Friday, March 4, 2011


On the first night we got into the shady port town of Guiria, we asked a lady named Kira if we could camp in her backyard. She was the second person we approached with the request. The first one was a lazy fat policeman on duty at the town regiment of… police, I guess. He grinned evilly at our cause and suggested that we go camp at a beach, a notoriously dangerous part of town. Kira, on the contrary, invited us in and we´ve slept in her backyard every night since. Kira is a very generous person. She let`s us take a shower once in a while and generally makes us feel at home (but still in the garden:)There are plenty more people living in the house. Three of Kira`s sisters with their families. The sisters were not as friendly as Kira at the beginning, but they warmed up after two or three days and now we are getting along fine. We have spent a week here already but no ride to Trinidad yet but we made a lot of friends, people recognize us on the street and ask how is our search going.
About every other person we talked to so far asked us:
¨And why don´t you take the ferry?¨
Indeed, why?
There is a ferry, it runs every Wednesday. The problem is that it is the only one, and the monopoly it enjoys allows the ferry company to fix the price as high as they like. When we inquired at their office, a fat man (most population in Guiria is fat or very fat, men and women, including most children, but excluding teenagers for some reason) behind the desk smiled and said:
¨1700 bolivares each, please.¨
If you pay cash, it is 170 dollars, at black market course of $1:10. If you have no cash, the official exchange rate of $1:4 applies, and the amount grows to over $400. That´s over $800 for the two of us. The only good thing is that a return ticket is included in the price, because without a return ticket the Trinidad Immigration will not let you step on the island. Our humble protests to the fact that we plan on leaving by other means were met with a smile.
¨You still have to buy the return ticket,¨ said the pleasant fat man.
So, we kept looking for other options.
A few mornings ago we almost got on this super sketchy cocaine-carrying motor-boat going to Trinidad. This was the boat we were waiting for the first three days here in Guiria. The boss of the fisherman fleet of motorboats kept saying to us that there is a boat about to leave any day now, it is completely legal and he knew the people who are taking it well. We had nothing better to do than to trust him and sit by the fishing dock, all day, waiting for the ¨people from Caracas¨ to arrive. We saw the morning routine of the dock people, we saw the afternoon fishing boats arrive and the excitement over the catch of the day, its weighting and selling. We got to know the routine pretty well by the end of the third day. We made friends, and almost everybody wanted to buy us something to eat or to drink. Chicha (sweet rice porridge with LOTS of condensed milk), coffee, cookies and crackers, we did not refuse any offers.
One afternoon we were walking home from the fishing dock. We were passing by some boats that were pulled up on the beach for repairs. A group of men sat in one of them.
¨Hey gringos! Beer?¨
We changed our course and approached a group of boat painters who have just finished their workday and were now working their way through a case of beer. They had a bucket of ice and were pulling out the ¨cold ones¨ one by one. About the only beer you can get here is called ¨Polar Light¨. It is very light and comes in miniscule 200 ml bottles. A picture was out of a commercial of ¨Corona¨: beach, palm trees, sunset, muscular black men in work clothes, barefoot, having beers among brightly painted beached boats… We could not refuse.
After the initial ¨Where are you from?...¨ the conversation soon turned to politics. The tall black man would yell out:
His smaller friend would lift his cap and yell in response:
¨Chavez! Rojo! Trabajadores!!! Yeah! You see the color of my hat, you see? It is RED! That´s because I am with CHAVEZ! REVOLUTION!¨
The third companion would put in:
¨Chavez! Ick. Revolution! Chavez con nosotros! Ick. Chavez...¨
We enjoyed their company but did not share in on their enthusiasm. We sipped on the cold beer and were just taking in the whole scene. We had to leave when it got dark and the boys got too drunk.
On the fourth day, the ¨people from Caracas¨ finally arrived. We were called over to the beach from where the boat was to leave. The captain wanted lots of money for our passage. He was asking for 100 dollars a person. We brought him down to 80 total (that was ALL we had at the moment) when suddenly the skipper came up and asked if we were going to contribute to the ¨Trinidad Entry Tax¨, another 80 dollars. We kind of ignored him and kept waiting for the captain. While we were sitting in the shade of the palm trees, we got talking to the man ¨from Caracas¨ who ordered the boat to take his ¨cargo¨ across. He was a Trinitarian and spoke English. We asked him straight:
¨Are you transporting any drugs?¨
He looked straight at us, swallowed and got into a lengthy explanation as to why it was not worth the risk for him to traffic cocaine over. About five minutes into the conversation, he bent over, reached into his bag and pulled out… a fighting cock.
