When Angels Fall
Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
84Trip End Jul 06, 2011
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Socrates once wrote 'Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs, therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity.' I guess he never visited Angel Falls.
I'm packed and ready at the Posada. As I head downstairs to wait, I say good morning to the Swedish girls, whom I was unaware that they were to be on my tour. So, before I go any further they were Agneta and Nina, both nurses from Sweden.
Agneta is in her very early 30s, she has been travelling with Nina for the last 3.5 months and have another month to go once they finish Angel Falls. She almost did not make the trip as the waters may have been too low, plus some Danish dudes in Rio persuaded them to go, so I owe those guys a beer! Agneta, as I said, is a nurse, she has been working in Sweden and Oslo as well. She has 12 nieces and nephews! 12! As a person, one of the most friendliest people I have ever met. She listens to you, really listens, she asks you questions about what you have said, she has a wonderful outlook on life and as well as being incredibly beautiful on the inside, a very attractive brunette on the outside. Within a few minutes of meeting them and chatting waiting for our flight, she exclaimed, 'I know we're going to have an amazing time!!'. Somehow this girl is single, in discussing this, a sense of hopelessness is felt, but she should know it is only through her own choices that she is single and she will meet the 'future husband' soon, or maybe she already has (some Danish dude). I see some of my own sense of 'losing hope' in Agneta, a couple of stories really made me feel for her. A truly wonderful person, and I'm sure a friend for life.
Nina (I could just copy and paste what I wrote for Agneta!!) is also in her very early 30s and I think has done more travelling than Agneta. What is it with Sweden, they just have the most wonderful people on this earth and I've been lucky enough to meet them. She too is single, hopefully she met her future husband in Rio??? Some Norwegian dude, but does not show the same hopelessness as Agneta and I. She is an only child and has a wonderful way with children, well being a paediatic nurse helps. She too listens, really listens, I think I spent slightly more time talking to Nina and she asked me some questions that not everyone is eager to ask or has ever asked. I felt very comfortable with her (and Agneta) in sharing my thoughts and views on life and the world. We shared stories and had good banter. Like Agneta, a beautiful woman on the inside and a very attractive blonde on the outside! Ahem, she also has a cute little face when she sleeps and, well, tells us she's still alive when she's sleeping by making noises (is that a sweet way of putting she snores??) ha! Again, a wonderful person and again a friend for life I'm sure!
The three words I would use to describe the two of them would be, respect, love and compassion. They should be very proud of who they are and may they continue being the amazing individuals I met. And yes Abi, they spent most of the 3 days I spent with them in their bikinis!! They are planning on spending two months on an Island in Sweden during the summer, so I am definitely going to be finding my way there this summer. It was like hanging out with my friends Di or El, people I've known for years and who I feel so comfortable around!
Yes, back to the pictures and the story. We booked through Bernal Tours. Found them in the Lonely Planet and they have a website, so easy to book with. The owner is called Walter, so I'm expecting some old dude to arrive at the Posada and pick us up, not the 24 year old Indian looking kid who came instead! I'm Walter! Really? A very very friendly guy, his philosophy and that of the company is if only 1 person books, the tour still goes ahead for three days. Luckily for the three of us, there will only be three of us. Walter drives us to the nearby airport and we wait in the cafe till our flight is called. This is where I get to know the girls a little better and they get to figure out whether this ginger bearded thing is a decent guy or not. It didn't take them long to realise I'm harmless and yes a decent guy!
We were only allowed 12kgs on the flights, so poor Walter had my laundry bag and books in his office for three days! The poor guy! We boarded the tiny little plane and sat right at the front. The flight was only around an hour long and this is where the excitement grew, exponentially! The girls are so much fun, and they have contagious enthusiasm where even someone like me is 'wooing'! Agneta even manages to get a picture crouched between the pilots, of course, the pilots loved it! We were flying to a small place called Canaima where some smaller water falls are and where the boats begin the long drive to Angel Falls. The views as we head overland are great, Venezuela and the jungle!
