In life sometimes things are a bit surreal, sometimes they are just totally surreal, our weekend in Caracas with Piero and Ana definitely was one of the more surreal.
The gang enjoying the game
We were in Caracas Venezuela as Cath had to work there for a couple of days; Greg got a cheap ticket and joined her, writing in the hotel room while she worked in the office.
This was our second trip to Caracas; in the newly renamed “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” you would think things have to be going pretty well in a country for the government to have time to rename the country, but as of January this year the country was renamed to reflect the importance of Simon Bolivar( the first bloke to attempt to unify South America) in the country’s history.
As we noted on our first arrival to Caracas, it’s a pretty shocking city to arrive in, as soon as you step through the arrival gates into the public part of the airport you are heckled by blokes wanting to change money, offer cheap hotels, car hire – you name it. It’s the only airport we have visited outside Zimbabwe where you get the same level of touting.
The drive into town is up a large range of hills, on the second part of the drive the hills are covered in ramshackle buildings, the amount of slums in Caracas has (according to locals and friends who visit their regularly) been steadily increasing since Chavez came to power.
There is amazing amounts of homelessness and poverty visible in Caracas, much more than any other South American city we have visited (though we haven’t visited that many), but pictures definitely stuck in our heads of people making houses on the banks of the river that runs through the city, building houses underneath the motorway fly over’s and in any other patch of land that is free. You see homeless people in all South American cities – but not in the numbers we saw in Caracas.
During our times in Caracas we didn’t hear a single good thing about the President, most people are quick to point out how much they dislike him, and how he only wins elections because there is compulsory voting, and so many of the country’s poor people vote for him the hope that he will make things better. The international press certainly does him little favours, his reputation as a loud mouthed slightly crazy leader is almost universal; he is probably the most famous South American politician at the moment – and usually for all the wrong reasons.
But what is actually happening in Venezuela at the moment?
Are things getting better under Chavez, or are they getting worse?
It’s really hard to tell, but the fact is Chavez has made more money than ever thanks to high oil prices, but he also faces a massive challenge, though always a wealthy country Venezuela never had much in the way of wealth distribution, and from my quick look on the internet this morning it appears that the number of people living in poverty in Venezuela has been steadily dropping.
Even the CIA world fact book shows that the percent of the population living below the poverty line in Venezuela has dropped from 67 percent to 37 percent in 2008 which anyone would have to admit are pretty staggering statistics (if they are in fact true)!!
But enough about politics, what about hanging out with Piero and Ana and watching football i hear you ask?!!?
So Pesty and Spana were just finishing up another adventure around South America and luckily our paths crossed in Caracas, they were about to head over to Barcelona where they are setting up home for a while (remember 2008 is officially the year of “moving somewhere Latin speaking”)!!!
So we headed out to watch the final of Euro 2008, we headed to a part of town that was in easy walking distance of the hotel but of course as this is Caracas, its apparently not safe to walk anywhere so we got a taxi).
The taxis in Caracas are pretty amazing, as a dedicated car nut, Greg loves it, it appears that anyone who has a car can stick a taxi sticker on their windscreen and heh presto they are a taxi driver, this fact combined with the super low petrol prices (around five cents US per litre) means that a lot of the taxis are massive old American sedans from the 1970s.
Here is just one of the beauties i snapped from our hotel window:
Caracas Taxis – your choice a tiny battered Daewoo or an ‘merican muscle car?
So we drove around the suburb of La Candelaria trying to find a good pub to watch the match in, we eventually found a place called “Wassup! Bar and Fun Place, since 2002”
So of course we knew instantly this was our kind of bar, we love fun, and have done since long before 2002! Hanging with Piero and Ana is great as they both speak pretty good Spanish, but the Venezuelan version of Spanish is pretty difficult to follow, so we were all confused when the bar tender said he couldn’t sell usthree beers and a Smirnoff ice, but he could see us either six, fifteen or twenty six beers and a Smirnoff ice… totally confused we decided to go with just fifteen beers (to start at least) and then the mystery was solved as the barman dragged out a bucket filled with beers and ice and handed us a bottle opener. Pure genius, he doesn’t have to waste time serving us, and we didn’t have to wait around for him (which was lucky):
Waiting, waiting, waiting for a drink!!
I just wish we had ordered twenty six beers, then you get it served in an Esky/chilly bin. Of course for our readers who are used to being served in English or Aussie or Kiwi pubs – remember this is South America, you never, ever, go up to the bar yourself – anywhere that serves drinks always serves to your table – something we are getting quite accustomed to now!
So we settled down with our fifteen ice cold beers and one Smirnoff ice for Ana. Let me just say that Venezuela has without a doubt the worst beer of any country we have visited. We were stuck with no choice in the bar we drunk at – there was only Brahma Light – kind of like XXXX gold, a tasteless mid strength horrible beer – served ice cold which is good as it stops you noticing the lack of taste.
We settled down with our beers to enjoy the game, we were amazed to find that the whole place was 100 percent supporting Spain, it appears that Venezuelans still look back fondly on their colonial heritage, there were some German supporters (including us) but we were in a tiny minority.
Everyone had dressed up in their best red and Spanish gear, and unfortunately for us, the game went with the Spanish – though it was all very well mannered… This lady at the bar particularly caught our eye, she had a butt that would make Beyonce proud and man she loved to shake it and her boyfriend loved to grab it!!!
Beyonces twin sister shakes her thing!
After the game, the streets filled with 1,000s of honking flag waving Spanish supporters, this unofficial victory parade went on well into the night:
Just part of the never ending Spanish victory parade
So it appears that no matter the state of the economy, at least these folks really know how to party!