Ciudad Bolivar is a roasting hot city that sits nicely on the southern banks of the Orinoco River at its narrowest point. THis is not a city to be arriving in during the hours of darkness however as it does have a bit of a reputation for being a little dangerous, which I can verify as I did see a guy running toward me pulling out a knife from inside his shirt and an angry look on his face. Fortunately he was after a local guy next to me and wasn`t after the only obvious^`gringo´that was to be seen for miles- me.
THe river is very fast flowing and the locals fish in the traditional ways with their nets being cast every couple of minutes and the other guys in the canoe rows as fast as he can against the current so they don`t actually move anywhere all day except around in circles. It amused me watching them for a couple of hours while wandering the banks drinking almost frozen cervezas along with half the city. THey all enjoy a cerveza in the hot mid day sun.
The biggest hinderance to having a good time here is that there are absolutely no cafes or restaurants in the city, and the ATM`s don`t work for foreigners. THere is one in the whole city- a long taxi ride away, right by the airport- which actually accepts foreign cards.
I flew to Canaima on a clear morning and marvelled at the scenery along the way, and at the pilot sitting next to me reading a magazine on used cars and never looking out the window or at his instruments. I did feel a little nervous, but the scenery certainly took over after I began to realize that we weren`t going to crash without some warning. Besides the lakes we flew over there were quite a few `Tepuys` which are huge mountains with flat tops. At least they look flat from a distance, but have great huge rocks on them. This is of course just like the mountain for which I wass eventually destined, where Salto Angel tumbles down.
WE landed without a hitch but not before seeing the Canaima lagoon and series of waterfalls which were worth the trip by themselves. THe lagoon is freezing I soon discovered, but the sight of those waterfalls and the palm trees in front was simply awesome. I wanted to stay for a couple of days and just look at this.
THe guides however were having none of this and insisted on taking us straight up the Carrao river to get to Angel Falls. WE obliged by getting into the canoes with motors and cruising up the river and taking the obligatory ten photos of the first tepuy we could see, in the hope of getting the first glimpse of Angel Falls. Of course the guides didn`t bother to tell us that this was still some 80 km from angel falls and we were wasting our film.
THe boat trip took all day even though there had been plenty of rain and the river was fairly high. We stopped for lunch under another small waterfall where we gratefully swam and recovered from the intense heat of the day. What fun. Still another couple of hours on the heavens opened up and the rain fell in torrents while the plastic ponchos actually protected the person who sold them to us, more than ourselves. WHile the rain fell we could see nothing but the rain until the clouds cleared quickly and we could watch in awe the water tumbling off the mountain tops in hundreds of waterfalls- prbably unnamed, but just as spectacular as Angel falls themselves.
Eventually we could see Angel falls and there were TWO spouts coming out, with all this rain we were impressed, although sometimes in very heavy rain there are up to seven spouts. WE casmboured out of the boats to climg the base of the mountain where we hoped to get better views of the falls and be able to take that perfect photo(of course).It took me an hour to hike to the mirador where I could finally stop and relax to soak up the view.
WE stayed in hammocks across the river from the falls and had what I thought was rabbit on a stick, but it did turn out to be chicken, much to my relief.
I didn`t get an ounce of sleep all night while it rained non stop and others in the row of hammocks moved about .
The next morning we had breakfast and headed back to Canaima which still took 3 hours even though the river was higher and we were going down stream. We had a chance to chill out by the lagoon and then we went over to the waterfalls right by the lagoon. THese were incredible in their force and we even got to walk behind one and through the pounding water . What an adventure. I can wholeheartedly recommend that part of the tour. It is both incredible and beautiful.
That night we slept well after drinking two bottles of Rum with our new friend Angel and having pure exhaustion on our side. Unfortunately the next day we had but a short time to sit by the lagoon before catching our plane taxi back to Cuidad Blivar for the night bus to Caracas.