Los Llanos

One of the most beautiful regions in Venezuela, in fact all of South America is “Los Llanos”, huge plains where only the horizon limits your view. The abundance of wildlife both the variety and quantity is simply stunning. A sensory overload in every sense.

Typical scene

There are two very distinct seasons, rainy and dry. Rainy season is good for amazing landscapes as the trees and vegetation bloom, that is if you can get here as the roads flood and transport becomes difficult. However the dry season is the time to view the animals and birds as they concentrate around the dwindling water holes.

First we had to get there and our trip was, sorry to say, a rather dreary 7 hours (estimate 5) in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser with inward facing seats. Not at all comfortable and with the somewhat less than customer pleasing driving we were all very happy to arrive in one piece having survived several near misses en route.

Karen, on behalf of a number of people, forcibly insisted we simply slow down when initially told “thats the way we drive in Venezuela” even if it meant a slightly longer trip and it was measurably more comfortable thereafter and less sliding into the people in front when braking.

Accommodation was basic but a roomy dorm for eight, married couples plus Geoff and Tony. The rest of the group in a similar dorm but for 12 and one couple (Terry and Leslie) got a double room as Leslie had injured her back falling through a hammock a couple of days earlier and it was for this reason and not as the guide suggested he was looking for the most recently married couple particularly if they felt horny!

We had a late lunch and an evening walk seeing lots of birds and tried to unsuccessfully find an Anaconda snake. Hunting method is to walk barefoot in the water poking with a stick. Rather him than me. Dinner was followed by a few cold ones and an early night, a surprisingly quiet and restful night as there were several notorious snorers in the dorm (including me).

Next morning was a simply stunning boat ride, caimen, monkeys, iguanas and too many varieties of birds to list but some of the most spectacular being the scarlet ibis and various egrets. Going to have to do some serious research to properly identify my photographs.

Scarlet Ibis in flight

Highlight was the guide catching a piranha and then feeding it to a Sea Eagle that was in the tree, I almost got a great shot but its slightly out of focus nonetheless it was amazing to see the coordination of the bird as of course it can’t see it’s feet when it grabs the fish.

Afternoon equally interesting guided walk after a drive into the savannah and saw more wildlife in the various ponds including a flock of about 40 capybara with many young, we found several anaconda a relatively small male estimated at about 4metres by our guide and a huge female that was coiled in the undergrowth but from the girth he thought was at least 6 metres.

On the way back they spotted a giant anteater and corralled it in our direction, the group struggled to get a decent photo it happened so quickly and various people had batteries fail at the crucial moment or memory cards full, I had my long lens on and it ran by so close I couldn’t focus but an amazing close encounter and plenty for us to talk about.

After dinner we had a few beers and then a few more, in fact a table top length, photo’s courtesy of Lisa, who did a fine job of encouraging completion of the display without touching a drop herself. Sensible girl as Geoff, Tony and I went back to the dorm giggling like naughty schoolboys.

Boys will be boys

An interminable all day drive to Merida, our next stop, in the land cruisers. A memorable moment when the bonnet flew open and wrapped itself over the windscreen, fortunately on a straight stretch of road and the driver certainly earned his tip. The bonnet was toast and Geoff – a retired truck builder – demonstrated his truck knot tying skills by lashing the mangled remains down securely. A really long drive but truly stunning and unforgettable exposure to the wildlife.

Pete describes Merida as the adventure capital of Venezuela, we are here 3 nights and there are indeed lots of activities such as canyoning, mountain biking, paragliding and so forth. Most members of the group have done something over the 2 days Karen and I very happy to chill in the hammock area and get the blog up to date with our biggest decisions being where to have to dinner.

We had a cheap and cheerful chicken dinner the first night and a relatively riotous seafood dinner with Tony,Vanessa,Terry and Leslie later joined by Geoff, Pete and Kirsten the 2nd. Lots of Sangria, Cube Libra and the local Polar cerveza. Excellent.

Early start and long drive tomorrow as we head into Colombia. more photos here

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