The Astounding Travel Adventures of a Miraculous Fellow

Venezuelan Conclusions
August 2, 2008, 9:21 am
Filed under: Venezuela
So that’s it.  I’m in Brasil. 
We managed to survive Venezuela with our kidneys, eyeballs, and checking accounts intacts.
So here’s my final thoughts on this country:
1. It’s really expensive. Like Europe expensive.  Only you don’t get French people spitting in your general direction quite as much.
2. The cities are rough.  While the clear favorite national sport is Drunk Driving, a close second is Pistol Whipping.
3. The people are really cool.  Everywhere we went people were stopping to chat and help us out.  Although some would yell “I’ll kill you” or “Go home Gringo!”  the majority only yelled nice things.
4. The wilderness is amazing, and Angel Falls is phenomenal.  Way more fun than getting pistol whipped in the cities.
5. Miss Universe is a scam.  There must be some secret goddess breeding lab in the Venezuelan forests, because the normal folk don’t look like these pageant-winning stunners.
All in all, although it was difficult a lot of the time, we still met a lot of cool people, saw some really cool things, and had a lot of rum-fueled fun.
However, I’ll looking forward to not being de-eyeballed in Brasil.

Venezuela’s Final Revenge
August 2, 2008, 8:45 am
Filed under: Venezuela
So I guess the peak of my apprehension occurred when Pat and I were locked in the back of a military jeep being driven down a dark road into the jungle.  But, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…
So we were finishing up our week in the mountains in Mérida, and were getting onto our overnight bus to head back to Caracas for our final weekend in Venezuela.  We had booked early into the snazzy, first-class bus so the 14 hour journey wouldn’t be quite as painful as the nightmare bus trip a week earlier.  On board, we were highly satisfied with what we got, and finally begun to think maybe things were going our way in Venezuela.  The seats were comfortable, the movies were Steven Segalarrific, and we quickly fell asleep on this luxurious behemoth. 
Sadly, it did not last.  What happened next was Venezuela’s final revenge. 
At about 1 A.M., in the middle of a wondrous, dream-filled sleep, a big fat military guy woke us up to check our passports.  Willy had his, and it checked out, so he moved on to Pat.  This was a problem, because (thanks a lot you moron George Bush) Americans now have to get a visa to travel to Brazil, which takes a week to process, during which time the Brazilian embassy holds your passport.  So, instead of pressing our luck by returning to terifiying Caracas after somehow managing to survive our first five days there, we just kept our passport copies and travelled the country.  This posed no problem…until now.
So this big fat guy asked Pat for his copy, was terribly confused why there was only a copy, and asked me for mine.  After telling him I have the same “lack of passport” problem, he said “alright, no problem, get off the bus.”  So we headed over to his superior officer to explain what was going on, the conversation went a little like this (and, in a perfect world, would have gone a little something like this):
MG = Military Guy
Us = Pat and I
WWSHS = What We Should Have Said (not to be confused with “What Would Saddam Hussein Say”)
MG: Give me your passport.
Us: All we have are copies, because the real one is in the Brazilian embassy.
MG: But you’re in Venezuela, not Brazil.
Us: But, it’s in the Brazilian embassy, which is in Caracas, which is in Venezuela.
WWSHS: Trust us, we know this.  You could probably tell from the lack of smiling, and the murderous rage in our hearts, that we truly know we are in Venezuela, and not in Brazil.
MG: How did you get into Venezuela without a passport?
Us: No, we had passports, which we used when we flew in to Venezuela, but now they are in Caracas, at the Brazilian embassy, because we needed visas.  This is a very normal process.
