PART II: The tale of Trinidad and Tobago
Trip Start Feb 22, 2007
27Trip End Aug 22, 2007
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SARA SAYS...I told you Steve, Part I was a resounding success. People seemed to enjoy the fact that they could read our blogs without seeing your ass. Here´s what your former grade 9/10 English teacher had to say:
"Sara, thank you, thank you, thank you for a getting a grip on Steve's speedo and poop urges.¨ -- Cindy Burke
STEVE SAYS...C´mon, that doesn´t count, she´s obviously biased. Just look at this comment I received:
¨The entire community was disappointed with your change of direction, please consider inserting more speedo shots in your next entry.¨ -- Illinois State Penitentiary
SARA: From a prison?
STEVE: Those ladies are lonely.
SARA: That´s a male prison.
STEVE: Nevertheless, Cindy Burke is biased. Imagine, devoting your whole life to teaching English, only to have punk kids running around the classroom, not giving a damn about what you say. Then finally she gets through to a student, she has high hopes for him and instead of a novel, a short story, perhaps a book of poems, he writes a blog full of poop jokes. It´s sad, really.
Anyway, this one´s for you Cindy:
On this certain overnight bus ride, I had one. And you can´t say I didn´t try. I felt like I should´ve been awarded some kind of trophy for clenching under pressure. However, I finally had to relent around 3am in the morning.
I tip-toed down the stairs to the bathroom, gently closed the door behind me and calmed my stomach before cleaning up as fast as I could. Mission accomplished. I opened the bathroom door to return to my seat when who was waiting for me, but the bus attendant himself.
Remaining very cool and innocent, I tried to brush past him, but he held his ground. And what I remember is not screaming or swearing, but silence, dreadful silence. He just looked at me like a disappointed father. His demeanor shouted, ¨You know what you did wrong, don´t pretend like you don´t,¨ but he remained mute.
Finally, he pointed at the sign. Instead of playing the ¨I didn´t see it¨ card, I went with ¨No entiendo espanol.¨ I don´t think it worked and unlike the Peruvian train, there were no smiles or laughs exchanged afterwards.
I was scared, this was my first Venezuelan bus ride and I didn´t know the punishment for such a clear violation. While I really didn´t see the sign in Peru, this was more of a premeditated pooing, a kind of "Crapping in the First Degree with Intent to Streak". This could hold consequences.
SARA: But it never. Nothing happened, did it. You just wanted to use that premeditated pooing gag and congratulations, you took six paragraphs to write it.
STEVE: You´re making me feel how that bus driver made me feel all over again. Actually, this whole blogging process feels like that bus ride. I was told I couldn`t do something, I heroically fought to clench the details inside, but alas, they ended up exploding out. And now I feel better...and lighter, 10 pounds lighter.
SARA: Anyway, this is the part where we wow everyone about our trip to Trinidad & Tobago. After all, we were so close to the Caribbean, why shouldn't we take advantage of it?
Now, we just had to get there. We spent a few days in Santa Fe while we waited for the weekly ferry (yes, only once a week) on the Venezuelan coast. We enjoyed a hostal on the beach and boat rides to secluded islands. Dolphins, iguanas, colourful coral, you name it... a taste of good things to come.
Unfortunately, the Lonely Planet has it all... all wrong. Especially the part about transportation in Venezuela. They said we could take a "por puesto" (small bus) to the next town and then catch a bus to Guiria, where we'd get the ferry to Trinidad. Wrong. Instead, we spent the day transferring from por puesto to buses to muscle cars. Yes, muscle cars.
STEVE: Unlike anywhere else we´ve been in South America, there´s never a bus in Northeastern Venezuela. There´s just guys in wife-beaters who happily inform you there is no bus. Then they refer you to a guy with a muscle car from the 70´s. These cars are huge, boats on wheels with drivers who are all too glad to captain them. Most of them sport driver´s gloves, take race car type turns and have paint jobs like ¨2 Fast 2 Furious¨ or ¨Big Wheels.¨ The whole thing has a strange, ¨I`ve stumbled into a James Dean movie¨ kind of feel (I know I'm mixing decades here).
I wish I could go on, but as I described in the last blog, I´m not manly and can´t really give you any make or model on these cars. However, on this night, our mode of transportation was the ¨Conquistador.¨ It made Sara´s grandfather´s Buick LeSabre look like a Volkswagon bug and I`m pretty sure its emissions would`ve given Al Gore the heart attack that, so far, over-eating hasn`t.
