Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bailadores... Ay Dios.

This last weekend, many of us decided we wanted a short excursion out of the city, so we hopped a bus to Bailadores, in the Merida state. It was less than 60 miles away, however by bus through the mountains, that equates to a little more than two hours.

That however was fine. The bus ride to Bailadores was absolutely beautiful. We traveled out of the mountains for a short time, and then back into them. We saw cacti growing directly next to palm trees. There were prairie grasses in what looked like a jungle. The views of the distant mountains from the bus windows was absolutely breathtaking. I took nearly 100 pictures just of the mountains on the bus.

When we arrived in Bailadores, the bus dropped us off in the plaza de Simon Bolivar. People are obsessed with him here, he is like the patron saint... of everything. Of freedom, of independence, of soveriegnty, but his statue looks cool, so I don´t mind.

Bailadores was the fresh of breath air that I was needing. It´s much less touristy than Merida, and you could tell people there didn´t often see American tourists walking through. There were a few posadas and hotels, but there wasn´t much there. We found a small hotel called Hotel Libares where we were able to get rooms for 30 Bsf each, $5.00 USD. And for that cheap, we were all willing. The rooms were nice too, not just for how much we paid, but in general. Each room had a HUGE king bed that easily could fit three or four people, and two bunk beds. There was a television, fan, and stocked fridge in each room, as well as an amazing balcony overlooking the mountains. Unbelievable.

When we settled into the hotel, a smaller group of us went to go find some food. We found a little restaurant that served a delicious almuerzo ejecutivo, which included the usual, sopa, arroz, platano, carne, vegetales y jugo. It was sooo delicious. And unlike in Merida, they seemed excited that we were there and happy to be serving us. They talked to us, and even posed for a picture. Much friendlier than in Merida.

After we ate, we started walking towards las cascadas, the waterfalls. We thought it was very close to where we were, turns out we were wrong. We started walking down the road that had a sign saying ¨Las Cascadas¨and walked FOREVER. Another group of people had left before we did, and they texted that they weren´t even there yet. Not good news. After a looong time walking uphill, a man, with no teeth, stopped in his truck and mumbled SOMETHING in Spanish about dropping some other gringas off at the top. We didn´t understand exactly what he was talking about, but at the same time, another truck stopped and literally five guys climbed out of the cab and told us to get in, and that they´d take us tp las cascadas. I have never seen people soo happy as they were at that moment.

So we jumped in the cab, and rode up to las cascadas. Apparently yeah, it was a little far away. Who knew...? Once we got there, we all piled out of the cab and looked around. We were at the bottom of a huge mountain in a park called Parque de Cascada "India Caru". There were small ponds that had been created for people to swim in, and a huge staircase leading up to the waterfalls. We slowly made our way up, and honestly, for a while I was a little disappointed. It was beautiful, but nothing all that special.

However, on the last set of stairs, we were finally able to see the actual waterfall. It was AMAZING. It blew me away, especially because I had never before seen an actual waterfall like this before. What I had in my mind when I thought of waterfall was St. Anthony Falls. Trust me, that's no waterfall compared to this. This is beautiful and huge and misty and unbelievable. THIS was a waterfall.

After we took a sufficient amount of pictures and marveled at the amazing sites, we started on our way back down the stairs to check out the small craft huts we had seen when we got there. Some people were selling food and fresas, they're known for their strawberries there, and lots of jewelry. I bought a new pair of earrings for myself, and REALLY wanted some fresas con crema, but I decided to wait until later for that.

So we started down back to the town of Bailadores, very leisurely. On the way back, we stopped at a small wine brewery that made wine from strawberries, blackberries, and more. They also made their own liquors (muy fuerte) and natural medicines. We tasted lots of wines, and then bought a bottle of Vino de Mora. Muy delicioso. Then we kept walking down the hill towards Bailadores and caught a ride down with a man on his flat bed. A small portion of me thought about how it could be dangerous, not the man, but riding down the hill, fast, on an open bed, around curves, in the mountains. But before I could allow these thoughts to completely penetrate my mind, we had already reached the bottom.

So we got back to Bailadores and took a little tour around the city. Jenee, Amanda and I split up from the group to allow us to have a little bit more flexibility with where we wanted to go and see. So we sat in the plaze for a while, and people watched. There was a man there that I can only expect would be considered the town drunk, and he was hilarious to watch. After that, we went into to church that is adjacent to the plaze and sat in for the last few minutes of mass. The priest was singing in Spanish and Latin, and it was absolutely beautiful. The congregation was singing along with the priest at times, and it almost brought me to tears. This small Catholic church had beautiful frescas painted on the walls and ceilings, and ornate statues of saints and The Virgin Mary.

