Wednesday, 17 July 2013

About the brothels ...

I've been asked about the brothels, so I'll tell you.

The first was in Morocco, so many years ago I can remember nothing but the madam sitting on the stairs - a huge woman smothered in sickly perfume, and an expression fierce enough to terrify any punter without money in his pocket. But she was kind to us.

The second was in Venezuela. I was with a friend, following an itinerary one of my daughters - then working in Caracas - had organised. We were late leave Canaima - the 'town' where we'd returned to after the trip up river to Angel Falls - because the pilot of the tiny plane taking us back to real towns was enjoying himself watching skydivers.

Which meant we were late catching the first of two buses to take us to Tucupita, where a hotel was booked and the next morning a guide would collect us and take us in a boat to the Orinoco delta.

We made it to a small town where the second bus should have been waiting.

It wasn't. There was no bus till the morning. And no taxi would take us to Tucupita as there was no hope of a fare to bring back, because ... the town was full of hoodlums and prostitutes. The manager at the bus station was as helpful as he could be (he offered us red plastic chairs in the forecourt of the bus station for the night), so we took a taxi and asked the driver to take us to a hotel ...

I doubt if there was a single conventional hotel in the town. The woman at reception looked a little surprised to see us, but gave us a key and we lugged our rucksacks upstairs. Why she gave us a key, goodness knows, as the door didn't lock. The pictures on the walls made it clear what this room was generally used for. There was a hole in the bathroom door where someone had put a fist through. And brown marks swiped across the walls - I didn't look too closely. Do I need to describe the smell?

We must eat, I said. So down we went to ask the woman at reception. No restaurants, she said. And not safe. Not even safe to walk five yards to the phone booth outside the front of the hotel to ring for a taxi.

We returned to the room and feasted on biscuits, catching crumbs in plastic and wrapping them up over and over to deter cockroaches. Then we turned the light off, and from the safety of darkness watched the street. Guns, knives, floozies, the trade of the city only too obvious.

We slept with rucksacks against the door and walking poles at the ready. And left at daybreak. From the bus station I phoned my daughter - I needed her to get hold of the guide to tell him we were on our way.

We were delayed, I said, and spent the night in a brothel. By then it was gloriously funny.

I won't tell you what she said - but what would you have said?


  1. "Ah well, Mum being true to form" I suppose. You sound as if you have never gone for the easy option! :)

  2. It's just as well you had a friend with you,it must have been an awful night but at least you can laugh at it now.

  3. I would have said "It could only happen to you!"

  4. Thank you all - my daughter's first reaction, to her credit, was to ask if I was safe and unhurt - and then mildly horrified. I think it too a while before she saw it as funny as I did, mainly because she's organised all this for me and felt a measure of responsibility - though none of this was her fault at all.

    But now it's one of our funny stories. Every family should have those.

  5. I began reading this with a certain amount of trepidation. But you left me smiling as usual. You certainly get yourself into some amazing scrapes!