When I woke up, the sun was already up (remember it comes up at 6:00 AM), and I looked at my watch. For our excursion, we had to be ready to go at 9:00 AM. My watch said 8:15, so I kind of freaked out and got Marga up. We showered and ran down to breakfast, ate a quick breakfast, and were in the lobby by 9:05. I figured that'd be fine considering the quantity of Spaniards involved. We had left something in the room, so I went running up to the room to get it. While I was there, I hid my computer in the closet, since the hotel specifically said, "We are not responsible for anything that you leave in your room that you don't put in the safe provided [for pretty expensive rent]". While I was still in the room, Marga came in and looked at me with disappointment and said, "They've already left. We had to be there at 9:00 and it's too late." After a "Well that sucks!" from me, she said, "No, you idiot, it's EIGHT o'clock, not nine o'clock!" Sure enough, I looked at my watch and it was only 8:00. After two slaps on my forehead (only one by me), we took the opportunity to do what we were going to do anyway, take some clothes to the laundromat. So we walked the mile to the laundromat with our dirty clothes. They turned out to weigh 3 kg, which was below the minimum amount, so we had to pay the minimum of TWELVE THOUSAND Bolivars! Also known as $3. We declined the service where they bring it to your room at the hotel, but only because 7,000 Bolivars sounded like a lot. Halfway through the one mile walk back, the extra $1.50 for the delivery seemed a lot better. But oh well.
With all that's wrong with the hotel, the view out our bedroom window was not bad. Mainly because it was blocked by all the crap in the foreground, but...
At 9:00, we were waiting for the excursion to happen. The excursion cost us $70 total (for the both of us) and consisted of riding in jeeps around the entire perimeter of the island, stopping to have lunch, and returning, stopping to watch the sunset. The jeep took us a couple miles to a meeting place where the jeeps from the other hotels had met. We were six people in a jeep, lined along the side, facing each other, in the back like on a subway train. There was no roof to the jeep back where we were, so I didn't dare wear my nice palm hat that I'd bought in Barbados. The main guide (not our driver) explained to everyone what would happen. First there was a stop with shops, then a stop to see the famous Virgin Del Valle (the goddess-worshipers Catholics love their virgins), then a stop to ride in a boat around a lake and some "natural canals", then to eat lunch at a place near the beach, then to a beach for an hour of bathing in water and sun, then to get a "butt massage", then a stop for a "coco loco" drink ($1 extra each), and finally to see the sunset before heading back to the hotel. It was a 9-hour excursion in total. What I didn't know was that there would be all the beer and rum you could drink throughout the whole thing. Free beer!!
The first stop was a shopping place. In my ignorance, I bought a can of beer and a bottle of water, for a total of $1 (I love poor countries). There was a parrot that we could hold in our hands. Both Marga and I did that. Once the free beer (albeit cheap, watery, American-like beer) was distributed, things began to liven up. I had been initially concerned that there were no seat belts in the jeep. But it turned out that we spent the majority of the time standing up with our heads out the top of the jeep, waving drunkenly at the poverty-striken, but cheerful, passersby. The jeeps had incredible sound systems installed, and there was loud dance music pumping the whole time, only adding to the festive atmosphere. They only made us sit down when we were on the motorway (the only one on the island) and when we went through a police checkpoint. We actually went through two checkpoints. At the first, the cop said, "Do your passengers have their passports?" We said that we didn't, the cop shrugged and waved us through. At the second one, the cop said, "Good afternoon!" and we didn't even come to a complete stop. Standing up in a jeep at 50 mph is a hell of an experience. It's dangerous as hell, and my mother would have rightly been worried sick if she'd known, but man it's a lot of fun. The virgin stop was pretty boring. The best thing that came out of it was a clever thought I had while looking at the shops surrounding the church selling hundreds of little virgin statues. I said, "This place is like heaven for an Arab." An inquisitive look from my wife/audience... "Because there's 72 virgins for every person!" Ba-dum-tsss! How delightfully disrespectful to the top two world religions, playing their notion of virginity off each other. My audience just frowned.
Some creepy voodoo-looking idols for sale for only 6 figures.
Yanomamo Indian dude. Surely that's not the recommended way to carry a bow....or a toucan, for that matter.
Ah, the mythical crayola unibulldragon.
He's heavier than he looks.
And really interested in something that's not me.
This is a great angle. Both subjects are smiling.
