Merida Hot Springs, Venezuela
Venezuela, the craziest cat of all the South American cousins is not really geared up for travel novices. Banks and ATMs regularly run out of money, airport taxis are substituted with bullet proof blacked out SUVs and the inflation rates mean the price of breakfast changes daily.
But if you can make it past the fear factor this country has enough water attractions to match the number of Miss World contestants it churns out.
The Andes last stop (or first depending on where you are heading) is near a pretty little town called Merida. This colourful little city is nestled into the foothill of the mountains and among other things is home to the world’s largest ice cream shop Heladeria Coromoto. Local tip avoid the ‘chicken’ and ‘cheese’ flavours.
One attraction that had me generally weak at the knees was talk of hot springs high in the Andes. Being a bit of DIY girl we ignored the $US100 half day tour on offer and decided to go our on way. Two buses later with a trusty ham and cheese sandwich in our packs and a very basic map we set off on a 90 minute trek up the mountain looking for this fabled pool.
Before we could get breathless from the 2,000 metres altitude a small rockwall presented itself, where perched on the other side was a perfectly formed crystal clear hot pool, heated to a bath water perfection. This was five star spa on a $10 budget with views which stretched out across the Andes range. Best bit of all there wasn’t another traveller in sight. I suspect the chicken ice cream may have had something to do with it.