We land in Canaima and it's the smallest airport I've ever seen. I mean the one in Puerto Maldernado in Peru has a place to pick up your luggage from, here in Canaima, you pick it up off the runway! We met Oswaldo, our guide, he likes to be called Puyol, but we'll call him Oswaldo. We walk a short distance to a small lake and jump into a long canoe for a short ride past the Sapo and Sapito falls before landing on Bernals island where we will be based for the first night.
We walk to our cabin area, Oswaldo gives us the schedule for the day and disappears. We had two hours till lunch and then would go on a hike after lunch to see the Falls. Agneta, Nina and I had coffee and must have chatted for almost two hours, pretty open stuff to be honest. We then headed down to a small beach to see the smaller falls, they had a paddle and I took some pictures and felt so relaxed and happy!
Lunch was some chicken with rice and beans, there were some Germans on a previous tour who all looked very hot, burnt and bothered!! Once lunch was finished is when the highlight of the trip emerged! Oswaldo told us to get into our swim gear as we were heading for a closer look at Salto Sapo and Salito. We jump into a canoe and this time, I've brought along a waterproof bag to protect my camera!! We dock near the edge of one of the falls, walk up a steep climb and suddenly, it's time to peel off my tshirt and for the first time in my life walk behind a waterfall! The feeling was unbelievable! You are being saturated in water, it is heavy, the noise is deafening, the sight magical and you can even taste and smell the large volume of water that is thundering over us! Of course, there were excited screams from the Swedish nurses! We're all looking at each other with huge smiles, almost in disbelief at what we are doing! Such excitement! Such an adrenaline rush! Such a once in a lifetime experience! And, so much more fun with two very excited Swedish nurses!
We walk behind the first one, try grab some photos, continue walking behind this yellow and pink curtain of water. One slip, and you're heading for a Darwin award! You are soaked to the skin, and cannot help but stop when large volumes of water are dropping on your head.....one stretches out his arms and lifts up his head to enjoy the experience! Simply amazing!! I cannot express in more words how I felt about this small narrow massage of twenty minutes, twenty minutes I will not forget in my lifetime!
We got back into the boat, I seem to have destroyed my flip flop again, but am too cheap to replace it! We spend a few seconds in the boat before we are hiking our way to another set of waterfalls. Agneta walks with Oswaldo and I get time to chat more to Nina. The area around the falls somehow reminds me of Africa
We come to another set of waterfalls that are just as delightful as the last. We start on top of these, but will end up walking behind and around the other side as well. A rainbow formed over this sets of falls and again, the view was spectacular, especially with the back drop. The rainbows are not intended for me, but I still respect them anyway.
The girls like to play things risky and are frequently walking on the edge of the Falls, sitting on the edge or lying out flat on the edge of the falls. As an old man, it makes me nervous that they will fall. Crazy really, but that's just me. We head down a passage and walk behind this set of Falls. There are more people around but the experience is still sensational.
We climb up some steep ledges and find ourselves on the other side of the Falls ontop again, find a rock and the 4 of us just sit there chatting away for 15 minutes. It is like the waterfall is ours and no-one else is around. We discuss how exciting the day has been so far and how glad we are to have been on this trip with a small group of great people. Again, an amazing Friday afternoon, sat in the sun, watching close nature at its best. I struggle for words, but we are all still super excited and so happy for what we have experienced! None of us knew we would be walking behind waterfalls so the surprise element helped create the wonderful atmosphere for the day. The three of us are all so easy going that without doubt, this trip was becoming the highlight of my American adventure.
We have to walk back under the Falls again to make our way back to camp base. The walk is great for drying off, and before long we are back at camp and talking about a great day. We have some beers before dinner, talk some more and dinner is again, chicken with rice. Gotta love that chicken.
