Thursday 17th April 2014
Los Llanos to Merida, Venezuela
Today we left the camp at Los Llanos at 6:00am for the drive to Merida. The guide told us that we would be heading over the Venezuelan Andes to an altitude of 3,600 metres and then down again to 1,600 metres at the city of Merida. Today we had the choice of the vehicles and we travelled on one of the guides 4x4 vehicles and not the truck, so the ride was different – you could see the road ahead and not just the side. It was hot while we were on the lowlands and then as we climbed up into the mountains it became cooler. The road was very windy – we had lunch at a restaurant on the way up, they actually had capybara on the menu. We stopped at a number of lookouts – the views were quite spectacular. The road was very steep and dropped away into valleys 600-1000 metres below with rivers and waterfalls and houses clinging to the edge of the road. Once we had gone over the top of the ranges, there were a number of towns where they grew potatoes and garlic mainly. Because it was Easter, there was a lot of traffic with families taking a break in the mountains and it took a long time to get through the towns. We finally reached Merida at about 8:00pm and we were totally exhausted. Tucan had rented a house in the suburbs that fitted the group in various rooms. This was because it was considered risky to be in town as there had been riots. Dinner was served and we went to bed around 11:00pm.
Friday 18th April 2014
Today we got up around 7:30am, had breakfast and washed clothes, before heading down to the town of Merida from our accommodation in the house. The guide we had in Los Llanos had arranged for the transport. We walked round the town and looked at the market stalls and visited the cathedral. There was almost nothing open except the churches as it was Good Friday. We then had lunch and at 3:00pm we were picked up and transported back to our house. We sat around checking photos and charging batteries before a pizza dinner. Fortunately the pizza restaurant had proper pizza ovens as the whole town had a power cut all evening. Tomorrow we head off to Lake Maracaibo, the largest lake in South America for two nights.