We were picked up early morning and headed off in a large truck ! After stopping for brekkie and lots of orange juice to cure the hangovers we carried on in the truck. We saw lots of great scenery as we drove through the mountains and lots of waterfalls cascading from the side of valleys. We stopped at a lake and at a stone church hand built by an 84 year old guy (however the statues were nothing to rave about, eh Phil ?!). We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant in Barinas and had steak and lots of salad with manioc vegetable, cream cheese and fried banana, all very nice. We then carried on in our truck to our first base camp, a long long drive.
The camp was basic and we chose the hammocks while Phil and Lindsey settled for the comfy option of a bed (the sensible choice !). There were 7 of us on the tour and we were all led to a boat to try and catch an anaconda. Our boatman was called Carlos and he was a right little giggler. He was also amazingly good at spotting wildlife. On a bank when we couldn't see anything he suddenly dragged out a reasonably sized anaconda which quickly wrapped itself around his arm. We then drove to the shore where he gave it a quick shower before advancing towards Monica and asking if she wanted it around her neck ! She looked very composed as the anaconda sat around her neck and she posed for photos and a small video clip ! Nick now didn't have a choice, as Monica had done this ! Unfortunately it seems the anaconda was as scared as Nick was and decided to shat itself on Nicks trousers and jumper !!! after Carlos cleaned it off we had another go and the pictures have been posted. Phil and Lindsey chickened out !!!!!!
We then carried on and saw monkeys from afar, several different species of birds and a lovely sunset. Carlos also caught a lizard from a tree and we all had a feel ! We carried on in the dark and had a look for caiman and alligators. Their eyes light up in the torchlight and it was good to see lots of eyes on the banks of the river as we drove along. After several attempts Camillo our guide managed to catch a caiman and both Phil and Nick had a bit of a wrestle with the monster !!!! We then returned to camp for dinner (in candlelight as the electricity failed). Monica then attempted to have a shower, however all of the water had already been used up so she ended up with mud falling on her, lovely..... she was cleaner before !
We got up early and drove a little while before walking along a road to see different wildlife. We could hear the howler monkeys in the background and we saw lots of alligators, and lots of different types of birds (the venezuelan national bird, humming birds, vultures, kingfishers, the large storks, herrons, bright red birds....). We were also told that there was an anteater in a tree but no matter what we did (inlcuding 'mukaka' monica climbing the tree and throwing branches at it) it would not move ! We think it was dead !
We had all been very disappointed about not being able to ride horses as OspreyVenezuela website said we would be doing this and it actually was not the case. The tour was actually with Arasari trek and on their website there was no mention of horse riding. However, our guide Camillo had arranged for Monica to be able to ride a horse. She had a great time on the horse, named Pistola and it was a proper farm horse.
After lunch we had a nap before packing all our stuff and heading off in the boat to a fisherman's hut in the middle of nowhere. We first attempted a bit of piranha fishing, however only the guides and a local lad managed to catch any. We watched the wildlife as we made our way to the hut. The guides did a bit of fishing and managed to catch lots of fish (using a net). We also stumbled across a dead alligator. It was quite fresh and still had it's tail ( a delicacy in Venezuelan cuisine) so Carlos cut the tail off of the alligator and we took it with us !!!
The fisherman's hut was very basic. There was one emergency 'toilet' (hole in the ground) and some bushes !!! Sleeping was in hammocks under a roof (no walls). We had dinner and then started on the beer and rum. We also played some cards. Monica took a liking to the rum and coke (big cola !!) and not long after the bottle was finished ! (with help from gaylord (one of the others) !!). It was then that we decided it would be a good idea to go back onto the river (in the pitch black) to try and see a puma .......( fighting a jaguar while a patagonian cheese monkey looked on !!!!). Carlos was ill but he still drove us up and down the river. Although we did not see a jaguar he still managed to spot another snake across the river with only torch light. He whipped it off the tree and Monica, a.k.a the snake charmer took hold of it !
We returned to the hut where they were playing music in the dark. One of the local girls was teaching everyone how to dance like a Venezuelan and she demonstrated with Phil while Lindsey was with Camillo. Nick then showed the local girl how to dance like a drunk englishman. We think they were all impressed......!!!
The sleeping arrangements were side by side hammocks....... Monica then Lindsey (so they could go to the toilet together as snakes often hung out at the hole in the ground) then Nick then Phil. Nick got the short straw, as Phil snores like a donkey !!! All night it was like an earthquake, the only time we got some sleep was when he went off to the toilet !!! Then in the morning we were entertained with a chorus of Phils snoring followed by a goat bleating and then a turkey gobbling, so it went:
SNORE, BAAAAA, GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE.......
No sleep for three of us, luckily Phil reported that he got a good night's sleep....... thanks Phil !!
Early morning we looked for a Puma again. Again no luck, but we did see lots of Monkeys close up and jumping from tree to tree. It was amazing ! We also saw an alive anteater in the trees quite close. We returned for breakfast and then were off in the boat again back to the first night's camp. On the way we attempted to piranha fish again. This time Nick got lucky and dragged in a piranha. Then Lindsey pulled in an even larger one, the biggest that was caught ! Nick tried to beat this but with no luck !! Our guide was bitten by a piranha and it bled profusely (all day !).
Back at camp we had lunch and then packed up our stuff and had a long day's drive to the Arasari camp (an hour outside Barinas). It was a lovely camp and we got our own cabin between the four of us with two double rooms. We went down to the river and went for a swim which was very refreshing. We sat in the hammock and hammock chair in front of our cabin relaxing while Phil did his monkey impression, with great conviction ! Dinner was good and we had beers and more rum, whilst playing cards after.
After an early morning dip in the river we had breakfast and then prepared for tubing down the river. We were given a helmet, a life jacket and a big rubber tube and given a few instructions before we headed off down the rapids. It was great fun !! After lunch we unfortunately had to pack up and head for the airport in Barinas. Our flight took us back to Caracas where we were picked up and taken back to hotel Luna. Nick and Phil ventured out for a bite to eat, although the area was not exactly safe (our hotel assistant telling us NEVER to turn left at the end of the road !!!).
ARASARI TREK - very good last camp and very helpful guides
OSPREYVENEZUELA - They caused us a lot of hassles throughout the whole trip.