Terribly lost in the Lost World.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Venezuela  ,
Sunday, March 6, 2005

Meet the team. Ed, 33 years, a Texan surfer, golfer and supermarket owner living in Jaco, Costa Rica. Ernest, 47 years, a super friendly huge black correctional officer from Brooklyn, New York. Mark (the mad BesserWisser scientist, or just smartass for short) and William (the mad whining doctor), 47 and 42 years, a gay couple from Washington DC. Roger, 43 years, our Indian guide from Guyana with a taste for alcohol. And then it's just plain and normal me. So this is not a scene from some reality TV show, it's just a bunch of guys setting off on the six days round trip hike to the top of Roraima (2810m), a table mountain (tepui) that are shared between three countries, Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. The major part of the mountain is in Venezuela, and this is also the spot where most people hike the mountain from.

I thought I was ill prepared and out of shape, but soon realize that I am miles ahead of these guys. To be honest I am surprised they have even heard about Roraima. Ernest admits to me that this is his first hiking trip ever, but he usually works on the 7th floor, and sometimes take the stairs. The same goes for William, it's his first hike ever as well. His parents are from China and Indonesia, but he grew up in the States. No matter what, he and his heavy backpack are a long way from home and just seem terribly lost here in the Lost World (the summit of Roraima is often referred to as the Lost World, from Arthur Conan Doyle famous fantasy novel). Then we have Mark who in fact has done a bit of hiking, well so the smartass claims anyway. Ed is in pretty good shape, although it looks like he is off to Pebble Beach for a round of golf and not a six days hike. He is sporting a tiny camelback, and has of course paid porters to carry his other backpack, while the rest of us carry our own stuff. I guess he is used to the caddy. And finally we have Roger, who is already drunk in the car on the way to the starting point for the hike. Well, it's 10AM after all. Just brilliant.

We set off towards Roraima, and loose Roger after about five minutes of hiking. I guess he fell asleep in some creek, anyway we won't see him again before the next day. But I am sure he can find his way, he's been to the top more than 200 times. It takes two days of walking to reach the foot of the mountain, and I am already wondering if we will all make it. Except Ed, they are all terribly slow walkers. Nothing wrong about being slow, but these guys are already exhausted, and we haven't even started climbing in altitude. So the big question I guess, is if someone will turn back. Maybe Ed won't make it further than the ninth hole. Maybe Ernest will turn back at step 4 and go for the elevator instead. Mark and William probably won't make it further than first base, other than in their twin tent at night that is. I cannot help but laugh, it's the craziest bunch of hikers I have ever seen. They are all extremely friendly, but I have no idea what they are doing here. No matter what, I am sure we will have a lot of fun over the next few days. With Mark and William leading the way, although I am sure they don't realize how funny they are. Ernest and Ed are just shaking their heads at all the comments from the gay couple. "Mark where is the baby powder? I need to powder my nuts." "Right here baby." "Mark, can you tighten the straps on my backpack, I like it a bit tighter around my hips." "Sure cutie, one sec." "Mark, can you ask how far it is left to the camp?" "Sure darling." "Mark, I am not crossing the river on that log, there's no way I will make it." "Oh you can do it honey." You better cross right now you little clown, or I'll kick your faggot ass back to DC, I hear Ed mumble. It's hilarious. None of us have anything against gay people, but imagine the ultimate gay couple who both knows everything there is to know, who are both super intelligent and likes to brag about it, who both comments on everything, who whines (mainly William) about everything, who talk to each other like they just met and are madly in love, and who are both terribly annoying. Then you imagine that gay couple, not in a fancy gay lounge in San Francisco, but sleeping in the twin tent next to you down here in the middle of fucking nowhere Venezuela. Admit you are smiling a tiny bit there.

We reach the first camp an hour before sunset, and while walking down to the river for a swim, I spot Mark and William taking a nude bath, while play wrestling around with each other in the water. "Hey Steve, come and join us." "Eh, oh, eh... I'm just going for a walk, didn't bring any swim gear. Maybe later gays, eh, oh, eh, I mean guys." Shit, hope they didn't hear that. We are missing Roger at the dinner table that night, so we hope he is out of alcohol and will show up the next morning. We go to bed more or less as soon as it gets dark, sleeping in tents under one of the most starry skies I have ever seen. "Hey Steve, look at that star over there" I hear Ed say. "That's not a star, it's a planet because....blah blah blah blah." "Sure, whatever Mark."

