Up, up, up, and up in Merida.

Merida Travel Blog

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Love for Hugo Chavez before we start the Teleferico trip.

Hello All,

Today I ascended the mountains surrounding Merida.  The Teleferico de Merida is the world longest and highest cable car system, and it takes four different cable car lines to do the trick.  I had seen a few days ago when I arrived that there was a very substantial line that formed before the Teleferico opens.  But the Teleferico also closes rather early in the day, with the last ride down being at around 1pm.  I guessed that around 9:15am or 9:30am would be the best time to try.

I was also told by the woman at the tour agency that Wednesday is actually the best day to go, because Thursday is the big day for the locals to go.

Getting on board at the base station.
  The price was just about $21, but seemed like a pretty good deal to me.  While waiting for the next cable car to pick up my group, the car that was headed towards us stopped.  It stayed hanging over the Rio Chama for 20 minutes.  This was not encouraging.

My group finally started up at about 10:15am.  The cars hold about 30 people, and my car was filled with a class on a school trip.  We proceeded rapidly once we had boarded, and the school age girls screamed in terror as we felt the jump of the car headed over the support tower.  There was only one other English speaker onboard that I detected, a French woman and her Venezuelan friend.  It really gives you the feeling that you are discovering something when that happens.

The first station was reached after about 15 minutes, and we were now at 2,436 meters.

Here we are looking across Rio Chama valley.
  A guide gave us a little spiel and the majority of people headed toward the cafe.  I heard the conductor call out that there was room for 10 more people on the next car up, so I jumped aboard.  No more school kids, but there were certainly more tourists on this ride.  There was the French woman, a Danish girl, an Aussie bloke, a German couple, and a Venezuelan college student attending St. Louis University.

They helped translate what I could not pick up on the recorded track, and we all knew that we would have picture buddies up at the top.  This ride was a bit shorter, and put us off at the next station, 3,452 meters high.  There was a bit of a wait for the next car, so I grabbed a coffee at the cafe before moving on.  Next cable car got us up to 4,045 meters, and there was a very visible change in the vegetation.

Thermometer at the second station on the way up.
  The wooded slopes of the lower mountain area changed into short scrubby stuff very quickly.

There were a few cows grazing along the mountain side, and it set me to wondering who was in charge of these animals.  There was another car waiting when we arrived and we all jumped on.  On this trip there were three small lagoons visible below, and we started to get a good look at Pico Bolivar, Venezuela's highest mountain at 5,007 meters.  As we arrived at the ultimate destination I was very happy that I didn't have any of the effects of altitude sickness.  I had been to this elevation, and a bit higher, before and had no ill effects thank goodness.

We were now at the top of the Teleferico, 4,765 meters or 15,633 feet.

Board in the last car headed up. 4,765 meters doesn't quite beat the 5,000 meters elevation I got too in Bolivia last year. Oh, well.
  As I walked outside, the view was beyond spectacular, the temperature was perfect, and the clouds were cooperating with us fully.  Down a short path was a religious statue guarding this high point.  To the east was Pico Bolivar in its craggy, snow covered splendor.  To the south were more mountains, almost entirely obscured by white, fluffy cloud cover.  And to the north was the cable car line disappearing over a rise that dove down towards Merida 3,188 meters below.

It had taken just over an hour to get here, but I would have travelled for days to take in the atmosphere at the top.  I suddenly understood why people climb mountains, and crave this feeling.  It felt like we were flying in an aircraft, with no plane needed.  Every other person at the summit was wrapped in thick layers of sweaters, heavy coats, and rented hats.

Statue at the Pico Espera station. Can't go any farther up without walking.
  But I felt perfectly comfortable, tempered by years of living in the northern U.S.  I wished I could stay here for days.

The trip down was pretty uneventful.  I took more note of the hiking trails that could be used to bypass a cable car, or all of them if you so desired.  They looked fairly rough, but I guess that is to be expected.  At the bottom I had a hard time finding an XL T-shirt that I liked, or more accurately an XXL using South American sizing.  They are almost a rumor here in Merida, as I have yet to find one.

I went back to the hotel for an hour or so.  Then found something in Lonely Planet that sounded too tasty to pass up.  I headed towards the Mercado Principal about 25 blocks away from the hotel to seek out this item.

More proof that we are REALLY high.
  I was going to take a bus, but passed by the bus stop without seeing the one I needed.  I then flagged down a taxi, and inquired on the price.  I must have had gringo written all over me, as he wanted $3 for the short ride.  I openly laughed although I probably shouldn't have.  He asked what I would pay, and I told him I expected 3 or 4 Bolivares Fuerte.  He waved me off in disgust, and so did I.  Believe me at $0.15 a gallon for gas he would have made money.

I walked to the mercado in less then 15 minutes, and headed upstairs to find the Pechuga Rellena a la Meridena.  I found a small stall that had it on the menu and ordered one up.  This item was a little piece of Venezuelan heaven.  A chicken breast split and stuffed with ham and cheese, breaded, and then deep fried.  It came with a plate full of sides as well… rice, a sweet fried banana, a small salad with avocado, and a huge hunk of boiled or steamed yucca.

A picture of me above the clouds.
  It was amazing and tasty, and there were even a few other tourists in evidence in this very non-tourist area checking the place out.  Well worth the price at under $7 with a couple of Cokes.

On the walk back to the hotel I stopped at Heladeria Coromoto.  They are the Guinness world record holder for the number of ice cream flavors they have.  And although there were only about 70 on display, the board listed about 900.  Some of them had maggot-gagging sounding names to be certain, but they had them at one time or another.  I didn't feel like trying trout, granola, mushroom, or Arroz con Queso (rice & cheese), so I just got two scoops of Avocado & Raspberry.  It was still pretty good.

I spent the night catching up on blogging.

The medical station at the top of the Teleferico. I'm sure they get some altitude sickness cases up here.
  I do wonder what the hell bit me on the arm.  It is swelling up quite a bit, and oozing just a little pus.  It must've been a spider or something.  I will keep it drenched in Lanacane and see what happens.  I am having problems getting to sleep in anticipation of my Para-Gliding appointment in the morning.  I called up my dad and spoke to him for a while.  Again my compliments to the hotel's wi-fi.  Skype sounded great!

Tomorrow is the day this 41 year old, out of shape gringo learns to fly.

Later, Phil

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Love for Hugo Chavez before we sta…
Love for Hugo Chavez before we st…
Getting on board at the base stati…
Getting on board at the base stat…
Here we are looking across Rio Cha…
Here we are looking across Rio Ch…
Thermometer at the second station …
Thermometer at the second station…
Board in the last car headed up.  …
Board in the last car headed up. …
Statue at the Pico Espera station.…
Statue at the Pico Espera station…
More proof that we are REALLY high.
More proof that we are REALLY high.
A picture of me above the clouds.
A picture of me above the clouds.
The medical station at the top of …
The medical station at the top of…
A high elevation lagoon from the c…
A high elevation lagoon from the …
This is the footpath from the 3rd …
This is the footpath from the 3rd…
View from the Teleferico again.
View from the Teleferico again.
Another pretty valley.
Another pretty valley.
Meridas Viaduct over the Rio Alba…
Merida's Viaduct over the Rio Alb…
The flavor board at the Heladeria …
The flavor board at the Heladeria…
Merida
photo by: AndySD