The first thirteen hours of Christmas Day were spent driving, punctuated only by the girls’ first visit to a dirty foreign toilet, which was quite amusing, and a trip to the supermarket. We stopped to buy lunch, but rather than work together people bought huge quantities of meat and cheese and bread and let it all go to waste. We left them to it, so whilst Ben and Jill stocked up on drinks, fruit and crisps I nipped down the street to the local bakers and easily picked up a selection of freshly made sandwiches and pastries.
It seems that the 3 week segment from Caracas to Manaus is short and accessible enough to be peoples annual holiday from work so the rest of us have to put up with a bunch of people expecting everything to be easy and laid on for them, and finding it a bit of a shock to have to look after themselves the majority of the time. The next segment is much longer so will hopefully put off the casual traveller and we’ll have a more independent bunch on the way to Rio.
After spending the day recovering in bed it seems most Venezuelans like to put the family in the back of their pick-up and drive the wrong way down two lane roads up to five abreast, shouting and playing remarkably loud bad music. Held up by this traffic jam we arrived at the campsite a couple of hours after dark, getting ready to give a tent demonstration in the pitch black, lit only by headlights. As usual our luck was in and Bruno, the Swiss owner let us use all the vacant cabins, so we all stayed in huge double bunk beds.
He’d also prepared an amazing Christmas dinner with tender roast beef, roast potatoes and a variety of vegetables, all doused in delicious mushroom gravy. After dinner all the newcomers once again retired to bed, leaving us to play poker against the Swiss owner until he got out and made garlic bread and a great fondue with imported Swiss cheese.
Finally getting to bed at 6.15 am we got up at 7.45 on Boxing Day for a swim in the river whilst the others went tubing. I’d opted out of trying tubing again as this looked pretty tame compared with the pure fun that was Vang Vieng in Laos.
In the afternoon we only had to drive 200km to Mérida, but again the holiday traffic slowed us down but at least we had a hotel to stay in this time.
Dinner was another group affair with people unable to remember what they’d ordered just ten minutes earlier, and still forgetting to pay tax or tips on top of the menu price.