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Road Trip, Day 1 – We Made It! Bachaquero, Venezuela

Highway mainte-what?

These potholes could swallow a small car without problem; driving past them, I couldn’t see where the holes ended. The tollbooths were all abandoned; as I understand, the federal government prohibits them from collecting tolls. And there were the burnt out streetlamps that haven’t been fixed for kilometers at a stretch (according to my travel companions, something that didn’t happen prior to 1999).

And there were the speed bumps.

Yes, speed bumps. On the highway.

You’re flabbergasted I know. Allow me to explain.

Along the highway that connects Barquisimeto to Maracaibo, small towns have popped up far less than a stone’s throw from the road. The people in these towns sell coffee, lemonade, fruits and homemade bread to travelers, but not from their roadside stands. Instead, they stand in the middle of the road and conduct their business via the windows of passers-by. Between these vendors standing in the middle of the road and children playing nearby, there were enough accidents to prompt the construction of speed bumps throughout the highway.

Unfortunately, these speed bumps have not been maintained. Which means unpainted speed bumps – let’s call them, “surprises” – litter the highway for miles and miles. Walking around later, I continued feared that my world might suddenly be jolted up and down while the sound of thunder/an abused suspension system assaulted my ears.

Other fun facts:

  • Whenever road construction is under way, or a car has wrecked, or the highway is for any other reason impassable at some point, large piles of dirt and branches are thrown in the road as an indicator of such news. This was used once to indicate that the four-lane highway was about to become two lanes. Half of the bridge ahead had collapsed and it was inadvisable to try to jump the gap. Of course, without signs or arrows, it’s hard to know what calamity you’re supposed to avoid until you’ve either avoided it or not.
  • Impatient drivers often pass you via the shoulder when somebody is passing you too slowly in the left lane.
  • Brake lights? Good joke.
  • Signaling to change lanes? Waste of time.
  • Looking before you change lanes? Ditto.
  • Semis looking before changing lanes to avoid crushing your Vitara like a cockroach? They have better things to do.

I can’t imagine making a road trip in the States anymore. As Gertrudis said, it’s boring driving in the States. You can’t help but fall asleep when you’re not dodging potholes and fallen bridges and unpainted speed bumps on an unlit road.

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