¨Poor bird,¨ he said,¨suffering so much. But wait, when you get to Trinidad, you will make me lots of money, hahaha.¨
After all this, we were not so cool on giving the captain the money OR our passports. We waited some more when all of a sudden, the captain announced that the boat was ready. We all went over to the boat, but our passports were still not stamped out.
We asked the captain:
¨So are you taking us or not? What about the stamp out?¨
The captain did not answer but instead started the engine. The guy with the fighting cock yelled to us:
¨Don´t talk! Jump in!¨
¨Eeee… No-no-no. Have a good trip!¨
We stood on the peer, watching the boat turn around in the harbour and take a course to Trinidad. We did not know if should we thank gods from keeping us taking this ride or should we wave them back and agree to pay whatever they want.
Adrenalin had rushed through our veins a few times that day :)
When we aimlessly wandered the streets later on, people called us over from the sidewalks, cafes and stores. They were all characters we met earlier in the port, and they all asked us:
¨Have you found anything yet? No? Wait, I´ll talk to my brother/sister/friend, he is going to Trinidad on Friday...¨
The same evening we were walking past a bar when some people inside waved to us.
¨Hey, gringos! Wanna beer?¨
That was the crew of a fishing boat we talked to earlier that day. There were three of them: El Gordo, El Chico and El Flaco (Fat, Small and Skinny). El Gordo was the captain of the ship. El Chico was first mate. He was dark black, short and fatter than El Gordo. He talked non-stop, smiled constantly and only stopped his avalanche of jokes when a pretty girl passed by. He would stop mid-sentence, turn around and start flirting. He was hilarious. El Flako was timid and did not speak much, but smiled and noded his head. The trinity was very friendly and full of eagerness to help us.
¨Look,¨ said El Gordo,¨we are going to La Union. We have no problem taking you, we just need to ask the boat owner´s permission.¨
¨Wow,¨our adrenalin levels rose for the tenth time that day,¨that would be… awesome! And where is this La Union? What country is it?¨
¨La Union, you know,¨was the answer,¨they speak French there. It´s an island.¨
¨Aaaa… an island…¨
We spent some more time in the bar with them, being treated to the Ice Light beers by El Chico.
El Chico invited us over to have breakfast on their boat in the morning and we went to our back yard in high hopes.
Early next morning we were at the boat, 7 am, as told. There was no movement on board. We waited for some time before we saw sleepy El Chico poking his head out of a door.
¨Damn my head hurts!¨ He exclaimed, ¨We got SO drunk last night! We got back at like 3 in the morning! And now my head hurts!¨
Soon the other crew members woke up. The cook headed to the kitchen and started by making some coffee. He then made arepas, traditional Venezuelan pancakes of corn flour. El Chico took over after to fry some fish. Half an hour later, we were chewing on one of the most delicious breakfasts in our trip: Arepas with fried fish, aboard a fishing vessel that is about to sail to La Union (which is in Grenada, we found out).
El Chico sat down beside us and quietly said:
¨Sorry guys, but unfortunately we cannot take you. The boss does not allow us. Sorry.¨
¨Oh, don´t worry about it, don´t be sorry, it´s ok…¨ we answered, trying not to show our disappointment.
So we were on land again, with no ride to Trinidad.
Two more days has passed since. Two more leads failed. Everybody is telling us that Trinidad Immigration will not let us through without an ¨onward passage¨. We do not have one, nor do we want buy one, for obvious reasons. Without it, no captain will give us a ride to Trinidad. The circle is closed.
The carnival is approaching. The festivities are due to start this evening. We think we will stop actively looking for the boat now, but still keep our ears open. We will enjoy the carnival in Kira´s company and if nothing comes up, we will leave Guiria by the road we arrived by.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like mix of Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island, guys please be careful there. Miss you.