Fact: Carnaval is a very exciting, very wild time in Latin America. For me, however, it was a little less wild and crazy and a little more filled with tissues and cold medicine. I had scored myself a case of grippe (typical cold/flu) before leaving Ojeda, and getting up at 4 AM to drive seven hours into the mountains probably didn’t help make me more well. We arrived at our hotel (Hotel Chama) and promptly fell asleep for an afternoon siesta (these aren’t really a thing in Venezuela, but I’m a champion napper so I’ll make it work). Then, we booked it to a local market for lunch and an afternoon of shopping.
Then, we had spectacular dinner and spectacular customer service at our in-hotel restaurant (where we would quickly just begin eating at every single day because it was so damn good). This restaurant went out and bought ketchup simply because I asked for it, which was a wild contrast to the restaurant that I went to that wouldn’t take sausage off of an all-meat pizza and made me pick it off myself (it was just “not possible” to make it without sausage).
Day two consisted of me waking up with a fever, not being able to stay upright for more than 10 minutes at a time, and sleeping. Finally, at two in the afternoon, I managed to get myself downstairs and back in the bright red van to go to the cabins that the rest of our group was staying in (which were beautiful and serene and an hour out of town). We had a barbecue and spent the evening watching the Super Bowl (which I also couldn’t stay awake for).
Day three was our best day of them all, in terms of sightseeing, and our worst day of them all in terms of frustration levels. In the morning, our friends made us delicious breakfast and Virginia and I popped down to the Teleferico Station. The Teleferico is still out of order, however it is supposed to be back up and running by October (hopefully that’s not Latin time and is a genuine estimate).
I gorged myself on fresa con crema and sipped along happily on my (healthy) friends’ smoothies while I stared enviously at the empty cable car from the Teleferico going up to the stations (which are still being renovated). I also got to take in amazing views and look fiercley gringa in my yoga pants and athletic tanktop.
From there, I was ecstatic to find out that our friends bought us a trip up into the mountains to a scenic town. The ride up was sickening for most (although thankfully not me this time!) and I was so excited. From that point on, we were planning to go to some beautiful waterfalls as a whole group. That was before it turned out to be a timeshare scam and we sat there waiting for our friends to buy timeshares for literally five hours. We were all grumpy, I was supremely ill again by that point, and I wanted to be nowhere near them. To make matters worse, our breaks on the van overheated while we were driving down the steep mountain, so we had to stop and eat (which tacked another hour on). The only redeeming thing about this afternoon was that I got to see the pretty little town (for far too long) and that I got this amazing photo of me on a horse and that I got a second fresa con crema. Oh, also this bunny that Tairy caught for us to pet. I liked the bunny.
To make matters worse, this was the only day that I had felt well (for the majority of it) and it was our last real day in Merida. The next morning, after some serious confusion about who was going where and when we were all going home, we went back to the same market that I went to on the first day (not a super big highlight for me personally) so that Michelle could see it. Then, we drove the seven hours home with only the three of us in the van (since we didn’t all want to go to the zoo or be together anymore, quite frankly). On the way back, I had a bathroom miscommunication with my driver. I told him that I would pee on the side of the road (if necessary) because it just isn’t a big deal to me. He took that as I was about to pee my pants and stopped at this ghetto bodega that sold only beer. They refused to let me use the bathroom, but the sketchy restaurant on the other side of the road told me that I could use the bathroom of the house behind it if I paid. I was greeted by the restaurant owner, a woman wearing only a towel who was barefoot and at least seven months pregnant. She let me into her home while her boyfriend? husband? baby daddy? looked angrily at me from his parked motorcycle. She offered me toilet paper, which is pretty much as good as gold in this country, but I had my own. I manually flushed the toilet (no running water) and when I tried to pay her 50 cents, the equivalent of half a week’s salary for her, probably, she refused it. It truly touched my heart and gave me a wonderful travel tale to tell.
After all that, we finally made it back home. I had never been so happy to be in Ojeda in my life, especially because my ears needed to pop. It turned out that because of the change in air pressure and because of the chaos of the day before, my simple cold turned into a full blown sinus infection and a severe double ear infection, which I’m still partially recovering from. This wasn’t my favorite trip (by any means) but it did teach me a couple of important things–like don’t invite other people on your vacations and expect it to be smooth sailing. Also, don’t try to wing it with eight other people — plan plan plan and be sure you’re all on the same page.
Until next time, Merida. I’ll plan to see you again with fewer friends and a more comprehensive agenda.