SARA: I didn´t care what that car looked like, I just wanted to get out of Carupano and never set foot in it again. After three hours in the Conquistador, we finally arrived in Guiria only to find that all the hostels were booked, likely by others about to take the ferry. Great foresight by the two of us as usual.
We almost said ¨yes¨ to one hostel before Steve peaked in the washroom and noticed a turd in the toilet. About time somebody paid him back. After he saw this, the owner "remembered" to mention there was no water in his place.
We ended up spending the night in another hostel, in a room that made the Flora House (Steve`s old college place) look like a palace.
STEVE: Hey, I loved the Flora House. It had both a foosball and a pinball table. Funnily enough, the four guys I lived with and myself created rules where if you scored no goals in foosball or had under 25,000 points in pinball, you got spanked (HARD!) with a giant plastic spoon that my one roommate, Andy, used to make home brew with. And around both tables was a Spanksie Hall of Shame photo gallery, proudly displaying all of us getting spanked.
Even stranger still, we`re all straight. I know that whole story had ¨homoerotic¨ written all over it.
SARA: Ah, so that`s what guys who don`t get laid in college do.
Anyway, we got up really early the next morning and nabbed the last two boat tickets. Again, the Lonely Planet made it seem like it´d be a cinch, but we almost never got to go.
STEVE: That would`ve sucked. Imagine how mad I would`ve gotten if we didn`t get to go to Trinidad and Tobago. I probably would`ve called all Venezuelans ¨morons who couldn`t organise a bake sale, nevermind a socialist revolution.¨ That would`ve been mean.
SARA: So, we`re sitting at the dock, waiting with the other passengers to get on the ferry when a big, black caribbean guy taps me on the shoulder. He points to jeep parked nearby and I recognize the lady from the ferry's office in the driver's seat. He tells me that we should take our stuff and go with her. While we protest, saying the ferry is just about to board, he tells us to take it up with her. Of course, once we're in the car with her, she starts driving away from the port.
So, suddenly we`re left staring out the back window at the ferry as the jeep hauls us away. Back at the office, we meet more gringos who were pulled off the boat in favour of a local student group.
STEVE: But, we still got to go right?
STEVE: That seems awfully unfair.
SARA: Yeah, but she had some good news as well. She said we can all go NEXT Wednesday, only a week from now.
STEVE: I`m okay with that, no, I really am. No need for name calling, or anything like that.
SARA: So, decision time. Do we spend another day trying to get to Trinidad via fishing boat, the alternative the other travelers are trying to organize? Or, do we get out of Guiria now, via the bus that's about to leave?
Of course, on the way there we had a stopover in lovely Carupano and had to arrange (with the same guy) yet another muscle car to take us to Rio Caribe.
We felt good about our decision until we realized the next morning:
1) We forgot Steve's swim trunks (not his famous speedo) in Santa Fe
2) We were running out of American dollars and our plan to get more in Trinidad was now ruined. Without American dollars, Venezuela flips from being one of the cheapest countries in South America to one of the most expensive.
3) The beaches may be the most beautiful in Venezuela, but they`re impossible to get to.
4) Once we got to the beach, we couldn't stay there because it was too expensive. I wanted to finally spend the "CBC splurge gift," but we couldn't justify spending our dwindling U.S. dollars.
STEVE: Before she left, Sara's coworkers gave her cash to spend on a nice hotel for a couple nights. So, for the last six months, all I`ve heard is, ¨This could be our splurge,¨ or ¨That`d be a nice splurge, ¨ or ¨Splurge, splurge, splurgie, splurge.¨ Don`t know if it`s coming through, but I got sick of the word ¨splurge,¨ although I`m now using it to make fun of Sara, which is strangely enough, making me start to like the word again.
SARA: If you weren't so cheap, we would`ve splurged months ago. Stay tuned to our blog for news on an upcoming splurge.
STEVE: Yeah, and when Sara has to walk or hop from por puesta to buseta to bus in the sweltering heat, her face starts to get red, her brow becomes all sweaty and her hair`s absolutely everywhere. Actually, come to think of it, she resembles Bill Murray`s character in Kingpin during the final bowling scene.
