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s a Venezuelan living outside of her mother country, I felt the need to share with the outdoor community the beauty of my country and its landscape, which I learned to love during my trail-running years. Reminiscing my days as an adventurer and scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled upon Climbing Venezuela. Mesmerized by their beautiful pictures, we felt the urge to get a hold of them in order to explore the current outdoor dynamic in the country and share it with the international community. I had the opportunity to interview Daniel Macedo, Director of the adventure tourism company Climbing Venezuela, to talk about the company’s services, climbing, the outdoor potential of the country, and what it takes to provide quality service during times of crisis.
•Could you please talk a little bit about your background and presence in Climbing Venezuela?
Yes, of course. Look, when I was a little kid I had the opportunity to be in contact with nature in diverse forms. I hiked, biked, and began to climb. Well, after I started college I became a member of the Centro Excursionista Universitario (CEU)¹ where, well, I developed almost all the skills, love, and passion for all things outdoor. Parallel to my college life, I began to work with a friend that organized trips and I loved it. Well, from that moment on the competition between my academic life and the tourism subject, which was sort of on the side, began. Then, that was it, I stopped studying. I studied Physics and well, I dropped out from my major. I decided that I was not going to keep on studying, I got immersed in this [tourism] and I left my academic life beside to be able to, well, take people places where they can have lifetime experiences like the ones I once had. I find amazing the fact that I can be able to help people along the way so they can feel all the things that I was able to when I was at those same places.
•And how did Climbing Venezuela start?
Along with my brother and my wife, we decided to immerse ourselves in this [adventure tourism] and form Climbing Venezuela in order to be able to create our own packages, our own adventures. This was in the year 2005 and well, we began to offer plans mostly related to rock climbing in Caracas, in La Guarita and we later broadened our offers. We began to offer biking plans, hiking plans, canyoning trips, sailing, expeditions to southern Venezuela, [expeditions] to Sierra Nevada and well, we began to expand our plan of action. Parallel to this we developed a corporative line through which we organized plans that involved contact with nature for companies. Therefore, we organized trips or activities that were nature related for business groups. We now have those two lines, the adventure tourism line and the corporate line.
•You mentioned that you first started with a focus on rock climbing, but the sport has grown exponentially since 2005 and even more now knowing that it will be in the 2020 Olympics. Knowing this, how is the current climbing community and scene in Venezuela?
Well look, rock climbing in Venezuela has grown exponentially because it has become somewhat popular. They have built several rock climbing gyms so people have more possibilities of going to where the rocks are, of going to well equipped areas like La Guarita, San Juan de Los Morros, Mérida, Caripe, Puertas de Miraflores, the Tepuys, the psicobloc² zone in Mochima, and so on. There are a lot of options, therefore people have been like well, they have started to enjoy it, right? Now, in addition to this, the competitive world has gained more strength because of what you mentioned about being [rock climbing] in the Olympics, that gives it even more strength because the world of competition makes a lot of noise. Therefore, the people who are outside of it are like “Hey, I am going to try, I am going to try to see how this works, I am going to..” you know? “To see how it goes, to see how I’ll do.”
In our case, we focus more on experiences for people who have never done it or that will probably only do it once in their lifetime, or that they just want to try. Therefore, our plans are for everybody, for anyone, from a 5-year-old kid to a 99-year-old kid. This means, any age. It doesn’t matter your physical condition, it doesn’t matter if you are skinny, if you are chubby, if you are tall, if you are small, the idea is for you to try. Therefore, we go with this focus for them to be able to canalize that thirst for adventure, well, that is in great part associated with the enclosure of the cities, the concrete that is sometimes overwhelming, the political scene, the economic situation, and so on. There are a lot of factors that are making a lot of noise right here in Venezuela, even more than they should because they make noise everywhere, but here they are making even more [some of the factors are making more noise] so in some areas. Therefore, people are looking for an escape and that escape a lot of times is related to having a different interaction with nature that can be canalized through an adventurous activity and that is what we do.
Photos courtesy of Daniel Macedo, Climbing Venezuela
•What does Climbing Venezuela do to handle, both logistics and attitude wise, the current crisis in Venezuela in order to keep providing service of top quality?
Well, that has many layers, look, the first topic would be safety, which is very complicated. All of the places we work at are within a community, town, or a hamlet. Therefore, we work closely with the people of those communities, those towns, with the people who live around those areas where we operate our services in order that they become our protectors and be the first interested in that an economic activity is generated within their surroundings, in order that they gain some benefit from these services. Therefore, all of the touristic activity comes together and they become interested in that the people go visit and learn and they are thus going to take care of the place, to have it well maintained. They are going to have services available, meaning restrooms, places to eat, the people that cook the food, the people that do the transportation. We work hand in hand with these towns to make sure every activity leaves something behind, it is not that we go, see and “Bye, see you! Until next time!” No, we go, we get involved, we get them involved in our operations in order that everyone wins.
From the technical point of view, we are working hand in hand with the Asociacion Venezolana de Instructores y Guías de Montaña (AVIGM), that has made an effort for around 20 years to employ security and operational standards for touristic guides in the disciplines of low and mid mountain, rock climbing, and high mountain. Our strength here, in reality, is mid mountain and rock climbing because high altitude mountaineering is very poor, there are very few areas that are above the 3500 meter [above sea level] mark. Therefore, we stick to those standards and work with guides that are certified by this institution. In addition to this, we have a program as Climbing Venezuela that annually integrates new personnel and canalizes that intention to build a career as a mountain guide because here in Venezuela there are no schools, institutes, nor universities that form mountain guides. Therefore, we as a company take the duty to integrate people and provide them with the tools required for them to operate under the standards that we have developed; in this way all of the guides will speak the same language, will have use of the same jargon, and will have the same work ethic. All of these of course are in hand with the guides association, which is not an educating body, it is a body that certifies the work done through one of their annual ratification processes. Therefore, with these two lines we guarantee that the work and operation that we offer are of top quality.
•Is there a message that you would like to share with the international outdoor community about Venezuela and its potential?
Look, this message is not mine but I share it. I believe that the more people get to know, they learn to love and when people love, they protect. Therefore, we have to explore Venezuela, because if you don’t know her, you won’t take care of her. Therefore, in spite of all of the problems that we might have, Venezuela is still an incredible destination with great touristic potential that has unique places like the Tepuy zone, that is really the only thing that is in Venezuela that you will not find anywhere else in the world. In addition to this, you have a lot of ease at the time of transporting yourself from one ecosystem to the other, taking a 45 minute flight you can go from los Llanos to the Tepuy zone, or the beaches of Caribbean coast, to the zone of Delta del Orinoco, to Los Andes, the end of Los Andes or well, the beginning of Los Andes. Well, you come here for 10 days and you will easily get to know six different ecosystems and will have contact with amazing people, local culture, local flavors, unexpected adventures, super varied activities. Look, by the hand of a local guide, well organized and very responsible, they can have an unforgettable trip, completely safe and that is going to leave a deep mark in their memories.
•To wrap up, in three words, how would you describe Climbing Venezuela?
Well [pause] adventure, experiences, and a lot of responsibility.
I would like to thank Daniel and the incredible team of Climbing Venezuela for giving me the opportunity to share part of their story. If you would like to know more from their team, click the links below.
Translation reviewed and approved by Daniel Macedo
¹Universidad Central de Venezuela’s (UCV) student club, circa 1958
²Climbing over a deep body of water