Saturday, November 16, 1996

When I woke up, I looked out the window to see the mountainous terrain around me. The mountains were unlike any I had ever seen. Thick with vegetation, more brown than green, but virtually treeless.

My companion picked me up and we drove into Valencia so I could change some dollars for bolivars. There is only one change house in this city of 500,000, and we spent over an hour there. We later discovered that Banco Consolidado cashed travelers checks, but it takes a long time to change money in Venezuela no matter where you go.

We walked around town for a while before eating lunch at a Tasca, which is a bar with very old meat (strictly ornamental) hanging up all over the place. The meals were good, and very cheap.

We then drove to the bus terminal, called Biglow, to buy our tickets to Merida. Biglow looks like an amusement park, complete with roller coasters, street vendors, bizarre buildings resembling castles, Euro-architecture, Arab architecture, anything other than Venezuelan. You can buy pretty much anything there.

In the afternoon we drove way out into the boonies and drank beer at a really cool palapa-roofed outdoor bar.


The really cool palapa-roofed bar

That evening we drove to my companion's house and I met her family. She lives with her sister, mother, and niece. Her brother was there also, visiting from Ciudad Bolivar with a friend. I would stay in the hotel another night, as it was a pretty full house.

My companion also has a parrot, which she has raised practically from an egg. She loves to roll around on my companion's lap and wrestle with her, but when anyone else tries to handle her, she yells at them. (in Spanish, of course.) She is quite a talker. I tried to teach her some English, but was not successful.

In the evening we window-shopped in some of Valencia's suburbs. The town centers such as Guacara resemble your typical U.S. shopping centers. No real downtown, just strip-mall shopping and lots of kids hanging out. We paid for parking everywhere, but it was usually only about 20 cents.

We had dinner at the hotel, watched TV and slept.

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