SARA: What, you`re playing the hair game? Has anyone reading this, seen Steve`s hair when he hasn`t cut it in two months. Everything becomes big and puffy, except for his island, which sadly, remains the same size.
STEVE: That`s it, you thought ¨Berutti¨ was bad, I`m changing your moniker to ¨Big Ern.¨
BIG ERN: Moving on, since it was such a hassle to get to Playa Medina, we decided to go back to Mochima National Park, and stay at the small fisherman's town of Mochima. Turned out it was vacation time in Venezuela and everyone else had the same idea. We were lucky to find a room in someone's house before heading to the beach. We found out the entire country was there and so was their garbage.
STEVE: When you travel in poor countries, you have to get used to the garbage. People are always throwing bottles out of bus windows, or tossing trash into the river. They just haven`t been taught any better. That said, Venezuelans are extra dirty, a new breed of litterers, if you will.
Mochima is a national park, yet, you couldn`t run your foot through the sand without finding ten or more beer bottle caps. Extra amusing to me, is that Venezuelans all drink light beer that comes in these small 222ml bottles.
When eating lunch one day, we noticed three guys on bar stools, plowing through these things. At least 40 dead soldiers were proudly displayed in front of them.
Yes, a light beer drinking contest! That`s like Michael Vick pitting poodles against each other or Kobayashi chowing down on cocktail wieners.
SARA (refusing to be called Big Ern any longer): Or Steve using one-ply toilet paper.
By now, we can only imagine what bliss it would be in Trinidad & Tobago. We are the only tourists in a crowded town of vacationing Venezuelans, and Steve is in total cheap mode. We eat hot dogs on the street for dinner (Steve eats his Kobayashi style), drink only water and enjoy the one english movie channel on TV. This isn't the way to travel! We decide to move on to our last destination in Venezuela... Merida.
Steve, forever watching the budget, puts us on a small bus to the highway. We switch to a bus to Santa Fe. We switch to another bus to Puerto La Cruz. We then switch to our overnight bus to Merida, another 20-hour bus ride. A vacationing Venezuelan family, all 15 of them, sit directly behind us and talk for the entire night. Silencio, por favor!
We arrive in Merida and the next thing I know, I'm jumping off of a cliff.
How did I get talked into paragliding??
I had a very rough take-off, getting violently pulled into the air, dropping back down again, jerking up again... you get the picture. I screamed the entire time. Steve was taking a video of this monumentous occasion, but his camera crapped out (what a shame). Here is a picture of me at take-off... I'm smiling, but that is a look of real and total fear in my eyes!
It was weird, almost surreal, to be sitting up in the air, looking down at my feet with only mountains and the city below them.
And it was more than a little scary, although worth it. And at least I had a smooth landing... the same can't be said for Steve "Rough Landing" Dominey.
STEVE: No, not another black eye, but a scraped shoulder that`s starting to look like it might scar. But, don`t let this discourage you, paragliding is a walk in the park (even Sara did it), I`m just not meant to fly.
The next day I tried something a little more daring, canyoning. Not to overhype this activity, but it`s by far the most fun thing I`ve ever done. Myself and two others were taken to a canyon in the jungle. We were given a wetsuit, a wetjacket and a helmet and proceeded to follow the cold river downstream. Walking in it (ruining my shoes in the process), zipping down natural waterslides on my butt, back and stomach, jumping off cliffs and repelling (abseiling) down three waterfalls measuring 10m, 25m and 35m, respectively.
The first two waterfalls I repelled down were insane. There was no thought of proper form, I just did everything I could to get to the bottom as fast as I could. Water was blasting me in the face from above, I had absolutely no idea where I was until I touched land, it was an incredible rush.
The whole day was an incredible rush. Four straight hours of this stuff. You jump off one cliff, then you slide down the next, it seemed like it went on forever. It was like a day at a really good waterpark without the lines or possibility of breaking something.
Luckily, I again escaped with a minor injury. I smashed my tailbone on a rock. Three weeks later and I`m still complaining about my ass. However, the sentence ¨Tengo dolor en mi trasero¨ never fails to get a laugh from the locals.
As a sidenote, I wear contacts, so I had to wear those goggles in the photos. I was going to go on another rant about how the pictures are further proof that I look terrible in all uniforms, but I think the goggles work for me. Yep, I`m definitely sportin` the goggles.