WWSHS: We got in without our passports, by bribing an idiot like you with our illegal drug money.
MG: But you are in Venezuela now, and you don’t have passports.  Where are they?
Us: Fuck.
WWSHS: Fuck.
MG: You are illegal, we can deport you tomorrow, and put you in jail.  You are not in Brazil, you are in Venezuela.  Where are your passports?
Us: Sigh…they’re in the Brazilian embassy in Caracas, Venezuela.  Your country allows this.
WWSHS: Can we speak to someone without a short term memory problem?  The passports are in the Brazilian fucking embassy, you stupid bastard.
MG: You are illegal, you cannot leave.  Get your bags off the bus.
Us: No, this is perfectly normal, we aren’t leaving the country so we don’t need passports.
WWSHS: Release me at once, or we will have you and your family dragged by your genitals through the sands of the deserts of Kirkuk, you swine!  Oh shit, sorry, that was “What Would Saddam Hussein Say” not “What We Should Have Said.”  We should have said, “Oh shit.”
MG: Get in the jeep, we have to talk to my superior officer.
Us: Oh shit.
WWSHS: Oh shit.
So we were driven down a dark jungle road with another man and his young son, who both apparently had their passports in the Brazilian embassy, or were just innocently running heroin from Colombia.  We drove about 5 minutes down into the pitch black wilderness, to what we thought was either our impending doom, or an incredbily elaborate surprise party.  When we finally pulled up to the station, I crossed my fingers and said “Please let it be a surprise party, please let it be a surprise party.” 
Alas, the only surprise was another military guy.  They quietly whispered something to each other, and walked into an office.  Pat and I discussed our options:
1. Run.  But, we’d probably be shot, or eaten by the huge pitbull that was staring at us.
2. Surprise Party.  Maybe this still was a surprise party…but it was neither of our birthdays. Shit.
3. Bribe.  I was all for just “paying a tax” to this retard and leaving.  Pat held strong, and said we would when they tried to get our bags off the bus.
Upon returning, the military retard said “Surprise!” and Hugo Chavez popped out and punched us in the face.  Actually, he told us to get back in the car, and we drove back to the bus.  We got out, and Willy was there with a couple Venezuelans who spoke English and were trying to explain to him that we were probably still alive.  They all walked up when we arrived, and the military dude kind of panicked, and we told them to leave, we think we might be out of the clear.
Finally, the military guy, who was obviously stalling to try to get a bribe, said
MG: “You guys are playing with me.” 
Us: “Nope, our passports are in the Brazilian embassy, and your boss probably told you the same thing, so were out.” 
WWSHS: “You’re right, you’re on MTV’s Punk’d, and I’m Ashton Kutchner.” 
MG: “You are bad people.  Get on your bus, and get out of here.”
Us: “Will do.”
WWSHS: “You got served bitch, no tip for you!”
So that was our final terrifying experience with Venezuelan authorities.  But, we survived it without paying a “tax” to this dumbass, and only had to pay the small fee of 15 mintues of terror, and some poop in our pants.
When we got to Caracas, we were picked up by Adriana again, and back in safe hands.  That afternoon we went to Lulu’s (our friend in California) family’s house, and had a big crazy drunken barbecue with her family and friends. 
So Venezuela was able to give us one final miserable experience, and one really good one.
Now, we leave.  And onto Brazil we go…
P.S.  Brazil, you should write a thank you note to Venezuela.  Because all the shit we had to deal with will most likely make your country seem like the greatest place on Earth, regardless of whether it is or not.

