By 1954 , Anatoly been gone for over a year and mother was very worried about him. We hadn’t heard from him since he left, and our the letters were coming back from the address he left us.
So the two ladies, decided they were going to El Dorado to find their brother! One early morning, with mother’s tears and blessings and prayers, we embarked on the ferryboat to Maiqueta. It was an all day journey, but we went to Caracas first by the colectivo taxi and spent a couple of nights at our Russian friends house (the mother of Anatoly’s girlfriend).
We had very little money, so Galina spent couple of days in Caracas doing permanents, haircuts and pedicures for friends. Galina was a beautician, self-taught in the time since she left Valery, but we were eager to get on the road to the deep jungle. After two days of dirt and dust on the bus, down a road made for donkeys and mules we finally arrived at El Dorado, almost on the border of Brazil. Of course, we had heard Anatoly’s stories about El Dorado, where the nuggets roll down the streets when it rains, but we didn’t believe it until we got there and actually saw the glitter of the rainwater in the muddy gutters.
Still, El Dorado did not look like any kind of paradise to us. It was a filthy, dusty little town full of drunks with all their lost dreams, staggering down the crowded streets with only their past to remind them why they had come to this end of the line. We spent several days wandering up and down the streets ourselves, asking any miner we met if they had heard anything of Anatoly.
They all told us the same thing: he was long since gone, moving deeper into the jungle in search of diamonds.
We couldn’t possibly search in the jungle, so we looked for a driver with a truck going back to Ciudad Bolivar or any place north on the road back to Caracas. We had the innocence and optimism of youth, and I had no fear of coming to harm from any man. After all, there was no war here, so there was no reason to be worried (like my dear sister). I was actually enjoying all of this incredible adventures; it was just like I was in the movie and the story was happening to us.
So we did find a man with a truck, a kindly smiling man who let us into his big camion. When night came, he pulled over at a roadsie motel that look clean and nice, and told us to go get something to eat while I go get my room. We sat at a big table away in a corner, but when the waitress came we told her we were not hungry, that we had already eaten (we had no money!)
Instead we loaded up on the sugar at the table, drank all the water in the jug, and when our driver came back he asked if everything was okay?
Our driver assured us that the hotel was safe and clean, and said ‘I think they still have rooms.
I’ll see you in the morning, 6 am sharp, si?” Suddenly my sister looked him in the eye and she blurted out, “We feel better sleeping in your truck, we’ll be just fine, please Senor?” At once he realized that we had no money and were too proud to beg; he did not want to offend my beautiful sister by offering us money, so he gave her the key, took us to the truck park and made sure we were locked in. We were hungry and not very sleepy after so much sugar, but we went to bed with only paper cups of water and tried to sleep, awakening only to go to the bathroom. But there are drunks walking around so what were we to do? I had an idea: we poured the water out of the cups and used the cups. they filled up so quickly and we had to open the window again and toss our pee out quickly. All of a sudden we heard a man’s voice yelling, “Shit, its raining here!”
We couldn’t stop laughing!