Caro, my host, was going on holiday to Italy for a couple of weeks and so had brrowed her friends camera meaning I got a couple of pictures, yay. My mum had been in touch with Canon in the US and they said the only thing that I could do was send the camera back there to get it fixed, not appealing. I had been in touch with a camera shop in Caracas that’s listed on the Canon website, and they’d said that they could fix things although it wouldn’t be under warranty. I’m hoping it’s not too expensive (in other words the lens needing to be completely replaced) because camera parts have a nasty habit of costing more than just buying a camera. Anyway, I figure I’ll get to Caracas and see what they say. If it’s going to cost far too much, I might work out a way to get it to the US and fixed under warranty and pick up a replacement here.
I left Acarigua quite early, and while there was some sun, it soon went away to be replaced by the prevailing winds in Venezuela – from the east. The flatness of the area meant that there wasn’t much to protect me from it, but it also meant that the kilometres ticked over at a reasonable tick getting me to San Carlos just before lunch.
I had barely seen a cyclist in my whole time in Los Andes (the western area of Venezuela), and so when I saw a guy heading the other way down the highway on a training ride I waved at him. He saw me, but blanked me. A while later, near the outskirts of San Carlos, he bombed past me, and then slowed down. Turned out he was one of those ridiculously competitive people who think that being overtaken is a fate worse than death. They’re quite fun to play with, as he had exhausted himself overtaking me, so I sat behind him for a little and overtook him again waving. He said nothing, but sure enough inside 20 seconds he’d overtaken me and sprinted for a minute to put a large gap between us. My podcast finished so I switched to some energetic music and caught up with him, passing him again. Again inside 20 seconds he had overtaken me and tried sprinting away, but I caught up with him and then overtook him for a 3rd time just before he pulled off. It got me a good change of pace, and amused me dearly to be able to keep up with Mr Spandex.
After a couple of hour lunch break, I rode another 50km to the town of Tinaquillo. On my way to the town square I met a couple of police officers on their motorbike and I decided I’d stay with them. They didn’t seem to get many cyclists passing through, but after explaining to a few people I was told that I could stay. It was a fairly small town, but there seemed to be a good number of police working there as someone else would keep coming up to me to ask me where I was coming from and where I was going. One of the main officers there was quite certain that he wanted a present of some description, and kept suggesting things that I had that I could give him, including my tent. The best I offered was an autograph as he’d recognised that I share my name with a character from The Fast & The Furious.
Tinaquillo to Valencia was only 50km and meant, having asleep before 10 I was awake and ready to roll well before 7, I got to Valencia by 9:30. The road at first had been full of potholes, than I went through my first open tollbooth and it was as good as any in Colombia, at least until the last 20km where it merged with another and lost the shoulder. Thankfully the traffic wasn’t too heavy and I generally only shared the lane with buses and the odd truck.
To get to the Plaza Bolivar I had the fun of riding through some typically heavy Venezuelan traffic, for those in England think M6 round Birmingham at 8am without the shoulder but with traffic lights thrown in for fun. In the Plaza I read my book for a while and was approached by a few people who wanted to chat. The most persistent worked washing cars Friday-Sunday and apparently would make 800-2000 Bolívars a day, as the minimum (and apparently quite common) wage is around 2500, he can save a good amount. Putting that in more context, I spoke to teachers who get paid 15-20B an hour. He works those 3 days and then through the week generally goes and hangs out at his family farm or travelling round the country on his motorbike. Filling a car’s tank of petrol costs 5B and motorbikes are sometimes not charged because it’s not seen as worth charging them.
Valencia is split by mountains and so the downtown area is separated from the suburb of San Diego, where my host Ivan lives, meaning the joy of more autopista riding. The 160km to Caracas really doesn’t sound that exciting as I can’t see it being much nicer than that to ride. It looks like there’s the old road that runs parallel, so maybe that could work.
When I got to Ivan’s house, I called the shop that Canon had recommended and, because the boss was out, spoke to an assistant. She told me it could take about 15 working days to fix the camera. I tried to discuss it with her over the phone, but she didn’t seem to be able to say much and just kept calling me mi amor. My hope is that I’ll be able to speak to the boss and he’ll be able to put my case to the top of the queue meaning it can be fixed much faster. Ivan, my host, is taking his son to the airport there in the morning so I’ll be going with him and going to the shop. Then we’ll hang out here in Valencia for the weekend and I might be cycling towards Caracas on Monday. That gives them Friday, Monday and Tuesday to sort it out so I’m not having to hang out forever in Caracas.