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I decided that I would at least try riding with Pablo and Oto, and so we left Ciudad Bolívar. Puerto Ordaz, the next main town, was about 100km away and so, at my rhythm, I’d have been expecting to get there early afternoon. It took us 3 days.

We said our goodbyes to Nelly, who had written out directions from her place to the exit of town. The reality was that we left the house, turned right and went straight. She wrote out a whole page of information about everything we would see at each of the 10 junctions that we would go straight through between her house and the exit. We made our way through town with a stop at the bakery for a break, and by the end of town Pablo and Oto were looking for another stop. We couldn’t find the coke in glass bottles that they wanted, so pushed on.

We stopped to make coffee, Pablo and Oto actually carried 6 stoves between themselves in Panama, and relaxed for a good while. There was a sign saying there were some petroglyphs 300m away so when they headed on I took the detour. About a km down the road I u-turned having seen nothing and with nothing seeming to be anywhere nearby. The area had a few gentle rolling hills, a nice break from the plains north of the river.

By the time I caught up with Pablo and Oto, it was still before noon, they had stopped at a petrol station and were drinking beers. It turned out that they had pulled up, ordered a beer and a local had offered to buy them. When I pulled up, another beer was bought and we spent the next hour chatting away, drinking beer and eating pork sandwiches. Even though it was a petrol station, the pork was very fresh. We were given a tour and just behind the station they were raising a good number of pigs.

When we said that we were looking for a place to stay, Pastor, one of the guys we were drinking with showed us across the road to a house where we could stay. There was a shower, electricity, and a covered area that we could put our tents up in. Perfect. We went to set ourselves up, and about an hour later Pastor came over to make sure everything was OK. He had brought us a Gatorade each and so Oto gave him a coffee, and a bowl of food that he’d made. Pastor left and came back with another round of Gatorade, a kilo of meat and some charcoal for us to cook it with.

We were on the road before 7, and I figured we’d make it the 60km to Puerto Ordaz. I was wrong. We made it 30km to a crossing called El 70, where there was a few stores, and instead of heading the rest of the way to town, Oto said that being around 10am it was too late to go another 30km, after a break we heard of a river nearby and went there. I stopped for lunch, while they headed off first. It was 6km down a road, to where there used to be a town before it got flooded to make a dam, and then 2.5km of sand to a beach. Oto got a puncture and his gearing failed in the sand, and he was fixing it by the time I got there.

It wasn’t much after noon when we arrived at the river, which seemed much more like a lake because of the dams, and found a place to camp in a palapa. We had been told we’d be there alone and it might be dangerous, but we weren’t too concerned. I got to swim in the river and relax on the beach before nightfall. The wind was even strong enough that there were no mosquitoes. We were given a tub of soup from some people that Pablo met while he was swimming and ate it with rice that we cooked up.

Finally, we would arrive in Puerto Ordaz. It’s not like I knew anything about the city, it’s just that it seemed strange for the 100km to turn into 120km and a day to turn into 3. It had been a lovely two days, and our ride into town was too.

We were packed up and on the road not much after 6. The day before we had stopped at a tyre shop to pump up our tyres and had been told by the owner that if we came back the next day she’d have a surprise for us. I was expecting a coffee. We didn’t get anything to drink. Instead, we were shown the ostriches, and other animals, in their collection.

From there it was a simple ride into town where we met another cyclist and Pablo ran over something that made his tyre and tube explode. We got to Ultrabike, the only bike shop open in town as it was a Sunday, around noon and didn’t leave until after 4pm. Enyelbert, our Brazillian-Venezuelan mechanic, sorted our a new tyre for Oto, cleaned all three of our bikes, re-taught me how to take my chain apart, gave Pablo & Oto lessons in strengthening their tyres so they would hopefully not get any more punctures and just generally showed us a great time.

The owner, Leo, had offered to help us out with a place to stay, but Lesbia, a friend of a friend of the person that Pablo had stayed with in Caracas could put us up so we took that offer. We were met Andrea and, a while later, Lesbia, her mum, arrived.

We had only been thinking of staying for a night, but it turned into much more.

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