Friday, December 18, 2015

Venezuela Day 7: up, up and away above the city...

I had grown vaguely fond of Caracas, developing a grudging admiration for the ability of people to carry on despite all of the obstacles put in their way. Because, in all fairness, Venezuela is quite a progressive place. For example, using cable cars as a means of public transport is an imaginative solution to the issue caused by housing developments on steeply-sloped hillsides.

And the grandfather of such infrastructure lies in the northern suburbs, the teleferico. Built as part of a gondola lift system designed to carry people from the coastal town of La Guiara into Caracas and vice versa and opened in 1952, it ran successfully enough until the early 1970's, when it was closed. Subsequently, the section from Caracas to the crest of the coastal range at Ávila, was rebuilt and reopened, and is a major tourist attraction for the city.

The base station is at about 1000 metres above sea level, but the Ávila station is another 1100 metres up, 3.5 kilometres away, and it is a spectacular fifteen minute ride over the cloud forest for an astonishingly reasonable 250 Bolivars (about £1.25 at the tourist exchange rate). Even on a midweek day, it attracts caraqueños to the park at the summit, with fast food, great views and stalls to buy souvenirs, and it was nice to wander around.

Interestingly, much of the original infrastructure for the northern end, which was never refurbished, is still there, poking out from amongst the undergrowth and one does wonder if, were the funds to be available, it might ever be reinstated.

Eventually, it was time to head back down the mountain, as I had to get back to the hotel and pack for an early morning departure the next day, so I caught a gondola back down, which I was fortunate enough to have to myself.

On arrival, I decided to walk back into town, given that it was downhill, and my route took me through some of the less touristed suburbs. It never ceases to impress me how so many people are willing to do what it takes to find a way of overcoming the obstacles that a failing economy places before them, with some creative entrepreneurship sprouting up everywhere. And, for all of the alarming reports in the media, Caracas appears to be no more dangerous than a number of places I have been, at least during the hours of daylight.

And so, my trip to the City of Eternal Spring was over. I was alive and in love (with Ros). What more could a man ask for?...

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