Masters of the Dance

VII. Transition

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19 January, 1999 Caracas airport Map

Groan. Early rising. The alarm went off at 3:30. I quickly cleaned up, said a final goodbye to Michele, and ran downstairs to the waiting taxi. *yawn* No problems at the airport other than the US$25 airport tax...

At 6:00, the plane took off. Goodbye, Ecuador! Asta luego. I will be back.

Around 9:00, I got to Panama. Here we go again... I had an 11-hour layover this time. Once again, I couldn't be bothered to go into the city. I had been told it's just not worth it, except to pass the time... And so I passed the day at the airport. *yawn*

o o o

Not too bad, it passed. I was on the plane after eleven hours. It was empty, so I got to spread out and sleep. Thinking ahead as we landed, I committed a crime and stole a blanket.

Customs was no problem. Five minutes, and I was legally in the country. *shiver* Now what? OK, I changed my remaining Sucre to Bolivares (1=6650), wandered about, said no to twenty taxi drivers (but polite ones), sat and read a bit, then found a nice quiet (but occupied by other sleepers) self-service area (closed), spread out the blanket from the plane on the slightly dirty floor, locked up my packs, and actually managed a few hours of sleep.

taxi to airport: 20k
room at Loro Verde 60k/s 100k/d
4 litres H2O 6-8k
large pilsener 5-8k

20 January Merida Map

(6:00) Groan. There's just something about sleeping on hard airport floors... And train station floors... and park benches... and sidewalks... My body is never happy about it afterwards. Once I collected myself, I gave the blanket to a girl sleeping outside and took a walk around the airport. Things slowly opened up. By 7:00, most shops were open, including Burger King for b-fast. :-) Then, I walked over to the domestic terminal (5 min walk away) and checked on a ticket to Merida. Hm, my options were a 12-hour bus ride for $15 or a one hour plane ride for $75. Guess what I chose? *blush*

One hour later (plus boarding time, etc.) I was descending over rugged mountains into Merida. It is a small airport, with almost no hassle. I walked out to the road, hailed a minibus, and 70B poorer, I was in town. I checked into Posada las Heroinas. Not what I expected, but friendly and all (other than the surly daughter, that is). The place was full of friendly Scandinavians. Nice change from all those Yanks in Ecuador. 3000B

My first stop was to walk down to a local trekking agency - Bum Bum - to ask about climbing Pico Bolivar. Whew, a group is leaving tomorrow! $40/day x 5 days. It sounds good. Camping, ropes, the works.

Walking around Merida is no easy task. Sidewalks are merely a pretense in this town, varying from normal, wide walks down to scant inches, twisting along the border of the (irregular) buildings, rising several feet above the street, then merging into the street. And the streets are something as well. Almost no two way streets, the narrow paths allowing cars to pass, but with no margin for error. The people obviously gave no thought to this, as you saw people twisting sideways without pausing to let each other pass. And as if that weren't enough, the women here! It's a college town, and so the population is obviously on the young side. But that young population was very easy on the eyes.

Being the addict that I am, email was of course on the agenda. 40/35B/min (afternoon/morn) And then... Oh yes, laundry. 1500B/load. Back at the Posada, I met Chris, from Canada. The guy was a walking disaster zone, right from the start of his trip. He spent hundreds of dollars on his first day in Caracas simply because he couldn't figure out the currency. But he was cool enough. He was interested in doing the Bolivar climb as well, so he came along for the 6:00 briefing.

I sat down at the table with some others. One of the Bum Bum people came over, sat down, and began. "OK, here is what we're going to do: We'll take a jeep to ___, where the horses will be waiting. From there, we'll ride to ___ a quaint village." Um, I think I'm in the wrong place... Wrong briefing. My group gathered inside (eventually). It turned out, one person wants to go Saturday instead. A couple Germans dithered, then decided to keep to tomorrow. Chris, Dave, and myself decided to go on Saturday as well. Better for me, gives me time to adjust.

After that was settled, Chris, Dave and I walked over to a nearby park, drinking 300B beers and watching the scenery. I think I like this town.

Out to La Mamma for decent za with Chris and Dave. Chris was so hungry, he ate two. After we finished, we sat back and talked for a bit. At one comment, a lovely woman at the next table burst out laughing. Dave asked (in Spanish) if she spoke English. She replied yes, but only un poco de espanol. Turns out, Kathy's German, in town to re-live a great time a year ago. She now lives in Argentina, and also flew in today. The four of us decided to check out a couple clubs, though only Dave was up for going out. First, we went to nearby Alfredos. The place was loud, popular, and played decent music. Then, we walked over to Bruesca, where Kathy turned misty-eyed at her memories. "Every night for 2.5 weeks, I was here." Nice place, though it was too early. Dave went off on his own, and the rest of us went to bed. Ah that bed felt good! Much better than the airport floor, for some reason...

21 January Merida Map
Nothing sort of day. Walking around town, reading, etc.

At night, out on the town! Alfredos to start, then Bruesca later. Very good time. Excellent Salsa dancing, very good talent. I even managed a dance or two. Good night out. I lost the others late in the evening. After Bruesca closed at 1:00, I walked around the corner to ___ for another couple hours of dancing. Somehow managed to get home...

22 January Merida Map
Another nothing day.

At 6:00, I went to Bum Bum for the briefing. At the last second, Chris decided not to go. Both because of the money, and because he had limited time, and would prefer the beach, given the choice. Hm. Dave also had bailed out. Now what? It turned out that a Spanish guy, Guillarmo, had signed on. They weren't happy with only two people going (they only really make a profit on 3+), but we could go anyway. We ran through the gear we'd need (it turns out, Guillarmo barely spoke English), arranged to meet at 8:30 the next day, and that was it.

At night, I went out with Kathy and a couple Swedes. Kathy and I had a good chat, during which I mentioned how I wanted to Salsa. Her eyes lit up, you know how? She was too shy to learn in the club, but I promised to teach her when I got back from Bolivar. In the meantime, she dragged a friend over for me to dance with. Very good. Her verdict to Kathy (I found out later): very good for a gringo. :-) But I had to turn in early, I had a mountain to climb the next day!

Email me at nomad3 @ GoneWalkabout.com

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