A VERY close shave! – Venezuela

Although we have visited many dangerous countries around the world, we have been lucky enough not to have witnessed much criminality. However, it is undeniable that the more dangerous the country, the more likely you are to experience something like this. Be it drugs being sold in Mexico to fights breaking out in a bar in Paris, anything is possible when travelling. The Wandering memory I wanted to share with you today is one of our closest shaves, revolving around a brush with such an element, and proved how naive even 2 very well-traveled individuals can be.

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The story starts in the Venezuelan town of Ciudad Bolivar, where Megan and I had just finished a trip into the jungle to see the highest waterfall in the world – Angel Falls (I will blog about that experience another time). We were tired, we were hot and facing a 8+ hour bus ride back to Caracas, it just didn’t seem the most plausible solution. So we decided to fly back, our guide literally bribing our way onto a local aircraft… Don’t ask me how, but I am pretty sure we paid at least double for that flight!

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We landed safely and arrived, as expected, 4 hours before our flight was due to leave the international terminal.  What a result! It was so much better than the bus, which even today holds firm as one of the most traumatic journeys of my life. We collected our luggage and walked the short distance in between the terminals.

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Arriving at the airport, we were informed our flight would be delayed by at least 8 hours. No huge shock there, as Caribbean Airways are nodoubt one of the most unreliable airlines in the world. Hearing this news, we decided to peruse the shops, get some dinner and then snuggle up against a vending machine for the night (as there were very limited chairs). Sleeping on an airport floors is no shock to seasoned travelers, and we had both done it numerous times before.

The evening came and the airport went silent, and by silent I mean creepy silent, as there were very few people within the vicinity at all. I took very little notice as we snoozed in what had become a self-designed ‘nest’ of backpacks, travel pillows and clothing. In the warmth of the night I decided to get up and check the status of the flight, and left Megan comfortably snoozing in the nest.

I was gone less than 5 minutes, finding out that the flight was still delayed and wandering the deserted halls before returning to our nest. As I returned and approached, I saw that two men in official jackets had surrounded her. What was going on here? I immediately assumed that they were just moving us on, as we weren’t allowed to sleep there, or something like this… I quickened my pace and raised my voice slightly asking if there was anything I could help them with.

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They both heard me, as they turned around and bolted, I mean literally ran from me. What a strange and surreal experience… It wasn’t until after they had exited that I saw Megan hunched up as close as possible to the vending machine. Upon asking if she was ok? She launched herself at me and gave me a huge hug.

So it appears that these guys had been watching Megan and I since we entered the airport and immediately approached her when I left. Luckily she had backed herself into a corner, while they both shouted Spanish at her, with the occasional English verse of  ‘no sleep here ‘, come with us’ (both had limited English as you would expect in a non-English speaking country). Megan responded and tried to explain that she was waiting for me, and we would move together. Luckily I had returned before it escalated, but again they had official airport staff jackets on, why would they run and leave us there?

Megan was obviously a bit shaken by this, but obviously not too much as I found her asleep again within a couple of minutes (that girl can sleep anywhere). I however was still confused so stayed awake until our plane arrived.

Upon returning home, we did a little research into Caracas airport, and there in plain site were a host of advisory warnings, two which just happened to say

  • ‘Don’t walk in between international and domestic terminals alone’, and
  • ‘Refrain from sleeping in the airport’

Why I hear you ask?

Well, it seems that this was a hotspot for local gangs to kidnap and ransom travelers! Yes you heard me right… It even stated that it was known that officials working at the airport could be paid handsomely for kidnapping… I kid you not!

I still feel even today that we had a lucky escape here, and it could have been a lot worse. Luckily now it just adds a great story to the wandering memories collection, and a reminder that even a well traveled couple can still get into sticky situations.

Check out our Angel Falls story in Venezuela and Central American (Tikal already available) in due course.

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