The next day is mostly uphill and much harder than the first. "Oh Mark, this is just too hard for me." "Try a bit more pumpkin." "Do you think it was a mistake of us to come down here?" "Oh, I don't know sweetie." "Darling, you are hyperventilating at 1500m, we need to rethink that future trekking trip to Buthan and Nepal." "Oh, do you think so love?" It goes on and on, but we reach base camp at the foot of the mountain after two days of walking. Our guide Roger has even joined us. Ernest, Mark and William are all struggling a bit, and they are not looking forward to the next day where we actually have to scale the mountain. It's pretty much straight up all the way, with 10-15kg backpacks to carry. "Oh Mark, I don't feel comfortable with this. How in all the world are we going to get up there?" These clowns will never make it I hear Ed mumble again.

We set off in the morning on the third day. The clouds are hanging low on the mountain giving it a mystical feeling. It's a bloody hard walk and scramble, but Ed and I make the top after just 2 hours and 45 minutes. Ernest, Mark and William all come rolling into "Hotel San Francisco", our cavernous tent camp, a couple of hours later. So it turns out we all made it, and I'm well impressed. "Give me a hug sugarpie."

The rocky landscape on top of Roraima is some of the most magical, spooky and freakish I have ever seen. It truly is the Lost World. It's mostly labyrinths of black rock (Sandstone according to Ed and Roger and Granite according to the BesserWisser), sand and lots of endemic plants and small living creatures. And the vistas from the highest point on Roraima (the Ford Maverick point), right on the edge of the mountain, is out of this world. The green and beautiful Gran Sabana as long as the eye can see. When it is clear that is, as I have never seen clouds and fog move in and out faster than up here. It all adds to the spookiness.

Back in "Hotel San Francisco', the comedy show continues however. "Ed, have you seen William?" "Oh, I don't know. He is probably out on the tundra somewhere" "Tundra, this isn't tundra. Tundra is....blah blah blah blah." Five minutes later Ed would reply "Sure, whatever Mark, but William is still lost." That was actually some of the funniest and most annoying parts. Mark is overprotective and wanted to know at all times where his beloved one was and what he was doing. That, and also telling William for almost every other step about a loose rock, a muddy hole, what branch to grab etc. Like he was talking to a six year old, which I guess in a way wasn't far from the truth. Before turning in that night, the mad scientist and mad doctor would discuss ancient maps, comets and meteors, famous Rembrandt paintings and old classic musicals. While Ernest would contribute with the following "Hey guys, do you know of any strip clubs in Santa Elena?"

We stay the whole of day four on the top and visit some of the more famous sights. Like Turtle Rock, the Jacuzzi, the Labyrinth, the Window etc. We get some wonderful views of the Guyana part of Roraima as well as the Kukenan Tepui right next Roraima. The tepui's are just sticking up above the clouds which makes for some magical views. The day goes by in a great mix of sunshine, blue sky, fog and puffy clouds. "Sleep tight love." "You too my dear."

The two last days are used to walk all the way back to the starting point. Of course there's more comedy along the way, but nothing unusual for what I have learned to expect from these guys. We are all getting pretty tired now and are starting to dream about the ice cold beer and soft drinks that are waiting for us in the car back at base. It tasted sweet! We make it back to Santa Elena on the sixth day, and before splitting up we tip the guide and porters heavily. Roger ended up doing a great job in fact as soon as he ran out of alcohol. Super friendly Ernest gives away his new backpack and hiking shoes to Roger. Not sure if he will ever hike again, he is off to the sweet life of Margarita Island. William also gives away his hiking shoes to one of the porters who starts crying (you should have seen his old shoes). It's all pretty emotional, and they claim we are the best and kindest group ever, maybe just not the fastest.

"William, William where are you?" "Mark, he is probably lost again somewhere out there on the taiga." "Taiga, this isn't taiga. Taiga is....blah blah blah blah."
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