"South America on $320" story # 18

Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela           July 22, 2002

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 ...
Modern Oddyseus

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