Published: September 6th 2010September 6th 2010
Last weekend was very eventful, though in a rather negative way. We planned to go to the hot springs (Las Aguas Temales) a few thousand feet up in the Andes. Everything on Saturday morning went as planned, with everyone arriving at the bus terminal on time with provisions for the weekend. We rented tents, sleeping mats, and sleeping bags from an outdoorsy place in Mérida for a reasonable price, and, loaded up with 2-3 items in addition to backpacks or hiking bags, we set out for a little pueblo in a bus from which we took jeeps a ways up the mountain. The hike from there was not too difficult, but a little frightening. The path is between a foot and a foot and a half wide, and made of dirt, roots, and rocks, with some parts washed away. The hike itself took less than an hour, though, and we made good time.
Surprisingly, it was upon reaching the campsite that things turned sour. Half of the group decided to try to find a more private place to camp (the main flat camping space is pretty popular, but not too crowded as to seem enclosed). They ended up going through a
Randi and Me
Everyone in Venezuela thinks we're sisters.
very obvious blockade of barbed wire fence and down a dangerous, steep trail to set up a camp that was difficult to get to from our other camping space. This divide persisted throughout the night, as the trail to the other camp was too dangerous to permit them to join us in the hot springs after nightfall. From that, everything went downhill. A large group of us sat in the water for a few hours, just talking with some of the Venezuelans who joined us for the weekend. The Venezuelans who weren't with our group were really inconsiderate and annoying, and kept splashing us (the water was really mossy and nobody wanted to get it in their hair, etc.) just to see/hear our reactions. So high in the mountains, it gets extremely cold after the sun goes down (below freezing), so the prospect of getting out at all, even just to hike back to our camp, though that only took 5 or so minutes, was not one any of us were looking forward to. However, I noticed that some Venezuelans were digging through a pile of our things on the side of the hot springs, so I got out to
investigate. Needless to say, it was freezing and I could barely stand it, but i managed to stow my coat and shoes away from the people who were going through our stuff before succumbing to hypothermia. The reason they were with our things at all was because we had mistakenly placed our stuff near/on theirs, or so one of them told me, so I just got back in and thought nothing of it. However, when we got out hours later for good, we found that they'd thrown all our stuff into the mud in which they were subsequently rained on and stolen my towel and flashlight and another girl's sweatshirt and towel.
That wasn't the end of it, however. Back at our campsite, drunken people sang and yelled the entire night right next to our tents, shined flashlights at us, and were overall very rude, though I guess this happens at many places where Venezuelans gather. I slept only a few, awful, interrupted hours before being woken up because one of the people in our group had the tenacity to try a mushroom off the hillside to see if it was a hallucinogen. He became extremely sick, and we left
camp quite a bit before we were planning. On the way down, the paths were sandy rather than rocky, and therefore pretty slippery and dangerous. Thankfully, nobody fell or got injured, though some people fell ill on the way down.
We finally got to the jeeps and made the trek home, after which nothing eventful happened. It has since been decided that we will not be traveling as a group again (22 is too many to coordinate, and, as evidenced by last weekend, it really tears people apart). Needless to say, when I got back to Mérida, I was immensely happy to finally be at home and spend a few quiet hours with my family before falling asleep early.
There are more photos below