Paragliding is a tempermental sport at this time of the year in Merida. Fairly precise conditions are required and prevail most of the year which is why Merida is such a great place to paraglide. However, in the rainy season, it’s more difficult to pinpoint the exact right conditions and makes it tough to guarantee if you will be able to paraglide on any given day. There are two windows of opportunity – at around 8 am and then again around 5pm. Arassari Trek would let us know around 7:00 am if the morning option was good and then again around 1pm if the 5pm option would work.
We heard early on that the morning option was not going to work. To make the best of our day, we decided to visit the Mercado Principale or Central Market in suburban Merida. Three floors high, this place has everything from soup to nuts – literally. We started at the top floor with a typical Venezuelan breakfast – eggs, chorizo and arepas, the tortilla like flat bread made on a grill. There are two types of arepas – wheat (tripo) and corn (maize). The wheat ones are more like large English muffins but less fluffy inside while the corn arepas are HEAVY – doorstop heavy, but crunchy.
We browsed through the various wares on offer at the market – clothing, art, crafts, leather goods, fresh produce and dried goods. We were interested in leather goods, sun hats and whatever interested us in the arts & crafts area. We found very nice leather betls, some interesting jewellery and some interesting artwork as well. I have to say, however, that after the incredible richness of the Peruvian craft scene, Venezuela is looking a little shabby and tacky. While there have been some nice things, the vast majority of artisanwork does not really interest us.
After the market, we headed over to a small shopping mall to visit a recommended CD shop to look for some representative Venezuelan or South American music. Giro’s came highy recommended and did not disappoint as Adrian and Robin listened to a ton of music that was suggested by the very helpful and knowledgeable staff. Adrian found some Latin jazz and chill-out while Robin found some Argentinian hard rock.
We got word that we weren’t going to be able to paraglide that day at all, so to console ourselves, we visited the Guiness Book of World Records record holder for the most number of flavours of gelato. Heladeria Coromoto is located in downtown Merida and has reportedly had 800 flavours of gelato on offer, some of it pretty wierd, like onion and beef. We stuck to fairly regular flavours such as lemon, strawberry and almond, but all of us hated the flavours and threw most of it out! Very disappointing and a great reminder that being big doesn’t make you good!
Our disappointment with the ice cream was overcome by our delight with our dinner at La Abadia, a former monastery. The owners have maintained the monastery decor and have named their dishes in the monastic tradition as well. Everything was outstanding from the bread and salad through to the brownies and banana split that Adrian and Robin enjoyed.