Easy taxi to terminal, this time the correct price of 12b! The bus for Merida leaves almost as soon as we get on 8am. But instead of the one hour we were led to believe it takes two to get there...huge amt of traffic, still a bit of rain and we pass a small landslide which has narrowed the two lanes to one (guys out there w/ shovels). We go thru one of the longest tunnels that we've been thru in South America, I'd guess over 5 km at least. Finally, in Merida we walk from bus stop (got to take a city bus 3 km from where travel bus terminal dropped us) about 5 bl to Posada Suiza, actually unmarked but asking gets us to it...people in Venezuela have been most helpful when we ask! We are a bit taken aback at the price since we had heard this place was going to be really cheap...but this place is 140b for a matrimonial (dbl bed) and bath. We head out to look around town and try finding internet w/ Skype (the LP says they are on every block) but little luck. Finally, we find one but the headsets are all broken. Then back at P. Suiza the owner, Dietar, lends us his and we return to use the internet...Bon connects (bad reception) with our great, all round, expert builder guy, Bob in Missoula which relieves a lot of pressure on her.
We also find a different Posada where we will move for tomorrow and Sat. nite, Posada El Touristicos, just 3 blocks from where we are now. Unfortunately, we discover the Teleferico, the longest in the world, still is not working.Merida Teleferico
. On the advise of Ditar, the owner of Posada Suiza, we go to Las Abadias de Merida owned by a German friend of his. Very good food and nice atmosphere but priced for Europeans, not for us travel bums. We enjoyed the splurge of very delicious pasta and wine but for $12+ US it was not a good value.
Up early and moved to new digs, Posada El Touristico, just 3 blocks away and considerably nicer...altho Ditar spoke English and was very nice/helpful (he's been here 8 years), I must say Jonatan Roja at P. El T. is just as nice and the place is spotless, and very accomodating and less $$$. We walked down to where the teleferico is to confirm that, in fact, it is not operating...it is not! Really a shame, we did look forward to the ride. By the looks of things it has not been operational for some time and probably won't be for a good deal of time into the future. The whole thing (dating from the 50s) is being replaced!
Now we are attempting to work out the details as best we can for the next month of travel which will involve crossing over to Panama (either boat or plane...depending on cost of boat, plane may be our only option). Then, after some time traveling in Panama, hopefully getting to the end of the PanAm highway as well as train ride along the canal, we will fly N. to arr. near Alamos, MX and visit friends before heading over to Todos Santos in Baja.
Today we went to check on possible tour to see lightening at Catatumbo. Catatumbo
When we went into one of the many offices near the teleferico, the Swiss fellow who has been here for 8 months, said there were no tours today. Upon asking more qs and talking with him for awhile we got a better story/idea of what's happened here...
Apparently, tourism has pretty much dried up! He said this should be the high season but because 1) The local airport is closed 2) Europeans have gotten scared because of rumors of violence and the socialist state condition 3) The teleferico is closed down...now for 2 years and work is going very slowly. So we bagged that idea.
To bus terminal and buy tickets for bus to Maracaibo. The good news is that there is one tomor at 9:30am ie, during the daytime...they say there are no buses that go up the W. side of the lake, bummer! Even the buses out of San Cristobal, where we thought of going first, come back E. and go up the E. side. 'Muy feo' is what they call the W. side (very ugly, ha). So, back up the way we came down!