely Planet guidebook and looked for a cheap fare to South America. And that’s how we ended up in Caracas.
We arrived in Caracas at night without a hotel reservation, which is apparently the worst thing you can do if you want to avoid being robbed by a taxi driver en route from the airport to the city (literally a guarantee). Luckily we had met two Dutch girls – Marguerite and Rose – on the plane who had a reservation at a hostel in town who let us tag along with them. The "hostel" turned out to be a brothel with a few rooms for travelers upstairs – classy! They were full but were happy enough to give Andy and I one of their rooms usually rented by the hour – yucko!
We hated Caracas and couldn’t wait to get out of there. It was dangerous and had pretty much nothing to offer the backpacker. While we were there were lots of protests and riots going on against Presidente Hugo Chavez, and behind the locked gates of our hostel at night we’d lie in bed and hear gunshots and bombs going off.
Our first stop was the small town of Choroni and the nearby fishing village Puerto Colombia along the coast a few hours bus west of Caracas. The journey itself was great – up and over the coastal mountain range, taking us through the lush tropical rainforest of Parque Nacional Henri Pittier. The town itself was nothing that spesh but we were there for just one thing – the beach! It had a great sandy beach that’s popular with Caracas vacationers, and we were just about the only true tourists in town.
At sunset one evening we walked up the hill that loomed above the town for some fantastic views of the mountainous coastline.
We also took a couple of short day-trips out of town, by boat to a remote beach (clothing optional), and to a some rock pools along the river near Choroni (very cold mountain water!).
Our second stop was the town of Coro, located in the middle of a desert – yes that’s right, a desert in Venezuela! The weather was definitely fitting for the desert: dry and extremely hot, and it apparently hadn’t rained there in about two years! It had a pretty town centre with some beautiful old colonial architecture, and the sand dunes on the outskirts of town were breathtaking at sunset.
We were staying at a fantastic hotel – Las Casas de los Pajaros – which was run by a young couple (the breakfasts made to order were to die for!). We went with the owner on a day trip around the Peninsula de Paraguana isthmus to the north of Coro – a very dry and desolate but interesting landscape.