Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Merida, Adventure Capital of Venezuela

Rolling down the mountain towards Merida, the views get better around every curve. The mountain range on the other side of the valley becomes more and more impressive. The two highest peeks of Venezuela are somewhere out there. A Kawasaki KLR rides by and there is a KTM 950 Adventure parked in front of a small motorcycle shop. My kind of people! I park next to the KTM and go inside for some information. I’m looking for someone to work on my rear shock. It really needs a check up as I am bottoming out on the big bumps. No luck on the shock because they don’t have the specialized equipment but one of the customers, who happens to be a bike mechanic as well, offers to take me into town and show me around.

[​IMG] The scenery around Merida. 
Two minutes into traffic, a motorcycle cop shows up and decides to escort us into town. A minute later another copper shows up on a KLR. The newspaper article of people getting shot for bike parts flashes through my mind. So far no Africa Twins so I should be OK. The cops are happy to take me to town. I think back on my time in Bandung, Indonesia, where my friend Duncan and I asked a cop for directions and before we knew it the sirens were on and we were racing through traffic and riding against traffic, trying to keep up with the police bike, escorting us through town.
[​IMG] My lovely home for a while...
The other biker assures me it’s ok and leaves me with the cops after giving me his business card and telling me that if I need any other work done on the bike I should come and see him and he will help me out. The cops try their best to find a hotel with parking for me. They even go inside to ask for prices. Great service. I tell them I will be alright and thank them for their help. Half an hour later I find a cosy place with a fenced and camera guarded parking lot across the road. Hotel Casa Sol, run by a lovely German lady, was a boutique hotel and just above my budget. So she recommended the hotel across the road, La Casona de Margot, but let me use her parking lot.

... And most important: A safe place for the bike.

I spend the evening and the next day gathering information and walking around Merida. It is a beautiful town with many old churches and lively squares. The people seem happy and there is so much to see and do. I find out about a Spanish course. For 80US$ I get 20 hours of 1 on 1 lessons. After meeting my teacher I thought about it over a delicious 2 dollar dinner and decided I would stay for a week to study, get to know the town, do some para gliding and go to Los Llanos to spot some wildlife. This is going to be amazing!

[​IMG] Plaza Bolivar in Merida. Always lively and very colorful.
[​IMG] Dance performances on one of the many other squares in town.
Mostly I have been taking pictures with my phone as I have been warned many times not to walk around with a fancy camera because I would get robbed. When I walked to a viewpoint, where there were less people, two girls warned me not to take my phone out of my pocked there for the same reason. It felt so safe but people seemed very afraid for armed robbery. It did make me even more aware of my surroundings.

I have never seen such small goals. They were very skilled with a soccer ball.

I started my Spanish course the next day with I Lingua. Their English was perfect but they insisted on speaking Spanish all the time. They focused specifically on what I wanted/needed to learn in a weeks time and used a lot of humor to achieve our goals. The second day we started of with a children's memory game. It was fun and I actually learned a few words. The next day we focused on some verbs and when it all became a little bit too much for my brain cells, we did some Spanish karaoke to lighten the load.

[​IMG] Necessary Spanish in case I get sick or have an accident...
Typical Lunch while taking care of today's homework. I feel like a kid again!

[​IMG]Starting the day with... Memory! :y0!

[​IMG] Never knew you could learn so much from Karaoke! :wings

On the weekend their were no lessons because they were too busy teaching kids English. I was asked to come in so the older kids could practice their conversational skills. It took a while to brake the ice but once they got started, they asked some great questions. From travel related questions to political issues to questions about the Dutch marijuana laws. I had a great morning until the roles reversed and the teachers forced me to reply in Spanish... euhhhhhh...

[​IMG] This family had trouble with their car. After solving the problem they checked out the bike and saw the Black Dog Cycle Works beer bottle opener on the box and insisted on opening a bottle of beer with it which I then had to drink... Well, there goes the no drinking and riding rule... Love these people!
That Sunday I went for a ride to visit all the places near Merida that the kids had recommended I visit. Winding roads took me to quaint towns with beautiful churches, wineries (the strawberry wine was delicious), an observatory at 3500 meter and a beautiful mountain lake. It gave me a good idea of Venezuelan life in the country side where old 4 wheel drives and donkeys still ease the workload.

[​IMG] I am still not tired of colorful churches. The "old mans beard" in the tree tells you how clean the air is up here.
Did I mention the food was just amazing! $1.50 and yes, studying Spanish any time I can! :ostrich

[​IMG] Less colorful but what an artwork! Iglesia de San Rafael de Mucuchíes
[​IMG] What are you looking at mate!?! Anyone not traveling by motorcycle because they have a dog... No more excuses! :rofl
[​IMG] No words to describe the riding here.
[​IMG] The winding road to the observatory at 3500 meter / 10500 feet.
Working the land with donkeys. Respect!

Laguna Mucubaji

It was getting late and I decided to go back to Merida. On the way down from the lake I saw a few bikers that I had seen earlier. They were from all over South America. One of them had gotten a flat. I pulled over to help to fix it. Just before dark I returned from a stunning day of riding.

[​IMG] Who needs a center stand!?!
The luxury of having Gobi Cases; washing your hands after roadside work on a bike.


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  2. Oh ❤ that foto of dog on bike ... now you can double back to pick up "What's his name".

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