After all the trekking and waterfall-watching recently, I am a little tired out. So, I have been hanging out in some beach towns for a little vacation. Here are a few more Venezuelean thoughts:
Ever wonder where those huge, boat-sized American cars of the 1970s all went? Your Chevy Malibus, for example. You don´t see them around much anymore. I have discovered the answer: they are all in Venezuela. How they got here, I have no idea, but they make up 90% of the cars down here. Some have seen better days, but a few look like they just rolled out of the factory. They have all been pimped out with really fat tires. Classy.
Now 70 bolivares, at the official exchange rate (which is a horrible rate, btw, you can do much better on the black market), means gas is 1.6 cents per litre!! For super unleaded!! They are pratically giving the stuff away!! If you are in the neighborhood, come down and fill your tank for 80 cents. It´s ridiculous.
I spent a few days in a village in the Northeast called San Juan de las Galdonas. It is a small village out where the buses stop going. You need to hire por puestos, which is basically a guy with a big car (see above). When he finds enough people to fill the car, he drives you to the next town. The locals very nice, one night they bought all my beers. Good people. Other than a few guys fixing a boat, I am pretty sure nobody there works. If sitting outside on the sidewalk were an Olympic sport, these guys would be gold-medal contenders. When things get active, the men play dominos, the women bingo. It is a great place to relax.
Sunset from the terrace of my posada in San Juan de las Galdonas
Lately I have been having a lot conversations with kids (there is not much else to do when you are waiting for a por puesto to fill up). The kids are naturally inquisitive about anybody who doesn´t look local. I like these conversations. But, sometimes I can´t understand what they are saying. There is nothing more humbling than asking a 6-year-old to use smaller words because you don´t understand. They think I´m crazy because I can´t comprehend what they are saying. They report to their parents, “This man can´t understand or speak, look how old he is!! what is wrong with him?!” Amusing.
I have been spending my last days in Henri Pittier National Park, which has a few fine beaches of its own:
I had no idea that the finest cocoa beans come from Venezuela. They are grown in Chuao, a tiny village reachable only by boat. I went there to check it out. As it turns out, all the high-end chococate in the world uses the beans from this place. Impressive. Somebody mark another point on the board for Venezuela.
Cocoa beans drying in the church courtyard in Chuao
Three and a half weeks in Venezuela has flown by. I am leaving tomorrow. If you are curious about Venezuela, here are a few more pics for you. I have some news, which I will share later. Right now Playa Grande is calling my name.