Mention Venezuela to a random man and he’ll definitely rave about a Country that has produced the most number of beauty queens. If he’s a BBC planet earth fan, he’ll throw in a few words of praise for the majestic Angel Falls or the inaccessible Mount Roraima. What you’re unlikely to hear about is the beauty of the Grand Savannah. Green fields beneath a dark blue sky dotted with white cotton clouds and mountains decorating the background.
The Grand Savannah
If you’ve got 30 bucks (USD) to spare, you could get a cab to drive you around this natural paradise for a day. What’s even better is the entire savannah is filled with numerous waterfalls; some as large as Kaietaeur, yet unconsciously ignored since waterfalls are numerous enough to not be considered anything out of the ordinary.
By far the most remarkable of the lot, Jasper is a tiny waterfall that flows over red jasper rock. For the uninitiated, Jasper is an opaque hard impure variety of silica that is used as a gemstone. How do you like that? This waterfall flows right over a semi precious rock!
Great waterfall if you’re looking to repeatedly jump off the edge into the cool water below. Once you’ve belly flopped a few times, look for a shady spot under a tree and take a nap. It doesn’t get any better than this. The pictures speak for themselves.
Long river with a series of waterfalls. Rather than the waterfalls, the highlight here was an elusive iguana.
Sad to say that no one seems to pay too much attention to this gigantic waterfall located at the side of the highway.
Another waterfall (yawn). However, this one stands out because of the numerous vultures that nest in the forest right beside the waterfall. Before you reach for your shotgun, remember that these creepy birds are more terrified of you than you of them. And rightly so!
Angel falls was named after the pilot who discovered these falls hidden away among the many tepuis of Venezuela. The journey to the falls is a long one but, as you shall see, completely worth your time and money. Speaking of which, this trip is very cheap by international standards. Despite Hot Chocolate Fudge’s (Hugo Chavez Frias – too risky to mention his name in Venezuela) best efforts at controlling the currency, black market trading ensures that you get decent conversion rates for the dollar. As a result of this, a 3-day 2-night epic journey to the falls costs only USD 300 including transport, accommodation and food.
Your journey’s launch pad is at the centre of the Country; a place called Ciudad de Bolivar (City of Bolivar). Simon Bolivar was the liberator of Peru, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia from the Spanish and the founder of Bolivia. This feat earned him a God-like status in this part of the World. Ciudad de Bolivar is tiny and quite charming with old Chevys crawling through its narrow streets. No time to waste here though, a 1.5-hour 6-seater flight to Canaima awaits you.
If not for having to live in the shadow of Angel falls, the waterfalls at Canaima would’ve been world famous. Named after a mythical Amerindian hunter / murderer, Canaima is a feast for the eyes from the sky. 4 waterfalls, each as powerful as the next, pour ceaselessly into a large basin. The main attraction though is a tiny ledge that runs directly below one of these gigantic waterfalls allowing you to walk right under the waterfall. A waterfall hurling at over 500,000 litres per second a few feet over your head is a memory that you will carry to your grave. The flowing water is so powerful that the wind generated under the fall could easily knock you over if you’re not careful. Mind blowing at the very least.
If you’re able to drag yourself away from this, a 4-hour boat ride from Canaima will take you to Angel Falls; assuming you survive the numerous rapids along the way. Fortunately, the boatmen do this day in and day out and make an impossible task seem easy. If the weather God permits, a beautiful view of the falls is to be had from the river camp. Even from this distance you can see that the falls are so high that the water gets blown to a mist way before it reaches the bottom. An hour’s hike gets you to the pool at the bottom of the falls. And this is where you get the money shot.
Sir Author Conan Doyle was not talking through his hat when he wrote about a Lost World. He was talking about a mountain located at the triple border of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. The South American and Caribbean tectonic plates colliding with one another formed Mount Roraima. As a result of this, Mount Roraima was lifted above the surrounding land and has remained this way for centuries. With no natural predators (or humans) on the top of this mountain, evolution has had a free reign to take a few liberties. 30% of all plant and animal species found on Mount Roraima are endemic to the mountain. In English, it means that these species can be found only on the mountain and nowhere else in the world.
Hiking to the top of Mount Roraima to explore this lost World is easier said than done. Tackling the savannah is the first priority and takes up the first two days. Streams at regular intervals give you a reprieve from walking under the unforgiving sun. 13.5km and 11km are swallowed on the first two days. Day 3 might seem mild at 3.5km but is the toughest day of all since you pretty much climb the mountain in 4-5 hours. Lugging your weight and backpacks up around 2000m (elevation gain) is quite a workout.
A few minutes on the top and it’s all clear why this is the lost world. An alien stone studded landscape greets you. Fragments of clouds splashed all across the mountain add to the surreal view. This table mountain is far from flat.
#1 Skinny dip in a natural Jacuzzi
#2 Crawl 60m through a cave running into the mountain
#3 Pet a Mount Roraima frog
#4 Visit the window in the skies
#5 Sample the endemic cucumber like snack
#6 Get a glimpse of the plant eat animal world
#7 Meditate at the top
#8 Catch the sunset
#9 Indulge in a cave hotel dinner
#10 Sift through crystal and quartz in search of the perfect diamond