Saturday, June 30, 2007

Maracaibo to Merida

Maracaibo is Venezuela's second largest city and is the center of the Venezuelan oil industry. Our day to do touristy things in Maracaibo got off to our late start after our extended night out. The first order of business was to acquire a new camera charger for me so Roger and I headed out to a store we walked past on a prior march called "Digital Depot." Turns out the warehouse that is DD only sells shirts (like 7 of them). Obvi.

This necessitated a trip to the Maracaibo Mall. We wondered around much the same as an American mall. The appropriate level of air conditioning was a welcome relief as well. I ended up buying a new camera (a semi-fortuitous decision or maybe a jinx-causing distinction if you're a half empty kinda person) and somehow Roger's pants fell down.

On our way out of the mall, we met Carla, a girl who recently graduated from high school and worked for the Maracaibo tourist agency. Carla graciously helped us acquire an SUV taxi and agreed to be our personal guide for the day. At first we were a little hesitant becuase we knew we couldn't be worthless shits all day if she came with, but she was very insistent so we relented. Turned out to be a great decision. We drove all over the city and Carla convinced the cabbie to drive onto the premises of a condo complex so we could take in some great views of the lake. We then proceeded to the city park, where residents engage in all sorts of exercise. There was a gym set up in the same fashion as the outdoor equipment at venice beach. There was also a separate setup for ellipticals and steppers. Interesting to say the least.

Carla had the driver take us to the plaza Bolivar. - every city in Venzuela has a Plaza Bolivar. Simon Bolivar is a god down here. He led the Venezuelan fight for independence from the Spanish and Gran Colombia. The money is named after him and his effigy can be found in any place of significance. Chavez appears to have bastardized his loyalty and calls his brand of lunacy bolivarism.

We visited the city Cathedral and I'm pretty sure my attire booked a seat in hell for me - flip flops, cargo shorts, and a t-shirt with the slogan "Viva Las Vegas" and featuring a voluptuous naked woman. Oops. On the way out, a young Venezolana curiously approach Luis and I and asked us where we were from. When we responded "Estados Unidos" she curiously pointed to her skin and said "pero, no blanco". We had to explain the immigrant culture of our country. You would think she would know this given the venezuelan love for beisball (more popular than soccer) but that would be asking too much.

We also drove across the nearly 5-mile bridge that spans lake maracaibo. It is the only reinforced concrete bridge in the world. We drove over it merely for the sake of driving over it so we immeadiately drove back.

After winning the war of attrition with the prostitutes last night, we flew to Merida this morning. First time I've ever been on a plane that was not pressurized. Merida is a city in the Andes mountains that is nestled in a valley. It is well known for its eco- and geo-tourism activities.

We were greeted by Joelle from Guamanchi Tours and went straight to our posada (an upscale hostel). We are meeting up here with a total of 7 other gringos to go canyoning and paragliding. We spent our day today riding the world's longest and highest cable car up to an Andean peak that sits over 15,000 above sea level. It was freezing at the peak (there was a little snow). First time I've sweated from the blazing sun and shivvered from the freezing cold in the same day, much less within a 12 hour span. Other tourists also thought we played for the team but did not bother us for autographs.

I am currently writing this from a hammock on the roof of our posada. My view consists of my feet and the cloud-peppered Andes in the offing. Amazing.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

No comments: