Although I was really stoked (my BC lingo creeping in) about heading back down to South America for the last part of my year off. I did become a little worried that I had messed with the original plan, causing some universe imbalance. You see i originally took this year off in order to do a couple of months in Slovakia. I hadn’t been to Slovakia for a couple of months at once since I was a kid, and was eager to experience it long term as an adult. However, coming back from a South American high and city in rainy Fernie at the time. I booked a flight to Caracas, Venezuela and coming back from Lima. So I could hit Ecuador and Northern Peru this time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sorry. With that said, this blog post will be a heavy rant on the last two days. With the knowledge that things will get better, and this is just the first adjustments into a new culture.
A culture I think stinks! Okay, that’s harsh it doesn’t stink. I mean I haven’t seen much of it yet. But here is what I have gone through so far.
The hotel is grungier then most I stayed in in India. With the added bonus of remnants of used condom wrappers on the floor. And when I lie on the bed I can see the rim of the white toilet bowl and it is black. Yuck!
The city centre of Caracas is a construction zone. If you go down one street thinking you can go around the block. The detour will be way longer than expected.
No one is really that helpful and no tourist infrastructure I have managed to locate yet.
It took me most of the day riding the metro to buy a bus ticket out of here. The metro system is actually not bad, bigger and better than Toronto and reminded me a little of Hong Kong. But only when I got in the first air conditioned one. The rest the air conditioning wasn’t working and I felt I was in Delhi, squeezed in like sardines.
Directions from locals is a definitive point of the arm in any direction and a “is right over there”. How far and how many turns to get to “right there” you will never get out of them. Even after handing them a pen and paper to right down directions. Which I did when I got to the wrong bus station. When I asked for a bus ticket to Ciudad Bolivar I was greeted with shaking heads and the touts trying to sell me another destination. No help. Finally handing the pen and paper to one guy he just wrote the name of the metro station and a line, indicated to walk and, you guessed it, “it’s right there”.
Well, it wasn’t right there. It wasn’t a terminal at all. It was a row of buses to drive you to the terminal. I swear these people are not saying this. Sure my Spanish is limited and different from the one they are using, but I know that much.
Either way I finally got a ticket to Ciudad Bolivar. Why go there you wonder? Well, it is the gateway to Angel Falls and Roraima (table top mountains), part of Conan Doyle’s Lost World.
It’s an over night bus arriving at 4:30a.m. so now to find a pick-up and a place to stay. I get back to the hotel and finally get some help. The hotel concierge calls the #1 lonely planet pick, Posadas La Casita, and I talk to Peter (the German) owner who says he has space and to call him when I get in for a pick up. He seems a little concerned with the early morning, but I stay confident. Big Mistake!!!! Once off the bus, I get attacked by taxi and tour operators. When I say I need to make a phone call, one tour operator guessing “To Posada la Casita?”. “Yes.” I say surprised. I get my bag and follow him to his office to make the call and to hear about his tours.
Peter is asleep and very cranky when I call. I explain who I am, when we talked. He starts to get angry and said I wasn’t suppose to be in until 6a.m. Which I never said. Then he said I am putting to much pressure on him, so he’s not picking me. WTF!!!!! The Lonely Planet and Posada La Casita websites boasts 24 hour pick-up. This along with the inability to find wifi or internets with skype, and ATMs not working. Despite claims by Lonely Planet of all these being no problem to find and use. Makes me wonder if anyone from Lonely Planet even set foot in Venezuela before writing their excerpts on the country. LP goes on and on about wifi and skype availability. Nada! Why am I dragging this netbook?
Okay, that’s my rant. Phew! I’m glad I got that off my chest.
A few other observations. Maybe the rants on over.
There is a festival in Ciudad Bolivar at the moment. However, I think it is just for locals, since I am the only foreigner roaming the streets. Usually I like that, as it is accompanied with positive attention. Not here. This is the weirdest festival ever. No dancing, just fishing and boat rides, tonnes of outdoor food vendors, which I can’t eat in this heat, and men drinking on the street and playing BINGO. This is like the rednecks of South America.
Used to get “Hola, tu es Linda”, (Hello, you are pretty). All I am getting is “Hola, Dollar”, “Hola, Euro”.
My name isn’t DOLLAR, or EURO!!!!. Yeah, yeah, I know they want to exchange. Whatever. Get real jobs.
Finally, I implore United Nations and all first world countries to rally together and send a shipment of large size jeans to Venezuela right a way, before they all blow and we are left with a country of bare asses. Seriously, I have never seen so many tight jeans in my life, and not in a good way. Even on men. The booties are so full, the jeans look bulbous, rolls of fat hang, sometimes 4 inches out and over the pants. It is a wonder there are so many pregnant women walking around.
After I was left stranded at the bus station by Peter and Posada la Casita. You know he and Lonely Planet are going to get a nasty email and postings on all the review boards. Anyway, after some haggling, Carlos (tour operator) and I settled on a hotel and a 3 day tour of Angel Falls and possibly a 5-6 day hike of Roraima.
If the universe is off balance due to my change from Slovakia to South America I hope it adjusts soon and makes the rest of this trip awesome.