Monday, 10 December 2012


When I first started looking at going to Venezuela, Roraima was one of those places that came up a few times. It's a flat topped mountain which rises up out of the grasslands of Gran Sabana to over 2,700m. It was also the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book, The Lost World.

I found a trip with Backpacker Tours which had the right dates. The only thing was that it was a 6 day trek. I've never been treking in my life and decided the best way to prepare for the trip was to not read the itinerary, particularly the distances, too closely.

I arrived in Santa Elena the day before and we headed off the following morning. We had quite a lot of porters. There were 5 of them with us at all times but there were others who went ahead with the food or were waiting for us with the food on the way back. This meant you didn't have to carry your tent, just your personal stuff, sleeping bag and rollmat. I'd gone with 3 changes of clothes, wet wipes and a poncho since my waterproof jacket had been in my bag that disappeared. The backpack weighed jut under 9kgs. This proved to be quite enough.

So we took 4wd to an Indian village and set off from there. It was about 4 hours walking through mainly grasslands on the first day. The first bit was uphill but most of it was then downhill for the rest of the time. It wasn't hard. It did pour with rain for about the last 20 mins before we made camp which was bad timing.
Roraima  is the one on the right

The tents were all set up for us. They weren't in the best condition. I think the zips were dodgy on every single one of them. The next morning after arepas for breakfast, we were off, leaving the porter to take the tents down. He had his breakfast after us, took all the tents down and then overtook us about two hours later wearing Crocs on his feet. All a bit depressing really.

Day two was quite warm and it was about 5 hours walking, mainly uphill. It was quite gentle until the last hour which made me a bit out of breath. There isn't an awful lot to see in the Gran Sabana, just a few birds, lizards and miles and miles of grass. Apparently there are rattle snakes everywhere but I didn't see one.

That afternoon we made Base Camp and there was a small pool you could have a wash in if you could stand the cold. It was somewhat refreshing. The next day was the day we went up to the summit. It looked steep. It was steep. It took about 4 hours on day 3 and I was quite out of breath when we finally made it up there. It was mostly dry though there was a brief shower just as I was walking under a waterfall, which made it run a lot faster. I felt the mountain was mocking me.
The "path" to the summit

The top of the mountain is like a lunar landscape. It's not as flat as it looks from a distance and there are lots of plants that are found either on other mountains in the area or just on Roraima. This includes 4 types of insect eating plants which try to compensate for the poor soil by being carnivorous. Sadly there was no sign of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's dinosaurs or monkey people. Our camp site even had somewhere you could go swimming or take a wash, though at 6C, it was only for the most hardy.

Endemic carnivorous plant

The cathedral

Highest point. Don't you love the poncho?

Above the clouds

Day 4 was spent exploring the top, though it's so big, we only saw a small fraction of it. There were waterfalls, ponds, strange phallic rock formations and a cave. We only went just inside the cave, which was probably just as well given the lack of helmets and decent lights. Apparently it extends a long way and take 6 hours to traverse. You need to make you way through sumps too.

Day 5 was hard. We went back to the camp that we'd stayed at on the first night, so it was all the distance we'd covered on days 2 and 3. It was down hill, which made it quicker, though it was quite hard on the knees. My legs had had enough of walking downhill by the end of it. That said, it was hot and someone did drop dead from a heart attack on day 5 a couple of weeks before.                              

On the last day my legs were a but stiff, though not that bad and we did the 4 hours back to the start and caught the 4wds back into town. The trip was quite hard, but not that hard. Despite the plentiful supply of food during the 6 days, I'm pretty sure I lost weight. My legs were stiff and I had a fair few bites despite liberally coating myself in Off. The small, black flies they call puri-puri which leave you with small, bleeding, itchy bites seemed to regard it as honey glaze.

So a bit hard work, but worth it, I think.

No comments:

Post a Comment