Archive for December, 2011

Steamy armpits

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , on December 30, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

It´s dirty, grey, rowdy, rough and loud; there´s a million and one reasons to hate this city but it wont listen to reason. Everyone from the waiter at the patio-restaurant at our little beachresort, to the snorkling guide with slightly fascist tendencies, questioned the logic behind ending our trip in the countrys capital since all it´s known for is grime and murder.

And I´ve got to admit, one of the allures is the bad reputation, related to that not so flattering Vulture-esque human notion of a crowd gathering on the outskirts of a crimescene, hoping to catch a glimpse of guts and gore, so close and yet so far away, It could have been me, just basking in the aftermath of danger.

But it´s more than that, this city of officially four million but unofficially who knows, possesses its very own brand of a twisted charm; it´s like tap-wiring someones wedding-woes, beauty and paranoia goes hand in hand.

We start off every morning at the breakfast/bakery up the street from our hotel. It´s got an overview over an intersection; you got every vehicle with a combustion engine roaming the streets and I sincerely doubt the Celac-summits held here just prior to our arrival had any enviromental issues high up on the agenda; here you´ll swallow an oil-barrel of carbon dioxide just by a quick walk around the block, and although the streets are constantly flooded with a mass of thickskinned bodies there´s still plenty poison left to add to the already dense layer of smog.

 The marketplace sprawling out just beside the metro-entrance of Bellas Artes shows off pirated merchandise from all over, displayed in tiny container-booths, caps, t-shirts, underwear, jewelry, movies; it´s all packed together tightly, the paths between the booths are at most two persons wide, it´s a labyrinth, everything starts to close in on me, it´s as humid as in the rainforest, all that bodyheat and the vendors going ala´orde, ala´orde, which means something like “at your service”, but the way it´s used its just a repetatory phrase, a loop that goes round and round, etching itself into your spinalchord, there´s a roof of corrugated tin covering this whole homage to the free market and I can hear the rain start to pound on it, each heavy drop a bathtub, I´m looking for a way out and I´m gasping for air as I find it.

We walk around. We take the subway. It seems to have a train coming and going every two minutes, but nevertheless every chart is jam-packed, you have to muscle your way in and ride armpit to armpit until it´s time to muscle your way out again.

There´s no tourists here. We get a lot of looks. This is a place where you get to your connecting flight and be on your way. I love it. I walk around with my tongue hanging out.

Beauty and the beast again: seeing the barrios creeping in between the Chrysler-building and the bank; a brickhouse on its knees, pieces of clothing hanged to dry in the wind, tied in knots around the protective-bars shielding the windows. And then the glass facade of the skyscraper, reflecting everything and revealing nothing.

The barrios are far from being just crackpots and criminals, it´s where the working stiff resides, the schoolteachers, the waiters at our hotel, the busdriver. And just as its inhabitants, the architecture isn´t just that of a slumdwelling; it´s a place of ingenuity and beauty, well-crafted, miniature mansions with a ramshackle bunking on top.

That´s all for now.

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Dog Eat Dog

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , on December 29, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

Every morning in Caracas, before dawn, we´re awakened by riveting explosions, one is so close it rattles the bed, making the windowglass shiver.

The first night, this being Caracas, me and Brown Eyes suspect the origin of it being some sort of violent act, but as the dust settles and the night shrinks back into relative silence from the cacaphony of alarms set off by the blast, I hear a faint sound I recognize, a series of beeps, like a foghorn, counting down to yet another blast, which in turn orchestrates a new symphony of protesting car-alarms in its wake.

It´s my wake-up call. As Brown Eyes falls back to sleep I go up to the window, making a small gap between the curtains, peering out, waiting for daylight.

Special Edition

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , on December 29, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

This is 8 a.m, a monday morning on a busterminal in Choroní, and we´re climbing aboard a vehicle spraypainted with headache, the Billlabong logo sprawled a little of everywhere and we´ve seen these monsters before, waggling their metalskeletons in streets with no more than two fingers of air to the houses sidelining it, reggaeton on a nightclub volume, punctuated only with the deafening blare of a truckhorn; like the music alone wouldn´t be enough to signal its arrival.

