We arrived in the town of Merida, Venezuela on Friday February 8th. During the previous 24 hrs of traveling we had: one bus breakdown, 8 military check stops and a scenic detour though the slums of Venezuela´s second largest city (still can´t figure out why). The check stops were surprisingly easy for us although one elderly lady on the bus was bribing every officer as she had no ID. One glance at the cover of our Canadain passport was all they needed for us!
A highlight was acending the Teleferico cable car in Merida. It is the worlds longest (7.76 miles) and highest (15,622 ft). We definetly felt the effects of high alitude. We staggered over to a statue of Simon Bolivar(the founder of independance for VZ) and found it weird to hike a couple of steps before being out of breath and dizzy... We then decended 3000´ and hiked over a mountain pass to a quaint little village called Los Nevados. It was a 7km hike that was 95% down hill (5000´+)... our legs were pretty tired after 4 hours. The scenery more than made up for it and was a great way to experience the
Lovin the Muscle Cars
When gas prices don´t matter, who doesn´t love these old beauties (they make sweet taxis)
Andes firsthand. Our trip out of Los Novados was an adventure too - on the sketchest road we have ever been on. It was a narrow track with no guard rail, with hundreds of switch backs and only enough room for one vehicle - thousands of feet straight down to the valley floor below...Ben´s comment about not bothering to wear seatbelts due to fact that if we lost it we were goners regardless, was very discerning, but HEY we´re still writing! Chalk it up to those good ´ol reliable 4X4 Toyota Landcrusiers (the EXCLUSIVE vehicle in the VZ mountains) and some extremely skilled operaters who make this their living.
We also went on a canyoning tour. This consisted of negotiating down a steep river canyon by any means possible - sliding down waterfalls, jumping into pools and repelling down large cliffs/waterfalls. The first repel was underneath a 12m waterfall. The second repel was actually IN the waterfall (25m) which turned out to be not too graceful for everyone including the guides, Nastassia lost her contacts in her eyes due to so much water crashing down on top of her... haha not really so much repelling as surviving the waterfall.
Cheaper than a coke!
3300 Pesos to a Dollar is the exchange rate... not even a dollar to fill up your tank!!!
The last repel was beside a 35m waterfall. An exciting, if different way to experience what the mountains have to offer.
So with just a week in VZ, we stayed pretty close to the City of Merida, I like to descibe it as a Whistler on steriods, minus the skiing. Some interesting things we noticed about VZ:
- Although you hear much about the anti-American sentiment of Venezuela as-told-by the North American media, in contrast Venezuelan people seem to have embraced the American dream, right down to fast food, muscle cars and superficial beauty.
-Gas is REALLY cheap (2 cents/L for diesel and 3 cents/L for Regular).
-Bring American $$$ as blackmarket exchange for cash dollars is almost 2X better than the official rate due to restrictions of locals obtaining bank accounts in foreign currencies.
So with our introduction into the Andes complete, we begin our long journey down this mountain range. Back to Colombia we go!
Bye for now, Ben y Nastassia
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