Hugo Chávez ruined my holiday! …

Taganga bay.

Taganga bay.

After finishing the Ciudad Perdida trek we settled in again for a few days in Taganga. The first day we went out to try the diving – the dive center was a little bit sloppy (or just Caribbean laid-back?) and didn’t check our certs or do briefings pre-dive etc. The first dive from the boat was in the Tayrona national park and the visibility was quite bad, just 5-7 meters, and we lost the group for a while. Nice fish though – we’ve done most of our dives in the Pacific so it was nice to see the difference when hopping in on the Caribbean side – lots of trumpet-fish, box-fish, black-and-white moray eels and a few lion fish what aren’t supposed to be here (they are a recently introduced species – munching their way through everything on the coast during the last couple years…escapees from a hurricane-damaged Florida aquarium possibly). I saw an octopus on the second dive which was in a spot with a bit better visibility, with lots of nice huge boulders of brain coral.

View over Taganga.

View over Taganga.

Next I got sick – turned out I had picked up some stomach bug on the trek probably…not something quite as vicious as the amoebas that visited me a few times in India, each time sending me to bed with a fever for several days, but not something that seemed to be in a hurry to leave me either. I still felt ok and had appetite, but the belly was completely broken, day after day. There was a small hospital across the road from the hostel we were staying in Taganga – conveniently located but that was about the only thing it had going for it. They spent two days telling me they’d have a result in an hour, then on the third day told me it didn’t seem to be amoebas or parasites, so it must be something else – “maybe a virus or something”. Great. I was starting to feel skinny at this stage. I had already started a course of Flagyl antibiotics when I got tired of waiting for them, and went on the medicine they prescribed as well – now I really felt sick. It seemed to work though finally – I felt better again some eight days after we had returned from the trek, but I had lost a full 5-6 kilos. My tiny rounded belly that Edel had been joking about (…built up on gorgeous Sichuan cooking a few months earlier) was all gone. At least I was back in the land of the eating again – went in to the Santa Marta shopping center and wolfed down a big greasy burger!

Recovering in Taganga.

Recovering in Taganga.

After Taganga and the Caribbean coast of Colombia we had originally planned to continue overland in to Venezuela, but that plan now seemed roughly as difficult as trying to stop my pants from falling down. The country is always a bit turbulent of course, but it has gotten more and more so over the last few years while Colombia has gotten safer and safer. The situation had particularly deteriorated over the last couple months while we had kept an eye at it – a once-in-a-hundred-years drought had worsened to crippled the country’s water and electricity supply, and Hugo Chavez has taken a break from nationalizing everything that moves to spend some time randomly cutting power in various parts of the country resulting in lots of protests. Riots in Merida, which would have been our first stop, left several dead. The UK government travel advisory page was saying to not go anywhere near the border with Colombia – but then again the language on these pages can be a bit overly alarming…their Sweden one warns about swine flu and terrorism and the Colombia one says not to do the Sierra Nevada trek we had just done even though it’s been perfectly safe for half a decade. I found some blogs on the internet from people who had been in towns in Venezuela during the riots, but what we never found was anyone who had been there recently and had anything positive to say about the country. The currency situation sounded very messy also – there’s one official rate and one unofficial black-market rate, the first is over three times higher but if you want to use the second you pretty much need to bring all the money you plan to spend in the country throughout your whole stay with you in dollars, stashed somewhere in your backpack (which wouldn’t have been fun even in a country that wasn’t known for muggings). And finally the unusual drought that is crippling the Venezuelan economy is also crippling several of the natural wonders that we had wanted to come to the country to see in the first place. Angel falls, the worlds tallest waterfall, is only a thin ribbon of water even during a normal dry season and so is almost completely gone during this one, the river to get there unnavigable. An amazingly strange phenomena called Catatumbo lightning, near-constant electrical storms, lightning without thunder, that for centuries has lit up the skies above lake Maracaibo stopped completely in January this year. There’s something tragically ironic about a petrol state crippled by a climate change related El Niño event…

This just doesn’t seem to be the time to visit, and while we were a bit disappointed about missing the table mountains of the Gran Sabana something even better did come up…

One Response to “Hugo Chávez ruined my holiday! …”

  1. aluminum Roofing

    Hugo Chávez ruined my holiday! … « David and Edel

Leave a Reply