15. May: I'm feeling a bit better this morning, it seems as if my sweat therapy has worked. We decide to take a look at Caracas City and then to book a flight to Merida. There are buses from Caracas to Merida, but the distance is so great that it would be much more comfortable and quicker by plane.
Finding a travel agent was surprisingly difficult, there are hardly any to be seen on Sabana Grande and the addresses of some in the LP guide indicate the building, e.g. 'Edificio Venezuela'. How do you find a place with just a name on a very long street that does not have any street numbers? Ask someone! That's what I thought, but it didn't work. For each building we got conflicting directions and a lot of people didn't know anyway, and when we found the building we discovered that there is no travel agency there anymore. How frustrating! The one we found is just closing for lunch, so we take the Metro to the centre of Caracas, to 'Capitolio'.
First we decide to see some of the sights there, the first of which is the Cathedral. We didn't find any entrance to it which was open, so we went on to the Capitolio, which it we possible to enter after passing a security guard. It has a golden dome and some representative rooms fit for state receptions, with stylish chairs and ceilings painted with battle scenes from the 19th century. We also see a church and Bolivar's birth house. Simon Bolivar is an extremely respected person, and it's not allowed to enter the house with our small rucksacks. I take Annewien's rucksack and she enters the house on her own.
We then head off to find a bank to change some traveller's cheques, and land up at an overfull small branch of 'Italcambio'. It takes more than 1/2 an hour to change those cheques, with lots of signatures of all sorts of different people and copies required.
We continue off in the search of a travel agent and it is very difficult. We settle for one after a second thought, and by that time the original price quoted has risen since the agent has changed. The new one has pink nails, a pink dress and is EXTREMELY unmotivated to help us in any way, being even worse than the last one we had. It seems like we're back in Cuba and then some! I can't imagine that anyone could do business in this way except if they have an absolute monopoly on business. It does take a lot of patience to hold on till we get the tickets.
We go back to our room at Cristal and then for dinner to KFC. We try to find a place for Salsa, but this turns out to be none too easy. The hotel receptionist has recommended one place to us but it is dead, smelly and very a/c cold, 'O gran sol' as recommended by LP guide has no Salsa playing once we find it, but the place just next door has! There is a small band playing and Venezuelans dancing their style of simple, side-step Salsa (remember Valdemaro?), danced in close position with hardly any figures. We first sit at the bar and then at a table which got free, dance a bit and then leave. We need to be up early next morning for Merida.