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Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.

Journal Entry:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 04:38:13

Rolls Alaska to Argentina & back: 30 Santa Elena to Valle de Pascua, Venezuela

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Venezuela is the first South American country we have visited where breakfast is not included with the hotel; however the restaurant by the pool where we ate last night was open. I arrived at the auto electric shop for my 9 AM appointment to get the headlights fixed. They hummed and hawed while looking over the car for half an hour before admitting they didn't even have an electrical tester!

As the gas gauge read below empty I drove to the only gas station in town and was lucky. When we were there yesterday there was a long line waiting for gas - today only one car. There was quite a crowd around the car and when I asked the price, and the attendant held up 5 fingers, so I assumed he must mean 500 Bolivars (about $US 75 - half the cost of a Brazil fill up) so handed that to him. The crowd roared with laughter, and one fellow pushed the money back to me. They finally made me understand the price was 5 Bolivars! I couldn't believe it, so turned on the key to check the gas gauge and it was full. Gas costs less than one US cent per litre!!! (For those of you in the US about 3 cents per gallon)

The people at the gas station recommended a nearly repair shop to get the headlights done, and after a couple of hours they were working again. The cost was just under $15. I dropped a big load of dirty clothes off at a nearby laundry, and then went to a car wash about a block away. They were really busy, so back to the hotel to pick up Marilynn for lunch. The recommended restaurant, owned by an ex-pat Canadian couple was closed for a special event, so we went in search of items we needed to buy. We tried three supermarkets, but none had a produce section and the items available were very limited. We finally gave up.

I dropped Marilynn back at the hotel and returned to the car wash, where it took them two hours to thoroughly clean the car inside and out, getting the mud, fungus and dirt out. They did a great job, and the price was the same as for the laundry - $UD 4.50. It is a cash economy, but money goes a long way!

We ate at the hotel again, purchasing sandwiches to eat in the morning as we plan to leave before they open for breakfast. Most hotels have a refrigerator in the room.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

*Miles for the day: 323 (520 km) Miles to date: 16,565 (26,659 km)*

We were on the road by 6 AM this Mother's Day. No problem finding the way out of town - I'd driven every road. We were warned to not stop along the highway, as the area was known for kidnappings and robberies, particularly near the town of Minas. The road was pretty good over the Gran Sabana, a plateau of grasslands about 1,300 meters (4,500 ft.) in altitude. The temperature was delightfully cool, and the odd pothole in the road kept me on my toes but was not enough to slow progress. This is an area of waterfalls - most of our route was through national park. There was little traffic - we would see another vehicle every ten miles or so.

Gas stations are spaced about 100 miles apart, so we gassed up each time we found one. At the edge of the Gran Sabana the road snakes down for over 30 miles through beautiful forest where trees meet overhead providing a shady canopy. Once in the flat farmland below it was hot! It was surprising to see all the stores open on a Mother's Day Sunday in the towns we passed through. The central areas were bustling with buyers.

We arrived at the recommended Aurora Hotel at about 2 PM. The first room we had was airconditioned to the point of refrigeration, and no one had a control to turn it down, so we moved to another room with a manual air conditioner. Marilynn was surprised by the number of English TV channels available. We ate at the excellent Chinese Restaurant in the hotel - the food made a nice change. There was good internet in the lobby, so we got caught up on emails. The only downside was that our air conditioning unit broke down about midnight, so the room was like an oven - not much sleep in beds wet from sweat.

Monday, May 9, 2011

*Miles for the day: 289 (465 km) Miles to date: 16,854 (27,124 km)*

It was another early start, as we couldn't sleep anyhow. My planned route on the map was said to be impassable, so we had to take the road to Ciudad Guayana before turning fot Ciudad Bolivar - a heavy traffic area I'd planned to avoid. Nothing was open for breakfast, so after some detailed instructions from the desk clerk we headed off. His help was invaluable - with assistance from people along the way we followed his plan perfectly, avoiding all but one traffic crawl. He also mentioned a huge new bridge across the Orinoco River that does not show on our map. We found the route, which totally avoided Ciudad Bolivar and connected with brand new paved road that got us into tonight's destination, El Tigre, by 9 AM!

We gassed up, had breakfast in a new shopping mall and picked up a few items in the most upscale supermarket we have seen in Venezuela - they even had a produce department, the first we've seen in the country. The problem they have is lack of customers. Half the shops are empty, and there was almost no one in the supermarket. El Tigre is a petroleum city, and I guess the developers counted on the higher payroll to provide clients.

The next phase was to Valle de Pascua over horrible road. There were a couple of stretches of new pavement of a few miles each, but the bad stretches were incredibly bad - about 50% of the disastrous road from Manaus. We were out of jungle before Santa Elena and have not seen rain, but it is incredibly hot. It is also dry - there are frequent catus plants. At least the car wash is lasting this time!

We treated ourselves to a suite in the best hotel in this town of many hotels. It cost $65 per night! I went to have the oil changed and some of the parts of the car that have rattle loose tightened up. When leaving the emergancy brake jammed in the "on" position. I drove slowly a dozen blocks to a brake shop, and after a "come back tomorrow" arguement (it was 4:30) convinced the owner to get a surly mechanic to sort out the problem. He did get things working again, and adjusted the brakes.

Dinner was in the nice hotel restaurant, washed down by half a dozen of the good local beer.