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Caracas

Thursday, July 23, 2009
If you're heading into the wilds of Venezuela as Sorrel Wilby did, chances are you will pass through or spend a day or two in Caracas, the capital city. While there isn't much that daunts Sorrel, she took the advice of those in the know. Caracas can be unsafe, so rather than explore it on her own, she took a taxi and left her valuables in a safe at the hotel. It's also a good idea to not having a camera around your neck. Kidnapping for a ransom isn't unusual — it's a common crime in the city.

Some areas are safer than others and it's not a good idea to wander around barrios or shanty towns. The huge slums spill down the sides of the mountains into the city and people virtually live on top of one another. The box houses are called ranchos and it is thought around 3 million people exist in them.

If all of that hasn't put you off visiting Caracas, there are some more savoury things to do and see there.

Simon Bolivar Plaza is the historical heart of Old Caracas. Venezuelans are very proud of their famous leader and their currency is the bolivar. Casa Natal de Bolivar, his birth home, is now a museum, exhibiting weapons, banners and uniforms from his time.

He was an extremely busy man, and not just for Venezuela. He liberated Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Bolivia, which he founded.

El Hatillo

Sorrel steered away from the malls and headed out of the city centre to the historic precinct of El Hatillo. The charming village has kept its architectural tradition and customs over the years and is a national monument.

Music plays an important part in village life and in October and November it's the venue for Festival de Música del Hatillo. Jazz, classical and contemporary music embrace the culture of the town.

Hatillo has a rich gastronomic variety, from basic meals to sophisticated international cooking. Handicrafts and the local furniture do much for economic development and products are available from the Caracas Valley and remote corners of Venezuela.

The Las Mercedes district is quite glitzy and is a popular place to finish your day. Sorrel really enjoyed the local food. Her favourite was queso de mano, handmade cheese. Arepas are a South American staple made from maize and are served with every meal. If you order a steak, make sure you are hungry. They are huge!

Location

Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

Cost

Kumuka Worldwide Tailor Made Tours has a five-day package for $1650 per person twin share. It includes accommodation, most meals, transfers and English-speaking local guide.

Spend the first night in Caracas and have a guided tour the next day. On day three there is a flight over Angel Falls and a visit to Canaima National Park. Day four is spent around the park and lagoon before returning to Ciudad Bolivar and on the last day you return to Caracas.

Prices correct at July 23, 2009.

For further information

Kumuka Worldwide Tailor Made Tours
5/387 George Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: 1300 667 277 or (02) 9279 0491
Fax: (02) 9279 0492
www.kumuka.com
adventuretours@kumuka.com.au

Visas: Australians do not require a tourist visa to enter Venezuela.

Electricity: 120V at 60Hz using United States-style two-pin plugs.

Time zone: GMT -4.

Currency: bolivar fuerte (VEF).

International dialling code: +58.

It is recommended travellers to South America see their doctor at least six weeks before departure. Prior to travel, travellers should be "up to date" with vaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B. Depending on the time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions are recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au or www.welltogo.com.au.

User comments
I was surprised and shocked...Caracas, although surrounded by "ranchos" which were allowed to sprawl following the fall of the dictatorship from the mid-50's, was a beautiful city- same as the rest of Venezuela. Since the Chavez reign of power began, the country has been in free fall. The promises of equity for all and improved conditions for the poor have not materialised...instead, the productive class of the country has been savagely attacked by Chavez and his supporters. The economy is in the pits despite years of record-breaking prices for crude oil, there is increased visible real poverty, less freedom of speech, has become one of the most dangerous places around, and like Argentina, the country is in a complete state of disrepair... I will hold back to taking my Australian wife to visit the country of my birth until Chavez is gone and the country gets back on its feet...What a shame ! Venezuela was a truly priviledged place in the world- not any more.
Thank you for visiting Venezuela and thanks to Sorrel for her insight into life in Caracas. We lived in Venezuela for 9 years and 2 years of that was in Caracas and it was great to see the city again. We moved from Caracas to Maracaibo in the state of Zulia for the last 7 years we were there. We did speak with Sorrel several years ago at a holiday exhibition and asked her to visit Venezuela so the program was special to us and for our children who grew up there. We worked in those poor areas in Caracas, especially in 25th de Enero (25th of January.) as we were establishing the work of The Salvation Army in that country. Because of the cost we unfortunately will never to be able to go back again. Many thanks and we will continue to watch Getaway.

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