Venezuela, Backpacking South America
Eight Months On the Road
By David Rice  
Page Eight
Venezuela, Backpacking South America
Bus Travel Through South America

Call it the Venezuelan welcome if you wish or is it just a welcome reserved for gringos of the American, that is, the US persuasion. The military policeman boarded our bus and gave hardly a look to the other passengers, all locals, as he came right to me. With a look of disdain and the exaggerated authority that a badge bestows on otherwise powerless people, he pointed his thumb up and the beefy policeman rudely motioned me out of my seat and out of the bus.
The bus waited while the snarly military officer went through every nook and cranny of my pack. His disappointed grew as he found nothing and I feared a strip search was coming next. By this time, though, most of the passengers had filed out of the bus to watch the humiliation of a six-foot, grey-haired gringo and they were grumbling and clearly annoyed at being delayed by this too thorough military cop.

I just kept my mouth shut as he opened everything I had. He opened the tent, sleeping bag, he opened film canisters and threw them on the ground, went through my shaving kit, everything. I have never been searched that thoroughly before, it was the most severe search that I have ever had and it reinforced an important lesson, never ever carry the slightest illegal substance or you could end up in jail.

I know I was singled out because once he stopped at my seat and pulled me off the bus, he never even checked the rest of the passengers.
At times fake cops will come up to you and ask for your papers particularly in Caracas  where they ask for your passport and try to extort money but this guy was the real deal and he was thorough and quite perturbed when he found nothing. I have been taking long road trips for years, been attacked, been searched a dozen times, and even once was kidnapped, but  I never went through a search like that. In retrospect, my many road experiences probably helped me keep my cool through this one.

I don’t let this bother me, it is part of the deal when you travel in third world countries. I felt that this was just an inconvenience both for me and for the other bus passengers, so I got back on the bus and, before long, it was forgotten. I learned a long time ago in Tibet to let things like this go, otherwise they eat on you and cause you pain, worry, fear, and anger, all negative feelings that can cause health problems.

While all this is easily said, it is a philosophy that takes some practice.

So many reasons come into play for a search like the one I went through: the guy is having a bad day, he has a quota, he is trying to cultivate a bribe, he is doing his job, he is bored.

Moral of the story: don’t carry contraband. If you must have it, buy it on the spot and use it at the point of purchase, don’t transport it.
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