But this is a monday morning. There are people here on their way to work, kids with gymbags and schoolbooks.

It makes no difference. This is the special edition tour. It´s like a partytrain to a ski-resort but with nowhere to go, no place to hide. They´ve got four loudspeakers in the front, the volume set high enough to drown out any conversation; cheezy ballads concerning matters of the heart, corazon y amor, you don´t have to understand the language to get the lyrics- I miss you, I hate you, I love you-  there´s a Venezuelan cover of the old Roxette-classic “Spending my time”.

The bus never seems to be full. The driver and his two nasty little helpers, cocky and arrogant, filled with that teenage belief in immortality, keeps making stops in the middle of nowhere to let even more people pile on, they´re filling it to the brim, the frontdoor of the bus constantly open since the sidestep leading up to it also functions as an extra space for passengers; the man standing there is clutching on to a handlebar on the inside.

A babyblue, plush curtain is hung low, covering the frontwindow down to the middle, causing the driver to hunch forward in order to see anything. This is party parafernalia. The curtain is patched with patterns in shades of deeper blue, a heart, a clover, a diamond, all rudimentally stitched on. The stereo-case is ornamented with the metalplatted symbol of the playboy bunny.

The driver´s got a highstrung wire connected from the roof down to the panel, like one single violin-string, and as he taps it with the tip of his fingers the whole bus lets out that pre-historic roar, causing a mild concussion for each time, and the orchestra plays at least once every ten seconds. The only redeeming thing about it is its temporary drowning out of the Enrique Iglesias record now playing.

And all through this brute noise, I´ve got a little kid, maybe 7 or 8, sleeping against my shoulder. Mouth slightly open, face peaceful, his little fingers still gripping on to the straps of his schoolbag, the grip loosening with each breath sending him deeper into sleep. Even when his head bobs out a little into the narrow aisle, and another stop is made and more people push on, creating a wave of movement backwards, the little boy gets hit in the head with bags, hips, the occasional hand, but he still doesn´t wake up. I envy him.

After a couple of hours, my brain mushed and concoured, the music and the rocky roads, even the blaring caused by the drivers violin, it sooths me into a sedated state of numbness, my eyelids grow heavy. I see now how that little boy did it.

Puerto Colombia

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , on December 18, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

Puerto Colombia consists of two mainstreets parallelling a full stretch of maybe one kilometer from the town limit down to the harbor. Posadas and restaurants wall-to-wall, different surfshops selling the exact same type of merchandise, flip-flops and beach-bum wanna-be  funny t-shirts; a rastaman with a giant spliff, a rastaman playing congas, a rastaman just smiling like it´s a couple of seconds after he finished his giant spliff.

The female manequins here are all about tits and ass, every bikini cut a couple of sizez too small; large here is like a little patch barely covering the nipples of those big-cupped styrofoam breasts. They all stiffly swagger MTV-butts from a Snoop Dogg video, pouty and voluptous, a small stringline between the cheeks. The male mannequins are made with a poorly masqueraded content of the western beach-bum; a small, pouty mouth, tiny eyes reflecting a vacuum-brain, the bangs combed over from one side to the other in a big fluffy wave. It´s a caricature of the gringo, reflecting the complex relationship between the townspeople and the tourists. You always get that feeling of intruding in something far more important when you step into one of their shops, they can barely contain a rollling of the eyes if you´re one of those obnoxious enough to want to try something on prior to bying.

The locals carry themselves with a healthy dose of pride, combined with a touch of fuck-you attitude. They´ve got that aura of untouchables, refusing to kneel to the dollar, at least not in the face of its carrier.

They´re keeping their distance, the most obvious display is the clear but invisible demarcation line running two-thirds into the village, dividing even this little pueblo into a tourist part, stretching from the townlimit to a bridge crossing over a river; a bridge you have to make in order of getting to the road leading to the Playa Grande; after the bridge, there´s about two blocks left leading down to the small fishing harbour, which is the locals territory, bursting of life even during the weekdays as our part lays mostly deserted, you can almost hear the eerie whistling from “The good, the bad, and the ugly”, being replaced by the very real noise of salsa-music blaring from loudspeakers stacked-up behind the counter of cornerstores or set in open-cased cartrunks.

