Arriving in Merida (03-Oct-02)
The day before we left for the Andes, we took the boat up to a dock in Margarita. The people there would take care of the boat, the watermaker, which couldn't be left alone for over a couple of days, and our cat, Arthur, while we were inland in Merida and Barinas.
I packed all afternoon and evening, bouncing with excitement. As much as I loved warm weather, I was happy to be going to the cold again, after about ten months at sea level in the tropics. Besides, most of the time we would be at about 6000 feet, perfect weather.
The next morning we were up early, tossing our duffels ashore and getting little last-minute things done. The other two families who would be going with us were up with the sun also. One of them went zooming off in a taxi half an hour before us, to get extra money from the bank.
Finally we got everything situated, the boat locked up and the key with Alfonso, the runner of the marina, and the boat out another yard or two. We were stern to the dock, so my dad, who was the last one on the boat, released the lines a bit, pulled up the anchor about ten feet, and then walked across the board that we had to lower for him.
I hated to leave Arthur, but I knew that people would be looking after him. Still, as the taxi started off towards the Margarita airport, I wanted to tell the driver to stop, and then run back to stuff the cat in my luggage.
About an hour later, we were in the air, flying away from the known Margarita Island to the new Caracas, Venezuela. As we got going, however, excitement left me and the dullness of the airplane overtook me. Somehow my books didn't captivate me as they usually do, so I spent the flight staring out the window or sleeping.
After Caracas and lunch we got on another plane, which would take us to Merida, with stops in Barquisimeto and Valencia. After the stops, when we were finally on our way to Merida, joy hit me again - or perhaps it was the candy I had eater earlier. But I was bouncing in my seat, as much as the seat belt would let me. "We're on our way to Merida," I chanted rhythmically with my bouncing, grinning. Kat looked at me, and edged further away on the seat, looking as if I were crazy. I shook my head, settled down, and looked back at the land passing beneath us.
As the mountains came into view, my nose was glued to the window. I was no stranger to big mountains, but we were coming in for landing, and we were between two ranges, looking up at the summits. As far as I could tell, the hills looked heavily forested. I was puzzled to see several clumps of lighter-color trees.
"Look, it's the teleférico!" my mom said, pointing through the window.
"The what?" I asked.
"The teleférico… cable car. See, it has four different stops, and then it goes up to that summit."
"Ah." I nodded, seeing the wires stretching up the hill and a little box traveling up them. "We're going to go up that?"
It sounded like fun… and looked it, too. I could see, just above where the cable disappeared into the cloud, a peak poking up - a snowy peak. And I, who hadn't seen snow in a year, couldn't wait to get up to it.
As we stepped off the plane, I was hit by a blast of perfect-temperature air. I dropped my backpack to the blacktop, pulled off my sweater, and threw my arms wide to accept its embrace. There was a wonderful breeze, and a crisp air that reminded me of an early spring day. I grinned, happy that it wasn't as hot out as it would be in Margarita. We were, after all, 6000 feet above the island. It felt weird to walk into the airport and not feel the cool air from an air-conditioner. In Margarita, every store or building is either air-conditioned, or sweltering. The airport was delightfully neutral.
We got our checked luggage fast; what took the longest time were all the adults talking to Jacqueline, a tourist information person. Chris, my brother, sat down with a book right away. For a while, little Chris, Nat, Kat, and I amused ourselves by looking at pictures of the Andes, Los Nevados, other towns, and various tours, but that didn't last for long and we eventually just sat down and waited. After a while, while all the adults were still talking and deciding what to do, little Chris started pretending he was an airplane-pilot. With nothing else to do, we all joined in, laughing at the different characters we all chose to be and the various scenarios we played out. I caught a security guard looking at us as if we were crazy, and laughed all the harder.
Finally the adults seemed to come to a conclusion, and they called to us to get our stuff.
"Where we going?" I asked. My mom turned around.
"The posada," she replied. "Come on, the taxis are waiting."
I made a quick head count. Only ten. "Where's Dad?" Chris rolled his eyes as Mom went back in. When she came out, several minutes later, my father followed her. "Come on, Dad," I said. "Or do you want to spend another hour here?"
On the way to the posada, I had the middle seat, not next to a window, but what I could see looked much like Porlamar, although possibly a little greener. As we got farther into town, it started to look like any average town, Every few blocks there was a whole square of grass and trees, usually with a statue in the middle. There were some multi-level buildings, but most were smaller clothing stores, restaurants, or delis.
The posada, when we got to it, looked normal (to me) on the outside, but within it looked a lot different, though not out-of-place for Venezuela. There were lots of paintings, many with religious meanings. Down the hall were the stairs, and a little sitting area with a fake fire in the fireplace.
Our rooms were on the third floor, so we had four flights of stairs to go up, a neat trick carrying all our bags, and at that elevation. Our group had three separate rooms, and I was happy to see that ours had a view.
After we opened up the windows and got a slight breeze coming through, the room that my family was sleeping in was quite cozy. We had asked for a four-person room, but they didn't have any, and gave us one that would sleep at least five comfortably. There was a bathroom, closet, double bed, three singles, a TV, and plenty of floor-space.
Out the window, across the street, was the plaza, already lit by street lamps. There was a knock on the door, and Nat poked her head in. "Hey Manda," she said. "We're going over to the park before dinner; want to come?"
"Sure, just a sec," I replied. I grabbed my sweater, tying it around my waist. The temperature was just fine now, but I guessed it would get colder soon. "All right," I said, and followed Nat down to the outside.
On the other side of the road, I ran up onto the little platform that was in the middle of the square. I spun in a circle in delight, reveling in the beauty of the mountains above me. We had arrived.
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