We got up this morning early, with visions of our Vanagons dancing in our heads. We only had two signatures necessary to leave the port, and we expected to be on the road by 10am.
Jesus picked us up at our hotel at 8:30, and we were soon on our way to his office. Jesus called Franklin Quero, who told him that one of the guys who needed to sign our forms was in a meeting. We sat around Jesus’s office.
10am came and went. Tyler looked bored. Jesus disappeared for a while on errands, while I downloaded some screen savers for his computer. Then everyone took turns checking their email. Noon came and went.
Shortly after 1pm, Jesus returned and told us that we should expect the last signature around 3pm. We all decided to go to a Mexican restaurant. We were dying for some truly spicy food. For some reason, Venezuelan food has very little heat. If you ask for ‘salsa picante’, they bring a bottle of Tabasco, which completely appalls me every time it happens.
The Mexican restaurant was a bit of a letdown. There is a theory that Mexican food gets generally worse the further you go from California. This place wasn’t as terrible as the Mexican food Dan and I once had near El Paso, but it wasn’t a delightful surprise, either. My Enchiladas de Mariscos were filled with tough chewy octopus tentacles. Now, I don’t shy away from tentacles, but octopi make me a little queasy. They’re too intelligent. Plus, they’re tough as vulcanized rubber. The guacamole was pretty good, however, though not very picante. The salsa was very picante, and bright orange. It appears that it was mango-based rather than tomato-based. Not a bad choice, just different. I think I prefer tomatoes.
We returned to Jesus’s office, and immediately nothing happened for a very long while. 3pm came and went. At around 3:30, Jesus and Jeanne went out to check on things. They came back at 4pm, and we were ready to go. We drove out to Aduanera Mareka, C.A., where we paid Sr. Quero 110,000 Bs. apiece. One of his assistants then gathered all of our paperwork, and we went off to the port.
Our vans were waiting for us. We started them up (yay!) and then waited some more. 4:30 came and went, which is a problem, since the port closes at 4:30. 5pm came and went. Finally, at about 5:30 we headed over to the Guardia inspection station. Luckily, Aduanera Mareka had asked one of the inspectors to wait around for us (donation: 10,000 Bs. per vehicle.) He checked our VINs, and then approved us to leave the port. Then we drove out to the other side of the port, where freight leaves. (There is a vehicle exit and a freight exit. We were freight.)
We waited in a long line of container trucks until the nice guy from Aduanera Mareka arranged to have a lane opened for us. Then we sailed through while one of the inspectors approved our departure (donation: 5,000 Bs. per vehicle.)
Just before driving out of town we hit a gas station, where we all filled up our tanks. Gasoline in Venezuela is about 99 Bs. a liter, or about US$0.32 a gallon. Cheapest gasoline in the world, and it now comes in the new ‘sin plomo’ flavor (unleaded.) I also filled up my two extra fuel cans, just for the heck of it.
We’re spending the night at Las Trincheras, the hot spring I referred to in an earlier dispatch. Tomorrow we’ll go to Caracas to pick up the librettas, and then continue east to hopefully spend the night in Puerto La Cruz.