Saturday, 26 November 2011

How to make a complete buffoon of yourself by not learning enough Spanish (aka Venezuela trip part 2)

(Part 1 is here)

I had my alarms set on the wrist watch that I had borrowed from Murali for 7:00 a.m and 7:15 a.m. However, they failed to wake me up. I blame this on them being too feeble. However, I was up by 7:30 a.m. My first thought was to locate a bakery (panaderia) and get some coffee / breakfast, but I had conveniently forgotten the Spanish term. The helpful manager came to my rescue once more and gave me directions. It was bloody hard for me to communicate that I am vegetarian there, and besides, everything they had seemed to have some meat. I was about to give up and buy bread when I noticed that they had something labelled "Ricotta". I pointed to it and went through my "sin carne, sin pollo, sin pescado" routine and the shopkeeper responded with "Si. Puro Queso". I was convinced and bought that. It was as bad as the coffee was good and it took all my willpower to eat it.

I had been dissuaded at the hotel by the manager and her assistant from using public transport to get to Terminal de Oriente, primarily thanks to the sketchy nature of the location where I would have to make the switch from the tube to the bus, Petare by name. Lonely Planet also told me that this once beautiful colonial town was deemed too dangerous at the time of research. I decided to take the chance nevertheless and took the train from Chacao.

On alighting at Petare, I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible, which, frankly was made easy by my brown skin. Finding the bus was surprisingly easy, but not before I had to pass through a dirty flea market. I proceeded to Terminal de Oriente from there and many strange hand signs later, I had my ticket to Santa Elena for 3:45 p.m. The return journey to the hotel was eventless. Petare reminded me of Kalasipalya, dirty and shabby.

I had a few hours to spare and decided to explore the Altamira / Chacao area on foot to look for other vegetarian food options. I might as well have decided to build a bridge across a mighty ocean with rocks carried by monkeys. Finally, I found one place which had Sopa Espinaca on its menu. Thankfully, the serving was huge. I had that and bought a few fruits for my bus journey from a supermarket. By now, the clock was striking 12:30 p.m. and I had to return to the hotel to pack and leave. I asked the manager for a taxi at checkout time and packed up.

The running themes of this travelogue can be invariably linked to my ineptitude in Spanish and my vegetarianism. Any mention of the latter would elicit at best a sympathetic smile or, at worst, a derisive snicker from the women and a hearty laugh from the men. I found this mildly amusing, as, I am sure, many of them found me. Very few of them had seen any Indians, and certainly no one whom I met had. This added to the amusement.

Any way, I found myself at the bus station 2 hours in advance. The terminal is located well outside the city. There is nothing around either. Stuck with 2 hours to kill there, I decided to eat something at the cafeteria at the bus station. Thankfully, their vegetables were there on a counter and I was able to point and make signs. A hearty meal (which I would not touch with a stick back home) of lettuce, tomato and sprouts with some salt on them, with fries and an omelette later, I was ready to leave Caracas.

There not much to relate about the ensuing bus journey apart from how supremely comfortable the Marco Polo buses are. I did get a tiny scare at the place where the driver stopped for dinner where I had a cheese sandwich (much laughter followed my "strange" request), coffee and Jugos de Guayaba (Guava juice). I came out to not find the bus where I had left it, at a petrol station. Thankfully, a local pointed out that it was parked in front of the restaurant. I waited at the door, determined to get in as soon as the door opened, Lonely Planet in hand and drew a number of enquiries from fellow travellers. When the door opened, I just found my seat and relapsed into slumber.

1 comment:

Vidya Vasuki said...

Gut, gut. Keep it coming.