The leader of the jeep excursion explains where we're going and what we're going to do.
Everybody mount up and let's ride!!!
Some sort of church thing.
I hate tail-gaters.
This can't be safe.
Looking towards the sea. Not hard from the top of an island.
Forested hills in the interior of the island.
A self-referential stained glass window. The church pictured is the church I'm in taking the photo.
Virgin in a boat. I don't know why, but it made me think of this:
If I had a boat I'd go out on the ocean And if I had a pony I'd ride him on my boat And we could all together Go out on the ocean Me upon my pony on my boat
This frog was slowly sizzling on the sidewalk. My schoolboy interest got the better of me and I took this photo.
Speeding down the highway at.....0 kph.
The beer is starting to take effect. At least it wasn't a water pistol...that'd be gross.
Still amazed at the speedometer.
In case you were wondering, standing up in a speeding jeep does not do good things with your hair.
The motorway was the only place where they made us sit down.
The boat ride was awesome. When we got there, one of the guides said, "It's only five passengers to each boat, but, so that we don't have to split up any couples, we'll put four in one and six in the other." Luckily this was a joke and there was room for six people. Also luckily, we were in a boat with only one other couple. It's always fun to ride a motor boat along a calm lake. When we got to the canals, each canal was labeled something romantic, like "the tunnel of the lovers" or "the canal of sweet true love". And other routes that had more vines and things sticking out were labeled things like "the tunnel of pride" or "the canal of jealousy" and other things that are not so good about love. The driver of our boat was the most frowny faced curmudgeon that when the other boats were stopping to examine and learn about flora or fauna, we just skimmed on by, our "guide" not saying a word. Aside from that, the boat trip was fantastic.
Canal Del Beso (Kiss Canal)
Pride Tunnel. I said, "Hey Marga, look proud!"
Captain! An enemy ship approaches!
A blurry pelican.
Boatin' 'round da lake.
This lady was frying some little pie things.
They cost like a dollar, so I splurged. It wasn't very good.
Leading the caravan.
The fun of hanging out the back of a speeding jeep is hard to describe. I enjoyed it immensely.
After more beer from the trailer that one of the jeeps was pulling, we got back in and rode to the next stop. One of the guys in my jeep had sticky fingers and he managed to grab a couple extra beers for us during each trip. As I said, the beers were incredibly weak, and I never once felt drunk. They probably served very well to keep us hydrated in the sun, though. Lunch was mediocre. The Spaniards were shocked to hear that there was no bread served with lunch. In Spain, eating without bread is like eating without a fork or a plate, nearly impossible and never done. But we survived.
A lonely parrot at the place where we had lunch.
Coffee should never be served this way. This is how it was back at the hotel, too.
There were flies everywhere during lunch.
Marga went down to explore the beach a little bit.
A panorama of where we ate lunch. Not a bad location.
There was a monkey in this cage, but no one could get him to sit still long enough to take his photo.
A couple more beers for the road, and we were on our way to the beach. It was a very normal beach, not one of those "oh wow, this is the Caribbean!" beaches like we visited in Barbados. Waves, sand, dark opaque water. After a brief swim, I was ready for a "cuba libre" (rum and coke) or two. After waiting a little longer that I would have liked, we got back in the jeep and continued.
At the beach.
This was right at my eye-level. How could I not do an artsy photo like this?
Cuba libre, por favor!
More beach vendors.
The paparazzi. We later paid for the DVD of our excursion. The cameraman really liked this particularly photogenic girl in the center of this picture, so the video is mostly of her and her friends.
Marga's not buyin'!
I liked this ramp.
Looking down at the bar trailer, not coincidentally parked perfectly in the shade of the structure I'm in.
What came next had been warned to us as the "butt massage". This was a pleasant euphemism for a rough 4x4 ride through the rough terrain. No one was sitting down for it, and it took all our strength holding on to the sides of the jeep not to fall down. I was at the back of the jeep, which was good for most of the trip, allowing me to lean against the back rim for support. But there was one jolt during the off-roading where the other passengers fell into me, and I into the roll bar with my kidneys that I felt pretty sure would leave a bruise. It didn't, but it wasn't pleasant. All in all, it was pretty darn fun, I must say. The drivers were great, the other passengers were joyful, the music was pumping, the sea air was blowing. A memorable experience indeed.
