Monday, 13 September 2010

Top 5 Venezuelan Adventures

My top 5 locations to visit in revolutionary Venezuela.

Venezuela is an old Spanish colony in South America. Founded on slavery, its main source of revenue is now oil. The country has been in the grip of socialist revolution for over a decade. The vast under class is benefiting from the oil money for the first time but many of the middle class feel betrayed and viciously oppose the socialist President Hugo Chavez.

The capital, Caracas, is the most dangerous city in the world. It is surrounded by vast mountains covered in shanty towns knows as Barrios. At night the streets echo with the thunderous assault of gunfire, an endless gang war, in which the fallen gangsters become deities in a cult of crime.

Toni Martin is the Steve Irwin of South America. A creole who grew up in the swampy anaconda infested plains of Los Llanos. Toni arranged for a jeep to take us to the swamp and informed me that he would catch an anaconda. This seemed unlikely because his hand was swollen from an infected anaconda bite he had received a week ago. A tooth had broken off in his hand which he hadn’t removed. Nevertheless an anaconda was caught. It took 4 men to control the thrashing serpent.

In the North are nearly 1800 miles of Caribbean coastline and over 70 islands all strewn with palm trees and Latina beauties. This photo was taken in Henri Pittier National Park, a designated nature reserve of idyllic ivory coasts skirting lush green rain forest. The park is popular with young people from Caracas as a location for surfing and all night free parties on the beach.

The South is dominated by the impenetrable jungles of Amazonas state and Canaima National Park. Deep in the rain forest you can witness the breathtaking Angel Falls, the world’s largest waterfall and the setting for Disney/Pixar’s ‘Up’. Native American tribes have preserved their ancient ways of life in this region. These two children of the Pemón tribe live in the jungle, surviving without electricity or running water.

the city of Maracaibo, near the Colombian border, is the second largest in the country. All its sewage is pumped, untreated, into Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in South America and one of the oldest in the world. The city boasts one of the largest oil refineries in the country and is situated on top of huge oil reserves. Many of the locals live in houses, suspended above the lake on wooden stilts. These traditional native structures are known as palafitos.

Published: I-D Online, September, 2010