I woke at 7 and threw open the doors of the room and stepped out on the balcony. Blue skies, a crisp, cool, summers morn, and incredible mountain view with the sea below. This was a vista I’d love to wake up to every day.
The chef drove up from somewhere below and rustled us up a fantastic breakfast of arepas, cheese, black beans, and pulled pork, known here as desayuno criollo, washed down with delicious strawberry juice and a cafe con leche. Then we drove down the mountain, stopping at several wonderful scenic spots along the way. I couldn’t believe we were still in Caracas. Forest-covered green mountains romped down to the sea, and little cottages were dotted in and amongst them, the only sound that of the green parakeets and kiskadees.
We were back in the city at noon, and stopped at a little roadside shack to get a delicious coconut drink with sugar, and a strawberry ice. Then we dropped Roddy and Grace and family back at their home and Vero and I headed to Alto Prado, where I had a much-needed siesta, before we went out to a huge shopping mall in Las Mercedes for some last minute xmas shopping. This time, I was able to successfully buy socks, boxer shorts (outrageously priced Calvin Klein ones) and a pair of tracksuit bottoms. Shopping malls – God, I hate them. The one’s in Caracas can be huge, and have everything easily available – shops, cinemas, restaurants, bars, even places to stay – and they’re safe, so basically they provide caraquenos with everything they don’t have in the mad streets outside. After a couple of hours of walking round and round the mall, I needed a beer, so we headed to a streetside bar, the first of its kind I’d ever been to in Caracas, and had a couple of refreshing solero lights, whilst watching the people of Caracas drinking on their tables, including a table of huge surgically-enhanced breasted ladies, supping their beers and talking animatedly.
Vero and I enjoyed the little break, then we headed back to her house, where we were greeted by several of her friends who had decided to throw an impromptu party at her house without telling her. Vero’s place has an open-door policy, and it’s not uncommon to have 15 or more people pass by each day, or to have 50 or more people over for an evening of drinks, chat and music. Bottles of wine were uncorked, I played Latin hits on the MacBook, and more and more people filed in. Vero has an eclectic set of friends, all of them extremely nice and welcoming, and patient with me whilst I was struggling to speak Spanish. They, of course, can all speak English really well as they had all been sent abroad at some point to study. They are the lucky 5% of Venezuelans who enjoy such privilege and status. This large group of friends have grown up together, and live a Beverly Hills 90210 kind of life, one of speeding off to constant parties in their SUVs, and glamourous trips to Miami and the like it seems. One of the girls I met is a plastic surgeon here, and she told me some interesting tales of her trade. As well as the normal breast enlargement and the like for the ladies of Caracas, she told me of a rapidly increasing market in plastic surgery for men – 6 packs can be created, as can defined chests, and penis enlargement is popular too, although it’s only an aesthetic enlargement as they can’t really enlarge the organ as such, she explained, helpfully. Venezuelans then seem to be becoming increasingly obsessed with creating what they perceive as perfection through plastic surgery. It’s good business for the surgeons for sure, but busts are becoming bigger and bigger as girls compete to stand out, and this unhealthy competition has its roots in a deeper problem – an insecurity and fear of being left behind and neglected by the immense competition and pressure in such a society.
So we drank and drank and drank some more. Everyone was having a good time, chatting away. Most people asked me about my thoughts on Caracas – they all seem very anxious to know what foreigners think. It’s interesting then that they set up their questions in such a way as to provoke a negative response, but will then proudly boast of the variety of landscapes and spectacular beauty. “What do you think of Caracas – crazy right? Terrible traffic. Really dangerous.” Then, “But we have everything in Venezuela – deserts, forests, jungle, rivers, mountains, beaches….” People in Caracas are happy to moan at lengths about the mad traffic that congests the city from dusk until dawn, about the crazy people. Paranoid, though perhaps with reason to be, many here happily warn you of the dangers of the city, seemingly thriving on your reaction, before giving you the medicine of good news through promoting the highlights to heal you. I could probably do the same when talking about England, I suppose. The crowd thinned out, and eventually completely dispersed. It was 5am before we got to bed, but I’d really enjoyed meeting another great bunch of Vero’s friends. She’s lucky to have so many friends like that.