Day 7

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Seventh Day – Mérida

We packed our gear, checked out of the posada, and went down to the street to get into the van waiting for us. Right away, a few things did not seem right, however. First off, the guide we were promised, who goes by ‘Grasshopper,’ was not in the van. I wondered if there was some mistake or if we were to meet him later. Second, the driver of the van had his two-year-old toddler with us as well. He had most definitely NOT been in the tour description, and although I did not have any real problem with another person coming along, he (like most very small children) required constant supervision by at least one person, and was prone to interrupt what other people were doing so they would pay attention to him. As if that was not enough, we were warned that he a habit of throwing things out car windows.

We might have dealt with all that and still had a good time, but there were a few other problems. The van was dirty (filthy, actually) and needed cleaning. Okay, so we had not given them a lot of time between signing up for the tour and starting on it, but if they knew they would need a while to clean the floor and such, they should have picked us up later, after it was done. Then, as if it was not bad enough that the car was dirty, its starter motor was not working! They could start it out by coasting downhill, but they would need to take it to a repair ship before we went into the lowlands!

By this time, there was serious talk of whether or not this was worthwhile. The horseback riding time was determined by how early we got to the ranch. Supposedly, we would have three or four hours, but that time was decreasing as we waited, and we were all starting to wonder what else would go wrong. As it turned out, the ‘quick stop to replace the starter’ was what else went wrong. I am not an engine technician, and I am not going to attempt to describe everything that happened, but basically the expected fifteen to thirty minute job of pulling out and replacing the motor turned into more than two hours of sitting around while people scurried about like ants. By the time the van was fixed, we had all decided we were going to go back, apologize, explain, and request a refund. Our driver told us that we could still have a great tour if we continued, but so many things had already gone wrong we could not help but wonder what else would mess up. We were late, we did not have our promised guide, and we had a two-year-old along.

The people at Gravity Tours understood, and we got our refund without too much difficulty. Our next problem was that another group had reserved our rooms at the posada where we had been staying, and we needed to go somewhere else. Again, we ended up wandering the streets, looking for a good place. We also checked the tourist centers for information about other tour companies. We found a few that were recommended, and Gravity was not on that list. Several other companies did Los Llanos tours, however.

Alan Highton, our guide from Arassari TrekWe got lunch and wandered around, checking out the other tour companies in the area. One of them, Arassari Trek, had a tour even better than Gravity’s. Alan, a guide highly recommended in the tourist information, met us at the door of the company to tell us about the trip. Their tour offered all the same advantages of Gravity’s, with a few extras, such as a hike to some hot springs. Alan said he could go any time in the next few days, and that he, himself, would be our guide. Between the excellent recommendations in our info and the very nice tour (for a reasonable price) that he was offering, we decided we wanted to go with him. We did check all the other companies we could reach on foot, but none of them had anywhere near such good deals.

We signed up with Alan from Arassari for a tour starting the next day and went back to our posada. Later that evening, Alan himself came by to talk to us about some complications in the trip. It turns out that another group would end up using the rafting camp at the same time we would be there. Although there would still be room, Alan told us that the camp was nicer with only one group at once, and had anticipated we might prefer to have the whole tour to ourselves. He had already come up with a few modified plans. The best one was to do the tour in reverse. We would probably never even see another group.

We all agreed to the modification in the plan. Indeed, it almost sounded better to me than the normal sequence. Of course, I do not really know what the tour is normally like, but this modified plan sounded great. After we ate dinner and packed for the trip, I went to sleep with eager anticipation for the next day.

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