Better to get that one out of the way. (It doesn’t really work, anyway)

Today i made a foray up la culata- up to 3200m. Impressive as this sounds .. a public bus from Mérida goes most of the way to that height – we walked up for an hour or so. We reached the lower part of a ridge line, but not a summit – that’s for another day.
Nevertheless, I certainly felt the altitude – moving slowly helps. It wasn’t severe, but the sense that there is less oxygen in the air is very real. I’m still hoping to go on a longer, multi-day trek, however.

I was joined by my new friend Marianne – she recognised me in la plaza the other day, as she was on the same bus from valencia. My bright yellow bags and having to disassemble a bicycle in a crowded bus station that evening while arguing in pidgin spanish about a reasonable fee for transporting said bicycle wasn’t particularly discreet.
(This was followed by a nine hour bus trip that took fifteen, going a long way downhill in the wrong direction, getting caught in a traffic jam caused by a cement mixer overturning due to exuberant driving and a pothole directly outside the firestation.. and all but getting lost in a town where the streets have numbers instead of names)

..Our only language in common (Marianne and I) is what little spanish I do speak; I can understand far more than I can say, but this makes for hard going, I think. Nevertheless, she was patient, and I was glad indeed of the company. It’s a bit harder trying to have actual conversation than ordering food and dealing with officialdom.

Apparently I missed some drama today- it seems the national guard were anticipating a big protest (there was a march, but a peaceful one) and established a blockade which cut the city in half. (This isn’t that hard to do; Mérida is narrow and long, and the river in the middle has only three major crossing points)
..but I saw none of any of this- all was back to normal by the time I was back in town, stuffing myself with a cachapa. Cachapa con queso, and venezuelan ‘kolita’ – breakfast of champions.

Something else I discovered today- the iberian spanish word for ‘juice’ is not the word used here. This explains a great deal about some odd looks and unexpected beverages. That said, I once asked for ‘agua fria’ and was presented with what was essentially pulverised honeydew melon in a glass. Just the thing, as it turned out- perhaps I looked like I needed it.