Checked out after a delicious breakfast of arepas and cheese at 9am. Vero and I chilled in hammocks overlooking the salto el sapo waterfall, until our flight for Puerto Orgaz arrived. A Venezuelan girl boarding the same small cessnar plane told us where we’d stayed – Waku Lodge – was the most upmarket in Canaima, refuge of the rich and famous, from Hugo Chavez to Miss World and Miss Universe – and now Neil Donovan from Brighouse. I’m sure I saw Frank Sinatra’s name in the guestbook from many, many years before….can’t have been, can it? The flight back was smooth enough. Got a taxi from Puerto Orgaz airport to the Intercontinental Hotel for lunch – a buffet salad and a spaghetti bolognese. It offered lovely views of more waterfalls, and seemed to be the best place in town to chill.
Back at the airport we got a flight to Caracas. We were met at the airport by Vero’s family – Mum, Dad and Aunt. Mum, Senora Ligiya and Aunt, both bottle blonde sisters, crazy in that eccentric South American way, funny and always laughing. Senor Eduardo, the father, cutting a quieter more reserved figure, yet a man of obvious power. We drove to the exit of the airport, but Senor Eduardo found out he’d forgotten to pay for the ticket first, to much berating from Mum and Aunt. We got out at the second attempt and drove to Vero’s beachside apartment, where her family had spent the day drinking. Senor Eduardo cracked open some Polar beers once we were inside. We cleaned the apartment briefly, then headed off to Caracas, and to Vero’s family home in Alto Prado. Back here, I had a much needed lie-down, then at around midnight Vero and I went out in her jeep to Las Mercedes looking for food. We found a local restaurant serving local specialities, and open 24 hours. Had a Polar ice beer, and we both ordered – you guessed it – arepas with cheese and a local speciality, pabellon, a Mexican-tasting dish of black beans, rice and shredded beef with plantain and cheese. It tasted really good, and we were served by a jolly fat waiter who kept asking if I needed more beer with a cheeky smile. I felt turning him down would cause offence, and damage my veneer of masculinity, so I ordered 3 more, while Vero tried a Frangelico Italian liqueur on the jolly waiter’s recommendation. He didn’t appear so jolly when it was time to pay the bill, and we both had to scramble for coins to pay it exactly, so couldn’t leave him a jolly tip for his jolliness. I did feel a bit guilty. After this, we got back in the jeep, and drove back into the relative safety of the high-security hills of Alto Prado, never stopping at red traffic lights, as this would be an open-invitation for car-jackers. An interesting day.