Misty Mountains

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Venezuela  ,
Monday, October 23, 2006

Would you believe that the Orinoco River, the eighth longest in the world, flows for 2,140 km through Venezuela with only one bridge spanning it? There surely must be numerous ferries connecting the myriad of towns and villages dotting its banks, but we were fortunate to cross to the north side of Ciudad Bolivar via the Puente Angostura - after paying the obligatory toll of about ten cents!

The next two days were spent simply making our way across the exceptionally hot and humid central plain, all the time anticipating the cooler mountainous temperatures ahead. The transformation appeared to be evident within minutes of beginning the climb towards Trujillo - the humidity disappeared, and we entered into a terrain of lush vegetation. Superb views, colourful flowers, coffee bushes laden with berries, and vivid hillside villages all added to the intrigue of the ascent. It was raining heavily by the time we reached La Puerta, and the clouds had completely obscured any view of the surrounding hills. We booked into a small posada and explored the village on foot, huddled together under one giant umbrella. Surely the skies would clear by morning, and we could set out on one of the most picturesque drives in the Venezuelan highlands.

We unfortunately awoke to a continuing drizzle, and thick clouds had settled on the entire vicinity. Disappointing as the weather was, we continued our climb as the narrow road curved its way up and around the green hillsides. In spite of the intermittent rain, local farmers everywhere were busy tending to their small parcels of vegetables and flowers, often situated on slopes of forty-five degrees or more. They could be seen meticulously harvesting lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, artichoke, leeks and potatoes, and preparing them for markets all over the country.

We had very limited visibility as we crossed the Aguila pass at almost 14,000 ft, so didn't even bother stopping for a photo. Although our original intention was to continue on to Mérida, we were attracted by a charming mountain village just ten km past the lookout - and hey, we all live in hope that tomorrow the sun might be shining! All our enquiries about the possibility of a sunny day in the middle of the rainy season were met with scepticism, so imagine our surprise at seeing the clear blue skies early the next morning. Skipping breakfast, we rushed back up the mountain (only a 3,000 ft climb for DC3) where the clouds were already beginning to congregate.

The next couple of hours might appropriately be termed a botanical hikers paradise. Climbing down the slopes, we were astounded by the tremendous variety of flora, ranging from the tiny orange and red alpines, to mid-sized pinky-mauve daisies, and eventually to the woolly-lambs-ears-like yellow everlasting flowers that literally covered the mountainsides. We were ecstatic, to say the least! However, we had yet to make our way back up to where the van was parked, and had completely overlooked the fact that the high altitude was already causing us some discomfort. It was a long, slow grind back up to the summit, but nothing could mar the pleasure of our morning hiking experience.

Several carloads of Venezuelan tourists had just arrived, equipped with cameras and ready to capture the beauty of the area. Unfortunately for them, everything was already shrouded in mist and cloud, and would surely stay that way for the remainder of the day. As for us, we blithely made our way down to lower altitudes where the sun was still resplendent.
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