Day 5

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Fifth Day – Mule Ride

 After another excellent breakfast the next morning with Venezuelan café con leche (coffee and milk,) fresh juices, eggs, arepas, cheese, and blackberry jam, we said our goodbyes and the seven of us who were going to ride out went up to the road with all of our baggage. Our guides for the day were there with a collection of mules, most of which were taller than the one I had ridden two days ago. They were still mules, however: slow and uncomfortable creatures and as stubborn as a boulder about moving (hard to start, hard to stop, and hard to steer.)

Our road, on the side of a very steep slopeThe ride was actually rather pleasant. The hills were incredibly steep, dropping off a thousand feet to a river below, and the mules, of course, liked to walk on the outside edge! However, this provided a superb chance for looking over the dramatic cliffs and down the steep and rocky slope. Fortunately, the mules only occasionally needed guidance. Once I got used to their gait, it was even rather fun trying to coax some speed out of them. Unlike horses, it is a major accomplish to get one to trot for a few seconds, but that did not stop us from holding little races. Although the ‘races’ consisted of little other than constant attempts to edge each other out of line, it was an interesting challenge to control the mules that much.

Hey! He's getting ahead!We came to a tiny village around lunchtime, which was even smaller than Los Nevados. Our guides knew about a nice little place where we could buy empanadas (basically beans, cheese, meat, or anything else you want wrapped up in fried bread.) We had empanadas and sodas for lunch, and relaxed for a little while.

Green valleys and shining rivers...The ride in the afternoon was much as the morning ride had been, hot, uncomfortable, and long. We were occasionally going under trees, for much greenery grew along the sides of streams, and many streams had cut through the dusty red soil to create the deep ravines I had seen earlier. However, as we got closer back to towns, the roads became wider and eventually paved. By this time, the sun was noticeably in the west. We had known from the beginning that we would not get all the way back to Mérida on mule back, but there was a posada part way where we could spend the night. The posada was situated above an actual town, and the drive back to Mérida from there was not nearly as long or uncomfortable as all the way from Los Nevados.

We got rooms at the posada and explored it a bit. It was actually essentially on old farm built in the sixteen hundreds. There were lots of animals (pigs, goat, and lots of chickens) and some old farm equipment. We even saw old wood ovens and things that looked like museum pieces. We had a nice dinner after our exploration, then sat down and played card games for a while. There was some excitement when the electricity went off temporarily, then eventually we all went up to bed.

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