From Manaus to Venezuela

And so we made it. We are in Venezuela!

First we stopped in Manaus and we visited the botanic gardens. It is amazing. There is a tower with more than 40 meters. From it you can see loads of enormous trees around.

The clouds were there and a storm broke out. I was amazed being reminded that the Yanomami say “how is that the white men do not know that if they cut trees there is no rain left.”

So in the middle of the amazon a storm broke out. We could see so well that places where there was no rain there were no trees, and also how much rain was condensed in places where trees had not been cut. I was moved and amazed to be entirely wet by the storm in the middle of the jungle.

But it was time to bid farewell to the lovely family of Dona Lu. We met them in Manaus and they took care of us. I am always amazed by the goodness and warmth of people.

We then took a 12 hours bus ride through the rain forest of the Amazon in order to reach Boa Vista. There we were met by Janio our host in the state of Roraima. He picked us up in the bus stop and took us home.

Today we woke up early and his lovely family prepared us breakfast. They are exceptional people. They are adventists. Janio’s has done amazing things in his life, one of these things is that he rode from Boa Vista all the way to Chile with 50 reais… Which is about 17 dollars! His trip took 11 months. He told us he stayed mainly with people from his church, though he was also helped by non religious.

His father who is a carpenter is 72 and started to run when he was 70. His mother hosted us so carefully. Showed us pictures from the adventist camp where she and her husband had spent this carnival. But once again it was time to bid farewell.

So we took a cab to the border of Brazil and Venezuela. The landscape changed enormously. It became dried flat and eventually enrolled by hills. Eventually we reached the last town in Brazil which is called Pacaraima. There we exchanged all the money we had with us in the black market since once we would have crossed the border the exchange rate would be much less favourable.

With the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and the devaluation of money we were given begs of money. We were told to bring even toilet paper since the country is said by the mass media to be close to a civil
War. Petrol is worth little, and all is missing.

We spent hours to pass the Brazilian border. There was one person working to check people in and out. People who were crossing by car and walking. As usual in a border you see it all. Maybe the most appalling thing was the young lady who wanted to cut the line because she just had had a surgery. Since all of us had patiently waited for a long time we decided to ask her what she needed and what had had happened to her.

She was Brazilian. She looked at us looking for sympathy and very proudly said she had had a complete plastic surgery in her whole body in Venezuela. No. She did not have an accident. It was simply a cosmetic surgery. She wanted for her and her friend/daughter to have the same treatment as the elderly and pregnant women. Namely they wanted to go first. It was somehow hilarious. Especially because everybody was appalled by it. Maybe the most funny is that while she stood there pretending to need help and then she decided to ask us what we were doing in Venezuela.

“We want to climb Monte Roraima.”

She took some time to process the information and then said.

“Why?”

I wished I had said: “for the same reason that you decided to change your whole body. It is because we think it is beautiful.” But I didn’t say that. It was all so out of place that we all did not say anything.

Passing into Venezuela was very easy. We did not see cabs on the other side. Therefore we decided to ask for a ride. Immediately a truck stopped and gave us a lift. This very friendly man brought us to the main square of Santa Elena. There we talked to students and decided to walk to a hotel we had heard of before. It was so far and we walked a lot to find that hotel. It was ok, thought more expensive than we anticipated.

Later we finally met our Venezuelan friends. We met them in the centre. And we found a hostel for half of the price of what we were paying there. We will move there tomorrow.

We met more people and concluded that most people we saw were very nice. We were never asked money for rides. We saw a couple of tanks in the street but the police also did not approach us.

Now we are planning to see La gran Savanna before we climb monte Roraima. If we do not write often it is simply because there is no wifi everywhere.

With love,

Julieta

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On The Road- Evading Carnival on the way to Monte Roraima

I am in Sao Paulo with Andre and we are driving to get some gear to get ready for our next trip. It is pretty empty now since lots of people have left yesterday and today to go celebrate carnival somewhere else.

There is carnival here too. I don,t particularly care for carnival. And every single attempt I have had to spend it in Rio made me feel like running away from there in a couple of days. I love Rio, but not during Carnival.

