Friday, July 06, 2007


Sorry for the delay in blogging, apparently somebody forgot to install a cell tower in Los Llanos, the beautiful mountainous plains (think Montana) on the periphery of Barinas. The area is filled with llaneros (cowboys) who marshall cows, goats, sheep and giant cocks (seriously, the biggest roosters I've ever seen).

After a dodgy escape from Barinas (we lost the ginormous key to one of our rooms), a Guamanchi Expeditions land cruiser picked us up for our two-day rafting trip. We had planned to meet up with the rest of the US crew at the rafting camp and we were joined by Tuckman, Johnny Agua, Rodger, and Clint (" the Gang of Four from NY"). The Gang of Four from NY were in the land cruiser when it arrived and had the foresight to suggest that we pick up some bevvies along the way. Our stop at the liqueria would be the first of three. We arrived at the camp and were treated with a delicious lunch featuring chicken. Our first day on the river was supposed to be a training day. We were divided into two boats: the purple boat aka the douche canoe and the red boat (consisting of El Cuatro and the Gang of Four from NY). Our boat was captained by Alfredo who has a limited grasp on English. First, he assigned me a front position on the boat after he explained that the front two set the rhythm of the paddling and also after I protested that I have no rhythm (I don't actually believe this but it is hard to refute the claims of several of my venezolana dancing partners). Then, he explained the commands and repeatedly confused "Left" and "Right", mistakes that would prove near fatal the next day.

After some initial training, including Alfredo intentionally flipping the raft (something that would prove useful on our second trip down the river), we succesfully negotiated the rapids save for Johnny Agua, true to his name, taking the initial fall. Upon reaching our landing, we realized that we were at the same liqueria where we had made our earlier cerveza purchase. Because we had eaten lunch, we decided we need to supplement our now depleted three cases of beer by adding another four to the warchest. This decision was poor. We cruised through the total of seven cases and a bottle of rum (yo ho!) by 11:30. Because the camp's directv receiver had magically disappeared (read Fredo prolly stole it away to his secret MJ smoking hideout), we were left to beer and our own devices to amuse oursekves. Naturally, drinking challenges ensued and Johnny Agua was forced to live up to his 3 beers in 3 minutes for being the river's first victim. To keep with the aquatic theme, we set up a boat race between the left side (clint, roger, rodger and tuckman) and the right side (rishi, luis, johnny agua and kotas). Just like our performance on the water, the right side demolished the left side, and then we did it again just for kicks. As a punishment, and in an effort to level the strength inequality on the boat, the left side did pushups.

(Side note: as I am writing this, we are hanging out with Ramon Mifflin of New York Cosmos fame. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

Fortunately, before I went to bed, I found the last unopened beer and hid it in the fridge. Smart move by me because that served as a proper brekkie over the cardboard toast provided by the camp. Shampoo effect indeed.

Our second trip on the rapids began with a jump off of a 30 foot bridge. Awesome. At the end of our first trip, Fredo commented on how impressed he was at our strength and ability to make hairpin turns. Again, he did not heed my advice when I assured him that after drinking 7 cases of beer our responsiveness and endurance would not measure up to trip 1. Our second adventure was at times exhilarating and at time like LA traffic. We repeatedly found ourselves stuck on large rocks and rocking the boat to free ourselves. Early on, we lodged ourselves between two rocks and our boat filled with water. Tuckman, Kotas and Johnny Agua bit it. Kotas recovered to a rock and sat down while the rapids flowed over him. The rest of us were forced to abandon ship so that Fredo could free the boat. When it finally broke free, I dove into it and Fredo recovered part of the team along the way before having to pull to the shore to let the rest of our now terrain-traversing team back in. Over the remainder of the trip, I was the fortunate (or un-, depending on your persuasion) one to fall out solo, twice. We got stuck mamy times, for which the fault I blame on a triumvirate of unfortunate events: 1) somebody decided it would be a good idea to stick the 8 biggest guys in a single boat, pushing out weight damn near 2000 pounds; 2) Fredo not being able to quickly shout the correct orders (methinks his difficulty discerning whether to say left or right had something to do with this; and 3) somebody forgot to tell god to turn the rain on the night before. Dammit.

We ended up putting all of Fredo's training to use on the backend of our trip. After successfully negotiating one of the more difficult series, we were lounging about while our raft was floating downstream sideways. Out of nowhere, a hole in the water appeared and I found myself underwater with Clint's feet on my head. When I surfaced, I looked back and saw all of red boat floating in the water - well, all except for Fredo. It took some herculean efforts to reassemble the team, but we did it. After finishing, we found ourselves back at our favorite liqueria so we picked up 3 more cases of beer. Natch.

The entire red boat had to return to the Barinas city center so after lunch and a case of beer, Fredo drove the red boat back, and not wanting to leave any soldiers behind, we nearly polished off the remaining two on the way. Once there, we parted ways with the Gang of Four from NY and said goodbye to Backdraft Kotas who, for some reason decided to return home (his girlfriend cracked the whip). Roger, Luis and I set out in a cab for Barquisimeto. Along the way, we picked up, and polished off another case of beer. I know, you're prolly thinking we are alcoholics, but, don't judge so quickly, our cab driver had 3 of them. Along the drive, we were stopped at several police checkpoints where passing motorists are expected to pay "tolls" (corruption in its purest form). Luis, ever the penny pincher, offered them beers instead. Shockingly, they refused the beer because they were working. Hmm. . . okay to rob people while on the job but not okay to have a beer. Seems inconsistent.

We reached Barquisimeto and chased our beer filled afternoon with two bottles of wine and some awesome plates of meat. I even ate some intestines which basically taste like mac and poop. Gross.

Full match report tomorrow, but the US is out.
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