Los Nevados is a tiny Andean village to the south of Mérida. Ordinarily it can be reached by way of a 14km hike from topmost station of the Teléferico de Mérida .. but the longest and highest cable car in the world is being rebuilt at the moment. So we drive; a 4×4 departs from Mérida city every morning for a modest fee.
I’d heard that the road could be a little frightening at times- a narrow cutting into a steep hillside, often without space for two vehicles to pass. This is true- though more frightening at the time turned to be the empenada that I’d purchased while waiting to to leave. Or rather it’s urgent exit through the window of the moving jeep. I wasn’t the only one glad that the window was jammed open rather than shut. The road descends considerably as it leaves Mérida, and we had only just begun to climb again, so it couldn’t have been altitude. The other nine people in the jeep were very patient as I vomited the rest of my breakfast a safe distance from everyone.

The road was indeed narrow, deeply muddy on places, and often improbably steep. In spite of this, it carries a surprosing amount of traffic- 4x4s, motorcycles, horses and (I’m told) even bicycles. Often there is a rock cutting on one side, and an all but sheer drop on the other-the driver was unrufflable, however.

I was greeted enthusiastically upon arrival at Los Nevados by Justina, proprietor of the Posada Campesina – who implored me to stay on her posada. ‘There are two german girls!’ She said repeatedly, by way of persusion. She didn’t understand that I had a tent and wanted to go and camp, sleep under the stars. I’d even looked up the word for tent especially – ‘voy a dormir en mi tienda!’ I grinningly said, pointing at the path along the hillside. I don’t think it helped that ‘tienda’ is also the word for shop. She looked at me like I was mad.

I set off along the path that runs along the valley- it was lunchtime, so far too late in the day to see the huge 4000m peaks that tower above. The valley sides are impressively steep- there is hardly any flat ground anywhere. I passed a number of small farms as I walked, and a huge bull (that obligingly moved out of my way).

Every likely piece of ground was occupied by crops or animals. I wasn’t sure how far to press on (I had to meet the jeep early the next morning) or whether to go down to the river where there might be a spot. I made tea at the side of the road – all the while the clouds were dipping lower. By the time I had finished, the heavens had opened, and I knew where I’d sleep. Justina was in no way surprised to see me – it was me who didn’t understand after all.

It turned out to be a good decision in lots of ways though; I’m sure there will be many solitary nights under canvas to come. The warmth and light of the posada were welcome, as was Justina’s cooking and the company of new friends. The posada was simple, clean, and inexpensive- excellent stuff.

Tomorrow I will leave the extraordinarily kind hospitality of Yazmin, Diego and family, and press on. José has kindly offered to drop me at Barinas, where I will head west towards San Cristobal. I will have to once more get used to cycling in the hot sun..

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