Sunday 13 October

The sun is just appearing above the surrounding hills as our minibus climbs out of Caracas in the early morning. We are on a fairly wide dual-carriage way that winds its way up into the surrounding hills. It is hazy and there is a blanket of cloud in the valley below. We pass a convoy of buses loaded with demonstrators coming into Caracas on the other carriage-way, tastefully decorated with slogans spray-painted on the windows.

After a bit more than an hour, we stop for breakfast at a roadside service station, and then continue through partially built-up country until the road once more begins to rise. It’s just before noon when we reach San Felipe. The rooms of the hotel are clean and open out onto a pleasant and (relatively) cool semi-enclosed corridor.

We drive into town for lunch. My chicken with pasta turns out to be a rather small greasy drumstick in a bowl of pasta; Liz and Nik fare better with steak. The lemonade is almost overpowering and very sweet.

We spend the afternoon at the botanical gardens of the nearby Mission. It is almost unbelievably hot and humid. In the trees high above us a family of howler monkeys looks down. We walk a winding path through an amazing variety of flora and fauna. The group seems to divide itself into those who are fascinated with the identification of each flower, and those who are not. Still feeling rather jet-lagged.

Dinner back at the hotel – the menu features such delicacies as Mixed Earthen Jug, Onion Soop, Rice in a Sea Manlike Manner, Scalp Florentin, and the frankly baffling Toaster on the Tender Young Garlie.