August 22nd, 1990
Flight from Puerto Ayacucho to Caracas as passengers
I would not recommend drinking straight vodka on an empty stomach!
With the absence of a lock, Nigel suggested we drag the dresser (with all three drawers missing!) in front of the bedroom door, which Dolly and I attempted to do, whilst Millie, visibly sloshed, looked on and asked why we were blocking the kitchen door with the drinks trolley!
Thanks to the humidity and the boxy room with not a lick of cool air, I felt utterly drained but each time I tried to sleep, either Millie or Dolly would let out a piercing scream anytime a bug landed on them.
Morning couldn’t come fast enough and we literally crawled outside to the table set up on the street (no dining room in the hotel!) The toxic fumes from the speeding cars only added to the flavour of whatever it was we were eating and at one point, we watched in horror as one of the lovely ladies plying us with food, narrowly escaped being hit, as she crossed the road, her arms laden with several baskets of freshly baked bread we could only assume she brought from her kitchen. We devoured every last crumb and left a hefty tip for her and the other woman, who, through body language, told us they were both widows, with seventeen kids between them!
Ample carbohydrates and Millie’s temper proved a lethal combination when she confronted Juan, after he finally showed up two hours late to whisk us off on what the flimsy pamphlet
touted as; “The Jungle Jeep Tour.” From the back seat of the van, Dolly asked if there was any vodka left and Nigel laughed heartily and said this is the best trip he’s ever had!
For what felt like hours, the rusty van wound its way through makeshift roads, then out of the blue (more like brown) we came upon a vast, open area, with young children running in our direction. Juan was all smiles as he got out and introduced us to each of them and Millie wasted no time pulling out her sketchpad. As well as drawing the huts dotted around, she drew a picture for each of the children while they made funny faces that made her giggle in a way I’ve never seen.
A few hours later, Juan looked more than relieved to be dropping us off at the airport, by which time we were dying of thirst. The only drinks available in the terminal were lukewarm bottles of coke that Millie enhanced with the last of the vodka.
The return flight was on a Boeing 727 Avensa that had clearly seen better days and a crew I’d say the same of, all of whom seemed intent on chewing gum, inspecting their nails and re-adjusting their sloppy ponytails throughout the fifty-minute flight, during which none of them moved from their jumpseats!
At the hotel, we immersed ourselves in the ultimate in luxury; guzzling ice-cold drinks in an air- conditioned environment, free of fumes and insects.