It’s very hard to relax and be comfortable in Venezuela. Wherever I go there is a constant presence of shady characters who look like they are sizing you up for a mugging. When you are paranoid of theft, either from a street thug, a pirate taxi, or some extra-friendly girl in the club, it’s hard to completely let go and enjoy the experience. The best nights I had there was when I went with someone I met beforehand. Unfortunately, this is the major downside of traveling alone, with many instances where I knew having a friend with me would make things more fun.
During my time in Playa el Agua I made the decision to take the Polar Ice challenge: How many Polar Ice beers does it take to get wasted? After half a dozen attempts throughout the trip, I have concluded that one will never know how many Polar Ices it takes to get wasted. It’s simply because you reach a wall where you stare down at your stomach, which has now expanded to five times it’s normal size, and realize you simply can not put down any more liquid. You start gagging and burping beer in your mouth. Throughout the course of my vacation, I put down about 60 bottles of Polar Ice, leading to more time spent in bathrooms than I would have liked.
The highlight of Margarita Island is a hike I took past Playa el Homo (no, it was not a gay beach). Walking on deserted beach and hills, I felt like I was on my own personal island. With no one to take a picture of me, I had to use my camera’s timer. It took a few tries to get it.
I was excited to leave the island on Christmas. It became overrun by Germans and I played out Woody’s so bad that I was considered a regular. I arrived in Merida after my first ever ride on a propeller plane. Merida would be the highlight of my trip to Venezuela.
I go straight to Plaza las Heroinas in Merida, the bustling square near the city’s telerferico. To my surprise, the square was packed with people, drinking beer, setting off fireworks, and listening to reggaeton blasted from Jeeps. The vibe was more relaxed and lively than Caracas. It was a refreshing change to see people out on Christmas because in the U.S. cities resemble ghost towns. I found a hotel named The 20 Trouts of Heroinas and buckled down for four nights.
The city sights can be visited in a couple hours. With not much to see, I had much more time to drink and ass-stare (which seems to be a national pastime). I could not get a ticket to the cable car ride, which is unfortunate considering it is advertised as one of the world’s highest. It’s like going to New York City for the first time and finding out that the Empire State Building is closed.
I did a canyoning tour with some Belgians, who I regaled with anecdotes about how fat Americans are. “There is actually a complete new business sector that deals with transporting huge people using special cranes. Sometimes they have to take the roof off a house to extract them.” They enjoyed the bashing, but I reminded them that as the rest of the world catches up to our values of excess, their people are next. It’s already happening in Britain.
I thought we were going to find a little waterfall and go up and down it a few times like a climbing wall, but instead we did a five hour hike down a mountain river, repelling off cliffs and jumping into watery canyons. We all had helmets on but I wouldn’t consider it American safe. There was one fall where we had to jump eight feet down in between two stone walls, into a space no wider than three feet. Our tour guide leader, a very amazing woman, cheerfully pointed to the tiny box we had to nail in order to not die… “Aqui, aqui!”. I remember telling myself that a lot of things could go wrong in such a jump, so of course I hit my head on the rock when trying to resurface. Also, I was the only one in the group to take a semi-serious tumble because, as a person who never hikes, I was not aware how slippery bark is when wet.
For nightlife, recommendations sent me to a bar called El Hoyo del Queque. The first day I went was a Monday, and the place was absolutely packed, unlike anything I’ve seen in the U.S. for such an off night. Everyone is drinking, having a great time. There is a lot less flash with clothes and cars in Venezuela. I think I saw one Coach bag and two Mercedes cars during my entire trip (no BMWs). No one asks you “What do you do?” right off the bat. It’s more of an equal atmosphere where you are rated based on personality instead of perceived monetary worth.
In the U.S. you go into a medium sized bar and maybe two or three girls are hot. There, at least a third of the girls are hot, and they don’t have that attitude because they are not rare. There are no back-turners. You are treated with respect, even when a girl you’re talking to is not interested. I feel that in the U.S. some girls go out of their way to be bitchy for no reason other than to look cool for their friends.
Of course there are exceptions.
One night my new Belgian friend and I got hammered. I’d go to the bar and buy several drinks at a time, and if I couldn’t unload them I would pour it down my throat in a desperate attempt to get drunk. We were hopping in cabs chasing this group of six Venezuelan girls that kept singing the chorus to ‘Rakata’. I noticed that the same issues such as cockblocking and large group dynamics occur there as well as here. One of the girls decided to make fun of me for about an hour about how much I smell. I did smell, but she didn’t have to point it out.
By day two or three into my trip that I was emitting a body odor that was foreign to me. It probably was the food there, but I couldn’t get rid of it, even after scrubbing my underarms with a Brillo pad. I was infected. Plus, I got my shoes soaked at the beach, so my feet emitted a stench that I wasn’t aware could exist, a cross between bad milk and cow manure. I became a walking dumpster that someone poured Axe deodorant in. Needless to say it, but the night with the six Venezuelan girls wasn’t my most successful in terms of romance.