Wednesday was a long day. We were up at 5:00 am to catch a ride to the airport for 6:00. Upon arriving at the airport there really wasn't anyone who could help us. Luckily we found a guy who worked for a tour group who put us in the right place. Our plane was of course on "Venezuelan time" and left promptly at 11:30. Off to Canaima on an LTA Cessna.
Just over an hour into the flight we begin our descent. I figured this odd as it's a two hour flight. Commercial flights in Venezuela certainly don't go 'on-time' and we were learning they don't always go where they say they are going to go.
In the dense jungle a small narrow dirt road appears in the distance. We use every last inch of the "runway" and then turned around to drive into town (in the plane). In a few hundred feet we pull up to a palapa where 2 people and 6 cases of Chilean wine get off and three Penom natives hop on. Using what I can only describe as the brake-stand take off technique, we get airborne just prior to the grass at the end of the road. We are assured that Canaima is next. It was a 7 minute flight at about 1200 feet, weaving through the Tepuys (table mountain) across the Gran Sabana.
Upon arrival in Canaima we were met by our guide George-Louis. We passed through the park entrance booth and were taken to our camp. We had a very basic but nice room. In the middle of the camp there was a long covered table where lunch was served. The food was excellent. The natives make a hot sauce made you teared up when it was near. The secret ingredient? Termites... yes termites.
The tour that day was of the Canaima Lagoon. After being assured by George that it was an easy hike we set out in our flip-flops and swimsuits. It was a very technical hike through the jungle, the flip flops were a bad idea and I have the bruises and scrapes to show for it. Oh well.
We got in a "curiara" which is an Indian dugout canoe that is used to transverse the rivers of the area. They've done away with the paddles and bolted a 4 stroke engine on the back. We took about a 25 minute tour of the falls in the lagoon (Hacha, Wadaima, Golondrina and Ucaima). After leaving our canoe at the far end of the lagoon and we started the climb to Sapo Falls and then a descent through some thick jungle to the beach below the falls ("Little Beach"). We had a swim and then started our hike behind the falls.
The hike behind the falls was pretty neat. The ragine water is very loud and you have to be really careful walking on the rocks because they are really slippery. At points, the water is so heavy that you don't see much as you are walking behind the falls. At the other side, we hiked to the top and sat it the falls. You could see the entire valley around the area, very beautiful. You also got a pretty good neck massage from the water.
We then walked across the ridge and looked out at the Sabana and the Tepuy mountains in the valley. It's similar in appearance to Arizona or Southern Utah if you covered them with green. On the pathway back to the village we bumped into the Japanese tourists...we are all in shorts have our shirts in our hands because it's so hot. The Japanese are in full rain suits with mosquito netting hats, one lady had gloves on. Pretty funny. I did a quick mosquito count for the day: 0.
It took about 20 minutes to walk back to the camp in the village. On the way we asked our guide if there was a place to buy some cold beer. He said the store might have some but the best bet was to go to one of the houses and ask. We went to a house where a boy (maybe 12 years old) answered. We asked if he had beer; of course he did. What 12 year old doesn't sell beer out of his house? Free market economy at its best.
We had a great dinner and a few beers. We met a great couple from Utah (Gill and Annette) and shared a few stories. The group went through the plans for tomorrow's trek to Angel Falls.
Off to bed.