The Lost World

Trip Start Sep 05, 2007
Trip End Jul 04, 2008

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Flag of Venezuela  , Monagas,
Saturday, November 24, 2007

I took a nightbus from Santa Elena to Ciudad Bolivar. The trip wasn't really as comfortable as I had been hoping. The bus was fantastic, but there are 6 checkpoints on the road to Ciudad Bolivar, where the military stopped the bus, unboarded us, checked our passports and searched bags for drugs, so the passengers were being woken up aprox. every one hour during the whole night.

In the bus on the way to Ciudad Bolivar I got to know an extremely nervous Japanese lady, which was also on her way to Angel Falls, so we went to the airport together to check for tours. After a lot of bartering with the two agencies that were open, going from one to the other, time and time again to tell one about the newest price the other had given us, and whether they'd give us a better price. Doing that a few times, we ended up getting the 3 day long tour to Canaima National Park, including Angel Falls, for 950.000 Bs instead of 1.190.000 Bs ($190 USD vs $238 USD at the time), even though my original idea had been just to go on a daytour flying over the falls, but in the end I was convinced the overland adventure would be worth it. Included in the price was return flight between Ciudad Bolivar and Canaima, excursion to Salto Sapito and to Angel Falls, as well as all river transport, food and lodging. Only thing not included was the entrance to the park itself, which was cheap.


We, me and the Japanese lady, flew from Ciudad Bolivar to Canaima in a tiny aircraft with three Estonians and our pilot. I was in the co-pilot seat. It was lots of fun to take a look around below us, the landscape surrounding us, from where we could clearly see the destruction made by the Gurí Dam - massive extension of land, drowned in water, dead trees everywhere sticking up from the water and thousands of tiny islands scattered all over the area, which used to be tops of hills before the dam project. Making dams is said to be one of the most environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity. I am not convinced - and even less so after this sight.

When we were about to land in Canaima, I lost my breath! I couldn't believe the beauty of the place! The village is completely SURROUNDED by waterfalls, all around it!  It was gorgeous! With a handful of amazing, mystical tabletop mountains everywhere you looked, which made the place all the more majestical. I couldn't believe how perfect one town could be!!

Once in Canaima and our National Park Fee paid, we were put on a boat and headed to the island between two intensely powerful waterfalls, an island located smack in the middle of the river above the big lake, where it then plunges with an amazing force into the lake. There we reached camp, where we were going to sleep in hammocks under a solid roof, with mosquito nets. I was already looking forward to the night! The hammocks are super comfy and way better to sleep and rest in than a bed, as you get a breeze going through it so that means no sweaty nights with mosquitoes buzzing around your ears.

That first day we had the chance to take a nap - a siesta which was just what I needed, since I hadn't slept for even as much as a few minutes on the way from Santa Elena to Ciudad Bolivar due to the darn military stopping us every hour during the whole trip to check bags, passports and so on, and once in Ciudad Bolivar, jumped onto the first plane to Canaima.

Once we had closed our eyes for a bit, we got lunch and headed afterwards on a hike to a waterfall called El Sapo or "The Frog". We first observed it from above - yeah sure. Nice, nice. Very pretty. But as I am from Iceland, the land of the endless waterfalls, I wasn't all that impressed... but that's because I didn't know what was waiting for me!

We got onto a trail, down to the waterfall and then we continued to walk.... UNDER THE WATERFALL!! We're talking about falls that are about as powerful as Gullfoss (The Golden Falls) in Iceland - 80 meters (260 ft) wide, 4 meters (13 ft) high ad we walked through sort of a tunnel which lay behind the waterfalls, dug by a pretty insane guy quite a long time ago. The tunnel is obviously not perfect, because it only gives you a bit of shelter from most the plunging water of the falls so you always got a bit of spray on you. But as we had reached about the middle of the way, we were walking directly UNDER the falls, with the water storming onto our heads, blinding us and leaving us without air to breathe, water spurting into your eyes and down through the nose. The power of the water was incredibly fierce and the only thing we could hold onto to keep balance and more or less know how to get through it and to the other side was a simple rope, which I held as if there was no tomorrow, trying to place my next step, step by step, somewhere without breaking my ancle or falling down the falls and into the lake. It took a few tries, many times I was left without oxygen and had to step back but managed to get on the other side eventually. But man, was it a rush of adrenaline! I had never tried anything like it! I felt good!!

