Thursday, November 21, 1996

The bus arrived in Valencia early in the morning, so we had a whole day to kill. We decided to go to Maracay, which is about halfway to Caracas. After showering at my companion's house, we made the one-hour bus ride.

Our first stop in Maracay was the zoo, which was quite a bit better than the one in Valencia. Most of the animals here were crazy, as they were in Valencia, but there were some I really wanted to see. Specifically, I had to see the Chiguire, which is the world's largest rodent. My guess is that this critter weighs up to 100 pounds. Pretty lazy character. Spends most of his time in the water, wallowing in his own feces.

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The Chiguire, wallowing in his feces

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A monkey trying to mimic me
holding the camera to my eye

When we left the zoo, we had planned to go to a park that my companion knew about, but there was a traffic jam that prevented us from traveling even a mile in that direction. The bus driver informed us that he would not be able to take us there, and turned around and went back into the city. We figured we would do some shopping instead. When we got off the bus, the driver told us we had to pay again. I laughed, thinking he was joking, but my companion paid him anyway.

Twice now I was ripped off, both times for less than $1, and both times by people whose job was in public service. At this point I was pretty unimpressed by the way business was conducted in this country. It seems like they often make up their own rules to suit themselves in any situation.

After shopping at the city mall, we walked past a Budget Rent-a-Car building. We decided to find out what the cost would be per day, since bus travel was wearing thin on both of us. It was here that I met up with the only American I encountered this trip. He was a high-ranking U.S. Army guy, returning a car himself, and he said he could get me a 20% discount on the rental. He went inside and said something in Spanish to the manager, and 15 minutes later we were driving away. It wasn't until we were well on our way that I saw on the contract that he listed my place of employment as the U.S. Embassy.

The car wasn't much, a 1995 Fiat that looked much older. We had a long trip planned for the next two days though, and it would give us a whole lot more freedom. We got cleaned up at my companion's house and partied at the tasca in the evening.

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