One can get from Rapa Nui to Canada a number of ways. I took one of the more complicated options, and flew 4 times through 5 countries in 6 days. The journey was long and tiring, but started off on the right foot. I rode to the airport on a horse in Easter Island, arriving in time to check in, drop off my bag, and then gallop along the air field fence for an hour while waiting for security to open. Me and my horse also shared a bag of mangos, since they would not get through customs in Peru, my next destination. I had an overnight stop in Lima, and couchsurfed with a friend of a friend but did little else than sleep and shower.
I went back to the airport to fly next to Caracas, where I had a day and a half layover. I had never been to Venezuela, and had lots planned for my short visit, and tried tirelessly to extend my visit but the next 3 international flights I had to take wouldn’t allow it. Those I told I was going to Venezuela always asked if I knew anyone there, told me to be careful, and suggested I just stay atthe airport to save the hassle of getting around all alone. I didn’t know anyone, but of course found some inviting couchsurfers, opted out of sleeping at the airport, and made the 3 hour coach-subway-bus transit from the international airport terminal to Pueblo de Baruta.
I had an uneasy feeling about what I could or could not do but mostly because of all the warnings building up. Every traveler and latin person I had met had hyped up the safety issues in Caracas so much that I really started to believe I had to me more cautious and guarded. Yet, from the moment I left the airport and spent those 3 hours alone transitting to Eduardo’s house, I could not have felt more secure; the backpack on my shoulders and my nervous eyes were enough of a tell-tale sign that I was a gringa (despite my badass tan), and every person in eye-shot of me noticed and felt some sympathy. Those in earshot of me almost always said something, asked me if I was ok, and offered to help me in any way they could. “Do you know where you are going?” “Do you have a phone number to call your friend?” “I will keep an eye on the zippers of your backpack.” “I can help you translate any spanish if you need help with your directions.” Police officers walked me from the street to the right subway platform underground. My bus driver escorted me onto his bus, infront of the 3o or 40 passengers already queued in line, wouldn’t allow me to pay the bus fare, took Eduardo’s phone number in his cell, and called him to come and meet me at the stop he would drop me off at when we were 5 minutes away. Others just started chitchat, so curious about what I was doing on local transportation during nightime rushhour, alone, with a backpack, certain that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and needed help to get back to where I belonged. But I felt that I belonged right where I was, under the safe cloak of all the empathetic strangers I met.
When I met Eduardo, his roomates and 3 his Argentinian couchsurfers, I immediately felt like I had arrived into to a group of old friends. It was Monday night but we decided we could make a party wherever we went and drove around a sleepy Caracas to stir something up. We stopped by a stand-up comedy bar, went to a trendy lounge where we could dance salsa, and ended the night at some Irish-pub-feeling place before going home and sleeping in various arrangements on couches, yoga mats and camping mattresses.
The next morning we squeezed 6 people into a little car and visited a university campus nearby. We drove to the center of Caracas and weaseled through the subway stations and trains which were more crowded and chaotic than NYC’s Penn Station at 6pm. While driving, I naively held my camera a little out of my rolled down window to take some pictures, and Luis quickly grabbed my hands and laughed, explaining “the next guy on a scooter to pass us will just rip that right out of your hands and you’ll never see it again.” I guess you should never really let your guard down all the way, despite how safe a place can make you feel in one short day 😉