The Road from Cucuta

The Venezuelan – Columbian border is wide open, even though these two nations came to the brink of war two years ago.  To give you an idea, you can drive right through from Cucuta on the Columbian side, to San Antonio and San Cristobal without talking to anyone.  The only holdup is a likely long line at the gate, and then you just get waved through.  Venezuelans can buy better consumer goods cheaper in Columbia, and Columbians buy gasoline in Venezuela, where it costs about a dollar to fill a standard 14-gallon gas tank, many times cheaper than the Columbian price.

As soon as you cross into Venezuela, the narrow two-lane road deteriorates into atrocious condition.  It’s been raining constantly since last fall.  Landslides have narrowed the road to one lane or less, and the pavement is chopped up or gone entirely in some places. Road crews have barely been able to keep the road open.  There are few guard rails and no shoulders.  It is also very poorly lit after dark.  The result is that cars often end up creeping along at about 5 mph. Gasoline smugglers get very nervous at that speed.

Worse yet, pairs of youths will appear where the road narrows to one lane, ostensibly to direct traffic across the dangerous mountain slopes.  They block oncoming cars, raise their shirts to indicate they are armed, and extort cash before they let drivers through.

Try to avoid this road if you can.  

Instead, visit the pleasant hill town of Peribeca, close to San Cristobal, or any of at least a half dozen others in this part of Tachira.

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