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Published: August 7th 2007
the Jose Felix Ribas barrio
Situated on the eastern hills of Caracas, this is one of the largest areas of slum housing in South America
We were back in the big, bad city of Caracas, where the Dragoman tour ended. But I enjoyed it so much, I decided to stow away on board for the next leg towards Brazil! So it was goodbye to the old passengers, and hello to the new ones. Sally, Suzie and Tony were also staying on board, as far as Rio.
On our way out from Caracas, we saw the slums on the outskirts, which was quite a shock. Hundreds and hundreds of basic cinderblock and brick buildings crammed together, literally on top of each other using every single available bit of space. Most houses have actually been contructed by the residents themselves. This "barrio" is called Jose Felix Ribas, and is one of the largest in South America, being home to some 120,000 people. Some areas don´t even have running water or sanitation. Sometimes we don´t realise how lucky we are....
Leaving Caracas behind, we drove to a sleepy little beach called Playa Colorado, which consisted of the following:
1. A beach (no suprise there)
2. A dirty general store which wasn't general at all. Only sold crisps, biscuits, processed cheese and not much else
the most evil insect on the planet
Click on this photo to enlarge, and look at the beak on that!!! (sorry, not beak. Proboscis)
liquor store which only sold the ubiquitous Polar Beer, and rum.
4. One hostel/lodge
We stayed at Jakera Lodge, which was a very cool travellers hangout. Everyone there looked like they should have a surfboard under their arm, and should be saying "dude" a lot. It had a communal feel to it, with everyone eating meals together at a long table and sleeping in the rafters in a row of hammocks. One downside here was the damn insects. The mosquitos here are professionals. They know what they are doing. Leave a tiny portion of skin unsprayed, and they will find it. They are the SAS of the mosquito world, specially trained in stealth, night-hunting and covert biting. They are also much bigger than their asian counterparts. The biggest I have seen had a proboscis half a centimetre long! Several of us have been bitten through socks. I had so many bites on my legs that if you write dot-to-dot it spells out "Venezuela." The devious little devils also bite in some unusual places. I have been bitten several times on the buttocks and FIVE TIMES on my "gentlemans bits". They lie in wait in the showers and the toilets.
kayaking in paradise
paddling out to an island in Mochima National Park
There is not much I can do about this, because there is no way I am spraying DEET over my balls. I was giving them a damn good scratch in the morning, I can tell you!
Playa Colorado is surrounded by the beautiful islands of Mochima National Park. We spent a day sea-kayaking, with dolphins frolicking around the boat. Covered about 20 kilometres in the kayaks, which was hard work on the arms. Was a full day of sun too, so Lobster Cheeks nearly made another appearance.
While I was staying here, I heard an astonishing story from the Manager, Brendan. Someone had broken into the lodge recently, and stole money and valuables. It was reported, and the National Guard came to visit several days later. They had investigated, and knew who the culprit was. They asked the manager "do you want him killed?" For $100, they would kill him and throw the body off a cliff. Brendan declined, and just asked them to get the stuff back and give him a "warning".
It was also at this lodge that I met Frankie Poullain, the original guitarist from The Darkness from when they were rocking the airwaves.
getting wiggy with it
every second person had ridiculous headwear, so why not join the club?
Gone was the bandana and the handlebar moustache though. Had a good chat to him on the first night, and asked him if I could do an interview with him for my blog. He said yes. A very friendly and approachable guy. Unfortunately I never got round to it... Frankie's brother owned the lodge, and he managed to acquire some tickets for a football match in the next town. This was for Copa America, South America's biggest tournament, and it had sold out weeks ago. Hence we had to pay $120 a ticket. Now, my hatred of football is well known. Normally, if a ticket was offered to me, I would rip it up into tiny pieces, burn the pieces and post the remains to Outer Mongolia (just to be sure). But I thought I´d give it a try and see what all the fuss is about. Plus, it´s not every day you are in the host country for a major multinational tournament. Curiously, the match was a "double bill" - Mexico vs Chile followed by Brazil vs Ecuador. Is this normal?
We arrived in town early, and has to figure out transport to the stadium. There was a
yellow shirts dominating the crowd
rank of motorcycle taxis, and the thought of eight of us weaving through the streets on a fleet of bikes was very tempting. But we ended up using a taxi which took all EIGHT of us! It was a huge red beast of a car, which somehow managed to swallow all of us with ease. The taxi driver had carpet on his dashboard, which is quite common over here for some inexplicable reason. Outside the stadium I bought a Vinotinto football shirt to wear. Vinotinto (red wine) is the name for Venezuela´s national team. As far as I know, Brazil is just called Brazil, and England is just called England. So I have no idea why Venezuela call themselves Vinotinto. I decided on the Vinotinto shirt because I couldn´t decide who to support. This way, I could quickly decide allegiance once one side was winning! Next priority, Beer. After purchasing a few cans of Polar (what else?), Steve, Tony and I donned our wigs. Luminous tinsel monstrosities. Immediately we were ambushed by a Venezuelan TV crew who asked "are you gay?" We replied in the negative, then answered a few more questions. They then said "one more questions for our
go Brazil !!
Sally waving the flag for Brazil.
viewers out there. Are you gay?"
Two minutes later, we were surrounded by another TV interviewer and crew. They established we were English, then quickly rambled off a huge question in Spanish, followed by "Si o No?" I replied thay I didný understand, and they just rattled off the question again, thrust the microphone in our faces and said "Si o No?" We each said "No" in turn, and the guy turned back to the camera, said something in Spanish and left. They could have been asking anything!
"In your opinion, would England beat Venezuela at Football?"
"I have heard that English people like to get romantic with sheep. Is this true?"
"You look like three jolly fellows. Are you all having a big sexy romp later?"
Onto the game! The first match, Mexico vs Chile, was lame. I have seen babies dribble better than these guys. Not much atmpshere. There was no Mexican Wave either, which was an utter disgrace considering Mexico were playing! Brazil vs Ecuador was the main event, and the vibe lifted noticably as soon as the players came on pitch. I was surrounded by Brazillian supporters. So while sitting nerviously amidst a sea of yellow shirts, I wisely decided to support Brazil. Shortly after kickoff I got my mexican wave. Does anyone know exactly how these start? I have a theory. 100 seats in one part of the stadium are electrified. Someone pushes a button and 100 people leap up in the air, with the adjacent people following suit. And does it always goes anti-clockwise? Or is it like water draining down a plughole. Does a mexican wave go the other way South of the Ecuator?
The Mexican Wave soon evolved into another type of wave. Instead of people standing up, they were throwing plastic bottles into the air! The air was thick with hundreds and hundreds of plastic bottles, and this wave of arial refreshment swept around the stadium several times.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the whole experience, and my thoughts on football have changed from "hatred and spitting at the mere mention of it" to "well, it´s not too bad really"
Tot: 0.094s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 8; qc: 34; dbt: 0.0226s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb