Venezuela Safaris!!

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After I got soaking wet yet again in a walk in the mountains I decided to sign up for a tour to Los Llanos. This is a flat land area with tons of animals and birds. First stop was Barinas to collect a Russian couple from the airport (strong silent types) and go rafting down a big bouncy river. Next morning we headed to the camp in Los Llanos but before we even arrived there were animals to spot.

Junior, our guide, spotted some howler monkeys in some trees. When we piled out of the truck to take photos. Later, near the camp, we saw a load of caimen surrounding a lake.

The camp was a collection of homely shacks with numerous children, an anteater and a very humourous parrot. We looked forward to slinging ourselves up in hammocks for the night but first we climbed on the roof of the truck to go caimen hunting. The goad was to catch a caiman: just for a laugh! Junior and Ali, his friend from the camp, set off into the fields, and after a few false starts came back carrying a bundle of baby caimen. We oohed and ahhed, took photos and had a little race. Then Junior and Ali (AKA the black dolfin) set off to find some bigger ones...

The following morning we fished for parahnas (despite looking really easy...I caught nothing), hunted for anocondas (and found a little one) and went on a fantastic boat trip to spot fresh-water dolphins, capivaras and many exotic and beautiful birds. Then back for an eight-year-olds birthday with dancing (for everyone), rum (for adults), piñata (for kids) and cake (for those who lasted that long).

After a painful attempt to hang on to a cantering (or trotting?) horse, we piled back into the truck and drove back to Merida.

I was lucky enough to have a fantastic group: the Belgium stallion, two chain-smoking Germans and a couple from the UK.

After all that excitement I ended up back in Merida, it was still raining so my hope to climb Pico Bolivar was out. I was thinking of having a day at a natural hot-spring, but a recent land-slide had filled it in...So I booked on another trip.

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This time I had a pair of very pretty young German girls as companions and the trip was to see the famous Catatumbo Lightning. I guess it isn't that famous really. Odd though. We stayed in a house on stilts right in the middle of the lake and watched this silent lightning going on all night. We also took in a night safari on the speed boat and spotted loads of birds of prey. The next day we visited a village built on stilts. This was a real highlight for me, a very strange and wonderful place of fishermen and more children than you would imagine. They all get about by boat. Kids paddle around on bits of polystyrene, plastic buckets or anything else that will float. There are two pubs, a church, a school, shops and about 800 people live there. There is also a power plant which fires up in the afternoon for the telenovelas (soap opreas) and then in the evening for the lights.

And that was it for Venezuela, and for South America.

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