With the early start and excitement of the day, we are all pretty beat, so head to bed at 9pm. I sleep in a bed, Nina and Agneta in a double next to me. Again, mosquito nets are available and it doesn't take long to drift off. In the distance, I can till hear the water crashing over the Sapo and Salito falls, something again which I will not forgot for the rest of my life.
A great day comes to an end! The low morale felt in the Guianas was in the end worth it, for the large water flow on the river and over the Falls and for meeting the wonderful Angeta and Nina!
Day 75 March 19th - I have to admit not having the best night sleep. A sleepy blonde Swedish nurse next to me made some funny noises and I guess I was very excited about the journey ahead of me today!
Breakfast was juice, eggs and more conversation with some Germans. We packed and hopped into a long canoe, taken to a truck which took us to our main canoe for the day. Seeing another motor in the canoe, a chainsaw and other things made me wonder what was ahead of us today. I was also thinking about my butt, a four hour ride sat on a wooden seat, no back support and well, it's not as padded as it once was.
There were just the three gringos, two drivers, Oswaldo and two official looking guys in military uniform. We head off, after five minutes, we can sit on our life jackets. The ride is fairly comfortable, after 15 minutes we are hauled out as there are some dangerous rapids ahead, so we walk for a few minutes, discussing future weddings for Nina and Agneta and I get an invite plus guest!! Haha, I tell them to invite plenty of single ladies as I doubt I will need the 'plus guest'.
Back in the boat and it is another 3.5 hours of painful excitement. Salto Angel is 7 miles away and the route is not as easy as one thinks. One of the drivers sits at the front of the canoe looking for shallow spots to signal to the other driver to lift up the motor and float past the shallow spots. The jungle we pass is breathtaking, more waterfalls, deep canyons in the distance, and the suspense is building. Each large rock face in the distance, you wonder is that where Jimmie Angel landed his plane? Is that the tallest waterfall in the world? Of course, after so long, you forget where you are going and just enjoy the ride. Lunch is taken on board, a very dry cheese and ham sandwich and I spill my glass of coke! What I wouldn't give for some salad cream, lol, we discuss going to the supermarket at the falls, picking a few things up!
After 4 hours, we dock and are told to change into sneakers. This is a pain, but luckily we did. It was about another hours hike up tough terrain to reach the opening to the Angel Falls. The hour hike took only 45 minutes, Oswaldo set off at a pace and it was almost a jog to keep up. At one point, I felt awesome, thinking, yeah, I'll hike for the rest of the day!! Then we started climbing and I was trying to control my breathing to not scare the nurses!! haha!
So, after leaving Trinidad, finding my way to Ciudad Bolivar, flying for 45 minutes, a canoe a truck a 4 hour ride up stream and a 45 minute hike, we are stood infront of Angel Falls! We are all speechless..............!
It is named after a pilot named Jimmie Angel landed his plane on top of the Falls in 1937, pretty impressive.
We all lay on a large rock admiring the Falls and hoping for the cloud cover to disappear. Of course it disappear, it was the three of us there waiting. We were also waiting for some other gringos to stop taking photos at a better location.
We move to the better location and Nina grabs one of the ginger gringo. The area around us is fascination, pure thick jungle, apart from the river we steamed up and and the large rock faces! I feel amazing, I am in the middle of the Venezuela jungle beneath the tallest waterfall in the world! This trip just gets better and better!! The longer I stare at the Falls the more something appears to me. Starting from the top, the water is strong and nearer the bottom turns into mist, during this phase, I'm positive I can see some angels surfing down the Falls. Just like when you look up at clouds and see shapes and figures, I too am seeing some shapes in the waterfall.
