Imagine driving down beautiful scenic mountain roads high above the trees. The road is smooth and the views are breathtaking. Suddenly, the car spins out of control, swirling end to end as it glides along a layer of black goo that mysteriously covers the highways in front of you.
Welcome to Caracas, Venezuela.
Venezuelans refer to the terrifying substance as La Mancha Negra (the black stain), but it’s really more like a horrifying blob, with a mind of its own. No one knows where this thick black sludge comes from, and no one knows how to get rid of it.
The black mass, which loves to cover steep mountain roads has experts baffled. Some say it’s oil from poorly constructed asphalt. Others say it’s oil runoff from car engines, or burned rubber from tires. Some people believe it is all of the above.
Motorists are petrified of it, and it has left government officials embarrassed and confused.
The Venezuelan government spent millions of dollars studying it, utilizing some of the country’s best minds, bringing experts from the United States, Canada and Europe to intervene.
“We don’t know what it is. We clean it away, and it comes back the next day,” said Arturo Carvajal, a vice president and engineer of a company who attempted to remove the sludge from a Caracas highway.
They’ve tried washing the blob away with pressurized water and detergent. They’ve tried blowing it off the roads with pressurized air. They’ve scraped it away and repeatedly replaced the top layer of asphalt over parts of highways with zero luck.
Drying it up with piles of pulverized limestone did seem to have a positive effect, however, drivers complained about the difficulty breathing the dusty fumes created by the mashed up stones.
Just when the government thought they had it under control, La Mancha Negra returned bigger and badder than ever. It was somehow reproducing, and moving from one highway to the next.
The black, greasy goop which has the consistency of chewed bubble gum,is described as being “slick as ice”.
It has killed people. Until safety measures were taken to reduce the blob, more than 1,800 motorists died from accidents related to the mysterious goop since its discovery in 1986.
In January 1996, sub-standard maintenance, low rainfall and the poor quality of motor vehicles in Caracas made the roads dangerous with the substance once again. La Mancha Negra was thought to have been eliminated in 1996 after special cleaning equipment was supplied to Venezuela from Germany. La Mancha Negra reappeared in 2001 on Baralt, Fuerzas Armadas, Sucre, Nueva Granada and Urdaneta Avenues in Caracas.