Up, up, up, and up in Merida.
Merida Travel Blog› entry 10 of 27 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tomorrow is the day this 41 year old, out of shape gringo learns to fly.