c a r a c a s

[ 17:49 thursday 31 december – bus from caracas to playa grande, venezuela ]

stuck in traffic at the edge of caracas airport with landing airliners passing low overhead. car horns and salsa music blare on every side, punctuated by the report of exploding fireworks as excitement builds towards new year. the sixteen seats of the bus are filled with people returning from a day in the city. around us the jungle-clad mountains are hung with sullen clouds as the tropical twilight quickens towards darkness.

i flew into caracas airport yesterday afternoon and immediately threw myself into a battle to find a seat on one of the two light aircraft crossing to the island of gran roque. my friend matias lives on a miniscule islet called rasqui, where there is no mains electricity or water, which is located in the same archipelago. there’s no way to contact him but he’s expecting me in the next few days. it proved impossible to get a seat for today but the application of a modest bribe secured me space on a flight leaving caracas at half past seven tomorrow morning. it will curtail my new year festivities but i find myself blithely unconcerned about that. from gran roque i’ll find someone with a boat willing to take me over to rasqui.

after a sublime ten-hour sleep (having had none on tuesday night) at a small hotel near the airport i spent today exploring caracas with a young french yachtsman called adrien whom i met at the airport. he got a seat on the same flight as me to join his friends and their yacht at gran roque. he’s an excellent fellow adventurer.

the first thing that struck me about caracas is that there are no tourists. during seven hours today we saw a total of three. this has the benefit that the usual poor-country ecosystem of aggressive touts and “guides” is also absent. it also means that we are wildly conspicuous. people stare at us everywhere we go. in general people are very kind and solicitous. every few minutes someone comes up and warns us that walking around in whatever area where we are is dangerous. the second thing that struck me is the ubiquity of enormous posters featuring the ever-grinning mr chavez accompanied by revolutionary slogans.

this evening adrien and i will follow our noses and seek some entertaining dive in which to celebrate. then it’ll be time to catch a few hours’ sleep and begin the next stage of the journey. this will probably be my final despatch until i return from the island.

in the meantime, feliz ano.

: c :

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