However, Caracas was not the destination – we still had to reach Maracaibo, the second largest city in Venezuela.
After leaving the plane and entering the airport, standing in the queue for a half an hour, we managed to get through the customs just in time to watch the extra time of the World Cup. Spain’s victory against the Netherlands was a very happy moment for everyone except a dutch woman that we met in the queue. Well, what can I say… Better luck next time.
Our flight to Maracaibo was scheduled to leave at 20.20 pm so we still had to wait at Caracas airport for ~5 hours and…
the interesting things begin here. 🙂
The official currency in Venezuela are bolivares and you can exchange them for dollars. However, ~5 years ago the president of Venezuela* introduced a law that limits the amount of money you can exchange at a bank. Straight afterwards, the black market of money exchange emerged as people and businesses were trying to buy some dollars or euros in order to travel to foreign countries or to develop their businesses.
It was quite a long time of waiting at the airport so I decided to exchange a little bit of money in order to buy a drink. I was mentioned that there is a black market of money but we decided to go to the official money exchange office. I gave the lady 10 dollars, she asked for my passport and took a copy of it, she handed me a paper to put my finger prints on it and there I had 40 bolivares in my pocket (1 dollar = 4 bolivares). At the same time there was a sneaky man standing not far away from us who was quietly inviting us to sell the money at the rate of 6 bolivares for a dollar haha. And I have recently exchanged some money at the rate of 8 bolivares for a dollar.
So, If you do the calculations, you can see that the black market offers twice as much money as the government. I was told that it’s illegal to do such exchange but everyone does it and everyone nows that this is happening but no-one thinks too much about it. It became as a habit like eating and you can’t survive without it. So no judgement from my side. 🙂
The last man standing
While waiting for our flight, we saw that there is a flight to Maracaibo delayed from the same gate as ours which had to leave at 5.30pm. It was getting closer and closer to 8.20 pm but there were still no signs of our plane… Finally, it arrived but we were told that it’s a plane for 5.30 and that we still have to wait…
But then, an interesting thing happened – after all the people with 5.30pm tickets entered the plane… they started boarding everyone else. So we kindly showed our tickets, entered the plane and sat at some empty seats.
Now – when I was little I used to play a lot of different computer games. It so happened that I always thought that “The last man standing” is a winner. This time I was proved to be wrong. When all the people found their seats, there were was still one man wondering around with no luck. And I guess you know what happened to him – he had to leave the plane! Poor guy. Next time he might consider joining the queue a bit earlier haha. (And the companies should think of a better way to use their resources, after all, almost everyone got to one plane instead of two!).
We arrived to Maracaibo la Chinita airport at ~10.20 pm and it was already dark outside. We took our heavy suitcases, an officer checked our boarding passes and if the luggage was really ours (apparently, there is always someone who accidentally tries to take away the luggage that does not belong to him)… and we received a very warm welcome from AIESEC Maracaibo members: Daisy, Maryangel, Juan Diego and Isnaldo!
We had a quick chat and we went outside to the parking lots. And then there was another “wooow”.
As soon as I left the building I was hit by a wall of 29 C degrees hot air. While being at the airport, I even had to put on a sweatshirt because it was too cold due to intense air-conditioning (it happens in every building). And outside was some kind of a sauna, even though it was late evening already. But I’m not going to complain about it too much – after all, it’s too cold in the UK and I’m planning to visit some gorgeous Venezuelan beaches so high temperature will be required!
So, the thing is, that here no-one really cares about driving rules – it’s like Kaunas in Lithuania but a little bit worse (haha, sorry guys, no hard feelings – you know that it’s true!) especially during the night. We only slowed down while hitting the red-light, there are no sings of who has the priority and if you are late at least 1 second after the lights turned green – everyone starts hitting their car horns. People tend to stop at the middle of the street, there are even some jams at the middle of a crossroad because people don’t agree who has to pass it first. Another example – people just start turning their car around in the middle of a narrow street while blocking the way of everyone’s else. You just get used to it. 🙂 I even tried to persuade Juan Diego to brake some rules and drive through the red light already but he denied saying that there’ll be at least one local who respects the driving rules haha.
So, after a pleasant and interesting drive we went altogether to Juan Diego’s house, we had a little chat and we wished Maryangel a very happy birthday after the time had turned 12.00 am!
But I still had to reach my accomodation…
So.. another drive and I arrived to Eduardo’s appartment at arround 12.30 am. I went to sleep and I slept for 12 hours like a baby.
The 42 hours-long journey had finally finished!
P.S. I will carefully try to tell you more about the political situation in Venezuela some other time. Now, the only thing you need to know is that Hugo Chavez has changed the constitution and is the president of the country for an undefined period. He is currently trying to make Venezuela a happy socialistic country.