Pico Bolivar 2008, January 1. to January 12.

This summary documents facts related to our trip to Venezuela and the peaks climbed in January 2008.
A detailed trip report with photo illustrations is available.

Copyright Petter Bjørstad, 1992-2008

DateHeightNamePrimary factorLocationGPS elevation
January 3.3645 m Pico 3645 No Rank N08:46.329, W071:02.5993645 m
January 6.4925 m Pico Humboldt 440 m N08:32.990, W070:59.7874926 m
January 8.4988 m Pico Bolivar 3936 m N08:32.467, W071:02.8994988 m
January 9.4765 m Pico Espejo No Rank N08:31.908, W071:03.1794778 m
***** **** ***************** **** **** **** **** **** ******** ****
This is a rough map of (part of) the trails and some of the peaks.

Venezuela is 916.000 square kilometer, or about 2.8 times the size of Norway. The population is about 28 million and most people live in cities (85 percent). Venezuela gained her independence in 1821 after Simón Bolivar won a decisive victory in the battle of Carabobo on June 24th. 1821. Pico Bolivar as well as the currency is named after him. The current (2008) president, Hugo Chávez first tried to come to power via a military coup that failed, subsequently he got elected president. He has since then convinced the parliament to grant him increasingly more power, such as the authority to rule by decree. The city of Merida has about 350.000 people, it is known for tourism and for the highest going cable car in the world.
The main airport is located outside the capital, Caracas. There are direct connections to Europe, we travelled by Lufthansa from Frankfurt. The area near this airport is not very attractive, slum and generally a bad reputation for being unsafe. Merida has a small, but nice airport very close to its center. Santa Barbara Airlines seems to be the local airline with most frequent connections between Merida and Caracas.
Roads and Driving:
Traffic in Merida seemed rather civilized, a bit rough as in most large cities, but not worse than many places I have been. The roads in the countryside are often dirt and of variable quality. In many places a 4WD would be the only way to go, see more details on this in the trip report.
Lodging and currency:
The local currency is bolivar. Venezuela changed its currency by striking out three zeros just as we arrived (from January 1st. 2008). Thus, what used to be 20.000 (old/weak) bolivars is now 20 (new/strong) bolivars. When we were in Venezuela, the official exchange rate was 2.1 (new) bolivars to one US dollar, however the actual rate was between 4.7 and 5.0 (new) bolivars for one US dollar. This rate could be obtained virtually everywhere, even at counters in the Caracas airport. Thus, it is important to bring US dollars in cash, the use of a credit card would render any service or product more than twice as expensive.
Useful contacts:
Guamanchi Expeditions, the recommended local contact in Merida, Venezuela. Their email is info@guamanchi.com.
Abadia restaurant, a recommended restaurant in Merida. The address is: Avenue 3, Calles 17 (street 17).
Heladeria Coromoto, the famous ice cream place in Merida (840 flavors). The address is: Avenue 3, across from the church Iglesia El Llano, phone: 274-252-35-25.
Åke's report from this trip.
A note on photography and pictures:
The pictures taken on this trip can be classified as follows:
Åke: Has taken the pictures 01.jpg to 45.jpg.
Helge: Has taken the pictures 4608.jpg to 4877.jpg.
Petter: Has taken the pictures 7769.jpg to 8078.jpg.
Pictures are available on request, they are all subject to copyright.
A note on GPS measurements:
I tested the GPS at sea level near the Caracas airport on January 2., 2008. I ran several tests with 300 averaged samples in each. The conclusion is that my GPS accurately measured the sea level elevation at this location. We used two independent GPS units on this trip, it turned out that they always agreed within a tolerance of less than 2 meter. Note that "GPS elevation" is the "raw" measurement based on many hundred samples.

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