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Day 2 – I Didn’t Forget You! Maracaibo

Maracaibo is beautiful. Abuelo wants me to say, “Maracaibo is the most beautiful city in the world,” but…there are a lot of cities I haven’t seen. Let’s keep it beautiful for now.

We drove around without traffic, despite it being midday. We ate the same lunch we usually had in Caracas for a third of the price. And we saw the bridge that spans the Lake of Maracaibo, the fourth largest bridge in Latin America.

Not only that, but we saw it from La Vereda del Lago Maracaibo.

La vereda, for all of us, stood out the most in contrast to life in Caracas. Here, a four-lane divided road has been re-appropriated (note: not expropriated, despite the trendiness of Venezuelan expropriations), half of it for pedestrians, skaters, and cyclists, while the other half functions as a two-lane, two-way road.

We arrived around 4 PM on a weekday, and already a good number of people were either exercising or passing the evening in the company of friends and family. By 5:30, when the work crowd had been spilling in for the past half hour, the park was full. People were passing this way and that, running, biking, walking dogs, while others cuddled up in the park’s hammocks or next to the lake. The people were out, enjoying a beautiful evening, watching the sunset, and socializing. This is how it should be, we though. But this is not how it is in Caracas.

Gertrudis and I decided to make the most of it. We rented bicycles from the park’s local shop, just over $1 each for half an hour at the official exchange rate. One doesn’t expect perfection for $1 – I rode around with my knees and chin colliding – but one does expect a good time. And, indeed, one was had by all. I even have a picture to prove it.

The abuelos had a romantic walk along the lake’s edge while the youngsters had their fun, and half an hour later we met up for coconut water. I found it within a giant coconut, at least 10 feet in diameter, complete with a giant candy-cane striped straw and a margarita umbrella sticking out the top of it. Inside, a college engineering student, my age, sold not only coconut water but also cocada and coconut cookies. Delighted, I ordered a natural cocada, which consisted of coconut, ice, milk, sugar and vanilla all blended together into frappe bliss. And the cookies… They didn’t have any flour, just coconut flakes, shortening, and pineapple concentrate. The texture of baked, dried coconut is a paradox of dry and moist that is best described as “wow.”

Barrigita llena, corazón contento. Full belly, happy heart.

So we were, full and content, as we snapped this last picture of me in front of the bridge before heading home for the night.

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