On the buses
Cuidad Bolivar Travel Blog› entry 59 of 123 › view all entries
After catching up on the internet for a few hours (why does Venezuela not have wi-fi internet, its impossible to get a signa anywhere!!), I headed to the bus station for my 7pm bus to Barinas. I had been told that the easiest way to get Merida is to go to Barinas, then change for a local bus, as the direct executive buses to Merida have to take a really long route due to the small mountain roads near Mérida. The Expressos Los Llanos coach (100 BsF/GBP12/US$16) turned up on time, but sadly didn´t depart on time...maybe a sign of things to come! We were sat on the bus for an hour before we finally left at 8pm. I had expected the journey to be about 12-13 hours to Barinas, but after enduring the coldest night on a bus in my life (I was literally shivering, having no sleeping bag!), we arrived at the breakfast stop around 8am. I assumed we were pretty close to Barinas, but the driver hesitantly said we were still 2 hours away - great. Alas, 2 hours it was not. After the said couple of hours the bus started to have problems and we stopped and started a number of times, before finally pulling over at a farm. The driver and his cronies got out with huge tubs and went to fill up with water, so at this point I was guessing we had a major overheating problem - quite ironic given how high they cranked up the air-con during the night. After this, we chugged along the dual-carriageway at barely 40mph, and after a few more drop-offs, we finally got to Barinas just after 1pm, a good 17 hours after leaving. So much for my plan of being in Mérida before lunchtime!
I grabbed a quick drink and then set about looking for the local bus to Mérida - a few likely looking characters shouted to me that they had buses leaving, although on closer interrogation, they weren´t leaving until 2pm. Still, I couldn´t see any por puestos, so I didn´t really have much of an option. I was promised that the buses were direct and the 140km would take 4 hours. Mmmm, I wonder. It was only BsF25 (GBP3/US$4) for the trip, but the bus literally made a mountain out of the journey as it struggled up the hills. Soon the stops began as every man and his dog got on and off - what a surprise eh?! And then about half way, we had the customary food stop. I still find it difficult to get to grips with the fact that people need to eat/drink so often on bus journeys in South America - why can´t people just take stuff with them?! It may also be to do with the fact that the drivers get a bung for taking people to these random cafes in the middle of nowhere...
So after a good half-hour by the roadside, we set off again, winding our way through the mountains. I have to say the journey is very picturesque, with views of the peaks and mountain rivers and passing through lovely little villages stuck in time warps. At about 6pm it started to get dark, so I knew I would be arriving in Mérida after the light had gone. We eventually arrived at about 7.45pm after negotiating the horrendous traffic on the outskirts of the city. So all in all, I´d been on buses for a full day and wasn´t in the best of moods knowing I didn´t have anywhere booked and had to try and find a posada in the dark...nice.