We hike for a few more minutes before we come to the lower part of the waterfall where there is a natural swimming pool. Here is where I start slipping over and falling on my ass. The rocks are slippery, and well, I'm clumsy! I strip off and jump in....and land on a rock! Ouch! I swim to the foot of the falls (lower part feeding the pool) and feel the intense rush of water trying to push me away. I find a rock to push against, but the force of the Falls is too great! I float around and watch the nurses, with the help of Oswaldo, climb a ledge, step slowly to an area that resembled a slide, and slid down. Once they both had a go, of course, it was my go! Oh man! I have really bad upper body strength, ie trying to pull my body weight up a rock face is tough, there was no grip for your feet, but I managed it. I tip toed across, didn't quite make the right place but still slid on my ass. The girls got a picture of me. After that, I enjoyed floating around, while Oswaldo starting showing off a little, not for my benefit! But, impressively, he stood on the falls and jumped in, the stood in the current then found a larger rock to stand on and proclaimed the jungle his! This got the girls very excited and after a couple of attempts swimming across the current, they made it to the other side, not that their bikini tops did! Once they readjusted themselves, they climbed this rock and some German guy took some pictures for them. For some reason, one picture he zoomed in on Ninas groin area and took a shot???? Once Agneta climbed up, he pissed off, so I swam over, grabbed their camera and took some shots, well, I fell over before I did this. The three of them then sat on another rock and I joined them. For five minutes we sat here looking up at the entire waterfalls. This pool was ours, everyone else had left, the waterfall was ours, it was such a back to nature experience that the three gringos were smiling from ear to ear and loving life!
This trip is a once in a lifetime experience and I know for the rest of my life, I will remember this experience, and not just because of natures beauty, but the two amazing people I got to share it with.
At pool side, we get ready to go, as I'm holding my stuff, I slip again and land on my hand that is holding my sunglasses! Oh no! I've only scratched one lens but, it's not going to be another trip of replacing sunglasses? I hope not. On the way to a wedding in 2009 in Australia, I went through 4 pairs in 4 days.......I very much doubt I'll replace these ones, good job I went for a cheap pair Dave!
We hike back down the jungle, which was more difficult than going up. We all slip a few times, but I forget, if I break a leg, I have two beautiful nurses to help. Hmmm, would a twisted ankle be too hard to fake?? Haha!
Back to the shore, we jump in the boat for 20 seconds are we are at our camp for night, looking at the Angel Falls. Amazing! Dinner has started to be cooked as well, perfect, and the girls asked Oswaldo to be bar tender, so the dude brought along some alcohol. If he had a choice, he wouldn't have shared it with me, but he was trying to impress the girls and well, they liked me, so I got some drinks and drank more than anyone!
Dinner was awesome. Open fire cooked chicken, with delicious spicy rice and salad. It's one of those meals where your body needs the food. So often I eat for the sake of it, or because I think I need to, but this time, my body was craving the food. The night drifted away under candle light and we chatted long into the night with some of Oswaldos drinks mixers.
Another great day came to an end, and tonight, sleeping in a hammock will be the norm. I've never done this before. You can hear the river trickle by and there are various insects and creatures that turn into background noise as my eyes drift and slowly close.
Day 76 March 20th - I woke early. Very early. Oswaldo has promised he'd wake everyone for sunrise, but the guy lies! The night before, he would not admit that he had dinner at another camp, claiming that he eats at midnight and we wouldn't see him eat. Clearly lying, I see it a mile off! I'm up due to the sweet sounds of my beautiful blonde nurse. I'm glad she is telling me she is still alive. The sleep was not the best, I like to sleep on my front, but it's pretty difficult to find that position in a hammock where one movement and the whole camp structure moves.
I get up, put on my jacket as it's freezing and find a spot by the river to sit and watch the Falls. There is cloud cover and the jungle is in the way of the sun rise, but I sit there for a long time watching the Falls. I'm not the only one, to my right is a few of the boat drivers and locals, all sat looking up at the Falls.
At 6am I head back to camp and wake Oswaldo, whose first words were 'cloud cover?', whatever man! I head back to the river and sit some more, then again back to camp, the girls are up and we are served breakfast. Tasty tasty eggs!
