Merida is a gorgeous city with a vibrant green mountainside to its southeast. I found a very friendly hostel with lots of World Cup fans before heading out on a day of errands. I was running back to the hostel to try and catch the last half of last game of the day when I passed a small storefront selling beer and broadcasting the game. A group of locals and a couple from my hostel were gathered around drinking beer and cheering the South American team on. I stopped and joined in the fun before heading back to the hostel where I met 3 of the 17 young American missionaries taking up most of the dorm beds at the hostel. I hope they don't try to convert me!
Yet another day of World Cup action. It's really hard not to watch but at least they replay all the games at night, just in case. I met an American guy named Timoteo who took me out on the town for a night of salsa dancing. It was Saturday night and there were lots of people out. I hadn't realized before just how big Merida was. I'm staying in a tiny little part close to the mountains and teleferico but this place is sprawls out for miles. I was pretty tired from the late night but we decided to head up the teleferico anyway. It is the world's longest and highest cable car ride (and just around the corner from the hostel) so missing it wasn't an option. The ride is in four stages and by the third stage you're already passing above the clouds and getting lightheaded. It was freezing at the top with not much to see due to all the cloud cover. A great ride though. Finished the day watching a very strange movie at the cinema and having an amazing Italian meal. They waiters didn't skip a beat when the lights went out. They brought out candles and standalone lamps and our dinners with hardly any delay.
Up early the next day to go canyoning which was basically rappelling down waterfalls. Really, who makes this stuff up? It was incredible and terribly frightening. It was myself, a Brit named Piers and a guide and after a 30 minute drive and 20 minute hike in our skivvies we reached the river where we put on scuba suits to keep warm in the freezing cold water. We hiked to the first waterfallfirst waterfall which was only about 10 meters down but I was petrified and the 5 minute rappelling lesson in Spanish didn't do much to alleviate my stress. The big shock came about halfway down when I swung into the waterfall and felt the water crashing down on my head. I couldn't breathe and could not figure out what to do. I lost my rope, my lifeline and felt myself slide quickly down about 3 meters until I hit the bottom. I had missed the part of the lesson where the guide mentioned that while I repelled down on my rope, he was actually reeling me out on the backup rope so it was more like being lowered down. Thank heavens for backups.
We hiked to the next waterfall crossing back and forth across the raging river to follow the safest path. The rocks were very slippery and it was easier just to slide on my bum on the trickier parts. We got to a small ledge and our guide just jumped in. The rock wall opposite us was only about 5 feet away and it's just barely deep enough to jump at that one point. It looks insane and I really had to talk myself into it. There was more hiking to the two last waterfalls, the last one at 25 meters high convinced me that a fear of heights is a good thing. I never once looked down. My adrenaline was pumping hard enough just concentrating on not letting go of the rope this time. At the bottom we hiked out to our jeep and pulled off all of our scuba gear and headed back into town feeling exhilarated. They had a delicious chicken coconut curry waiting for us back at the office and we finished just in time to catch the last football match.
Finally, my last day in Merida and in Venezuela. I'm busing it into Columbia early tomorrow so I've had a million little things to get done today. I did get a chance to make it out to the nearby ice cream parlor where they have the Guinness world record for the most ice cream flavors. This list is stomach churning, onion, garlic, hamburger, chicken in wine sauce and even shrimp. I'm not sure anyone actually buys them because the containers looked very full and looked like they'd been sitting out for a good long while. I tried a few and was horrified. I'm sticking to strawberry from now on.