South America | Venezuela | The Andes | Merida – City in the Sky
Well, after 3 days of sunning ourselves on Margarita Island, Simon and I had a date to meet some of his friends in Merida.
Someone thought it was a good idea to book flights from Porlamar that left at 6am! Now, Simon and I (and indeed most of the North clan) are NOT morning people, so having to drag ourselves out of bed at 4am was a particulary nasty scene! We managed to make the plane, which was a tiny 10 seater with propellers. We changed planes at Caracus and landed in Merida at 9.30am.
Merida is a small city, nestled in the foothills of the Andes. The view from the plane as we flew over was quite possibly the most breathtaking landscape i have ever seen and it just gets better. As you walk around the narrow streets in the old town, you can see the Andes from every direction and there are some wonderful little bars and cafes that have great views. The longest cable car in the world is here and goes up to the top of Pico Espejo a heady 4765m up. The journey takes about 2 hours, over 4 cablecars. We were lucky in that the weather suddenly decided to clear the morning we went up, the view from the top is fantastic, we were above the clouds, looking up to the snow capped Pico Bolivar and across to the Andes range. Truly amazing.
We also hired a jeep and a driver to take us up. It takes about 2 hours and you pass through mountain villages and farms, wave at Venezuelan cowboys on horses and marvel at the views. The weather wasnt the best and the top was covered in cloud, but still the views down the valley are awe inspriring.
Merida itself is at a very high altitude, which means that my cigarettes burn slower and therefore last loads longer (Hurrah) and alcohol gets you hammered much faster (nothing to do with the pint measures of vodka they seem to serve here or the fact that i can happily neck 10 drinks in a single sitting!)
Meridians like to party (as do most Venezuelans) and we have taken full advantage of the cheap beer and vodka…to our expense. Inolving plenty of staggering salsa dancing and tequila. When in rome etc etc…
We decided to head out of the city for a night and caught a bus to Jaji, which is up the valley from Merida. It took an hour to get there, through amazing views of the mountains, jungle and waterfalls. We arrived just as the sun set and we headed to a small local bar, drank delicious Meridian ouzo which tasted like anniseed and argued about politics and the price of fish!
We had an early night in our Posada (hotel) and in the morning we were greeted with the most stunning views across the mountains. We ate our breakfast on our balcony, looking over the Andes, a perfect blue sky that reached for miles, the sun catching the last of the sunrise, while eagles and Condors soared above us (sigh). We were both utterly at peace with everything and it really calmed our souls.
All good things must come to an end and after buying some local crafts, we grabbed a bus back, for our last night in Merida.
Merida is a fantastic city to hang out in for a few days/weeks/months. Its chilled, the people are warm and welcoming, the landscape is breathtaking and the shopping/beer/food is cheap.
The Meridans LOVE their city and it will be very sad to leave them all behind. I can easily see why many a traveller comes to Merida and never leaves. There is a phrase here which a local told me, “i may be fucked, but at least im in Merida”…that about sums it all up.
The next stage of our journey is to Los Roques, a group of coral islands in the Carribean Sea. It was voted one of the top 10 beaches and dive resorts in the world and is almost undiscovered by tourists. Till then……..