Sunday, October 20, 2013

Farewell to Venezuela

La Guaira, Venezuela (Dec 29. 2004)

--- Originally published on December 29, 2004 ---

The last day has finally arrived. We had packed everything the night before, and at 6:30 AM we were ready for the radio taxi we had reserved to go to the airport of Caracas in La Guaira (photo, from the airplane). Getting a taxi in Caracas can be an interesting experience. The easy and expensive way is to call a radio-taxi. They arrive at your house with large black SUV, and you are taken where you want to go without troubles in an aseptic vehicle with darkened windows and air conditioning that physically isolates you from the world outside (the highway passes in the middle of the "ranchitos" of Caracas, see photo below). For all appearances, you may as well be in New York. This kind of transportation is useful if you have to go to the airport early in the morning, because you are sure to have the taxi waiting for you at the requested hour. The 30-40 min trip to the airport from Caracas costs 40,000 bolivares which is about $20 at the official rate, ok for us but quite expensive for the average venezuelan.

There are of course other options. The more affordable other way is walk down to the closest taxi station or stop a taxi in the street (taxis in Caracas do stop, like in New York, and differently from Boston). The only problem is that you need to figure out if you the driver can be trusted or not. Things are usually ok if the taxi has some “official” sign, but most of the taxis are now living in a semi-legal status after a liberalization promoted by the government. Many of the taxi drivers do not have a license, they put a fake TAXI sign on the top of their patched cars and start driving around (instant taxi!). For the taxis hired in the street it is advisable to ask beforehand the price of the ride, to avoid being ripped off. We had taken such a taxi a couple of times, like when we went to the Universidad Simon Bolivar for the second day of Mayli’s conference, paying a few thousand bolivares for a ride that had costed Mayli many times more the day before with an “official” black SUV taxi.

Anyway, the ride was smooth and we arrived at the airport in time,checked-in, pass through the first of the many security checks of the day, and soon we were on our way to Miami. In Miami we had the first disappointment of our return to the US: we couldn’t find a decent place to have lunch in the gate areas, and we had to resort to a Pizza Uno. Ugh, welcome back to the famous US cuisine.

The second (expected) disappointment was when landing to Boston (with one hour delay because the plane cleaning crew in Miami didn’t show up in time): everything was covered by a white mantle of snow. This was expected because we received the city email snow advisory, but the hard reality of returning to winter after 20 days of summer still hit us hard.

Once at home we had the final blow: as a consequence of the snow emergency declared by the city, we got three fines for a total of $90, because of parking on the wrong side of the road, and not moving the snow-submerged car within 48 hours. So we spent the first hour back home shoveling the snow to avoid getting more 48 hours fines... Welcome Back to Boston!

This is the last post of my Venezuelan diary. It was quite an effort keeping up with the posting while traveling, but I did enjoy fixing my thoughts and travel impressions at the end of each day. And it also forced me to start screening my photos right away, rather than leaving them for weeks after returning from a trip. I hope you also enjoyed the reading and the photos as much as I liked posting them. In the next few days I’ll resume the regular posting of the blog: I took several hundred pictures during this trip, from the beaches of Los Roques to the mountains of Merida; many of them are just crap, but there will be some worthy to be published, and I’ll post them in the weeks to come.

--- Updates (October 20, 2013) ---

This was the last post of my 2004 Venezuelan travel diary. I remember it being quite an effort, keeping up with posting while traveling, but it was also a good exercise rethinking all that happened at the end of each day. It also forced me to start screening my photos right away, rather than leaving them untouched for weeks after returning from a trip, which is what I usually do. Much has changed since 2004. Chavez is gone, but the Chavismo is still alive. The years of innocence, when Venezuela was the darling of the international left, have been replaced by the harsh reality of yet another corrupt, incompetent and populist government using ideology as an excuse to maintain its power. The open question is now for how long the little chavistas that have replaced Chavez will manage to keep their hold on power, now that "El Comandante" and his enormous charisma are gone forever.

Thanks for reading this far. If you happened to hit this page and want to know what is this all about, you can jump to the beginning of my Venezuela travel diary HERE. You may also enjoy my other travel diary published here: the Japan travel diary.

Ranchitos de Caracas (December 28, 2004)

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