Did you like yesterday’s story? Yes? In that case I have another one for you.

Back to yesterday. While I was fighting for my entry documents, a Guyanese trucker told me that further North, some 400km from here, in a town called El Callao, some mine workers were blocking the roads.

Knowing my actual good luck, you can already guess what’s coming up, no?

Well, I, clever boy,  full of energy, with a full tank and an empty stomach start at 5 am, curious what troubles I might run into today. I pass the Gran Sabana, very beautiful in the first morning light, direction: El Callao. Luckily I filled up my tank yesterday; but the way I drive, I use a lot of fuel, and after a few hours there is not much left in my tank. Since I left, all gas stations I passed are closed. Because of the road blockade (I do not have to tell you that there is one, no?) the government has requisitioned all gas stations, for strategic reasons. Only official cars are allowed to fill their tank. Well, I am not an official, but I am stubborn. So I climb over the barrier, and start discussing with the policemen who are just filling up. After a while they explain me that they cannot give e some fuel here, where we will be seen, but that they will drive to their base and bring me a full jerry can.

While I wait for them to come back, a military truck stops just ahead of me, the soldiers jump off and build a barricade: Road closed.

Did I tell you I am stubborn?

I go to the soldiers and start discussing again, tell them a lot of stories and ask for the permission to pass. (Btw, the policemen never came back with the promised jerry can) It takes a while, but I do not let up, and finally they let me pass, convinced that I will be back soon anyway.

That will not happen for sure: El Callao is some 40km away, and I have fuel for 70km, so: no way back.

My journey stops a few km before El Callao, at a road junction. A strategic road junction. All traffic North-South MUST pass here, there is no way to bypass.

There is a lot of police and military presence; the miners must be around one hundred. A policeman recommends me not to go there: the situation is bad. National Guard troops with antiriot guns are ready to intervene. I am a bit disappointed by the barricade: a little tree on the ground and a rope across the road, not very spectacular. But the guys are quite excited, there is a lot of shouting and screaming, so the atmosphere is fine. I watch the situation for a while, but my plan is already ready in my little head. I take my camera, a notebook and a pen, and walk to the strikers. I introduce myself as a journalist from Europe, ask them to tell me what’s going on, and promise them to write an article about their situation (What I am doing just now, no?)

Well, these guys are in deep shit. They are miners in a gold mine that exists since 150-200 years. (All figures have to be taken carefully; I just repeat what they told me, and they were quite excited) Actually there is more than one mine, there are many around, and some 100.000 miners are supposed to work there. They do not have a fixed salary, but are paid on a commission base. And now, despite exploding gold prices, and old gold mines being reopened all over the world, the government has decided to close theirs, because it is not profitable any more. If a socialist government closes a mine in these days, because it is not profitable any more, the production must be close to nothing and the mine workers salaries even closer to nothing. The whole region is living from the gold mines, and the whole region is going to die.

I do not have to play comedy, I sympathize with these guys. I take notes, make a few photos. Then I ask the crucial question:

How long do you intend to block the road?

If the government does not give in, until Christmas.

Yeeehaaaah! I am in the shit again! Yesterday I was about to spend the rest of my life between two borders, and now I will spend Christmas with striking mine workers.

Apparently Father Christmas comes earlier this year, at least regarding the distribution of problems for gringo travelers.

There is a solution to every problem, so I go back to my bike and start studying the map. The only possibility to continue my journey, is to drive back to Brazil, and cross the whole Amazon rain forest until Peru, a detour of a few thousand km. Well, that is a solution, but maybe not the best one.

Did I tell you, I am stubborn? Yes I did!

Back to the mine workers. While I discussed with them earlier on, I observed them well, and noticed those who might be in my favor in case of need. So I ask one of those to join me a bit away from his colleagues. His name is Keynes, he’s in his early twenties. I explain to him, that I have to be in Caracas tomorrow, to catch a plane for Europe the next day, as I have to be back to work on Monday. Otherwise I will lose my job as well, which would not be of big use to their cause. I promise him to make good publicity for them (Am I doing it now?) and that I will make a financial contribution to their strike fund. Of course it’s the money that convinces him, and he’s willing to help me. Together we go back to my bike and I drive to the barricade. But he underestimated his colleagues.  The shouting becomes louder and louder. There is no way that they will let me pass. A blockade is a blockade, and they do not give a shit of a gringo’s problems. The situation deteriorates, the shouting gets aggressive, and fists are waved. It is not on my travel schedule to get beaten up by angry mine workers, so I decide to retreat.

I already told you that I am stubborn, I am sure.

I park my bike next to the policemen and go for an inspection of the surroundings. On the right side of the road is a steep hill, on the left side; some 10 meters lower are a few houses. Every house has a small garden; there is no fence between them. Passing here should be possible, but it will be risky. I am sure that Keynes and his friends will help me, as I am sure that my money will never end in the strike fund. Discreetly I drive my bike down the road to the houses. We’re just 20 meters from the shouting striker  now,  but rather well hidden under some trees. No way to drive through the gardens though, they would hear me. So the four of us start pulling and pushing the heavy bike through three successive gardens. It is hard work, the ground is wet and slippery, but everything goes fine, nobody notices us. One last obstacle: a narrow stone staircase, some 10 steps high, turning on a right angle at halfway. The four of us will never get the bike up there. And once again money rules; Keynes finds three more colleagues, and the seven of us haul my bike up on the street, some 50 meters behind the blockade.

Some bank notes quickly change hands, I jump on my bike, and off I go.