After dark there´s busy liquorstores and street-barbecues, down by the harbour the waves crash into the base of a protective wall semi-circling around a stoneplatted pier, spraying up a fine mist of waterresidues, picked up by the breeze and sweeping in over the marketplace. There´s some streetlights hung with a seemingly haphazard rhytm, headlights from cars and motorcycles sweeping by, providing a glimmer of light.

There´s no hostility here. This is the caribbean. It´s all One Love and mañana mañana.

But tomorrow we´re heading back to Caracas.

Into The Wild

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , on December 17, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

We were supposed to go on a two-day trip, spending the night at a camp lodged deep in the rainforest, but the camp is under reconstruction due to heavy rains, so the only option we’ve got is a day-tour. It would have been more of an adventure with the creatures of the night at least sounding in on you as you rock yourself to sleep in a hamock tied between two bamboo-poles.

The day-tour feels more of a pre-trampled tourist route, a dose of “just enough”, and although the excitement of being in the thick of it sustains my interest for the first couple of hours, the botanical magic of it being a rainforest soon wears off a little. You have to watch your step with all the sticks and stones crossing the narrow path, with tree-roots bulging around your feet like the veins on Iggy Pops fore-arm, so you really spend more time watching your shoes get covered in dirt then you do eyeing after animals lurking in the cover of the tree-crowns.

We’re following a small section of the beaten trail from Choroni, straight through the forest and over the mountains, ending in Maracay. A two-day journey by horse and foot back in the old days. Before strong-man Gomez ordered the construction of a road sustainable for driving, built hand by shovel by the unsung heroes of political prisoners.

The guide, who goes by the nickname Wivvi, seems a bit displeased with our lack of botanical knowledge. But for me the experience of the environment as a whole is the important thing, and the possibility of seeing some wildlife.

We’ve been hearing rumours of small tigers, they’ve got two different species of monkeys, seven species of snakes of whick two are poisonous, and sloths. We see a gang of long-legged spiders, and are accompanied by a village dog. The guide is more wild than anything around, with his corrked bent walk coming from a broken leg just below the knee, mended by itself into a slightly curved shape. He gets by effortlessly, with the aid of a walking stick. He’s the king of the jungle.

The baths are the main attraction. Halfway, before turning around and taking the same route back, we’re introduced to a formation of miniature waterfalls, combined with natural pools of fresh, clean water, untocuhed from its source. And by another watering-hole, there’s a fall dropping at least two meters, we jump from the top of it into a deep pool, fighting against the current to squeeze into a natural cave hidden behind a curtain of roaring water.

We have our lunch there. The lunch consists of a grey, moisty mass served in a leaf; it’s maize and something or other mushed together, with a taste of licorice. Brown Eyes and Green Eyes feed the better part of their meal to the dog, but I actually like the first few bites, before the sweetness and the gooey consistency becomes a bit too much. But I finsih my meal as a good boy.

After lunch Wivvi seems a bit anxious to get this group of botanical retards out of the jungle, and it’s like the last ounce of respect he’s got left for us vaporizes as we make a bigger fuzz oer the mules and roosters coming back into the village, than we did for the bananaplants and the jurrasic-era plant that looked like a tree. He said botanist went wild over that last one. He chuckled a bit at our lame response.

The dog followed us all the way to our car. He looked sad as we parted. After a drive down the mountain, Wivvi looked a bit relieved as we parted with him.

On The Venezuelan Roads

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , on December 15, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

There´s a traffic-congestion on the outskirts of Caracas. We´re inching by, leaving the steaming valley containing the untamed city in a slight tilt up the mountain. Plastic bags and tin-cans litter the roadside with the junglegreen backdrop. Small wall-to-wall restaurants, housed in barack-like settings, serving Empanadas and Arepas in dodgy and dark one-room establishments; plastic furniture crowded around wooden-bars. But since I can see right through them, their advantegous position is obvious: balancing on the verge of a steep drop opening up to the valley below. You can enjoy your Arepa with a light swindle, or fix your gaze on the softly molded mountains curving it´s formations in the distance.