The Longest “Day” of My Life
July 28, 2008, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Venezuela
Cast of Characters:
Me, Pat, Willy, Niall and Jack the Insane Irishmen, Robin the Canadian.
Motorized Canoe, Tiny Airplane, Minivan, Buses, Buses, and more Buses.
 7:00 A.M.
I awake with a broken back from sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the jungle at the base of Angel Falls.
7:30 A.M.
Eat breakfast, climb into our small motorized canoe and head down river for two hours bumping through rapids while crammed next to Pat.
9:30 A.M.
The pain from my broken back at this point is rivalled by the numbness of my ass from sitting in this canoe for so long.  Luckily, the boat vibrates a lot which feels kinda nice.
10:00 A.M.
We exit the boat, and walk for 45 minutes.  This was done to avoid giant rapids that would have probably flipped our boats, then thrown us over the huge waterfalls.  I would rather have tested my odds with this one, as a broken back and numb buns making walking rather awkward — imagine a drunken camel.
10:45 A.M.
Get back into the boat for another hour of ass numbing pleasure.
12:00 P.M.
Arrive at camp, take a quick shower to wash 3 days of filth of our smelly bodies, pack up our gear, and head to the airport.
12:30 P.M.
Get into our tiny, five-man Cessna, say a quick prayer, fire up the engines, then for some reason, drive down the dirt road next to the paved runway to take off.  This was strange.  However, the flight was quick and painless with only a few vomit-inducing turbulence sessions.
1:30 P.M.
Land at the airport, back in Venezuelan civilization.  After meandering around town unsuccessfully trying to get money from twelve different ATMs, we finally throw our hands up in the air and scream “Whyyyy God, Whyyyyyyyy?!!”  This would be a common occurrence in the next few weeks.
6:00 P.M.
After attempting to earn money by whoring my body, unsuccessfully again, we borrowed money from the Irishmen to eat, and purchase rum to make the upcoming bus rides a little more tolerable. 
7:00 P.M.
Bus time.  12 hours of rum-soaked uncomfortablility.  This behemoth rumbled out of the station promptly half an hour late, then managed to stop 100 feet down the road for over an hour.  I think the driver had to finish his pack of smokes and four street hot dogs to get fired up for the trip. 
8:30 P.M.
We finally leave again, and the rum is quickly opened.  All of us engage the two bottles we have, but myself and Niall do the most damage, staying up well past 1 A.M., generally trying to decipher what in the hell that crazy Irish bastard is saying to me.
1 A.M.
After hearing the phrase “Eh were gonna get feckin langered, boy” at the very minimum, 47 times, I fall asleep.  We´re still far, far, far from getting to our destination of Mérida.
7:00 A.M.
We arrive in Valencia.  We were told by a lying Venezuelan that since the normal bus from Ciudad Bolivar to Mérida was sold out, that this route would be the same length, but just a different way around the country.  We were 24 hours deep at this point, and about halfway there.
7:01 A.M.
After mailing a package bomb to the person who told us that trip was the same length as the other one that was sold out, we sit in the station for awhile with frustration in our hearts, curses for Venezuela on our tongues, and hangovers in our bodies.
10:00 A.M.
The bus finally shows up, and we pile in and head out again.  What we don´t realize is that they decided to put us on the non-express bus, which stops at every town in Venezuela.  This will make things complicated very soon…
2:00 P.M.
The Irish have had it.  They finished off their morning rum, and are getting cranky.  The bus stops for 5 minutes, and they recruit me to take them on a rum mission in a random, tiny little bus stop town in the middle of nowhere.
2:15 P.M.
We come back with two bottles of rum, and two ecstatic Irishmen who just figured out with the assistence of the Canadian girl that the bus driver enjoys company in the cockpit of the bus, where, as along as the Canadian is flirtatious, you can drink and smoke all you want.
2:20 P.M.
Although the bus driver is cool with this, the Venezuelan military is not.  We get pulled over by a cavalcade of military on motorcycle.  Shit.  The locals panic, start hiding their shit on board, while telling one another that at least us gringos will be the ones that get kidnapped.  Shit.
2:25 P.M.
We normal gringos upstairs have no clue what is going on with the military police, and there´s no sign of the Irish, who we assumed have either drank themselves invisible, or were dragged outside and raped.  At this moment, two pro-Chavez lunatics on board decide this is their chance to fuck the gringos over, and run outside saying we were driving the bus drunk, which was not true…we were only buzzed when we drove.  Just kidding, we were actually not drinking at all.  The Irish were, but, come on, if they don´t drink I´m pretty sure they turn to stone.
2:45 P.M.
The military comes on board, sits Niall down in his seat, and leaves.  This is when a crazy Venezuelan Chavista jumps up and screams “We are Venezuelan!  We shouldn´t let gringos on our bus!”  At this point, we are shitting ourselves, preparing to be drawn and quartered.  But, a 20 year-old Venzuelan guy stands up and yells to this bitch “Shut up, you´re a racist!”  The rest of the bus agrees, and we are saved.  So, being highly emboldened, I stand up, walk over to her and say, “Please ma´am, let me explain our situation…HIIIYAAAH!!!”  I then roundhouse kick her in the chin, straight out of the bus window.  Actually, that didn´t happen, but I´ll regret that it didn´t until the day i die.
2:50 P.M.
We leave again.  Finally.  At this point, even the Irish have sobered up from the fear of kidnapping, murder, and eyeball extraction by the Venezuelan military.
1:30 A.M.
We finally…fucking…arrive.  11 hours post-military incursion.
Total transit time: 42 hours
Total time on bus: 29 hours
Total beds slept in: 0
Total times any of us were able to lay down flat in this time period: 0
Total times I uttered the word “Fuck” followed by the word “Venezuela”: 4,020,094
This, my friends, was the longest “day” of my life.

