In Venezuela, they like to have fun. Let the good times roll.
Rainforest hills in the distance, each seemingly poured from the same mold, ushered in the Pier-One passenger boat from Trinidad, marking my arrival in Venezuela.
Step 2 of the incredible journey, "S.America on $320," was begun.
In the sandy port, I switched my brain onto "spanish" - a setting that could use a lot of touching up with the crescent wrench and blow torch. And, I switched the last of my Trinidadian dollars to Venezuelan sombreros. That's right. In Venezuela, you buy things with hats. A Venezuelan who works several jobs, for example, would amass lots of hats. Hence the phrase: "A man of many hats." The poor wear old painter's caps, and the rich have neck problems.
OK, I gotcha' there! Although we've already established that Venezuela is a fun place, it's not that fun. Their currency is actually bolivares.
A quick check with the "S.America on $320" accountant reveals that I finished Trinidad in the red, as a result of my work hours getting cut down a bit. After purchasing my short boat ride for US$60, I set off in Venezuela with $315. No problem, I say. "Press on!"
So, I headed west. I headed, exactly, for a hoped-for lengthy stay in Colombia.
Through beautiful eastern Venezuela coasted my taxi. The car's windows invited in a humid breeze that poured through my hair. Short, green jungle pushed up against the newly-tarred road as we passed, like Brits trying to catch a glimpse of The Royal Family. In villages lost without the highway, people sat socially in front of tranquil homes. And along the road walked pretty, long-haired girls in pants tight like dynamite. This would begin a trend in Venezuela in which you almost never saw guys. Only pretty, long-haired girls in tight pants ... why is the world such a great place to be?
In all aspects, it was a divine "paseo" (drive). Even the conversation was great, as the nice, low-key "taxista", Berna, told me all about his wife who'd come from Trinidad and their baseball-loving sons. Seven hours later, another traveler and I paid 15,000 bolivares (US$12 or six sombreros) apiece to Berna who dropped us in Puerto La Cruz.
That lucky dog, Berna, had hit a jackpot of sorts. That's because his wife was an Indian-Trinidadian, meaning ... that she made him rotis EVERY MORNING before he went off to work. Oh, those dusty cushion wraps of mouth-assauging curry. I wouldn't marry for money, but I'd contemplate marrying for curry. Berna loved rotis, while his Trinidadian wife preferred the arepas of his land.
I had my first arepa in Venezuela when I next woke in Puerto La Cruz. The arepa was like a snowball made of dense flour that somebody had popped with a mallet. This flattened ball was then cut open, buttered, and given a filling, such as ham and cheese. The arepa itself had a yeasty taste straight from the flour-fields, and it created a hot and moist, earthily strong sandwich.
Puerto La Cruz was a coastal city with a handsome, developed beach. Street-vendors sold spicy, delicious hot dogs for three-hundred bolivares. Two fun ladies working in the currency exchange said I resembled the crocodile battlebeast on my necklace and then laughed hysterically.
At the clubs in Puerto La Cruz, about 80% of the clubbers were girls. Those same pretty, long-haired girls in tight pants. Woohoo! I danced with two of them. It was my first-ever time latin-dancing with latinas in a latin country, and the pressure got to me. I pretty much botched the steps - bouncing my knees when I should've been swaying my hips. The classic gringo first-time botch! I paid for this and danced no more.
While I'd lost The Dancing Battle of Puerto La Cruz, THE WAR WAS FAR FROM OVER!
I advanced. I pretty much just passed through Caracas, the nation's big, scary capital. Moving westward, I next stopped in Barquisimeto.
I stayed for a day with Renar, a pal of Gerardo's, and he and his friends showed me a fun night around town. We got excited at an underground-type club when some songs played from singer Charlie Garcia and also the band, "Soda Estereo." Rocking out to these artists, who both hail from Argentina, was a mix between 80's-style rock and progressive. This incredibly necessary blend of music, well done, made me feel like I was floating on top of a dense sea perched high within a volcanic crater in the clouds.
The Venezuelan fun and, contradictorily enough, war to be continued ...