Well, Carmelo and I did go out last night as planned. Caraquenos take their partying seriously! I was out until 4 AM; since I had gotten up at about 6 AM, that means I was up for 22 hours, including a ten-mile hike. I didn't sleep well, either, for some reason, so I'm in a bit of a fog this morning.
Contributing to this surreal sensation is the fact that it's Sunday. Apparently, that means that virtually everything is closed; no restaurants, no stores, no internet cafe, no nothing. Except shoe stores. I just took a little walk around the neighborhood, and every single storefront for blocks around was closed, with the exception of every shoe store; those were all open for business, at least a half dozen of them that I walked past. Perhaps every shoe store in the area is owned by the same person, and that person has decreed that they will be open Sunday? Anyhow, it's clearly a bad business decision; there's absolutely nobody out on the streets, it's deserted. Not a lot of shoes getting sold, despite massive effort.
Also making the mood a bit surreal is the fact that it's raining. It started to rain soon after I got back to the hotel last night, and has been drizzling continuously ever since. I didn't think the tropics did this; I thought it was always short, intense showers. But here we are; it's overcast, and shows every indication that it will rain for quite a while longer. Much of the trail I took in Avila yesterday must be "un rio" today; I feel very lucky to have timed my hike as I did.
Well, I have a bit of a problem now: I am completely out of bottled water, and have nothing to eat but granola bars, and there seems to be nothing at all open for miles. I'm not sure what to do, except slowly perish from thirst and hunger. And I am getting quite thirsty and hungry, the aftermath of a vast overconsumption of scotch last night with Carmelo. Even the hotel's own restaurant seems to be closed today, which I had assumed would not be the case. What to do?
Carmelo has made arrangements for me to be picked up from the hotel today at 1:00 and driven out to a hotel next to the airport. I'll stay there tonight, where there will presumably be absolutely nothing open as well, and then I'll fly out to Manaus early tomorrow morning. So it looks like today will be a day both lost in transit and sacrificed at the altar of religion. Well, I guess I needed time to finish preparing my presentation for class anyhow, and I still have a couple of New York Reviews in my suitcase to read. (Plowing through those has been occupying all my down time on planes and in my hotel room; I got behind by almost a full semester's worth, since this past semester was too busy for me to keep up on my reading!)
Hmm, well. A few musings, and then I'll sign off and see if the hotel staff knows of an open restaurant anywhere in a ten-mile radius.
Noises of Caracas: constant talking out in the hallways of my hotel, all day and most of the night, I'm not sure why (why don't they talk in a room?). The chimes of the cathedral across the street, every fifteen minutes, oddly variable in their tunelessness, as if they had been programmed to chime a different random sequence every time; they repeatedly startled me out of sleep the first night I was here, but I don't even notice them now most of the time. Lots of beeping from the traffic; Venezuelans are not as horn-happy as some, but neither are they a silent people. Then there is the ringing, outside in the Plaza Bolivar, of bells that sound like bicycle bells, due to the vendors at various carts hawking their wares. There is a wide variety of music here, too. Right now a man is singing outside in the Plaza in a way that sounds sort of traditionally Caribbean to me. I can also hear the congregation singing hymns in the cathedral. Earlier this morning a woman was singing what sounded like opera, in a beautiful high voice; perhaps she was a soloist in the church service, but it didn't sound like religious music to me. The fancy restaurant I went to the other day, on the other hand, had very cheesy music; I remember them playing a song from the Fantastiks ("Try to remember the kind of September..." -- I've always liked that song, actually, ever since I saw the Fantastiks as a kid), as well as "Fernando" ("There was something in the air that night, the stars so bright, Fernando..." -- can't remember who sings that, Linda Ronstadt maybe?). Last night in the clubs it was pretty much all reggaeton, which got a bit repetitive, but apparently it's the fad here.
Smells of Caracas: I'm sorry to say the principal smell that springs to mind is exhaust fumes. In that way Caracas is a lot like Rome, minus the scooters; lots of very loud smelly traffic that can seem inescapable in some parts of town. But there are also the smells of the food the street vendors sell: empanadas and arepas, and a wide variety of other things I don't know the names of (and didn't sample, for fear of gastrointestinal consequences). And the smells of the people: lots of perfume and cologne, although perhaps no more than would be encountered in, say, New York City. Notable for its absence: the smell of cigarette smoke. I expected Venezuelans to smoke like chimneys, but I have only seen a handful of smokers in my entire visit, and smoking inside places like restaurants seems uncommon.
OK, that's enough babbling for now. Off to try to find nourishment before I collapse.