Things That Kinda Suck About Venezuela
July 24, 2008, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Venezuela

This country has done a marvelous job of pissing us all off with it’s frustrating blend of inefficiency and mental retardation. Thus, I have some ranting to do, which spawed this fun little list.

Things that kinda suck about Venezuela:

1. Costs — this country is about as expensive as most European countries, because the exchange rate is…how can I put this delicately…fucked. Our Venezuelan bank card works one out of 12 times, so instead of getting the much better black market rate, we have to use our own cards at the shitty official rate, which is…how can I put this delicately…shitty…oh, I already stated that, huh? But, I will say, without the help of our Venezuelan friends in California and their friends, this trip would have broken the bank.

2. Banks — ATMs don’t work. It’s really like a 1 in 5 chance that when you try to get money, you actually will. When you actually do succeed, it’s like winning on a slot machine. They should install Vegas-style lights and bells for when you are successful at taking money out. Although that would probably attract the murders and rapists even more than having blond hair and blue eyes.

3. Tourism — Weve decided that Venezuela’s Minister of Tourism is either a retarded donkey who just sits behind a desk and shits out bad policies, or is Hugo Chavez’s illegitimate brainless midget child. Ergo, I propose that Venezuela’s new Tourism slogan should be “Venezuela — Were Just Not Quite Ready for Tourism.” Things are at best difficult. The country itself has tons of beautiful things to see, and some of the nicest, friendliest people Ive ever met in my travels, but in tourism standards its just not quite ready. Im pretty sure those individuals who are involved in trying to get tourists from point A to point B, get them situated with accomodations, and make life easier failed the seminar on “How to Get Tourists from Point A to Point B, Get Them Situated with Accomodations, and Make Their Life Easier.”

4. The Women — for the most part…how can I put this delicately…they’re all fat and ugly. This was a surprise because Colombia was the exact opposite. The reality of this situation makes me sad in my pants.

5. Food — Im still not totally sure what Venezuelan food is. They have these interesting things called Cachapas which are basically a sweet corn pancake filled with nearly 47 pounds of salty cheese, and there is also a boatload of Ham and Cheese related products. Other than that its pretty much pizza and street hot dogs, which rapidly induce a visit from Montezuma. But, man oh man, are the street hot dogs delicious. They put crumbled potato chips on them. After a bottle of rum, I highly suggest this. Its almost worth the next day on the shitter.

6. Cities — these places are terrifying. Every single Venezuelan weve talked to says every single city we are planning on visiting is dangerous. Our amazing friends and guides in Caracas, Adriana and Maricela, were even terrified when they dared take us on a trip to downtown Caracas. This is one of the few places Ive been where people just say “Oh youre going to downtown Caracas. Dont do that.” Weve talked to some tourists who have witnessed a daytime, drive-up, pistol whipping of some poor sucker in this area and it made me really not want to experience that for myself.

