Inevitably, our vacations are getting to their end. This morning we left Merida directed to Caracas, where we will stay for just one day before flying back to freezing Boston. We flew again with one of the small propeller planes that serve the route between Merida and Caracas. These planes actually land in the Merida airport. Landing in Merida is quite an experience. The city is on a valley between very high mountains (the Pico Bolivar is over 5,000m), and the airport is right in the middle of the city. Until a few years ago large jets were authorized to land, but only especially trained pilots were able to do the frightening maneuver of diving through the peaks and stopping on the short runway (the runway is really short, to the point that the bakery near the airport had to pull down its shutters at the time of the daily jet flight). Now only small planes are authorized to land, and the situation has somewhat improved, even though the landing stage can still provide quite an adrenaline rush, and the probability of getting in town the same day as your luggage are slim. Despite the clouds and being again seated on the same side of the sun, we were treated by a wonderful view and I was able to do a few nice shots, like the one above. We will spend the night in caracas, and tomorrow morning we will suffer another early wake up to get back to the airport for our return flight to the US. This time we didn't lose our luggage, which is good given that we would have had otherwise to arrive in Boston with our summer clothes on.
--- Updates (October 18, 2013) ---
As mentioned in this other post, the airport in Merida is closed due to a fatal accident, and is now necessary to fly to El Vigia, a very inconvenient airport down in the plain.
Linked Google+ post and comments:
Merida, Venezuela (December 28, 2004)
--- Updates (October 20, 2013) ---
David left this comment on Facebook:
"Es bastante increible lo pertinente de esta foto: Estoy 95% seguro q esas lagunas las conocimos Javier y yo la única vez q acampamos juntos... Nos quedamos al lado de la más grande, la del medio. Se llega subiendo por la Musuy, y una de ellas se llama La Carbonera... nunca había llegado a ver esta foto.. Espectacular!!!"
It turns out I have a couple other photographs taken about at the same time from the plane, that show the lakes in more details, and the nearby area. I am adding them here.
They did! The bakery was right at the end of the runway, perfectly aligned so that when the jet was powering up for takeoff the air from the exhaust would enter the shop, blowing everything away. So they needed to pull down the shutter twice a day, at the time of the scheduled jet flights. It was also a big touristic attraction, with people going to the bakery just to experience the thrill of being blown away by a jet.
Past sense yes. Right now the airport is closed, but even before they closed it to all traffic, the large jets were not permitted to land for several years (there weren't many pilots capable to do the required mountain slalom for a safe landing).