It's not long before we are hurried to pack and are back in the boat. The next 2.5 hours were very uncomfortable, Oswaldo sat me in the front of the boat so he could sit next to one of the nurses and have the other one laying between his legs. The girls think nothing of it as they are just very friendly but I think Oswaldos actions are highly inappropriate and I know what his true intentions are. Especially throughout the whole trip the girls are asking about his wife and kids and eventually he says something about being separated from his wife. More lies in my opinion, he tells them what he thinks they want to hear. Anyway, I'm sat at the front of my boat and disappear into my ipod and ignore whatever is happening behind me.
The journey back is quicker. At one point, near the end we stop to refuel, and as I'm getting out, my broken flip flop breaks again, I lose my balance and am falling out the righthand side of the canoe. I have half my body out when Agneta (with her body building right arm) somehow grabs me and pulls me back in. My only thought was that my itouch was in my pocket and I would be devastated losing my music. Agnetas only thought was the large rock my head was about to crash into. So, thank you again Agneta, you saved my ipod life and no doubt stopped some blood loss and a severe headache.
We get back to near camp and walk 15 minutes back to the original base camp. My head has been in the sun all morning and I'm feeling light headed and have a large headache. At base camp, Nina goes off for a swim while Agneta sleeps in a hammock and I crash on a double bed.
Dinner is carne!! No chicken!! It is delicious, but I feel slightly sick as well. The nurses make me drink glass after glass of water, then some juice is brought out and I'm drinking glass after glass of that.
We pack our stuff one last time and head for the airport. We are debating how much to tip Oswaldo and it's only on the boat, where the girls talk to each other in Swedish where it turns out that before Agneta went to sleep before lunch, he tried it on with her, being unsuccessful, he took Nina back behind the waterfalls (telling her that the other two were fast asleep) and of course was unsuccessful in trying it on with her, but pleaded with her not to tell Agneta (as he would look an idiot) and not to tell his boss! Idiot! If he had listened to the conversations over the last 3 days, they are both keen on someone right now, but he does not have the decency to respect that. Unsurprising behaviour from a South American guide in South America. Anyway, he doesn't take us to the airport, and disappears with this tail between his legs.
The flight back to Caniama was in a roasting tin set high, Nina was close to being sick, I ran out of trouser leg to wipe my sweat on. We arrive back to an air conditioned airport by a smiling Walter and we tell him about our awesome trip and he asks to see our pictures, to see the level of the water. He again tells us how lucky we are.
I help them find a taxi and it's sad to say goodbye to them. I'm not great with goodbyes, I mumble something and then they were off. There's no doubt I will see them again. A great experience with the best people. A very lucky ginger gringo!! I was hoping to find an Internet cafe and catch up on this blog, but it was Sunday and everything was closed, so I headed to the bus station, found a ledge to lie on and watched Million Dollar Baby in Spanish. My headache reappeared to the point where it took a long time to sit up, throbbing throbbing headache.
It didn't help that a middle aged lady with mental health problems was crying near me. Five police officers looked at her and walked off. Shocking treatment of someone clearly in need of some help. She hit one guy on the arm and then disappeared. She came back and sat near me, my large bottle of water was on the floor, and without knowing she sneaked a drink. I only noticed when I heard the bottle being replaced on the floor. I grabbed it, but a sweet little family near me told me she had drunk it, so I gave the bottle to her. By taking a drink, she stopped crying so loudly, I'm sure she was just thirsty and possibly hungry. Some guy gave her some food but she threw it on the floor. I was concerned about being hit but was also concerned for her, thinking where will she end up tonight and is everyone with a mental health issue treated with ignorance like her.
I found my bus and in Venezuela, they like to keep the passengers at a temperature, where if we did pass away in the night, our organs would still be cool enough to harvest. It was like a meat locker, so so cold. This bus also had an issue finding first gear, I could imagine my dad driving it shouting 'Get in there!!' haha. I slowly nod off and when I wake up, it should be Caracas time!