7. Violence — this place is dangerous. As referred to in number 5 above, there are some random acts of violence that make a tourist shudder. We also met a poor little 18 year old Czech guy who is on his first trip outside of Europe on his own. One of his first nights in Mérida, a small city in Venezuela his hostel was overrun by 10 banditos with guns who tied everyone up, pistol whipped everyone, then stole everything in the place. Mérida is supposed to be one of the safest cities in Venezuela.

Venezuela, I apologize for talking shit. Although you’ve got some flaws, Angel Falls and the coolness of your people almost redeem the country’s negative qualities. But, if I catch one of these pistol whippings that some of your people seem so fond of, I may have to revoke this statement.

The Bottom Half of the Highest Waterfall on Earth
July 24, 2008, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Venezuela

With all of the issues that Venezuelan cities present for us (eyeball thieves, bag snatchers, non-attractive women, etc.) we finally decided to make our way out of civilization into the jungle.

This is where Venezuela shines.

The wilderness in Southeastern Venezuela is nearly untouched, and really amazing. So, we hopped on a bus, then took a one hour flight and headed out to Canaima, a little village at the base of the tepuis. A tepui is a giant, cliff-faced mountain that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Think of hundreds of 3000 to 4000 foot high mountains with Grand Canyon-type red cliffs on all side. These are situated smack dab in the middle of the rainforest, which help produce amazing waterfalls. One of these is the highest waterfall on Earth — Angel Falls. This was our destination.

After arriving to Canaima, we took a hike to a monstrous waterfall, Salto Sapo, with our insane guide Christian. This guy is a lunatic. Just before we left, he polished off what appeared to be a bottle of good ol’ Coca Cola. Only it wasn’t just Coca Cola. Upon finishing, he jumped up, and screamed “alright, let’s goooooo!” and a breath full of rum smashed me in the face. This dude was loaded…which made for a really, really interesting hike.

As our group of two Irish friends we met, Niall and Jack, ourselves, and about 12 elderly Polish people (who sucked, by the way) ventured out, Christian became more and more animated, telling us about everything his drunken eyes spotted, from trees, plants, and ants. The ant was the best. This drunken maniac decided to give us an up close and personal demonstration these giant ants. But, right after he picked it up, it chomped him on the finger, and he dropped it while letting out a high-pitched shriek. It was hilarious.

After about an hour of hiking, during which Christian went from excitable, crazy drunk to sleepy drunk, we arrived at Salto Sapo. The best part of this waterfall is that you can walk underneath it, in the middle of a downpour of mist. Before entering, Christian warned us about how dangerous it was at least seven times, then yelled “Alright, Christian group, leeeetssss goooooooo!!!!” And we charged in. Crazy Drunk Christian was back. I’m a huge fan of this guy. Much more so than Sleepy Drunk Christian. As we entered the falls, it was amazing. Thunderous water was pouring down overhead, and the further in we got, the more soaked we became. Finally, we got in the middle, right in the waterfall where you could barely see anything from the amount of mist pouring down, and Chrsitian came running up to a 60 something Polish woman, who was already freaking out, and screamed “Yooooooou!!! I loooooove yooooouu!!” I almost shit my pants I was laughing so hard.

Finally we exited the falls on the other side, climbed up to the top, where we were greeted by a cheer of “Aaaaaah, Christian group!!!!! Woooooo!!!!” He then proceeded to take us into the waterfall, under a small five foot ledge about 20 feet from the 50 foot dropoff. This madman then got under the little waterfall created by this ledge, where his pants proceeded to fall off from the water pressure.

We then went back through the main waterfall, which apparently wasn’t enough for ol’ Christian, because he took us back (less the Polish) to sit down and relax for five minutes under the strongest and wettest part of the falls, all the while screaming and yelling “Christian groooooup!! Woooooo!”

