Friday, April 18, 2008

Ode to the Departed

Yes, we haven`t moved an inch! Largely due to the arrival in our hostel of some extremely sound, and bloody good fun, lads from back home! We had met them in Lima - well, I can`t really boast that, because I wasn`t talking to them in Lima, but the other lads knew them well - and by pure chance they landed up in our hostel here. And I soon got to know them! Liam had his guitar, and knew amazingly varied and wonderful songs, and James and Cormac sang along with gusto....they brightened up our little trip something rotten!!

And, in a little "small world, isn`t it" twist, Cormac is the nephew of someone I work with back in Dublin! Crazy!

Anyway, we decided not to move on to Cartagena, as Bones was leaving on Tuesday, and Mac came back from there to celebrate (or mourn) Bones`s last weekend with us! So Saturday night, we sent him off in STYLE! With four litres of rum, and copious amounts of beer, we headed to An Garaiste, the best nightclub in town. Well...everyone else headed off, I had to be put to bed at that stage (about 2am) on account of drinking a tad too much, but when they returned from the club, I gamely hopped out of bed and joined the singalong until the wee hours - about 9 am the next day! AND I had my first public preformance - I played and sang along to Willie McBride on the guitar, and got a good reception! Maybe they were all drunk, but they lavished praise on me, so I`m suitable big headed now, even though I still play like Father Ted.....ha ha!

But it was a great sending off for del Bone, who has been the most amazing travelling companion these past months, and I miss him already! I know I`ll see him in a month back home, but it`s never the same, is it? Over here, I saw him for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and slept in the same room as him for 90% of the time, and we`ll never have that closeness I miss that, but as Tedly has said, don`t be sad that it`s over, be glad that it happened! So we said a tearful (well, I cried anyway!) goodbye to him Tuesday morning. He`s back home now, and says he`s already overdosed on tea.......

And of course, Maca himself, who ALSO left on the day Bones left! I hadn`t thought about it, because I`ve said goodbye to Mac before - back in La Paz when he was on his way to meet his destiny in Buenos Aires - but now he`ll either be back in Ireland before us, or just after us, and either way, I also won`t see him for a month. I`m glad to know such a man, I really am, because he is one of the steadiest and genuinely nicest guys I`ve ever met. I`ve never known someone to have such regard for others in everything he does, and he has the best and biggest heart I`ve ever seen. So hopefully the friendship will continue as strong back in Ireland, because I feel like I`ve strengthened a friendship over here!

And then Wednesday.....what a day.....we said goodbye to Ed and Emer and Kee, who are gone on to Cartagena! It was great getting to know Emer and Kee, who I didn`t really know before, and I had great craic with them - especially Emer, who is a bloody lovely girl!! And as for Ed....what can I say? I never knew him before we came away, and now I don`t know how I went so long in my life without knowing this amazing guy! So I cried on his departure too, probably most of all, because he is just one of the best people I know, and I am so happy that we came along on this trip together! I would never have known his happy outlook on life, his coolness under pressure, his ability to smooth over tensions, and his sensitivity to everyone`s feelings. The man is a saint, but not in a cheesy overly-nice way, he just genuinely wants for people to be happy, and I can`t find fault with a second of our time over here together.

And on Thursday, we said goodbye to our newfound friends from back home, and since they are heading to Australia after South America, they`re not likely to hit Ireland again until 2009, so renewing the friendship could be tougher in this case, but we`re hopeful it`ll be done. Really, we`ve met such amazing people on this trip - we`ve been so lucky!

So, today, it was just myself and Alan, sweating and trying to organise accomodation for Caracas, the most dangerous city in South America! We`re hoping to just stay in a village ten minutes from the airport, rather than Caracas itself, but everytime we call it, we get hung up on by the impatient and rude receptionist....what a hijo de puta! So we might have to stay in the city. We`ve heard such stories of the place from fellow travellers! One girl from Cork was on a tour around the country - bear in mind, this meant they were ferried EVERYWHERE in a private buses, and all sleeping arrangements organised by guides - and from the 20 people on board, 8 were stabbed in Caracas. One woman, a 55 year old lady, was stabbed in her HAND as she tried to protect herself....

Another story? Irish guys there took the official black taxis to the airport, and they are four by fours so that if traffic stops up ahead, the drive onto the dirt roads beside it and bypass the stoppage, as it is popular to hold up taxis full of gringos....the cars have blacked-out windows, and you can`t roll down the window for fear of being seen.

Another? Carl Cox (idiot DJ) played a set in a Caracas nightclub in November, and a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 4 people. Security failed to evacuate, despite the bodies lying bleeding on the ground, and the gunman opened fire again five minutes later, killing a further 6.

Another? All hostels and hotels (even the Hilton and other branded ones) are enclosed in barred gates, and signs advise revellers to stay in after dark (6 o clock), and police impose a curfew after 10pm. Even eating in a restaurant 500 meters down the road, you are advised to take a taxi.

Another? Police in Venezuela get onto buses randomly to view the passangers. You are told to face forward, and keep your eyes straight ahead (take off sunglasses). Making eye contact will be seen as being "cheeky" and may result in some random police brutality.

And the last one! Coming across the border, the border guards board the bus and say "we will search this whole bus, and hold you up for 2 hours, or else you can all pay 10 Bolivars, and we will let you through without a search". Coupled with this little nugget is that 3 out of 4 people carry guns in Caracas. Not `have` guns....CARRY guns. Factor out old people and kids, and you are probably looking at the entire male population "packing"!

So, I look forward to Sunday, when we fly to Cuba. Much safer destination! Whatever Chavez is doing, it`s not reaching Caracas......

Roll on Cuba!!!

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