The area outside of the marina quickly deteriorated into abject poverty with warnings of violent crime close by. Cruisers did not walk far and used one of the many taxi drivers who “resided” at the marina. Leo the taxi driver is an urban legend in Puerto La Cruz He learned his English from watching American cartoons and is constantly practicing! “How are you my friend?”, he would say to everyone. Every morning at 8 a.m., Leo would announce in a staccato tone “I am Leo, your taxi driver” and his services on the VHF cruisers net. There were times I had to drag him out of stores because he just liked to talk to everyone. “OK, we go.”, he conceded “Taxi drivers make almost as much as doctors”, we were told. Most all of them were former employees of the national oil company that were fired for not voting properly. At $5-6/ hour when they have a fare, they are highly paid by Venezuelan standards. When not taking a taxi, the “barrio bus” was the “experience” for under a quarter to go to the open air market.
Andre, Leo’s competition, arranged a city tour for all the families. Angie coordinated with five families take the trip to the privately funded museum of modern art and metal sculpture. We had the place to ourselves and Andre jazzed it up for the kids. At Andre’s suggestion, we saw the “world’s largest tree fort”. Unfortunately, it was a funky art deco building with pod apartments cantilevered out to give the look of a tree. Angie had to berate Andre for this false advertising; the kids were expecting a real tree fort they could climb on. Kid’s museums, libraries and non-school parks were non-existent in these under-developed countries. The ½ day tour was a welcome break from home-schooling and the confines of the marina.