I love that crazy drunken bastard.

After this, we returned to our camp, where Christian made us orange juice and rum to celebrate. This ended in a 5 bottle frenzy of rum, that culminated in the Irishmen going from a Wrestlemania to a Irish song fest and back, for well over three hours. Imagine Christian screaming and Irish dancing, which was then interrupted by one Irishman body slamming the other mid-Irish jig, then instantaneously jumping into a verse of “I’ve Been a Wild Rover” or some other incomprehendible song. It was side-splittingly hilarious.

So, after our first night sleeping in hammocks in an open-air hut, we got up early, hopped into motorized canoes and headed up the jungle-surrounded Rio Carrao. After a 4 hour boatride upstream, and a two hour hike through the pouring rain and jungle, we could see through the trees nearly directly overhead the faint outline of a massive Tepui with a huge 3000 foot waterfall descending all the way to the jungle. Three minutes later, as we emerged through the forest canopy to a small cliff at the base of the Tepui, we were greeted by a sight that we will never forget:

The bottom half of the highest waterfall on Earth.

The top was fogged in.


Even though it was fogged in, it was an amazing sight. Angel Falls in located in the middle of a huge canyon in the middle of dense rainforest. Since we could almost see the top of the waterfall from the forest three mintues earlier, we decided to wait for the fog to lift. After waiting in the pouring rain for nearly an hour, this never happened. So, we had to leave.


After the long, disappointment-fueled hike back to camp, we went to the river to drown ourselves, and were finally greeted with an incredible sight. From the river the forest cleared and you could see the entire waterfall from top to bottom. It was an incredibly impressive sight, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.

That night we all crashed in hammocks in the middle of the jungle at about 8pm, from our exhuasting journey.

But, all in all, this was an great experience. The tepuis, the jungle trip, the extreme remoteness, and the scores of huge waterfalls make this one of the coolest places I’ve visited.

And, the entertainment factor of Christian and the Irish made it all the more worthwhile.

Venezuelan Transportation and other Bad Things
July 20, 2008, 10:53 am
Filed under: Venezuela
Venezuelan transportation is an experience in pure awfulness.  While there are a few options available, most of them suck.  First, there’s the bus.  These monstrosities are comfortable, but the air conditioner is set at negative 14 degrees celsius.  If you ask them to turn it off, it rapidly advances to “sweltering sweat” level.  While this transport option sounds somewhat poor, the next option is far, far, far more horrifying.  This option is the car.  Now, I’m guessing most of us are familiar with these contraptions, but in Venezuela they are a little different because most of them are conducted by a madman.  We found this out firsthand yesterday on our harrowing four hour death drive from Puerta la Cruz to Ciudad Bolivar.  Our driver was either really drunk, or a complete fucking lunatic, or most likely a death-defying combination of both.  An interesting side note is that I’m pretty sure drunk driving has just recently passed baseball as the national sport; people here love it.  And they’re already really bad at driving…
So, we hopped into our maniacal taxista’s car, where unbeknownst to us we were about to undertake a ride through what could possibly have been the gates of hell.  An example of this psychopath’s moves are him tailgating a car by 3 feet at 80 mph, then when they passed someone on a one lane road he would follow.  What this would generally lead to was the car we were following blinding us to oncoming traffic, then swerving in to reveal a semi barelling straight for us while flashing its lights.  What this also led to was a shorts full of feces for me.  After awhile of this little game, I decided it would be best to close my eyes and try to embrace the Lord for my impending doom.  I had a lot of forgiveness to ask, so this passed the time well.  When I opened my eyes again, we were squeezing between a flipped over truck one on side and oncoming traffic straight ahead of us.  All at 75 mph.  It was not that sweet.  I think I’ll stick with the arctic bus henceforth.
As for the rest of the country, we finally escaped the madhouse of Caracas without experiencing an infamous Venezuelan murdering escapade.  We headed out to the beach in Playa Colorada, a tiny little town with only one street, but a really nice beach on a national park.  There we met a hostel full of Euros (who are slowly taking over Venezuela — luckily the murder rates helps keep their numbers at bay) and did some class A rum drinking.  There were two Belgians that were particularly cool and put up with our escapades and enjoyed making fun on Germans nearly as much as us.  Our particular favorite game is calling Germans “Schweinsteigers” which roughly translates to “Pig Climber”.  While this makes little sense, Germans seem to enjoy it, thus the game continues.  Futhermore, we had a great time making fun of the Pig Climbers for their numerous world wars and love of David Hasselhoff.  They seemed to enjoy it too, but don’t be surprised if WWIII has a wanted poster in German with my name on it.