There are loads of people who like Carnival here in Brazil. To me it always feels that the discrimination and difference between social classes which is always part of Brazilian life becomes more latent. Therefore now I try to evade it!

Where should I go I ask Andre considering he cares as little as I do for carnival.

So we come to Sao paulo since we have a plan, we are flying from here. We want to go back to Manaus, which is in the Amazonas state, and from there we want to go from Manaus to Boa Vista. From there we will take the “in”famous BR-174 road. From Boa Vista we should cross to Venezuela in order to climb Monte Roraima.

Monte Roraima also known as Tepuy Roraima and Cerro Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima chain of tepui plateau in South America.

Most of the people who have been there say it is beautiful beyond belief. It is also tiring to get there and it gets cold during the night, and it is enormously hot during the day. It rains and never anything gets dry there. Does that look like an invitation to come?

On top of that the Brazilian TV shows daily how dangerous is life in Venezuela. I usually dismiss the news from TV. Had I not, I would have never made amazing friends in Palestine, been alone to Kashmir and would have not seen and done so many things in the world. So I usually prefer to talk to those who have been there, or even better to those who are there now.

I ask Gonzalo, who is Argentinian and had come from his country through the south of Brazil in a trailer. He came all the way from the south to the north. He drove to belem, took a fairy and went to Venezuela with his trailer. I asked him whether it was dangerous there now.

“Well, no. I think there is not that much difference between Venezuela and Brazil. You should always use caution. But it is beautiful, and the people are very friendly. I have been here for the past 3 months . You should definitely come.”

After getting information from people all over the place, we decided to go to decathlon, which is a sports/adventure shop in order to get some last items.

As we were driving with open windows, which many people are afraid of doing here in sao paulo because of robberies, we stopped in a red light. Suddenly a man came running towards Andre’s window.

He looks at Andre and says:

” Brother, I am not going to lie. I am an alcoholic. I am missing 25 cents to be able to buy my cachaca (a hard liquor made of sugar cane). Can you please give me? I don’t need more than that. Just my cachaca.””

I am amazed by his honesty. I rush to get the money before the light changes and we have to go. He thanks us enormously.

As he goes we start laughing. So much honesty. I find it is truly admirable. I have seen so many times, new evangelics and “super” religious who drink too much, use drugs, cheat and bit their wives. And still preach how to lead a good life talk so much about honesty and lie, that this guy amazes me.

I remember one more time that my grandmother had once gave money to a woman who lives in the street. She said it was to eat. I was fifteen at the time and told my grandmother “this lady is going to drink”. And so my grandmother said “She said that to make me happy. Once you give something to someone you should learn to really let it go. It is no longer yours. Who am I to decide what is better for that lady. It is a cold day, maybe alcohol might be what she needs.”

I am still amazed by that awareness. Having the position to give is already lots of power you do not need to decide anything for the other too.

I have several times attempted to make people be more conscious. And many times there has been people telling me I should be more conscious. I also have several times heard from wise men and women that we should allow for the others to make their own decisions.

As I told all of this to Andre I realised that that was probably the most honest encounter I had ever had in a carnival period. I remembered being in Rio’s street carnivals singing about the freedom of oppression while poor children were collecting cans to sell. The poor serving once again the privileged singing the equality of all. The blatant discrimination of white rich Brazilians towards the poor.

My sequence of thoughts
are broken because it was time to arrive. We are in Decathlon I should buy almost nothing. I should spare money and should remember I could not possibly carry a heavy bag on my back.

It is hot here, but I do look forward to go back to Manaus. There it is “winter”just as hot as here, or even worse, but it is winter because it rains. I look forward to cross the famous BR 174 for about 13 hours inside of some kind of bus through the Amazon. I am apprehensive about the climb with rain, with nothing that dries, the heat and the cold, the sky, and I am definitely looking forward to it all but specially to meet the Venezuelans of whom so much has been spoken of of TV lately.

Insh’allah nothing will stop my path this time. Whenever I do have internet I will let you know about it.

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