Happy New Year from Santa Elena!

Itīs been a while since I sent out a group email, and this one will be short since the computer just ate my last 20 minutes of typing, and weīve got the 45 minute treck back up for our last night in Santa Elena. We had actually planned to be here through the end of the weekend,heading back on the 2nd. Not sure what we were thinking. No busses running for the next couple days, and then all the Sunday night busses were full (this is a popular vacation spot for Venezuelans as well).

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There was one possibility to show up at 6am on Sunday for a bus line that doesnīt do advance reservations (at least, not officially, if you donīt know anyone for example), but if we missed that one bus, we'd miss our Tuesday flight back to the US (it takes a while to extract ourselves from interior Venezuela). The other option was to splurge with a light plane flight on 6 seat Cessna (heck,itīs a honeymoon, we can splurge, right?), but those are also booked until the 5th of January, except for tomorrow morning at 9am. So weīre heading to Ciudad Bolivar on the Orinoco Delta tomorrow morning. Itīs a bit abrupt, but does give us a chance to see a little more of Venezula, and get away from the cat hair everywhere. heck, might even get hot water in the next posada!

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Usually lack of hot water isnīt a big deal in this climate, but since it decided to be rainy season again, the temperatures in the evenings have been high 60s to low 70s, and the water temperature has dropped significantly with all the new rain,and lack of sun on the cistern on the roof. Gretchen makes some great whooping-gasping noises when trying to shower anyway ;) Also, hiking this weekend was pretty much out since Iīve been sick as a dog for the last couple days (an apt description at the moment since the dog also seems to be sick). Initially high fever without much else which got me worried because thatīs not the usual food poisoning. Itīs calming down now, so nothing exciting like dengue fever at least.

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Back in time a bit to a week ago: we went up to the Indian village again for a short Christmas party and a little work. The party consisted of putting out a lot of toys and some candy on a table and playing red-light green-light with the kids; first to the table gets a prize. We started playing with just us gringos to give the kids the idea, and then they joined in. There were about 15 kids, ages 3 to 12 (and some mothers which looked to be maybe 15...) It was hard to disqualify anyone for moving since the little guys were always bouncing, and they figured out quickly that if they all reached the goody table in one big line, they could ALL take a prize at once!

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We then took a walk through the jungle looking for a source of water to pipe down to the village instead of digging another bad well. It was just like the movies - us following a machete weilding guide through thick vegetation as he hacked a trail up the hill, stopping occasionally to point out plants used for medicinal purposes. Did yaīll know that cashews grow on a fruit? ONE cashew to ONE fruit the size of a small apple. No wonder theyīre so expensive! The fruit is pretty tasty though.

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We didnīt see any giant snakes, or colorful birds, but there was plenty of lethal vegetation - cutting grass, poison leaves,and these nifty poison spikes that grow up the trunk of a tree. And there really are big tarzan vines, but, unlike the movie, theyīre attached at *both* ends of the vine, so if you want to swing, you need to chop the vine near the ground. In the end, the river was too deeply into a canyon to be able to run a pipe, so will have to look elsewhere later.

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time to go now,
plenty else to tell about the Christmas hike over Chericayan Tepuy (NO idea how to spell that name,and Tepuy is a flat top mountain)

Propsero Aņo Nuevo!

Mateo

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