After mass ended, Amanda, Jenee, and I went on an adventure for a bar and a restaurant. However, as we found out, apparently Bailadores doesn't have a bar, only one liquor store, so we instead decided to buy a few beers and chatted up the locals at the bar.

That night was sooo much fun. After we left the liquor store at about sundown, we walked back to our hotel, which was only a few blocks away. We were all just hanging out in the hotel in eachother's rooms and chatting it up. After a while we headed to a pizza place down the street. What I have noticed, and what is very obvious, is what wherever we go, we have the tendency to just... take over. We take over bars and clubs, we take over hotels and posadas, and this night, we completely took over the pizzeria. On the one hand it's fun, but on the other hand I wish that sometimes we just blended in more here. In smaller groups, we're much less conspicuous.

After that, we went back to the hotel and most of us got really, really tired. I stayed up for a while, sitting on the balcony with a couple of girls, chatting, but soon enough I fell asleep too.

The next day, I was up bright and early, thanks to my 7:00 am weekday schedule, that I love SOOOO much. Not. But on the flipside, it was a good thing. It gave us more time to explore Bailadores before we needed to leave at noon, and also gave us an ample amount of time to shower and tidy up the hotel rooms. And sit on the balcony.

I have never seen a clearer sky than that morning on the balcony. At 8:00 am, the mountains were in perfect focus and the vista was just... absolutely breathtaking. You could see until what seemed the end of time. I am so glad I got a chance to see that.

Jenee and I, after our showers, went and ventured out again into Bailadores to track down some breakfast and coffee. We stopped at what must have been the only panadería in the town and got some pastries, big coffees, and water. The sun was already hot, as it normally is early in the mornings here.

After we had eated there, we had realized that nuestro padres told us to try the fresas, which we hadn't done yet, so we headed across the street to the heladería to grab some fresas con crema. More realistically, it was crema con una fresa, but I am not complaining. It came tp me as a castle of whipped cream topped with a bright red, ripe fresa, and a little dainty spoon to eat it all with.

It was heaven, whipped cream heaven. And probably the most nutritious breakfast of my life: pastries, coffee, and whipped cream covered strawberries. Go me.

We wandered around town for a little longer, and then mosied back to the hotel to check out and get ready to leave. We grabbed our things, and headed back to the plaza to enjoy the sunshine and the sights.

A while later, we went down to the bus stop and boarded the bus. And then it hit me... damn I am tired! Most of the bus ride home I spent napping, which is exactly what I needed, because when I got home, there was lots of homework to be done. Lots.

So we got home, and Jenee and I started walking back to our house. Normally it is pretty quiet on Sundays, since everything is closed and people like to stay home, very similar to the United States. However, as we approached our apartment building, we hit police barracades. The entire street was blocked off for a HUGE kid's celebration. there were hundreds and hundreds of people spilling out of the park across the house from our street, so many that we had to squeeze very tightly to even make it home. There was a stage set up in the middle of the street with children performers doing karaoke and dancing. It was insane, to say the least.

The best, no, worst part, was that the state was directly below our window. Just as I went to lay down on my bed, after unpacking my things, the talent contest began. And whoever this kid was didn't have much of it. They were singing a version of an Avril Lavigne song. I didn't like it the first time around, and I DEFINITELY didn't like it this time either. It was so horrible, so offkey, so annoying that I had to leave the house. I couldn't even BE THERE.

So Jenee and I decided to go find some lunch, and let the kid festivities die down (hopefully!) while we were gone. We went to a small outdoor restaurant down the street and got almuerzos ejecutivos con pescado. It was DELISH.

By the time we headed back to our apartment, luckily the festivities were dying down. The rest of the night was spent doing homework, before I passed out at 10:00 pm. I swear, my schedule has made me into an 80-year-old woman. To bed before ten, and awake before seven. We'll see how that works out once I am back in the states however...

The last few days since I came back have been... normal. Yesterday and today I had class until 1:30 pm, and soon after that I went home to nap, eat, do homework, and relax. Tonight at VENUSA there is a Karaoke event which I am looking forward to heading out to tonight, and hopefully I can get some pictures as well to put up here.

This weekend I am going to Chichiribichi Beach on the coast for the weekend, which I am SOOO EXCITED about. I am looking forward to a couple solid days of relaxing, swimming, and laying out, especially since that's what most people think of when they think of South America anyways.

Well, I must be off for now, but I will be thinking of all of you fondly, and can't wait to tell you all of my experiences in person.

Chao America.

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