The other thing we happened to encounter in Playa Colorada was a vicious attack of Culo Explosivo, a.k.a. the Revenge of Montezuma.  This was particularly debilitating and the opposite of fun.  It was rather interesting because all three of us got it at the same time, and got it really bad.  We were confined to our room for most of the day, and our toilet nearly melted after such heavy bombardment.  The next day, after regaining some strength, we decided to go on a kayak trip to some islands and do some snorkeling in the national park.  It was really cool, but I will just say that snorkeling and Montezuma’s Revenge make for unpleasant bedfellows.  I’ll leave the rest of that story up to your imagination.

Our next journey involved a long trip (like any trip in this country — its just not quite ready for tourism) to Isla Margarita in the Caribbean.  This little tourist haven was a good time that involved lots of beach time, and even more Piña Coladas.  We stayed at a beautiful little hostel owned by the most terrifying Schweinsteiger who apparently has climbed after many pigs in his day because he was about 6 foot 5, weighed 250 pounds, and had the sense of humor of a German shepherd.  He was a scary individual, but had a really nice, clean, efficient hostel.  He probably was a robot now that I think of it.  Isla Margarita was a good time, but was extremely expensive like the rest of this country.  We probably dropped 4,000 dollars on Piña Coladas, but it was worth it.  Those refreshing little devils are better than a cold beer on a hot Christmas morning.
So, now we are in Ciudad Bolivar, awaiting our journey into the jungle to see Angel Falls, the biggest waterfall on Earth, which stands at over 3,000 feet.  The whole trip involves a trek way into the wilderness, so Ill probably have malaria when I return.  Which might make these stories a touch more interesting…