SARA: I also had an adventurous day. I slept in. I uploaded pictures to the internet. Unfortunately, again due to lack of U.S. dollars, I was prohibited from shopping. As an aside: not that I would want to. Venezuela has the worst souvenirs of any country that we've visited, by far. It all looked like dollar store quality to me. The only things we bought in 3 weeks were some Copa America t-shirts. That's it.
STEVE: In fairness, Sara bought three such t-shirts.
SARA: I`d now like to write about the Catatumbo lightning, but as usual, Steve has stole all the good material and devoted a whole blog on it himself. (See "Walking on Water by Steve Dominey"... link at the bottom of the page)
STEVE: That`s right Brunetti, keep your grubby hands off my blog...as soon as you`re done inserting all the photos and polishing it up that is.
As for Catatumbo, we met a Danish girl there who said she climbed Roraima, you may remember it as the table-top mountain Sara refused to spend six days climbing in southern Venezuela.
Well, this girl told us that since you can`t leave any garbage/waste on Roraima, she was forced to shit in a bag. Shit in a bag! Sara still has problems taking a cold shower. I don`t know whether to feel good that Sara avoided a life scarring experience or bad because I could have had a surefire Sara`s Diary 2, not to mention enough of my own poo stories to last a lifetime.
SARA: What a shame.
Anyway, why would I want to willingly walk around Venezuela when the gas here is the cheapest that I've ever seen in my life? While filling up the tank for our drive out to Catatumbo, I snapped this photo of the gas pump. I'll translate: almost 120 litres of gas for between $2-$3 U.S. dollars (depending on your exchange rate). At the Brazil-Venezuela border, Brazilians were lined up for miles waiting to get gas. I guess that's why all these Venezuelan "chauffeurs" can afford the gas-guzzling muscle cars.
STEVE: Okay, that did it, Al Gore`s heart exploded.
SARA: Our last adventure in Venezuela was to try Heladeria Coromoto. It`s in the Guinness Book of World Record's for having the most flavours of ice cream. Steve was eager to try the more extreme ones, so he picked out such flavours as "salmon" (pictured below), chicharron (pork fat) and "Miss Venezuela" (he said it tasted like a blend of strawberry and silicone). I thought I was being safe, ordering Pepsi, Rice Krispies and my one gross choice, hamburger. I think it is, hands down, the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. The texture was smooth with a few chunks, but somehow they really nailed the hamburger taste. It makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.
STEVE: It was worse than Harvey's. Just terrible.
SARA: Hey, I like Harvey's, they make great chicken sandwiches! So... with that delicious meal making its way through both our stomachs, we jumped on a night bus heading for Colombia, thereby completing our circle around the continent. The journey to Santa Marta took about 20 hours, but at least Steve was able to comply with bus regulations this time. However, I did forget my shoes on one of the buses, a story I`ll save for my next blog.
STEVE: (drowned out by the sound of the readers`anticipation)
SARA: Since this is our last entry about Venezuela, let's remind everyone again: If you come to Venezuela, bring lots of American dollars. Even traveler's cheques are useful here.
Because of Hugo Chavez`s ¨George Bush is the Devil¨ stance, I expected a cold reception from the people here, but that wasn`t the case at all. Vacationing locals were always quick to start conversations (although two such exchanges involved the Revolution) or warn us of unsafe places (which according to most of them, is everywhere).
What I`m trying to say is, HugoLand is nothing to be scared of and Venezuelans and Americans are too similar not to get along. They both love god, baseball, hotdogs, gasoline, shopping malls, fake boobs, light beer, the list goes on an on.
However, in America, I don`t think you get in trouble for dropping a mean one on a Greyhound.
SARA: You probably should, though. And before we go, any regrets on missing out on Trinidad & Tobago?
STEVE: No regrets, baby! I`m just going to enjoy Colombia. You know, slow things down, go to the beach, drink tropical drinks, scuba dive, it`s going to be great. I hope these last 3 weeks last forever.
SARA: But Steve, we`ll be home on Wednesday (Aug. 22). Remember, we`re way behind on the blog, we`ve already done all those things in northern Colombia. In fact, by the time most of the people read this, you`ll be apartment hunting in Toronto or back in school.
STEVE: (busy staging his own kidnapping)
SARA: See you all soon.