Paradise Lost – Golfo de Paria, Venezuela


Route Playa Pui Pui – Golfo de Paria, Venezuela (9)
Distance 169 Km
Travel Time 4 hours
Road Conditions Ok tarmac, road damage in pational park
Weather Hot, sunny
Terrain Tropical jungle, hilly
Food and Petrol None (only at Guiria)
Accommodation Camping

Our next destination is the Paria Peninsula. This narrow peninsula that sticks out eastward into the Caribbean, creating the top side of the Gulf of Paria, opposite the island of Trinidad. Most of the peninsula, the North side, is all national park, so we are hoping to follow one of the small country roads marked on our map and find a Caribbean beach paradise – wild, beautiful, and untrampled by mass tourism (not that we can speak of “mass” tourism in Venezuela anyway)…. Little do we know we’re on the right track! Well sort of… 😉

Erica and Max have a GPS which registers the route and they take the lead. We drive for hours through lush, tropical, Caribbean jungle landscape, where plantains and bananas hide between lush avocado tress. Local people lay out carpets of cacao seeds on the road-side – the only surface flat and open enough to sunshine for them to dry out.

Somewhere along the road, about noon, we do a rest stop at some road-side bar. It’s packed with customers, having their lunch time drink I suppose. Not a rare sight in Venezuela. Well they have coffee too, for us responsible motor-bikers I take it. 😉 This time with a hint of cinnamon flavour – really nice. Again I must compliment the coffee culture here.


For our lunch we stop at a delicatessen on the Guiria outskirts. We get some bread, cheese and salami. I see he has a mother ship of Italian Parma Ham in his fridge as well. “How much?”

The price he quotes me is something lower than even the “Italian” salami we just ordered – I think I’m going to enjoy this. However a moment later when I want to order some he discusses with his colleagues and it turns out it’s not for sale – the boss is not here and they don’t know the price. So close…

Guria is a smallish and at first dodgy looking town on the gulf coast. People have told us that it’s dangerous there, but of course people tell us the same thing about all cities and towns in Venezuela. Max punches the destination into the GPS and we follow the coast line along the peninsula. Let’s go find our beach in the national park!


The first impressions along the coast line are a disappointment. We stop to eat our lunch at a little bay, the coast line overgrown by shrubbery or mangroves. We notice a young couple frolicking under the shade of a tree, a ton of plastic drink bottles and oil containers floating at the water’s edge. What a romantic setting.

After lunch we follow the road, guided by the GPS.



It flows through a couple of little villages and over some rivers and cascades, kids and grown-ups splashing away. The road follows the coast line up and down steep hills. As we go on it becomes more remote, no more villages, only very occasional houses, and the road deteriorates more and more.


Until it abruptly ends, near the top of a very steep hill, nothing ahead but dense jungle. We manage to stop without having any accidents and – more amazingly – manage to turn the bikes around on the narrow, steeply sloping road, to go back.

Ebru intends to clear the way for us but cannot find the key…

Well that kind of ruins our plan. Now it’s getting late we’re loath to return to Guiria and find accommodation there. But what choice do we have? We’d like to camp, but where? We come by something like a farm plot, clearly private property, which is right at the sea.


Ebru and I go in via a small path to see whether the owner is there, but it’s deserted. We see there is another gate on the opposite road side so we enter there and find the place inhabited. The chap we speak to tells us that the owner of the plot it not around but he’s taking care of it in his absence, and he doesn’t mind us setting up camp there.


We pitch our tents by the abandoned little house at the pebble beach front. It’s a beautiful spot with coconut trees, goyaba (aka guava), lemons etc. A little paradise!


Our “hosts” (let’s call them Tom, the caretaker, and is friend Jerry) are very hospitable guys: Tom a skinny and timid-looking chap, quiet and slightly servile in his manner. And Jerry probably in in his fifties, tall, a trim grey seaman’s beard, built like a brick shit-house, and air as if he didn’t have a worry in the world (This was probably because he was over on this side of the mountain for a holiday from his cacao plantation on the other side). They lent us kerosene torches and let us fill up water from their spring.

Tom escorts me later to the town for getting some drink and groceries. He’s on the back of the bike with me. Going through the villages, again, I get very dodgy looks from people. Unnerving.

And so it proceeds that we spend a few days here in this little secluded farm. We lounge by the bonfire – which burns throughout our stay, swim in the sea, do some fishing (unsuccessfully), drink coconuts and eat fresh fruits. A surreal setting, reminiscent of the film “The Beach”. Tom and Jerry come around every now and again to check on us. They’re nice guys.


The water here is great for swimming and so full of phosphorus that at night, in the pitch dark, you can see the waves glow up as they break. I did not take notice of this at first. However when I left the bonfire to take a leak, I noticed with excitement that where my carefully aimed stream was hitting the sea water, there appeared a luminous green fog!


One day Max & i ride to Guiria for more supplies. Again the discomforting looks from the villagers…. I wonder what their problem is? We bring back a bottle of rum for Tom and Jerry. A guy fishing from the beach sees us and comes over to talk. He’s caught a ray and gives us the meat to eat. He warns us sternly that this isn’t a safe place for us: The area is known for drugs- and arms trafficking and we would not want to be here if a boat happened to land here in the middle of the night on an errand. Hmmm… some things you’d rather NOT know!


This possibly explains the vibes we were getting from the villagers – maybe they think we’re here for business? And what about the slightly incredulous looks coming from the pilots of the little motor boats passing by on the sea.


Later another two fishermen have walked by on the beach and seen us. They show up again the next morning, while our two “hosts” are around, this time drunk as skunks from the rum we bought them

A conversation ensues (between the two fishermen and our new friends) which I don’t understand. Next thing we know, one of the fisherman launches to his feet, his long machete in hand (everybody carries a machete around here), shouting and cursing and he starts swinging the blade at Jerry, stopping only a hair-breadth from his neck! And Jerry… just stands there, a nonchalant smile on his face, his bulging arms folded, and he’s challenging the guy to go ahead.

We of course can’t believe what’s going on. The other guys eventually get machete man to lower his weapon and move on, but he’s still very pissed off and threatening. And Jerry is really enjoying this, looks around on the floor for a suitable object to smash the man with – oh look, that long burning log will do – but he changes his mind and puts it down again.

Incredibly heavy wood – felled with hours of muscle-work and a Swiss Army Knife…

As the grumpy fisherman and his accomplice pace off on the path between the coconut trees, Tom and Jerry follow along and there’s another scuffle which Ebru witnesses. Machete man swings his chopper at Jerry again, this time actually landing it on his huge upper arm, but no damage inflicted. Jerry again gleefully hoping for the guy to wage the death blow – at which point I anticipate he’ll react and probably knock the guy out of his gum boots.

What a spectacle! It hasn’t made us feel any safer, though, and we debate leaving on the spot, but decide to give it a bit more thought. Tom and Jerry visit us every few hours, checking that we’re ok. “He’s a thief,” Jerry explains, “and I told him so. He takes coconuts from this property and they do not belong to him. … I’m not afraid of that wimp, I’ll punch his head off.,” he affirms, matter-of-factly. “I’m not scared of death…,” he points to a few bullet wounds he sustained in the past. {gulp}


Later another couple of other folks stroll by curiously. Our “cover” is blown and though we’re really loving this place, now we’re getting too much attention. We seriously contemplate leaving. The coffin is sealed when, sunning ourselves on the beach that afternoon, a fat rattle snake slithers by us. It seems like an omen, advising us to leave. We pack our shit, say our goodbyes and go.


The ride to Guiria is brimming with feelings – some of relief, but more of lament. Such a beautiful place. Such a gratifying lifestyle. Such a decent bunch of guys (not the fishermen obviously).


And the knowledge that we will never return – even if we could. Somewhat like the character Richard in “The Beach”, as he is leaving island behind. The adventure has been extraordinary indeed.