Sunday, September 26, 2010

Somos pájaros! (We are birds!)

Mérida is the reputed adventure capital of Venezuela, so it seemed only appropriate that we risk our lives doing something that most people do in their late teens/early 20s, long before one’s sense of mortality sets in. Our choice of poison: parapente. Paragliding. It’s a bit interesting receiving instructions for a sport that has life and death consequences in a language you don’t speak all that well. I made sure that Juan translated the important stuff while still on solid ground: when the tandem guide says “corriendo”, run. Don’t stop even if the ground seems to disappear from below you. Only stop running when he says “sientese.”

Given the language barrier, there wasn’t much time to get nervous. The guide never said something like, “Hey, get ready. We’re going to be the first ones to go and we’ll start running in a couple of minutes.” No. What he said was, “Corriendo!” So, run I did. Pretty soon we were airborne, eagles swooping a few meters away, squawking at us invading their air space. Juan was close behind me (white as a ghost and holding his seat straps so tightly that when we finally reached earth again he had ½ inch grooves in his hands). Our tandem partners knew the local air currents which meant instead of gradually coasting downwards during our flight, we first flew upwards.

I would have gone again right away, but once is probably good enough for someone afraid of heights.

Mérida is also the home of the world’s longest and tallest teleférico (cable car) and an ice cream store in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most flavors. Unfortunately, the teleférico is out of service after two years of political in-fighting (apparently Chavez doesn’t get along with the local representatives and won’t apportion the money), but we did try Heineken ice cream and another flavor called Por Amarte Tanto (which means “because of loving you so much” and tasted like a very pleasant cinnamon). Maybe next time we’re in Mérida, we’ll be braver and actually try some of their ham & cheese or shrimp flavored ice cream…

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