On The Venezuelan Roads

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.

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