To the beach and back
Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
96Trip End Apr 16, 2011
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Getting there was something of a marathon. From where our flight landed in Ciudad Bolivar we spent the day in a hostel waiting for a night bus. We had been warned that Venezuelan night buses, whilst relatively modern and comfortable, are also equipped with Arctic-air-conditioning and so had warm fleeces ready and even kept a sleeping bag out but despite this we were still freezing cold (even Gordon who happily wears shorts in January in London)
Puerto Colombia itself was fairly non-descript and grotty and once again very quiet and completely devoid of gringo tourists. As far as we could tell we were the only ones there and there weren’t that many locals on holiday about either. However there was a very nice beach 10 minutes walk away with a line of empty seafood restaurants that vied for our business with massive enthusiasm. The next day we had planned to get a boat out to some further away beaches which by all accounts were even nicer but we woke up to the sounds of rain and decided to spend the majority of the day watching movies on the DVD player in our room and enjoying the pools and jacuzzis. At least, we watched movies whenever the power was on – for a country with so much oil there are an incredible number of power cuts in Venezuela and we got used to having at least one or two a day for a couple of hours at a time. And in truth, the weather cleared up towards the end of the afternoon but, well, you need a rest every now and again. As it was Saturday night we did manage to venture out for another fresh fish dinner followed by backgammon and one too many passion fruit cocktails (the local tourist offering) before returning to the smoke machines and laser lighting, and the new CD offering of ‘Songs From The 80s You’d Thought You’d Forgotten But Will Now Never Stop Singing’
From Puerto Colombia, we were excited to be heading back into the Andes at their very northern end and the town of Merida. It involved another marathon journey back across the pass in another Dodge bus and then onto another frigid nightbus (we took two sleeping bags this time). Whilst waiting for our bus in Maracay we went to the nearby modern shopping mall for some food and saw a side of Venezuela we had not seen yet: it felt almost like being in the US with chain store outlets and US films at the cinemas. Almost. It was here that Sarah also had her first Cinnabon ("Because Life Needs Frosting") and has fallen in love. Now every new sizeable city we go to she is checking their website to see if there is a branch. It is now the primary reason she is looking forward to getting to the US in a couple of months.
The bus to Merida took 16 hours (punctuated by long stops to get past roads blocked by landslides) rather than the advertised 10 which was somewhat problematic as we had no food and had run out of water by morning and there weren’t any stops to buy any. Eventually, we arrived in Merida which while beautifully set in a valley surrounded by looming mountains on all sides was a much bigger and more sprawling city than we had been expecting and, again, utterly devoid of tourists of any kind as far as we could tell
Given the better weather we fashioned ambitious plans for the next day of heading off into La Culata National Park just outside Merida with a tent and climbing up to one of the more easily accessible peaks in a couple of days. However, that night we decided to treat ourselves to a slightly more upmarket meal out
The cheap drinks completely put paid to any plans for the next day and we woke up in no state to organise any sort of trip into the mountains. We had gone to bed praying for bad weather because this would provide a legitimate reason to cancel our plans for the day but unfortunately it was quite nice again. As a compromise we headed out to the park for a day trip and a short circuit up the smallest hill we could see to get some views. As soon as we stepped out of the minibus we were greeted by a gorgeous and friendly dog who proceeded to follow us for the walk, showing us shortcuts and generally being very cute. As he no doubt knew we would, we shared our picnic with him and were very sad to say goodbye to him but figured that the border police on the way into Columbia (our next destination) might have something to say about a dog stuffed into a backpack.