Roads into the mountains

The Andes
We departed Merida at 7a.m., getting into one of the Toyota 4WD vehicles that ply this popular tourist route, along with a pleasant young family on holidays from Caracas. The driver roped our backpacks to the roof-rack, and off we went.

For the first 3 hours, the roads were quite good—so narrow that when we met an oncoming vehicle, one of the drivers had to run his side up the steep rocky embankment—but cemented and well-drained.
The Andes
Gradually the road got worse…we left the sealed concrete behind, and started to rumble and bounce along rocky dirt roads. Then the roads dwindled to something more like donkey trails…deeply furrowed, with portions washed away and the abyss yawning ominously beyond. The number of small capillas—little “spirit houses” between 1-3 ft. high, imitating the forms of churches and bearing names and dates—that locals place at the spot of a death on the road, increased.

We clung to our seats, using our legs to wedge ourselves, as the vehicle tried to throw us from side to side like rag dolls. The red dust blew in through the windows on a cold wind, although the sun was shining gloriously, and the ancient vistas were endless and soul-compelling.
little gate leading into the sky
In Mosnanda, with just an hour left to Los Nevados, we stopped for breakfast at Cafetin Criollo, a little place famous for its pasties (pasteles andinos), its chicha andina (fermented corn drink), and its caraota (black bean) stew. They all tasted wonderful. Especially the chicha, which tastes exactly like a thick, rich applesauce, with cinnamon and a splash of something bitey and fizzy, like soda water.
The Andes
It was here that we noticed that there was only one backpack on the roof. Mine. Kris’ red and grey backpack was gone. Our hearts sank, for a moment, because things had been going so well, so far, and this hurt a bit. A local gent on a motorcycle was sent to look for it, back along the road we came, to El Morro, a pueblo 10 kms. behind, when we last had a rest-stop and saw the bags together. We sat and waited.

The motorcyclist came back empty-handed. The bag had either been hurled off the roof and down the mountain side, or somebody had found it. We could not blame anyone who may have found it for keeping it. It was a very good, expedition-grade bag. There was a fantastic jacket inside, a sleeping bag, all of Kris’ clothes, and what amounts to three months of monthly minimum wages (just $30), in local currency. Also, good books Kris had bought in Merida, a big bundle of pretty postcards, our dictionary, and Kris’ leather-bound travel diary, with notes and drawings dating as far back as 2006, when we were in Timor. Merry Christmas, whoever-you-are!

A shame to lose it all in one bundle, and a big inconvenience (the keys to the boat were gone, too), but we were relieved that our passports and dollars had been in the pouch that Kris always wears on his body. Honestly, we got away lightly…it could have been so much worse! We found out later that this was the second time that driver had lost something from the roof of his Toyota…the last time, it had been a pig that went flying over the edge. But we blamed ourselves, really…we should have checked the ropes on the bags, ourselves. A good lesson, relatively cheap.

Kris decided to walk the 10 km. road to El Morro, himself, scouring the mountainsides, and I continued to Los Nevados with the family. If he didn’t find the bag, he would wait in El Morro to catch a ride back to Merida, change more money, and buy something warm for Los Nevados. I watched as he disappeared around the bend, dwarfed by the landscape, along narrow ribbons of road that seemed to go on forever—up, down, and along the contours of windswept, impassive mountains. So much of our life together has been about watching him head off, alone, into vast, swallowing panoramas of land or sea.
Kris en los andes
I arrived in Los Nevados, comforted and taken under-wing, like a sad spinster aunt, by the young Venezuelan family (I wasn’t actually troubled, but they seemed to expect me to be depressed and forlorn without my man, and it was too hard to explain the nature of my relationship with Kris to them). We’d all booked in advance, with the Guimanche Posada in Merida, to stay at their Los Nevados posada of the same name, and it was nice to have the couple, and their bright little boy, for company during meals or short walks through the town…though I drew the line at joining them for a mule ride! I told them I wanted to wait for Kris before I climbed on a mule for the first time in my life!
Los Nevados

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19 thoughts on “Roads into the mountains

  1. I get the impression that the people are so great, in all the places you’ve been, something like our people in Batanes islands. Unspoiled, ultra–hospitable, warm and friendly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you might be romanticizing unknown countries, Dad. There are good people everywhere…there are no borders, specific races, or special places, where good people congregate. But it takes one to know one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was so hoping this post would have a happy ending. Maybe later, but I don’t think even mishaps like this will detract much from your marvelous journey. Thanks again for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Hilda! We’re fine, the event has already been forgotten, and we are missing nothing that was in the bag (now that we are back on the boat and Kris has FINALLY changed his clothes!) All good. Cheers for coming along on the trip!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, didn’t mean to write a tear-jerker post! But you are lovely to empathise with us, thank you Alison! Kris has already forgotten the incident, and we miss nothing that was lost, so guess we never needed the stuff in the first place…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, sorry to hear about the lost backpack but how well you guys are taking the lessons and moving on, with great views. Wishing you many pleasant adventures ahead and enjoy being in the moment wherever you are on your travels.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Kris has already forgotten about it, and now that I can look back, knowing we survived two weeks with him wearing the same pair of jeans (okay, washed twice in that time while he hid in the room for a day…) all is well. I am glad it wasn’t my backpack, though. I am much more attached, and I have nicer stuff. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pardon the pun but what a cliffhanger. I am desperately hoping that Kris somehow found the backpack. All of the other stuff can be replaced, of course, a complete pain in the rump but nothing irreplaceable; then you mentioned the travel diary and my heart sunk for the two of you. I would be pretty devastated to lose such a personal item. So I am crossing my fingers that the next installment of your blog is about the finding of the backpack.

    The worst road journey I have ever been on was the Amalfi Coast. I am afraid of heights so driving so close to the edge of the steep cliffs, on narrow roads, with oncoming traffic that was not going to budge in the least, was pretty adrenalin fuelled stuff. Then we got a flat tire. That was a very nerve-jangling trip but I don’t think it in any way compares to your journey. Yikes. At least you didn’t suffer the fate of the flying pig. There’s always that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. LOL No, never found the backpack, but have gotten over it. Luckily, the journal was not his main one, which never leaves the boat. Just some sketches and notes, most of which are just cryptic lines that he has then re-written, in full, in the main book. I should have elaborated, but it’s a gabby enough post as it is. We’ve already forgotten all about it, he doesn’t even mention it when we tell people how our trip went. He’s very unattached to stuff. I am so glad it wasn’t my backpack…I’d be devastated for a year. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

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