The bus station was a madhouse. People everywhere. Bags everywhere. Everything delayed. The 13-hour night bus to Mérida turned out to be more like 17 hours. But we weren't complaining. We traversed 650 kilometers in an air-conditioned double decker whose seats reclined just short of flat. Maleficent played in Spanish, keeping us entertained long enough before it was bedtime and then we slept and slept, and then we slept some more.
The same day that we arrived, we booked a tour to see the Catatumbo lightning, a phenomenon in Venezuela that occurs most days out of the year. There is no thunder and there isn't always rain. Some nights the flashes are so frequent that the whole sky is illuminated.
A truck took us through the winding curves of the Andes mountains where clouds lingered among the treetops. We welcomed the temporary relief from the heat. A boat then took us under the harsh sun across the sweet water of the Catatumbo River to Lake Maracaibo. So many varieties of birds could be found, we couldn't miss them if we tried. Herons, orioles, egrets, vultures, hawks. We even caught glimpses of howler monkeys, caimans, and lizards.
We slept away the day's pleasures that evening in a house on the lake. Hammocks strung across beams invited us in. By late night, early morning, we were awakened by the first flashes in the far distance. Bolts of lightning stirred and the sky lit up in the horizon. They were elusive, vanishing as quickly as they appeared. Long exposure experiments managed to capture bits and pieces before the stars began to fade, dawn began to break, and fishermen began their catch. Wishing for the lightning to be closer and more frequent, but settling for what we got, we crawled back into our hammocks and salvaged what sleep we could until it was time to start our journey back to Mérida.