This weekend we went to Catatumbo again. But, before we start that, lets have a small discourse on the zoo, shall we?

We went to the parque zoologico as a class field trip on Thursday. It was zoo-y. Anyhow, here’s one of my favorite photos from the zoo.

I know what you’re all thinking; “Chris, you’ve flipped your lid! This isn’t from the zoo!” You’re exactly right, but the problem with all the zoo pictures was that the animals were all behind fences with only small holes, or bars with only the tiniest of gaps between them. The picture above was from a craft shop near the zoo. I think that this one here is pretty good.

Then… on to the Catatumbo trip. We went with a guide this time, so no worries about having to trek around with all our own food and liquor and that sort of thing. No siree, Bob, we had it all taken care of for us. The first place we went was a tobacco and sugar factory. Originally I had thought that these would be separate places (i.e. tobacco factory and a sugar factory) – but as it turns out they were one in the same. We watched the boiling vats of tobacco leaves slowly turn in to a tar like substance, which was then stored and dried in used 5 gallon buckets. The guide said even kids here use the stuff.

We left after about 10 minutes, as the “factory” was really a corrugated tin roof covering the boilers for the tobacco, and headed for our next stop, the hot springs. These were incredible. They stopped the jeep at a gate, and said, “it would be best if you took off your shoes.” After trekking through some incredibly deep and squishy mud before getting to the hot springs, we understood why. We set our stuff down when we got there and our guide said, “If you’re going to go walk around, look out for scorpions.”

The hot spring ran into a plain old river, creating perfect temperature water somewhere in between the bank of the river and the small fall of the hot spring. The hot springs were probably only 3 inches deep at the deepest, but were located a good 3 feet higher than the river bank, which led to the guides building a homemade shower, complete with hot water.

We picnicked for lunch, finally arriving in Catatumbo in the afternoon. After an hour of swimming in the lake water which was, in Esperanza’s (my host mom) words, “Muy contaminado,” we went on a nighttime excursion to hunt for baby crocodiles. The guide caught two, and tried for what he thought was a python. He just simply grabbed them out of the water with his bare hands, although he says he underestimated the size of the snake, which was actually much bigger around than his hand could reach.

I stayed up late that night, watching the lightning and solving riddles with the folks I was with. The guide Manu was very cute, I’m told. We came back to Merida the next day, stopping by an incredible waterfall and a cave, which was only midly interrupted when Manu decided to grab a snake off of the mountain road and release it somewhere safer. His “take-this-boa-constrictor-in-the-van-with-us” attitude was hardly surprising at this point, but with the help of a stick and a little patience the snake was saved successfully. Woo, successfully sure has a lot of double letters, huh?

Anyway, that was my weekend. Thanks for sticking around until the bottom. I’m going to Peru at the end of this semester, so this week I’ll be a busy body planning all of that. Ok, I have class now. More updates soon.