"You're here just for the Basketball. That's crazy!"Krendyll, Caracas Local
|At the frontera of Argentina and Brazil. The hoop and my life in a bag.|
|CouchSurfing Santiago - Weekly Basketball meetup|
As I didn't bring plenty of $USD and was in a country with no infrastructure for Backpackers. I realised the 2 weeks I had allotted for the duration of the FIBA Americas was biting off more than I could chew. On the first day I spent a quarter of my funds ($45). I paid $31 cash for what seemed like the only hostel in the city. It would be my first lesson - NEVER pay in cash dollars! Due to the rising inflation it'd be like giving away Lebron James rookie cards. As recently as a month ago the Parallel rate for $1USD jumped from 31bsf to 38bsf in just 2 weeks.
Once I realised my dire situation I was in scramble mode. I went to the Government Hotel listed on the official FIBA page to see if I could score free accommodation at their 5 star establishment with trumped up Press credentials (I'm sure I was the only Australian there for the Basketball). I got into the main office and they heard my story, despite convincing them they were the featured habitation on the official Caracas2013.com webpage, they unfortunately couldn't help and knew nothing of the tournament.
|The courts by La Hoyada. I saw more courts in my 2 weeks in Caracas|
than I did in 2 months around Chile and Argentina. They were actually occupied too.
Credit: Brian I
|The ballers in Caracas aren't always equipped but they're ready to play|
Credit: Brian I
The Venezuela games were a sight to behold. To watch a Nationalistic Country support their underdog team and to have them perform leagues above their talent was captivating. Frankly I was surprised each time Venezuela put points on the board but they ended up making believers of everyone. My first Vinotinto game was against the Dominican Republic, the Carribeans had just trounced defending Champs Argentina by 19 and Venezuela squeaked by a winless Paraguay team. As would be a signature for all their games, the hosts would build an improbable lead buoyed by its partisan crowd, the closing quarters were nailbiting theatre to see whether the dream would take hold or if reality would assert its natural order. Venezuela hung on by 5.
|The partisan and raucous Venezuelan crowd|
Caracas wasn't without its share of misadventure. On my first day I won a game of 2on2 on a limp, playing some kids after having stepped on a bolt that morning. With the full weight of my backpack, the bolt pierced through my shoe and foot drawing blood. On the closing days I got a run of 3on3 on the Parque Oeste courts where I had my first experience dislocating a finger.
Basketball was the reason I was in Caracas but it was merely a pretext. My game isn't great but my emphasis is on the Social aspect. Putting myself out there, connecting with people through a shared love of the hoops. I'm happy to wing my way through most cities as I find the discovery exhilarating but Caracas I had hyped up in my mind. I had what I can only describe as my first panic attack leading up to my arrival. Having your sights set on something projects a confidence (or stubborness) that can propel you past the doubts. With optimism by my side its always led to great rewards, exotic places and interesting connections. Caracas has far been the grandest ride of my 30 Home Games mission. I had never spent as much or risked so much to find basketball. Caracas is an incredible city with friendly, open people where life truly is an adventure. I was glad to be a part of it.
I didn't survive Caracas, I lived it. If only for 2 weeks.
This post is dedicated to the incredible people that helped me during my two weeks in Caracas: Brian, Krendyll, Mario, Aida and Katryn.
Other adventures in South America:
- Streetball in Santiago, Chile
- My time in Caracas, Venezuela for FIBA Americas 2013
- Finding Basketball on the Frontera of Brazil and Argentina
- Streetball with locals around South America: Christmas Day in Bogota, Colombia