Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Great Venezuelan Adventure (III)

The arrival to Caracas started with the monstrous disappointment of the laptop being gone. The morning was pretty much spent with the complaint process, but sure enough, there was nothing that could be done at that point. However, my day was instantly brightened when I was served a big hot welcome plate of cheese fingers at the Dal Bo Hostel.

The place was so unsafe I barely dared to take any picturesque shots. You don't have to attract attention!
The Towers of Silence, named after the stillness following a monstrous plague.
The following week followed a strict schedule to meet the members of the Pur Sang Classic Car Society and other personalities of the vintage automobile world.  Every day that passed held the promise of a rarer, cooler, or more interesting car to be seen. For over a week, the parade of unexpected surprises did not end.

1932 Rolls Royce Phatom, with coachwork in Aluminum.
So this Ferrari appeared out of nowhere. Who in the world would expect?!
A perfectly running, driving Giuletta. Owner won't sell it unless he gets rid of...
...these two Mercedes, a 190SL and a 220S Cabrio. Wait seated.
Despite it being a gorgeous machine, it is far more fun to be inside than to be outside.

And then, it did.

In the last Pur Sang Society dinner I attended, I shook hands with many of the people I had met in the previous days, as a final goodbye, and recalled everyone I had met in Caracas: Master Restorer Nelson De La Rosa –a British car nut–, Alejandro Ganteaume –proud owner of a 220SE Coupe that I helped him diagnose–, Toto Osorio –brave PanAmerican warrior, in a BMW X5 nonetheless!–, Alvin Acevedo –part of a dynasty of world class carmongers-, and Alfredo Bruck –winner of Pebble Beach with one of his restorations–.
The fun, kind members of the Pur Sang Automotive Club, in a dinner in Caracas.
Not surprised by the Ferrari? How about a Maserati?
Look carefully and you will see this is a very masculine, BALLSY engine.
Just like a Disney Film at the English wheel!
Yours truly always likes to help. Here's a picture while I do some radiator work to an XK Jaguar.

On my way back, I stayed with Nestor for a few more days to make business more concrete. Just as I am a 300SL mental case, he is one for Mustangs. One of those days we attended a local car show and a secret car museum belonging to a friend…
All flavors of automobiles at this Mérida get-together!
Loads of fun at the neat workshop of this Italian mechanic
The Flower Child and the Isetta.
Tail pipes of a MGA Roadster. The "I" sticker for "Italy" is a must!
Can you guess why they call this man "Perrote" or "Big Dog"?
Perrote's Secret Museum, for my eyes only.
Despite this great experience and all the shiny metal, the problems of the country really take a toll on the population outside of the capital, and can be felt by the most oblivious of tourists. Basic goods, such as toothpaste, flour, or women’s pads, are becoming scarce and subject to fierce speculation. The new government, led by Maduro, has been shady and questionable from its very election, and has progressively tightened its grip over private capital, driving investors away and not really fomenting a culture of work or self-sufficiency. On my day out of Mérida, I almost got stuck in town due to a massive student protest demanding higher wages for teachers. There is always a tense climate of violence and distrust; in Caracas, crime has gotten out of hand to such extent, anyone you ask will tell you about some friend who was killed, hurt or robbed in some degree. Two of my valuables, my laptop and my DSLR camera, were stolen on this trip in environments that felt –or should be, in theory– perfectly safe. People get car-jacked frequently, and it is not uncommon to ask for armoring packages for your vehicle. This country, which was once as great as the cars that you have seen, is quickly becoming a failed state in a degree worse than Cuba; not because it is not rich in resources, or because its people have no talent or willingness, but because its government is plaguing all aspects of life and work with scarcity, fear, injustice and corruption. I hope one day Venezuelans will be able to assess the problem and take care of it for themselves, only then such beautiful country can be reborn from its own ashes and prosper again.
Loads of garbage plague the streets due to a strike and bad management by the local authorities.
How sad is this supermarket?
Anxiety makes you smoke Cohibas. Yes, I was that relieved!

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