The day after we were headed to the legendary Salto Angel - "Angel Falls". Angel Falls is the world's highest waterfall - falling a whole FULL kilometer - 1000 meters (3.280 ft) from a perfect vertical wall of a tepui tabletop mountain, in the middle of nowhere! It's indigenous name is Parakupa-vena or Kerepakupai merú which means "The fall from the highest point" in Pemón language. The falls, which cascade from the top of Auyantepui in the remote Gran Sabana region of Venezuela, were not known to the outside world until  1933 when Jimmie Angel flew over them while searching for a valuable ore bed. He returned to the falls in 1937 with the intention of landing. Angel attempted a landing but despite a successful touchdown, his aircraft nose-dived when it hit soft ground at the end of its landing run. The wheels sank in the mud making take-off impossible. He and his family were unharmed but had to trek across difficult terrain and with low food supplies for 11 days to make their way off the tepui and down to the nearest settlement at Kamarata.

Today it's easier to reach the falls, but their location is still very remote. In order to get there, one has to go to Canaima - where we were. From there, we had to travel in a dugout canoe for 20 minutes, walk for 40 minutes and then back on a canoe for 4 hours, which was incredible! In those four hours on the boat, it had to sail upwards - change in altitude of about +100 m which meant we had to raft up small waterfalls and pretty big and rough rapids, with waterspashes over us, to match. Didn't really think this simple canoe would be fit for river rafting. But apparently it was. The boat trip was just unbelievable - the landscape was just simply out of this world - I swear! No words or photos can justify the natural beauty of the area and amazing geological formation - you can't help but wonder how the heck this was created! For sure, it is one of the oldest geological formations on our Planet Earth. We're talking about kilometers beyond kilometres of a canyon consisting of perfectly vertical cliff walls with a completely  flat top, from where, endless waterfalls plunge into the near black colored river running inside the canyon, surrounded by dense rainforest vegetation. It was like magicland. As I said - not possible to describe in words or photos, but I'll attach some anyhow.

We eventually reached our camp, got our bags out of the boat, left them at camp, taking only cameras, water, towels and swimsuits with us. It was all uphill from there, but nothing too serious, the only thing was the heat - it was intense, but the reward was in sight, each step closer - we were reaching the very bottom of Angel Falls, where it is possible to bathe, in the pool below the second falls, which are not less impressive than the first kilometer high falls!

We started by going to a viewpoint, where we stayed for a while - just gazing. It was amazing. You could barely see the top of the mountain, from where the falls start. In some seasons, Angel Falls is very faint and disappears in the last meters, before hitting ground, turning into a simple spray spread over the whole area. But now it was clear and falling straight to it's pool, giving us some absolutely breathtaking views. It was really hard to take photos upwards like that, though, because the sunlight above burned the sky on every image I ever took, so it didn't look as good as it was with my own eyes. I was standing right in front of the HIGHEST WATERFALL IN THE WORLD!! The whole wide world! The Outer Space included! I must say it was interesting! I had only dreamt about seeing this place, from photos, books. When I was 16, before I started travelling, I never thought I'd get so far, to see so many things. This place as just out of this world - not just the falls, but everything. And I was there. You gotta go there.

After the viewpoint, we were headed to the pool. Angel Falls plunges 1 km down, into it's pool, then there's another one cascading like a bridal veil down smooth rocks forming an about 70° vertical wall, so you could even climb a little if you wanted to, because the current of the water wasn't so strong. But bathing in the pool was great - in that intense heat of the jungle, dipping into the cool water in this stunning, unforgettable location. It was very refreshing.

This second night was in a hammock as well, in a much more rural camp, without electricity or proper bathrooms - just simple things made of wood, and only light we had during night was candle light. I'd like to have been able to say it was nice, but it was actually a bit of a pain, as I don't have that good of a sight in darkness. But we went to bed pretty soon, after a few beers, as we had an early start the next morning.

And man - did we have a spectacular view when we got up the next morning - the morning sun shining straight to the center of the falls, with an amazing glow - I wished we had hiked to the falls at that moment, not at sunset the night before when the sunlight was exactly the reverse way around, this was the real deal!! Such vivid colors, my favourite when taking photos.

Then we got on our boat and travelled and travelled, until reaching Ciudad Bolivar again with some stops to eat - Eat, boat, walk, boat, eat, walk, boat and then fly to Ciudad Bolivar, but this time we got a big jet plane! What a difference.

On this tour, I went with Sapito Tours, which have their office at Ciudad Bolivar airport. We REALLY had to bargain the price, but were happy with the result. The guide was fantastic, the food was very good, too! But the best of it all, was where our two camps were located - the first on an island set amidst incredibly powerful waterfalls, with a small beach and the second camp right in front of Angel Falls - no other company has a camp anywhere nearly as close to the falls. So I totally recommend them!
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