Adventures in Merida

Trip Start Jun 06, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2006

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

From Caracas we moved onto Merida, which is a small town quite high up in the mountains and is a very beautiful place. The main aim of going there was to do some adventure sports such as paragliding and trekking etc. We caught a bus from Caracas, the`servicio ejecutivoīwhich is basically the fancier private bus where the seats become almost beds and is very comfortable but freezing. The journey was supposed to be 12 hours but turned out to be 14 hours instead as the bus had a puncture. The mountain roads are so narrow that the bus driver had to drive on with the puncture for a few kms in order to find a suitable place for parking the bus. Then another bus from the same company had to stop and help him change the tyre as it is quite a difficult job. But they did it in less than half an hour without having to take any one off the bus. Technology I tell you.

For the first couple of nights in Merida we stayed in a more upmarket posada called Posada Los Bucares (50,000 bolivares per night)as none of the backpacking places sounded nice. But when we took a wander about town we found this great place called hostal Guamanchi which is fabulous. They are mainly a expedition company but they have rooms too and they had just finished building six extra rooms. We took the one on the third floor which had a fabulous view of the mountains and the teleferico (cable car).

My travels so far are going wonderfully fine! Iīm having a ball but my dear body is paying for it all!. So after much post poning due to illness and rain, Stan and I finally went canyoning and paragliding on the same day. The canyoning was great fun, a bit scary in the beginning but once I trusted the rope I was flying, well repelling actually. I presume you know what canyoning is but in case you donīt its basically walking through a mountain river and then repelling down the waterfalls. So there were three water falls and two jumps that we had to do. I was however too scared to do the first water fall and the second jump but I managed the rest. As always, I will blame everything on my dear husband, isnīt that the point of marriage? What happened was that Stan went down on the first waterfall and itīs like lowering yourself into a gushing waterfall not knowing where you will end up or how much water you will have to drink before you emerge again. Stan being wonderfully brave went first into the great unknown and screamed and shouted a bit when he had the force of the entire river upon his lovely head. Now, considering the size of his head is bigger than mine, I thought that my poor little head would not be able to take the force of the waterfall so I chickened out and went down the path instead of repelling down the waterfall. The instructor was very patient with me but he told me that for the next two waterfalls I would not have the option of walking down. I would have to repel. See the thing is that I donīt have a problem with repelling, but I do have a problem with repelling with the entire force of a river upon my head. What I did not know at the time, looking from above was that there was space behind the waterfall where you can breathe and the time that you are feeling the force of the water is actually quite minimal and therefore bearable. Alas, wisdom only comes in retrospect and I only realised all this after scuttling down the side of the waterfall and looking up. It all made perfect sense as the guide was trying to tell me in Spanish. But my Spanish is not that great and I do have trust issues. However, I overcame all that and vowed that I would do everything else that was presented in front of me and I did, apart from jumping into a very small gushing water hole with cliffs on both the sides. I think I did pretty well overall but I have to say that I do regret not doing the first waterfall. It was only 10 metres in height compared to the last one which was 30 metres. I didnīt even blink an eyelid doing that one and I actually repelled rather than tumbling down attached to a rope as I did with the second one. Stan was much better at facing his fears and did all three waterfalls but not the second jump which I thought was a wise move considering he was about twice the size of our instructor who jumped in to show us how its done and even he barely missed the cliff face by a couple of inches. Next time however, I will do it all. But thatīs what we all say, isntīit? What if there is no next time.

The paragliding on the other hand was sedate compared to the canyoning even though I was flying among the clouds in the mountains at a height of about 3000 metres above sea level, attached to a piece of huge plastic with lots of multicoloured nylon strings in a bucket seat which was strapped to the pilot. You would think scary, but it actually isnīt if you donīt think about the various things that could wrong and how human beings really canīt fly. To be fair though, it is something that everyone should do once. Iīve been parasailing before and now Iīve been paragliding and the next will be skydiving I think. "I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky" or at least try anyway!

Today, however I cannot even walk down the stairs without grimacing at every step I take. The simplest of actions are great feats achieved by me. I have not felt such pain in a very long time but it was all worth it and it goes to show how unfit I am. So no more strenuous activities were undertaken over the next few days in Merida but we had more adventures nevertheless.

While watching the football match between England and Sweden (which was a draw unfortunately) we met two mad backpackers and ended up drinking cuba libres with them and then checking out the night life in Merida on a Tueday night. We actually managed to find a bar that was open and had a dance floor playing hard core heavy metal music. It was quite a surreal experience watching young meridians head banging to songs they did not understand. After one too many a cuba libre we tottered over to our posada stopping en route for a delicious burger which had fries in it rather than on the side.

The next day we went on the teleferico, which is a cable car that takes you up to a height of 4765 metres in a matter of an hour. The weather changed throughout the ride and it was bloody freezing at the top with snow and everything. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy after the second stop of the cable car so instead of seeing gorgeous views we were floating through clouds and thought we had ended up in the twilight zone. It was still worth the experience even though it was a fairly expensive one.
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