July 10, 2008, 2:02 pm
Filed under: Venezuela

Amigos y amigas,
I am alive.  Previous to arriving in Caracas this was my mental picture:
Wear shorts, you get murdered.  Carry around your travel book, you get murdered.  Have blond hair, you get murdered.  Go outside, you get murdered.  Try to get murdered, you get murdered. 
Alas, this was not the case.  Not even once did I get murdered.  Upon landing in the airport, we got into customs and received what would be the most common question we would hear from Venezuelans, “Why would you travel in Venezuela?”  After giving what I think was an unsatisfying answer, we walked out of customs, were greeted by Hugo Chavez punching each of us in the face, then we ventured out of the airport to what we expected was certain annihilation.
However, this was not the case.  The first person to greet us was not a kidnapper demanding our kidneys and eyeballs, but a friendly, English-speaking Venezuelan…demanding our eyeballs and kidneys.  Actually, he was just a taxi coordinator who was really helpful and cool.  However, our taxista was at the airport, so we did not get a good chance to find out if this English-speaker was just trying to soften us up to remove our eyeballs with no damage. 
Willy and I then met up with Pat at the hotel without incident and “Operation Try Not to Get Murdered From the Airport to the Hotel” went off without a hitch. 
As for the rest of Caracas, it is an expensive, expensive city, and is insanely busy.  The exchange rate situation is retarded at best: the county has set an official exchange rate at 2.1 bolivares per dollar, but you can buy it on the black market at 3.3 bolivares per dollar.  While it sure sounds cool to say that I utilized the black market for something other than women of the night and illegal narcotics, this is a pain in the ass.  What further worsens the situation is that I have little idea what a bolivar is really worth, so I just walk into restaurants, bars, hotels, and stores, throw my money into the air and make it rain.  I figure it’s really just the easiest way to do it.
The traffic in Caracas is unbelivably awful, worse than what I’ve seen in LA at its worst.  But, they have this gas crisis figured out really well.  People here pay, no joke, 10 cents a gallon.  So, if you’re feeling the gas crunch in the USofA, just drive to Venezuela and fill up.  Aside from the murderers, Chavez intermittently popping out of bushes to punch us in the face, and traffic, there are parts of Caracas that are really nice.  There is a huge mountain that is right next to the city, with an almost untouched rainforest.  We hiked around it for a couple of hours, got some amazing views of the city, and escaped the exhaust fumes for awhile.  We even became emboldened enough to say “F U murderers, it’s too hot, we’re wearing shorts!  Do your worst!  At least we’ll die with tan lower legs, you bastards!”
One of the most interesting things about Venezuela is that there are no tourists AT ALL.  We’re the only three.  And people let us know this.  Even when we were trying to blend in, it was painfully obvious that we are not Venezuelan.  And with my dashing blond locks of hair, I think I take the “Most Foreign Foreigner” Award.  Take that Pat and Willy!  Victory is mine!  It’s really funny watching people stare at us when we walk by.  It’s almost worse than Colombia.  For example, we took a tram up to the top of the mountain in Caracas, which is really touristy with Venezuelans, and we stunning Americans were more popular than the stunning mountain views themselves.  One woman walked by us and said “Oooooh Gringos” while a group of others were not so subtle and stopped us to take a picture with them.  No joke.  It was incredible. 
We’ve also met two different people, one at a club and one on the bus, that both asked us “Where are you from?  Why would you travel in Venezuela?”  While this would generally be a disconcerting question normally, the people here have been so friendly and helpful.  Our new best friends in Caracas, Adriana and Maricela, drove us around, wined (or technically “rummed”) and dined us, and let us stay at their place.  Another guy we met on the bus to the coast started talking to us, then got his friend to pick us up at the bus station to drive us around to find a hotel.  I think it’s a little combination of 100% certainty that we’ll be killed if we go around on our own, and genuine kindness.  Good people here in Venezuela, even the murderers are polite enough to say “Please turn around” before they shoot you in the back of the head.
The Fourth of July was quite a fun experience too.  We pretty much did what we would have done at home: drink copious amounts of rum, dance to reggaeton and merengue music until our feet were bleeding, and try to understand the machine gun Spanish from the locals.  We did, however, try to keep it real and get the DJ to play “Born in the USA” for the 3 gringos at the club and 400 Venezuelans.  Alas, we were unsuccessful.  Which was probably for the best, because our friend got him to read a little note wishing us a happy fourth of July of over the microphone to a smattering of boos from the crowd.  That was the last mistake those people ever made.
All in all, though, Venezuelans are really cool people with no major grudge against Americans, just a profound interest in why the hell we’d choose their country to visit.  But, for those Venezuelans reading this, do not think this endorsement allows you to now go ahead and murder us and steal our eyeballs.  Because I can easily revoke my kind words, and badmouth you to the 2 people who have read this blog…and my Mom and Dad have a lot of political clout…
So far, we’re having a great time in Venezuela.  It’s not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be.  Many an awful Venezuelan beers have died at our hands, many a delicious Venezuelan rum have perished as well, many a bad dance move has been stumbled out, and many a poor Spanish sentence has been spoken, but luckily we’re still alive and having a blast.
Now I must go, as Presidente Chavez just popped out of the next internet booth and wants to punch me in the face again.  I’m getting rather tired of that guy…