Trek to Salto Angel, Venezuela
Sep 21, 2006
|Day 2 - Canaima to Angel Falls Trek
It was one of those days that we'll always remember.
Today was a very challenging, long but highly rewarding day. We woke fairly early to get ready and eat prior to leaving. We were fortunate that no one else was expected to be coming out that morning so we were able to start our journey to the falls in good time. We looked at the maps the previous evening and were told it takes about five hours to get there, and we needed as much daylight as possible to be able to spend time near the falls. We got organized, hiked to the top of the river leading to Sapo falls and got into our boat.
Once in our canoe (9 tourists, 2 boatmen, our guide, an extra motor, all of our gear, and 2 large gas tanks) we started our journey up the Rio Carrao. The entire journey by water to the falls is upstream, making the very narrow and somewhat tippy boat a bit scary as you are bouncing through the rapids, attempting to avoid boulders. Eventually, we got used to it. After about 35 minutes we reached the 'Savanna of Mayupa' where we walked for about 40 minutes around some serious rapids. We stopped at an Indian village and look at some of the handicrafts available for sale and then carried on to the other side where we got back on the Curiara and continued for another hour and a half.
We eventually stopped for lunch on the banks for the Carrao river (mega-sore butts) and a little swim. After lunch, we got back in the canoe and headed towards the Auyan-Tepui (the flat top mountain where Angel Falls is on the backside) which is massive, nearing 700 sq km on the top.
We changed to a smaller river (Churun River). After 2 long hours of river rapids we got the boat stuck on the riverbed and could not pass. Everyone got out of the canoe and it took 45 minutes or so to get the canoe past the rocks. Another 20 minutes in the boat and the falls were in view. They're truly awesome.
Our guide points out our camp on Isla Raton and we continue another 200m to the start of the Angel Falls hike.
As we get out of the Canoe the heavens open and a torrential downpour begins. The hike is essentially has two phases, the approach and the climb. The approach is a gradual gain in altitude across riverbeds and through the rain forest. By the time we completed this leg (45 minutes) the rain had stopped and the sun was shining brightly above. The second stage was a much more technical hike up a steep grade of rock formations and tree roots. Although quite a bit shorter, it took quite a while.
We reached the first lookout point at about 3:30. From here we could hear and see the entire falls but not the pools at the base. 15 more minutes to the top and it was twice as steep and we needed to grab trees or vines to pull ourselves over the rocks (very mountain goat of us).
We made it. For the next 40 minutes we just sat and observed. It is hard to believe something like this could exist. It was as if it was straight out of Jurassic Park.
After photo time we walked into the valley for a swim at the base of the falls. The water was cold and it felt great to finally cool off. The neatest thing about this entire place was that we were the only people around for miles. No hotels or man made structures at all (including pathways).
The hike back took about an hour and we arrived at the Churun River at 6:00. The boat took us across the river and we unloaded our gear. The camp was basic but was really clean and comfortable. We had a BBQ chicken dinner and a few beers/crates of water and headed to bed pretty early.
Sleeping in a hammock is interesting. George gave us a lesson on how to use a hammock. Interestingly it's not how most of us use one. The 'Banana' as he called it, is a great way to hurt your back. In a hammock you sleep diagonally making it quite flat and comfy. I slept well and Tanis slept so-so.
In the morning (6:30) we were greeted by excellent coffee and some scrambled eggs and corn bread. Happy birthday to me. We backed our bags, took a couple last snaps of the falls and headed down to the boat. We were very lucky, we had an unobstructed view of the falls the day before and it had rained all night. This is the best case scenario. The river was a little higher so our trip home was only 3 hours.
If you are ever in Venezuela this is a MUST.