Canaima Camp to Ciudad Bolivar
24. May: We get woken up at 6:00 same as yesterday by Alex. The breakfast is same as yesterday as well, although the eggs seem old today. We take our gear and pack it all up in plastic bags, same as we had done on our boat-ride to the camp. We don our emergency ponchos which I had bought in Switzerland, since it hasn't stopped raining since yesterday evening. I'm sorry for the new tour group which arrived yesterday: this is no weather to be going to see the Angel Falls! They won't be seeing anything! We put on our orange life vests and go to the boat to begin the ride back to Canaima.
On the way, we need to take two walks on land again due to the shallow river. It is quite comfortable in the poncho, and although it is coolish in the rain, the plastic retains enough heat. One of the Germans has suggested sitting backwards in the boat, in this way the rain won't fly directly in our faces. We travel quite fast downstream and my bum-cheeks, especially the bones, hurt from the bumpy ride.
We arrive above Canaima waterfall, and we need to walk past the huge pipes carrying water to the power station, the falls themselves and lastly the power station. It is an interesting walk, especially to see the falls from so near, because of the enormous amount of water they carry. We saw a cute yellow frog on the ground, it is a pity that my camera is wrapped safely in a plastic bag which will be transported directly to the airport. After the power station, we walk along the shore of Canaima lagoon to the airport. There is a bit of a problem about the luggage, which is no where in sight. Eventually it does arrive and the German group leaves surprisingly quickly, and then the Swiss couple, as their plane is just there and they have enough people for the trip.
The person of our carrier Rutaca is not at the airport so we wait, wait, wait. At 12:25 we ask again, we're told that the flight will be in by 13:00. Near one I talk to the lady representing Rutaca, who has arrived by now, and she says it will be 14:00 when we can leave. I demand that she asks Ciudad Bolivar for confirmation that we are indeed going to depart on time, since we have to fly further to Caracas today. The plane actually does arrive at 13:50, we are the only two passengers aboard! We leave at 14:00 and we are in Ciudad Bolivar at 15:00. Boy, it is a really old plane, and I'm concerned whether it will really survive the flight. There are wires hanging loose and parts missing, and I'm glad when we reach the ground!
In Ciudad Bolivar there is no flight today to Caracas, only from Puerto Ordaz by Aeropostal. It would cost us 60$ each (there would be an offer of 28$, but if would have to have been booked in advance). The other airlines Avior and Lai would only be leaving the next morning. I tend to take a night bus but Annewien would rather fly because of the long ride and her back problem. We talk to a helpful lady of a tour operator office at the airport who recommends taking the bus. After we leave the office to talk matter over, we are approached by a confident, energetic young woman with a baseball cap and a kind of uniform who asks us how she could help us. She introduced herself as Maria Theresa, says she is employed by the State, that she doesn't want any commission for her services, and that she is close friends with the President. I'm very suspicious her. We're hesitant talking to her, but explain our situation. She suddenly leaves, saying she'll check things out and then be back later. We shouldn't go away.
We think we've gotten rid of her, but she's back after a coffee break, accompanied by her 'boyfriend' and a lady from Aeropostale. Annewien is a bit brusque with her and she suddenly leaves in a huff. What a relief! We decide that we'd take the night bus to Caracas after all, and we stand at the bus stop to catch a bus to the centre of Ciudad Bolivar. The bus which arrives is overfull and it impossible for us to climb on because of our backpacks, so we take a taxi for 1500 Bs. We go to Hotel Caracas, and we can leave our luggage there for a few hours. We have some soft drinks and check our e-mail in the Internet Cafñ there. We then decide to have dinner in a hotel a few blocks away, I have chicken Ajillo and Spaghetti there, fetch our bags from Hotel Caracas and then get a taxi to the bus terminal.
There are a horde of ticket sellers at the terminal, there must be stiff competition! We follow a guy offering Caracas in a deluxe bus (Ejecutivo) for 11'000 Bs, departing at 20:00 and arriving around 8-9 hours later. We're a bi skeptical, so we look around a bit, then decide it's ok. Another operator had offered the trip for 10'000, so we manage to get the same price. The bus does arrive at 20:00 (it doesn't depart at that time as we had assumed), the bus driver is very friendly and tells us we should rather get off at the bus station 'La Bandera' in Caracas instead of Caracas proper, which would be much further from the airport. What started so pleasantly was going to be a real ordeal!!
Sometime later we start off on our journey, and the bus is indeed comfortable and roomy. It has air conditioning. This was the real problem, since it was set to freezing and putting on all the clothes (I don two T-Shirts and my warm fleece pullover) we had didn't help much against the freezing cold! I sleep very badly, a shallow sleep from the cold. Annewien is freezing, poor thing! The situation is aggravated by their playing music most of the time and then a terrible movie plays on the on-board video. There is some problem with the video and it keeps having problems displaying the video. We stop twice, thrice during the night, once for one full hour.