El Jaguey Thermal Springs

From Maraibo to El Jaguey Thermal Springs

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Leaving Maracaibo, we crossed over the impressive bridge spaning the mouth of Maracaibo Lake. Made of reinforced and pre-stressed concrete, the cable-stayed bridge spans 8.7 km from shore to shore. The five main spans are supported from 92-metre tall towers, and provide 46 metres of clearance to the water below. General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge is named after a War of Independence General.

The competition to design the bridge started in 1957 and was won by Riccardo Morandi, an Italian civil engineer. Morandi's was the only concrete design out of twelve entries, and was expected to be less expensive to maintain, as well as providing valuable experience of pre-stressed concrete technology for Venezuela. According to eminent bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux: "the Lake Maracaibo Bridge deserves to be part of the series of the most famous bridges over the world, with the Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge over the Firth of Forth, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Garabit Viaduct."

I was intrigued to see at one of our toilet stops that there was a sign prohibiting the carrying of firearms

We arrived at El Jaguey Thermal Springs in the late afternoon, in time to experience a downpour - this is tropical rain forest. It rained torrents, and we then discovered that our room was plagued with several hundred flying ants,, which got everywhere - in our suitcases, in our beds, in our hair. I have to give it to Max for clearing the room while we had dinner. The hotel did not seem to care, and were not prepared to give us another room.

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The hotel had been a 2 star hotel at best in its prime, and now was very tired.

We had a trip to a local village, where an aggressive and persistant drunk pestered us. Alan, I think, was concerned that the man might become aggressive.

Chris had a swim and we had dinner in the hotel restaurant - an odd place which forced us to eat at 7pm for their convenience, and by 8pm were piling chairs on tables and closing the place up. The evening meal which Alan sold to us as "typically Venezualean" was less than appetising, and I think that it was ordered to reduce his costs, rather than for our benefit. But a fresh fruit breakfast the next day was much better, and there were local fruits to try that I had not seen before

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It was then into the bus, for a road trip to Concha, a small fishing port on Lake Maracaibo. We picked up fresh fruit and veg along the way from roadside stalls. Petrol stations in this part of the world were regularly closed, and had long lines of cars waiting for the next delivery of petrol. Whilst Venezuela is rich in crude oil, it does not have sufficient distilling capacity and so cannot even supply local petrol demand, though it can export the crude oil. In the border areas like this, locals can make a living filling the tanks of their car with virtually free petrol, then driving to Colombia, siphoning it off and selling it.

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Approaching the town of Concha, we had to leave any surplus baggage in the house of one of Alan's employees as the room on his "new" boat was limited. The house next door sported several fighting cocks in cages. Hence we were ready to journey by boat to see the Catatumbo Lightning

On to see the Catatumbo Lightning

Colombia - Venezuela Holiday