After clearing customs at midnight the first notable event was being approached by an airport security official to change money on the black market. He offered 5 Bolivars Fuerte (Bs F.) for each cash USD. It was to be our introduction to the bizarre system of exchange controls which acts to discourage tourism by foreigners in Venezuela and any expenditures abroad by Venezuelan nationals.
While Faye and I had recognized the common exchange of funds by 'trusted individuals' to secure Venezuelan currency in excess of the official rate of 2.15 Bs F. To one USD, our Lonely Planet guide's small 'Money' section in no way prepared us for the punishing financial difficulties which would ensue.
The simple fact is that the official rate is an artificiality fixed by the government and bears no resemblance to the actual marketplace. For example our taxi ride from the airport today cost a reasonable US$27 at the street rate but would be an appalling $72 at the official rate. Airport departure taxes would be US$120 at the official rate.
So while Faye waited in the airport I bought Bolivars from the airport police who sent for the cash from money-changers on the street. Faye later said she'd been worried that it could have been a sting operation - which I suppose it might have but I didn't think of that at the time.
3 days later, a Spanish couple told me they'd been approached by airport police for the same purpose upon their arrival.
We spent much of the day at Caracas airport (Maiquitía) arranging and waiting for a flight to Los Roques National Park, an archipelago of Venezuelan islands in the Caribbean. They are the beautiful second fiddle to Isla de Margarita where my brother once went for its famous windsurfing/kiteboarding.
We decided to opt for the pure natural beauty of Los Roques before doing our mainland circuit and it was a good thing since we learned of our need for more USD before commencing our land trip. More on that later on.