¨I wish I got a donkey¨

Merida Travel Blog

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It was clear who won the vote as our bus approached the heavily anti Chavez area of Merida.  There was an onslaught of cheerful honking vehicles covered in NO graffiti slowly touring trough the slowly through the surrounding hills.  Merida is Venezuela´s adventure mecca and rivals places like Banos Ecuador and Cusco Peru for available outdoor activities.  I believe it is the influx tourism money has created the relatively large middle class in this city in the Andes which is why there few open handed Chavistas in the area.

We met up with Quebecois Jess in the bus terminal traded her for our previous frenchie who we only said goodbye to a few hour earlier.  Our newly constructed threesome spent the first day relaxing in town after the 20 odd hour bus journey.

On our second day we headed out for a day hike as briefly described by the highly helpful and friendly staff from the hostel.  Starting from the edge of town we hiked up possibly the steepest concrete road I have ever seen.  Once off the main road, the path was not nearly as clear as we were expecting.  We hiked our way up and down (mostly up) trough cow covered pastureland, mountain peaks, grassy fields, and some forest densely covered in vines.  This was a great day and the price was right.

Next on the list was a two day trip to a charming town nestled in the mountains.  We added a fourth to the crew via hostel mingling.  Tiago from Brazil did the bargaining for four hour Landrunner ride to Los Nevados.

  There were several pousadas available most of which were $6 and included supper and breakfast.  The town is very picturesque but you can walk from one end to the other in about five minutes.  The following morning we departed for the five hour hike at 7 45 which was as early as possible due to constraints on breakfast times.  We all felt that we were fairly strong hikers so we were not too concerned about making the last cable car ride back to Merida at 1pm even though the hike was supposed to take five hours.  Jess and I made our way ahead as we ascended approximately one and a half kilometers in altitude through the fog covered peaks to the second last cable car stop which is at just over 4000 meters.  We made it through up the relentless grade with about a half hour to spare.
  Tiago´s heightened state of mind also turned his legs to jelly which made him declare on several occasions that he wished that he paid the $3 for the donkey to carry him for some sections.  He made it to the top right on the buzzer.  The ride down the worlds longest cable car was free since people only pay to get up.

Merida is possibly most known for it´s paragliding.  The winds are strong and stable and the agencies claim that you can fly every single day of the year.  I did not have a lot of interest in participating since I thought it would not compare with some of my previous activities such as sky diving and bungee jumping.  But for the price of an imported case of beer I decided to tag along.

  The 40 minute ride was a lot of fun especially when my pilot with 15,000 hours of flying experience spun horizontally and came so close to the trees that I had to lift my feet.  Even though my stomach was the one that was churning from the weakened state of binge drinking combined with mystery street meat, it was not me but Tiago who spewed mid flight.

Jess and I also went canyoning which was my first choice but her second since she is a big downhill biker.  Just the two of us and our guide were dropped off about 40 minutes from Merida at along a river.  We were wide eyed as we rappelled down three waterfalls, the highest of which was 32m, and slide down naturally smoothed rocks and jumped into river pools.  It was much more adventurous than I was expecting.  The sense of danger was present throughout.  I enjoyed this much more than the paragliding.

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photo by: AndySD