Friday, November 15, 1996
After a four-hour bus ride to Atlanta, a flight to Miami, and all day in Miami International Airport, I was finally on the plane for Venezuela.
I kind of liked the airline, Avensa. For the cheap price of the tickets, I expected a low-budget flight, but only by food standards was this true. The seats were roomy, and before boarding you could see the pilot walking outside personally inspecting the aircraft.
The passengers on this flight were definitely less restrained than those on a typical domestic airline. People were wandering around socializing, introducing themselves, partying, and doing pretty much anything but sitting. We played bingo, the winner netting a free round-trip ticket to Caracas. There was applause when we landed, which I have only heard once before on a flight; when we narrowly escaped being atomized by another aircraft. These people just know how to have a good time, I suppose.
The Caracas airport seemed to be only slightly bigger than Knoxville's. Strange for a city of five million or more. The passengers not continuing to Valencia were let off on the runway before we continued on.
The flight to Valencia was only 15 minutes from Caracas, and the fact that we never reached any appreciable altitude on that leg was a bit unnerving. The airport in Valencia, a city of about half a million people, is TINY! Only two gates!
Normally, getting your luggage in the U.S. is a matter of beating the thieves to the claim area. In Venezuela, however, they do not allow anyone to exit the airport until each passenger shows a claim check for each piece of luggage he is carrying. Good idea- I wonder why no one here has thought of that.
Getting off the plane, the first thing I noticed was the odor. Valencia is a very industrial city; Ford, Goodyear, Firestone, Federal Mogul, etc., all have big, smelly factories here. It was very late when I arrived, so I couldn't see any of my surroundings on the way to the hotel except for the factories and billboards.
The hotel was very nice for $2l. The tiny refrigerator in the room was stocked with one beer, one coke, and one bottle of water. The room service meal wasn't bad for $4, and with it I got my first taste of Polar, the monopoly beer in Venezuela.
My companion didn't stay long. When she went home, I channel-surfed for a while, but the only English-language TV station was Cinemax. I slept well.