Nemesis: Climbing Roraima

Trip Start Aug 26, 2009
Trip End Jun 24, 2010

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Where I stayed
In a tent

Flag of Venezuela  , Bolívar,
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beware, the following blog may contain a hint of exaggeration and the occasional manipulation of the truth however it is based on a real life story.

When we arrived in Santa Elena we were de (wait for it) lighted to discover that our pousada was a little slice of heaven. It had a lovely pool, a gorgeous shower, nearby cake shop, hammocks and even a german shepherd puppy running around. It was idyllic. So it was somewhat of a challenge to convince ourselves that we did not want to stay there and instead wanted to spend 6 days trekking the table top mountain, Roraima.

We found our group that evening and met the intriguing Brazillian Bellini. We tried to muddle together conversation in a weird kind of Portenganish and quickly realised what an absolute gem the guy is. The first thing he did was invite us to come to stay with him in Boa Vista when we told him we were passing through there after the trek. A theme that was to continue throughout our 6 days with him. It may sound gushy but he really is one of the kindest gentlemen we have ever had the pleasure to meet, even with the language barrier. He had printed everyone roraima t shirts in brazil and brought them with him. He also became provider of hats and gloves and giver of scotch (not optional) throughout the trip.

We set off the next day and our group had reached a total of seven, we were told a random Japanese guy would be joining us but he never arrived. I sometimes wonder whether he is still wandering around the mountain somewhere, leaping out and frightening disgrunteld tourists now and again.

Moving on, we started like any good group should, stocking up on rum and chocolate and then being thrown about like sardine ragdolls in the back of a jeep as the insane driver hurtles at 100mph over the dirt track to get us to our starting point. The thought of running back to our dream pousada may have crossed my mind once or twice as we held on to the seats of the jeep for dear life.

We were excited to get started, bouncing our way up the hills at somewhat of an alarming rate. It wasn't until we were hyperventilating our way up a hill in the boiling heat that the thought 'what the hell are we doing?' crossed my garbled mind. Luckily we stopped for water and soon we were rejuvenated and ready to set off again.

We quickly got into the swing of it and the fear of having to collapse and give up passed.Soon enough we were marching along and singing to ourselves surrounded by the beautiful savannah (the rest of the group had accelerated somewhere way into the distant future wih their super fast legs of steel). As we skipped our way through a small patch of forest we saw a rattlesnake slither its way across the path and we had to wait for it to pass. That was a little disconcerting, it was even more worrying when our guide got a bit tipsy and informed us that he could heal snake bites with his shamanic skills. I may be open minded but you can tell from the industrial load of medicines that I carry with me that, when faced with a snake bite, a shaman is not my first choice of treatment.

We arrived at camp with time to take a bath in the river. The tour was so well organised that our tents were already set up and we were served nice cold juice. All we had to worry about was walking down to the river and filling up our water bottles. They even erected a tent around our toilet. It was actually a plastic pot lined with a carrier bag but we appreciated the sentiment nonetheless.

That night our guide cooked us an exquisite meal and we moved a bench outside to watch the moon rise. Yep, that's right, the moon. The sky was so clear and the moon was so bright that we watched its waxy glow slowly rise from behind the mountain until it lit the whole sky. We didn't have to use our torches as everything was touched by its milky light.

Ok so I am prattling on, as sometimes tends to happen, so I will try and keep the rest of it short. For those of you with more challenged attention spans the rest of the trip went something like this: walk, eat some chocolate, walk, drink some rum, sleep. And repeat. Now that we have cut out the chafe, the rest of you may continue reading the story of Roraima.

On our second day we made our way to the base camp, we managed to keep up with the group miraculously but partially because our genius guide Marco bribed us with chocolate at every stop. He definitely knew how to get results. And also the fact that we actually had stops helped us a lot. We arrived at camp in the afternoon with time to relax and also sit in terror as we looked at the sharp 'path' up the mountain that we would climb the next day. It looked less like a path and more like an indent in the mountain. Again the thought 'what are we doing?' crossed the mind.

We were up early on the third day and keen to get on with the climb. Luckily it wasn't as bad as it looked and didn't take too long (only 3 hours). We hauled ourselves over rocks and up waterfalls looking out at the amazing views as we went. When we hit the top it was like a different planet. Sparse black rock all around us for miles, seemingly stacked up in random piles.

When we asked where we were camping Marco pointed to what looked like a bare black cliff. We got there to find they had erected our tents in an overhang, amazing views but a little bit close to the edge in our case. I didn't have the best sleep that night, despite the rum, due to nightmares about rolling off the edge of the cliff. One of the highlights of our overhang hotel had to be the bathroom. They left our toilet open, you had to climb over a few rocks (tricky at night) and round the corner but then you literally sat on your throne over looking the views from the mountain top across the whole savannah. Amazing (check the photo out).

The next day we spent exploring the top, watching the clouds literally roll across our paths and gazing out over the edge of the mountain. It was a bit scary being so close to the edge and I had to resist the urge to crouch down and crawl my way there. Over one edge there was an incredible circuar rainbow that changed colours as the clouds moved. I sat enchanted by it for what felt like hours until I was dragged by my perch by Bellini offering us yet more scotch and peanuts. We spent some time refreshing ourselves by a lagoon so clear that you can see the floor of glittering quartz beneath, and so cold you could see yourself turn blue. There were so many huge hunks of quartz crystal scattered around the mountain, it was beautiful.

That night it rained all night without stopping, the weather on roraima can change within seconds as we experienced during the day with patches of bright sunshine followed by a down pour. So that night was freezing cold and we huddled in our tents until morning when it was time to make our way down one very slippery mountain. The trip down seemed much tougher than the way up and I ended up on my bottom on more than a few occasions. Short legs don't help these situations! There was less time for resting and lolling about today and we headed straight to the camp of our first night. Somehow we were buoyed with energy and went marching along at an alaming rate. It was great fun at the time but less so the next morning when I could barely walk!

That evening was our last night and Marco bought out a few bottles of wine and beer which went down a treat seeing as we had polished off the rum the night before. After a joyous night we awoke the next day to find we (me) were walking (limping) like cowboys. Walking straight or up was fine but walking down was like the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my life! It was slow going and I tried a variety of techniques such as the diagonal diva, the slow snail walk and the angry frog jump. None of them seemed to ease the pain. Finally the legs loosened a little after about an hour and we eventually made it to the end of the trek. The trip was incredibly rewarding, and we are so lucky to have seen such a unique place. It was like heaven sleeping in a bed at our nice pousada and having the first proper shower in 6 days! We stayed an extra night so we could lounge in pool and try and make our legs work again.
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