Merida and surrounds


We decanted ourselves into another bus at Concha, and headed towards the hills. The political sign was for the Socialist Party, that of Chavez and now Maduro

Click on thumbnail image to get a larger photograph

Along the way we had a brief stop to introduce the group to the delights of the cocoa bean, the source of raw chocolate. Another stop at a shrine, whose origins appear to have become clouded into the past. And another at La Azulita, where the church was the main attraction - it was built in 1967 and is dedicated to the Virgin of the Immaculate, whose image of 9 meters high rises in front of the facade and naturally is on the Plaza Bolivar.

Click on thumbnail image to get a larger photograph

We arrived in the late afternoon at our stop for the night at La Bravera. A lovely little hotel, high in the mountains above Merida. It must be said that the approach road is truly appalling, but I thought that the effort to get here was worth it. The owner, Jorge, has made a wonderful effort to make something unique, comfortable and a pleasure to stay at. The attention to details runs from the rooms, with towels laid out in pretty patterns, to the décor of the restaurant and lounge area, even monogrammed ponchos to wear to dinner on the cold mountain nights.

You can wander into the open plan kitchen to order wines and/or drinks. Then enjoy drinking them whilst watching the humming birds feed of the sugar water that is put out for them. You can tarry longer, and watch more birds, which is what the area is known for. We enjoyed a very civilised evening meal, and a good nights sleep. Oh that all hotels in Venezuela were like this. I should add that I suffered a tummy bug after the evening meal, as did two others of the group, and I never did find out the cause.

The humming birds were particularly entertaining to watch as they drank on the sugar water

Click on thumbnail image to get a larger photograph


From La Bravera we dropped by the mountain road down toward Merida. The road was even more appallingly bad on the way down than it had been on the way up.

Lunch was at the small town of Jaji. It is now a planned village, restored in the twentieth century in Spanish Colonial style, and a major tourist destination. It has guest houses, a museum and a colonial-style church. Jají opened in 1971 after its reconstruction was started in 1968. The restoration salvaged the facades and retained doors, windows and original bars more than 400 years old. I was still suffering from my stomach bug, and did not partake of lunch here

Then a series of stops as we got closer to Merida

So it was that we arrived in Merida, and settled into our home for the next two nights - Posada Casa Sol. Oddly owned by a German lady.

Click on thumbnail image to get a larger photograph

Posada Casa Sol. This is not a 5 star hotel, nor does it set out to be. It is what it is, an excellent B&B. We had a garden room at the back of the building that we were quite happy with. Some of the rooms do not have windows (ours did), so if that is an issue, then you need to specify a window when booking. The rooms are not big, nor overly luxurious, but they do have things like hot water (somewhat of a rarity in Venezuela). In our room the level of lighting was again poor , which meant finding things in the suitcase excrutiatingly frustrating! There is a ceiling fan, which takes a bit of sorting to turn on and off.

There are paintings and some quirky sculptures scattered round the place. These add to the relaxed charm of the posada. There is wifi, but you have to be quite close to the reception desk to pick it up. And there is a free to use computer in the reception area too. We were dropped off and picked up, so I cannot comment on either the position or the safety of the surrounding streets. Remember it is a B&B , so you cannot get an evening meal. It is one of those places that is distinctive and memorable, so you will be able to look back on your stay here, when other hotels have faded from memory

The next day it was yet another early start, 5 am!, and we motored up to the Sierra Nevada National Park and the high Andes

Click on thumbnail image to get a larger photograph

During the day we got to over 4000 metres, and without any acclimatisation. Jeannette suffered a bit from altitude sickness and did not do the final leg up to the Col of the Condors

Merida from above

Click on thumbnail image to get a larger photograph

We had "the tour" of Merida, and quite honestly there was not a lot to see - a statue of Simon Bolivar, a cathedral, and a cable car that was not working.

The story of the not operating cable car is this. Its base is located in Mérida at an altitude of 1,640 metres (5,380 ft), and its terminus is on Pico Espejo, at 4,765 metres (15,633 ft). They claim that it is the highest and second longest cable car in the world. Mérida Cable Car has a 12.5 kilometers of journey. The whole system was opened to the public in 1960; it was closed indefinitely in 2008, with a declaration that it had reached the end of its service life and was being rebuilt. In 2011 a project was started to totally modernize the cable car, This project already has has failed to meet annually projected opening dates every year since 2013. The current projection is July 2016. When, or if, it reopens, the remodelled cable car will cross the valley of the River Chama and pass through cloud forest – the air thinning as the cable car climbs – until finally it emerges at the summit

Here is what Venezuelan money is like. There is about $60 dollars in front of Max

La Chistorra, Merida

It is very difficult to pronounce on cost in Venezuela these days. With 70% inflation and a variable black market rate, it really depends on what exchange rate you got. So I will judge this restaurant by its food and atmosphere.You can see the problems that Max is having with the wadges of Venezuelan currency - probably worth $60 that lot, the green notes were worth about 4 US cents, and the brown ones 20 US cents - the result being that you carried these wadges clipped together by elastic bands.

We ate here on two nights. It seemed to be a little way from the city centre, but I have no real idea if it was walkable as we were dropped off by car. I liked the atmosphere, I liked the food and I liked the staff, so that added up to a good evening. In particular I enjoyed the large prawns. As with most food in Venezuela, the portions were large. We shared a number of dishes amongst ourselves, and that worked well.

Anyway this was our final meal together, next morning out to Merida Airport and the short flight to Caracas, where we said goodbye to our traveling companions of the last two weeks, and headed by ourselves up-country to see the Angel Falls

On to Angel Falls

Colombia - Venezuela Holiday