After another drive (no beer for this leg since we didn't get out of the jeep), we got to a little drink stand/bar where the specialty was "coco loco". It was pieces of fresh coconut put into a blender with ice, water, and sugar. That was just a "coco", but there was optional rum which added the "loco". I think the coconut drink is definitely the first drink I've had were adding rum truly improved the flavor. revver(473780)
That's a heck of a storm in the distance!
Off-roading. I couldn't take any photos during the real off-roading stuff because I was hanging on for dear life.
The coco loco guy.
We hopped back in the jeep and headed for where we were to watch the sunset. Unfortunately there were some storm clouds, and a few drops of rain hit us. Have you ever felt a drop of rain hit your face as your speeding at 55 mph? It stings! Then the really unfortunate thing happened. The place where we were to watch the sunset was near the really nice hotel that some of our friends from the cruise were staying at. That hotel was exactly that I was expecting to get from ours: multistory, pool, tennis courts, beach right in front, a golf course, etc. It would have been better if we could have maintained the illusion that all the hotels on this dumpy little island were as dumpy as ours. Oops. The nice hotel is fully booked for the week. We checked.
Another spectacular cloud.
Raining hard over there.
The sunset was pretty dull right up until the last moment when the whole sky lit up bright red. It was the strangest thing. When it was over, we got in the jeep and were taken to our hotel. We tipped our driver 10,000 Bs (aka. 2€) and started to head for the laundromat. But it occurred to us to ask if the driver was going in that direction, since we passed it coming back. He said sure, so Marga and I hopped back in the jeep for one last ride. It was much more spacious with just two people! We grabbed our laundry, and the driver took us halfway back to the hotel, to an intersection where he was going the other way. We said gracias and walked back with our laundry and beach bag.
THIS is the other hotel! Grrr.. A golf course, even! Satellite view.
Great place to watch the sunset too.
The sunset begins.
Now that's a backdrop for a portrait!
Adios, Señor Jeep!
My hair was so dirty and slicked back from riding so fast in the jeep with the wind in my face, that my shower was absolutely delightful. We went to dinner and were once again disappointed (more on that in a second). We thought that Alejandro, our excursion guide was going to come at 9:00 PM, so we waited an hour until nine, but then no one showed up, neither Alejandro nor any Spaniards. We assumed that we must be in the wrong place or at the wrong time. We found some others and they confirmed that the meeting was really at 7:00 PM, but that the excursion for the next day was "shopping in the city" and that we could go and sign up on the spot the next morning.
We stayed to chat for a while with the other Spaniards, but I quickly got tired of the conversation. All anyone could talk about was how we'd been lied to and tricked by our travel agent and not informed of any of the unexpected surprises we've suffered in Venezuela so far. Some of the other couples are worse off, not having any cash on them and no ATM or bank around to get money. Apparently we also need $30 each to pay to the security at the airport so that they will let us out of the country. Alejandro claims that the travel company can't pay that because it has to come in cash from each passenger. So even the people that have a little money can't spend it because they have to stow it away to get out of here. I quickly tired of the conversation and headed to the room.
A little more about the "all inclusive" food and drink. The first night, we were surprised by the poor quality of the food. Coming off the cruise ship, it was downright terrible. At breakfast, I filled my plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes, a danish pastry, and some fruit. My first bite was of scrambled eggs, and it contained an egg shell. The rest was downhill from there. The fruit wasn't really edible, the pastry was nasty, the "sausages" were the cheapest, most disgusting, hot dogs you can imagine. I got up to get some bread. The loaves of bread are at a bread bar, and you have to cut them yourself. That means that every piece you take has had someone else holding it to cut off their piece. I cut off my piece, removed it from the cutting board, and underneath there was a half-squished little ant floundering about. I finally found some sliced bread, a toaster, and some marmalade, and that was my breakfast. I threw away that huge plateful of "food" I'd taken from the buffet. Dinner was equally revolting. It's going to be salad and pasta for the rest of the week, I think. How the hell can you go on a honeymoon at an all-inclusive "resort", and eat food that's considerably worse than what you can prepare at home for little to no money or effort? What the hell, man!? In general, Marga and I are pretty saddened and angry that a once-in-a-lifetime special, no expenses spared, trip like a honeymoon by two fairly well paid people has been ruined in such a way. But there's nothing we can do about it now. The best thing we can do is try to look on the bright side (which is very difficult sometimes), not complain too much, not hang around the people that can't stop complaining, and enjoy it for what it is.
Up Next: Lobster Surprise!