As traffic eases up, there´s about a two-hour drive to Maracay, the garden city of Venezuela, and the gateway to the tropical forest and the Henri Pettier national parc. There´s more green and country-barrios strewn out along the way; you´ll go greenblind, everything losing texture and nuance, melting together into one swollen blob. Graffitti scribbled on road-refuges, declaring “Viva Chavéz” next to “carajo”.

Maracay doesn´t hold our attention for long, as we stuff our luggage into a small, untagged  car with nohing but the drivers word on it being a taxi.

This isn´t one of your ordinary rides, stumbling out at closing time, hailing in a ride with the residues of a kebab stained all over your satin-shirt, and you wont remember much of it other than a vague notion of coming to with the cabbys hand in your pants. This is something else. This is a narrow little path criss-crossing up the mountain, windows down and the jungle so dense and close I could reach out and grab me a handful; we´ve got a couple of inches worth of a protective wall between or snakey tongue of asphalt and a free fall into the misty abyss.

The driver, averaging this trip a couple of times a day, practices the art of honking before each sharp turn instead of slowing down, letting any opposite traffic know that we´re on our way. Meetings are dealt with metal to metal just nudging; a quick swirl on the wheel, a resentful tap on the break, a rare split second of silence when you can actually hear the multilayered tweaking of a myriad of grasshoppers… and then we´re off again, with the engine and the honking, with miniature stone-chapels in memory of people perished on this journey.

When we pass through the mist to the highest point we almost succumb to the massive impact of the environment, it´s too much. And the rocky roads and twists and turns gives everybody a touch of that good-old familiar feeling of getting car-sick. It´s all downhill from here, passing by small villages all claiming their own identity, “Bienvenido a Los Cerritos”, “Bienvenido a Paraparos”, a river flowing wild beside the road, some bikers shredding out of their leather-skin, sitting downstream with the flow washing over them, sipping a beer and it´s almost unnecessary to mention the look of contentment on their faces.

And then we´re here, Choroni, with it´s small colonial-style housing, brightly coloured, pink and babyblue and bright yellow. Ten minutes away from the Carribean sea. It´s a world apart from Caracas. This is the hard life.

Good night and good luck.

A little slice of paradise

Posted in The South America Tales with tags , , on December 13, 2011 by pajazzoproductions

Picture me in the back garden of a colonial hostel; it´s pitch black except from the porchlight attracting two big moths, big enough for us to mistake for bats the first time they smack-dab their thick insectian bodies into the glassbulb around the light. Picture me with the better part of a twelve year old sherry-oak caged Highlander still in my glass, I know it´s like throwing pearls to a swine since I just as well could be sitting here with an Jack Daniels and coke, but all the more reason for envy.

Picture me just letting a little string of smoke curl up against the night-sky, soundtracked by the jungle and a couple of stray dogs in the distance.

We´re in Choroni, a small beach-village in the Henri Pettier national parc.

Now picture me slowly strolling to the beach, I´m into the carribean groove, I got my flip-flops on, an inflated matress stuck under my arm. We´re the only foreign people here anyway so no need to try to disguise the tourists in us.

Now picture the beach opening up, surrounded by these soft-sculptured mountains, shrouded in mist at the peaks; this has truly got to be the smoke of a content creator, putting his feet up, puffing on a cigar. Picture the waves rolling in, breaking off and rushing the beach in a roar of warm, white, caribbean foam.

There´s some vultures paragliding high up there, wings spread, majestic, looking down on all the potential meals on the beach.

Now picture me getting out of the water, the salt already turning to a sticky crust, a little dizzy with emotion and the physical force of the big waves knocking me around a bit out there. I lay myself down on the sunbed. I´ll roast my swedish/finnish skin into a beautiful bright pink. I buy an ice cold cerveza from the beach-vendor. There´s a tropical breeze.

Now picture me napping.

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