Caracas. If you google it they tell you be careful of being kidnapped, mugged, car jacked or murdered. I am always careful to not get murdered. Fuck I watched enough Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy to know the good guys from the bad guys. I know how to handle myself. I did 6 months karate and 3 months boxing. I smashed a few noses in my time. If some wiseguy Samerican Gangsta wants trouble he’s messing with the wrong curly haired Irish man.
But there’s been no trouble. Except for when some guys outside a shop started calling me a gringo. Pointing at me and bladdering some rubbish in local dialect and saying gringo. I stared them down for a minute or two (glanced for 2 seconds), figured out they were no serious threat (said a prayer to St. Jude to save me) and turned and walked away slowly laughing to myself (grabbed my missus and held her hand as we walked (ran whimpering) down the road in the direction of some cops).
I have flown with a few airlines in my day. One of the worst I have had has to be aerolineas. They are shocking. The flight from Auckland was cancelled and we were delayed for 25 hours. They did put us up in a state of the art Holiday Inn which was ok. The seats on the plane feel like they have been made using 1960’s rusted nails mixed with tin foil, which has been sealed with a ceramic metal. They deftly spray on some fabric paint and in you get strapped.
There are no individual entertainment sets. You have the joy of staring at a flickering 14 inch screen which pops down about 8 rows in the distance. The headphones work but make you feel life you are listening to the rubbish movie underwater (Eat Prey Love and A Dolphin Tale anyone? Vomit). The meals are not really meals. They are more like suggestions. It’s like an angry cabin crew designed the grub to take a slow revenge on all the annoying customers they have had for the last 18 years of their wasted lives.
While they are the national airline of Argentina, I would hate to cast aspersions on the complete country. We took a taxi to a hostel in the city (US S50). That is not cheap, even if you do drive for 20 minutes. I felt like asking were we back in the boom years of the old Celtic tiger. We plopped our bags into out nice bare room. The hostel itself was called Sabatico and costs around US $ 50 per night. You get to share a bathroom for this price. For a property that houses a multitude of travellers at any one time, it is quite surprising the inverse relationship this quantity has, with the size of the bins they use in their toilets.
You see in most South American countries you cannot flush the toilet paper down with the jiggly bits. You fold it neatly and place it in a bucket which is emptied most days. In Sabatico the bins spilled out onto the floors and the crumpled folds of someone else’s innards lay around.
Not what I’d expect even from budget accommodation (What a whiney backpacker I have become!)
I had been developing a middle aged spread in Australia. While others may not believe me, I was eating too much and doing no exercise. Pub grub 5 days a week, mixed with hearty meals, lots of take aways and a full fridge mean that my calorie intake was solid. On the other hand though, my attempts at exercise were two hours of surfing every two weeks. The upper body was looking limp and the gut began to splay. So I decided to get fit. I have been working out since I started travelling and eating a lot less. It is amazing when you don’t own a fridge how you cut down on grub.
While I have been eating lots of bread, meat and cheese I have been burning these away through the heat and the workouts. So I decided to do a few “Be Fit” videos. This is the first one and is aptly called “How to be fit with the Sober Paddy”. The object of these is to have a laugh and show you what I am doing to get in serious shape by the age of 36. That’s the plan.
On a different note, this Venezuela seems relatively safe. While we are day creatures and are looking after where we go and what we do, there is still and abundant lack of the madness, thievery and bandits who are written about in the media and on various travel blogs. That’s not to say they don’t exist, but in the three weeks we have been here, we have never felt unsafe. There are massive slums and no go areas and one city which we are heading to next week is apparently a no go area outside of the bus terminal – it is the last stop before Colombia. Fingers crossed we don’t get gang raped and robbed. I am not ready for that and it could just send me back on the drink!
Speaking of drink the food here is limited by Sydney standards. There is more variety in an impoverished students kitchen. It goes a little like this – ham and cheese and bread and cheese and ham and cheese and bread and cheese and ham and ham and bread and cheese and ham and bread and cheese and pizza. Yummy. It brings me back to being a single man in Ireland when my diet was ham and cheese and bread and cheese and eggs and cheese and ham and chicken and cheese and bread and pizza. Old habits die hard.