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Tom Haines in Venezuela and Essdras M Suarez flying over the "tepuis" at the confluence of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil.
Tom Haines in Venezuela and Essdras M Suarez flying over the "tepuis" at the confluence of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil. (Globe Staff Photos / Essdras M. Suarez)
CROSSING DIVIDES

The makings of this first journey

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September 26, 2004

The overland journey began in the central city of Ciudad Bolvar, Venezuela, on the banks of the Ro Orinoco, after a flight from Caracas. It ended, after crossing the savanna, in the Amazon capital of Manaus, Brazil, with a return flight to Caracas, then Boston.

Because the goal while crossing the divide was to connect with people, the journey often followed main traffic routes: Route 10 into Brazil, then the Ro Branco. Some traveling was by public bus, but most was on quickly arranged private vehicles, either car, truck, or riverboat.

How to get started yourself

The transportation infrastructure in both southern Venezuela and northern Brazil is basic, but reliable. Bus routes connect Ciudad Bolvar by Route 10 to Santa Elena de Uairn and on to Boa Vista and Manaus. The journey can be made in a few days, but count at least a couple of weeks if you are interested in exploring cities, or savanna and jungle terrain. Obviously, navigating bus schedules and hotels is easier with some knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese, or at least a phrase book.

The Venezuelan government issues a 90-day tourist card for holders of US passports on arrival in the country. It is necessary to get a visa for entry to Brazil before leaving the United States. For exact requirements and general information for both countries, visit www.travel.state.gov, a website of the US State Department.

State Department safety warnings also can be found at the site. Venezuela's Grand Savanna and Roraima, in Brazil, are stable regions. During our two weeks of travel, we felt no cause for unease, and we saw no crime. Locals reported that visitors seldom have problems. Still, always exercise caution and keep a low profile when in remote areas.

This trip can work with little advance planning or lots.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) and Rough Guides (www.roughguides.com) publish comprehensive guides to South America, and to Venezuela and Brazil.

Several Internet sites offer forum discussions and links to plumb the potential of trips. Two worth looking at:

  • www.planeta.com/south.html
  • www.samexplo.org (Membership required for access to most information.)
  • Or, an easier way ...

    The world's highest waterfall, towering table mountains, big, colorful fish . . . the region has plenty of natural wonders and the tourist infrastructure for those looking to visit them.

    In Venezuela's Grand Savanna, Angel Falls, the highest single-drop falls in the world, could be the highlight of a backcountry adventure. Or consider a strenuous trek to the top of Mount Roraima, the mountain that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel ''The Lost World." New Frontiers Adventures, which offers many fully supported trips into the region, is tucked in a small office in Santa Elena de Uairn. Visit the company online at www.newfrontiersadventures.com or call 011-58-289-995-1584.

    In Roraima, Amazon River peacock bass lure anglers from around the world. Learn more about the sport, and operators who arrange fishing expeditions, at www.peacockbassassociation.com.

    For a thorough introduction to birding near the Grand Savanna, and in other parts of Venezuela, visit www.venezuelavoyage.com/birdvenezuela.

    About the team

    Tom Haines has been the Globe's staff travel writer for 2 years. Over the past decade, he has reported in 30 countries and five continents, on topics ranging from coal to cricket, art to revolution. Haines, 36, was last year named the nation's top travel journalist by the Society of American Travel Writers. His story about facing famine in Ethiopia will appear in the 2004 edition of "The Best American Travel Writing." He can be reached at thaines@globe.com.

    Essdras M. Suarez has been a staff photographer at the Globe for 2 years, covering the gamut of assignments, from local news to the war in Iraq. He was previously on the photo staff of the Rocky Mountain News, where he shared in the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Columbine school shootings. A native of Panama, Suarez, 37, was also the winner, in 2000, of the Robert F. Kennedy International Photojournalism Award. He can be reached at suarez@globe.com.

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