MEMORIES

From Paradise to Perdition on a Venezuelan Beach

Whatever happened to the guy selling beer from a palm tree shack?

Matthew Clapham
Iberospherical
Published in
8 min readJun 9, 2024

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The view looking out to sea from a rudimentary wood and palm frond structure on a tropical beach
The shack looked pretty much like this. But with a huge ice chest full of beer (Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash)

“As they pulled you out of the oxygen tent, you asked for the latest party” — David Bowie, Diamond Dogs.

On my first day in Venezuela, I didn’t quite need an oxygen tent, but it wasn’t far off. A nine-hour flight westwards from London to Caracas, then a ten-hour bus ride east to Cumaná, was followed by a fourteen-hour sleep of fitful dreams in the unfamiliar tropical heat.

As I emerged, physically if not quite mentally, from my pit, the family I was staying with asked what I would like to do.

“Could we go to the beach?” my mouth enquired, without consulting my brain’s better judgement in the matter.

Hell, I was on the Caribbean coast for the first time in my life. It felt like the right thing to do.

“Well,” they replied, “it’s getting a little late. We couldn’t go to any of the proper beaches, but we can go to Playa San Luis just outside of town. It’s not very nice though.”

My enthusiasm duly curbed to the natural level of my still-throbbing head, I clambered into the back of the family Bronco, and off we went. Twenty minutes later, we piled back out, sunshade…

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Matthew Clapham
Iberospherical

Professional translator by day. Writer of silly and serious stuff by night. Also by day, when I get fed up of tedious translations. Founder of Iberospherical.