Friday 14th November – Santiago to Caracas

I woke up to the sound of the alarm in the morning glad that Jose had booked the taxi for the airport the night before.  I headed to the airport, got there in plenty of time (I know, unusual for me) and bought a guidebook for Venezuela.  I also managed to board the plane at the correct point, without them having to call my name out and with the correct documents – see I must have learned something on my travels!

Once in the plane I sat and read my “Lonely Planet” which I had bought at the airport and got really excited about the prospect of traveling in Venezuela.  There was also a function to set up your own playlist on your personal terminal which really excited me, sad I know but they had such classics as old Madge albums and Belinda Carlisle.  Other than being very relaxed and happy, the other thing which was of note about the flight was the absence of seat-kicking gremlins to my rear!  Although the woman sat next to me did cross herself as we were about to take off which was reassuring.  I also experienced people clapping and cheering when we landed which was something which I thought people had made up previously.  It does beg the question, as people have pointed out, what the opposite would be.  I mean are they sat there going, “right so we´re in agreement, if we crash we´ll all boo, right?”.

So after a flight which passed pretty much without incident I arrived at Caracas airport.  I went through customs and asked about taxis to the hostel I had picked from my guidebook.  I was quoted some horrific prices for taxis and bargained them down.  Prior to arriving I had read both in my book and online about how unsafe the airport and the area between the airport and the city was and I decided to opt for an “official” cab as recommended.  The problem with bargaining here, which I have had far too often it has to be said, is that I didn´t actually know the conversion rates.

After some haggling I got in the taxi.  I´m beginning to think there´s some label attached to me which tells the first taxi driver I get in each country to scare the living daylights out of me and this ride was no exception.  Actually I think it might have been the worst taxi ride I have ever had, and that includes Asia!  The guy was possibly insane, jotting out infront of huge vehicles, paying no attention to signs or lights and using lanes as if they were going out of fashion.  Actually insane is possibly a bit harsh, I think he was slightly blind.  No seriously!  When I looked at him after his first, “you will regret coming to this country young lady”, manouvre I noticed specs with lenses as wide as a small bus.  Then, at periodic stages he would take them off, scrub his eyes profusely and rub the lenses or swap his glasses for another pair which, presumably, would allow him to see and thus make him a better driver.  They didn´t and I had several heart attacks.  Well nearly.

As we got closer to the hostel I spent a while hoping that we were on some shortcut and that I was actually about to arrive at the correct place in some air of calm and tranquility but it was not to be.  We pulled up in a street with enough prostitutes for King´s Cross and Amsterdam combined to be proud of, along with several other shady individuals and buildings with security doors, bars and electric fences.  To be honest I think I should have expected this to some extent when the guidebook said that it was the worst part of town, possibly with the exception of the suburban slums at the outskirts of the city, but it was a bit of a shock after Santiago.

So I got out of the taxi and went into the hostel.  Well after they had buzzed me in through the security gates that it.  Although the guy on reception spoke no English he was sweet enough and I managed to get my point across.  I headed up to my room on the first floor and was not overly excited when I walked in.  In hindsight I had spent a lot of my time prior to this in rather nice accommodation, but at the time, tired and a bit overwhelmed I wondered what on Earth I was doing there.  Granted the toilet rarely flushed, the shower was just a pipe squirting out cold water and the room always stank of manky drains, but the place was clean-ish, light and, erm, had a window which is more than can be said for a lot of the places I have stayed in.

After checking in I headed out to find an internet cafe.  I went to a local mall where I was confronted with enough people who refused to understand my crappy pigeon Spanish to shake a stick at before finding a grumpy girl in an internet cafe who grunted and pointed at me.  I then sent one of my most depressing emails from my trip so far to my mother which is now actually relatively amusing.  I noted that I had left things in my room which I was convinced were going to get stolen as I had to leave the key with the receptionist and the lovely smog. 

When I got back to the hostel I met a couple of people on the terrace, which was very nice actually, the terrace and the people.  Actually the first people I met might or might not have been nice as they disappeared very quickly when they realised just how crap my Spanish was.  I did meet Reynold though who was a very friendly South African chap.  After chatting to a couple of people and figuring out that my plans out of the city were anything but clear, I decided to sleep on it and had an early night.

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