Bryony and Nick in South America travel blog

After a sad farewell to Celia and James, and 24 hours of packing up in Santiago, we finally arrived in Caracas.

Initial excitement at our flashpacker extravagance - deluxe room at the Mariott that turned out to be bigger than our apartment - was soon tempered by warnings about the dangers of stepping out of the hotel lobby in anything but a taxi with blacked out windows, and frontpage headlines about the 70 murders in Caracas over the Christmas weekend.

First challenge was to change some money. There are two exchange rates - official (1900 to the dollar) and black market (2600 to the dollar) - which is why we decided to carry about huge amounts of dollars, thus adding to the paranoia.

Accessing the black market however, proved a slight problem. After much confusion, we were sent the shopping mall where I was sent from shop to shop trying to look the part, and failed miserably. Nick ended up doing a shady deal in the hotel lobby.

After a brief excursion to the centre - lots of 70s and colonial buildings in varying states of disrepair and a tour of the various points of interest from the Chavez coup - we decided to exit Caracas rapidly by bus.

First major cock-up soon to follow as we mis-read the departure time, missed the bus and found that every other bus was fully booked up until January. Best option was to take a taxi, which wasn't too budget-breaking, although the driver turned out to be a would be Formula 1 driver, so it was not a relaxing 4 hour drive.

Heading to Mochima tommorrow for New Year on the beach.

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