Sunday 21st January
Crossed the border mid morning and should have got off at Santa Elena but a German girl on the bus told me that we weren't at the depot yet so after a baggage check I got back on the bus. Half an hour later she realised her mistake, that both of us were now flying straight through to Cuidad Guyana, due at 9pm. She decided to get off and hitch when we stopped for a meal break but I stayed on despite not having a ticket. At Guyana the bus driver couldn't understand why on earth I was getting off there and I owned up about not having a ticket, paid the rest of the fare and got back on to go through to Porlemar where I arrived at 3am, after 33 hours on the bus. A taxi driver helped me find a hotel for the night.
Monday 22nd January
No running water in the hotel so went to request it and was told it would take 30 minutes, so I turned the shower on and waited. When it came on by the time I got ready to jump in and started shampooing it stopped again.....so a dash down to reception and I get asked how many people are showering - well just me...so he goes to turn it on again and I shower with a dribble to risk running out again. I then go and attempt to change my Brazilian currency in town so I can pay up and check out of my hotel. It turns out there isn't a bank in town that wants to know about any currency change and the bureau de change only wants to deal with U.S. dollars. Three cash point attempts later and a a nice local actually tells which which ATM it is that accepts international visa cards. So two hours later I get back to the hotel but they won't take the large notes I have so it's a trip out for lunch to get change - McDonalds are seriously useful in this regard! So finally I'm on my way to the internet. Email from Jo implies I might make it in time for the Angel Falls trip so I get over to the bus station for a ticket to Cuidad Bolivar. Looking around at prices I get involved in a negotation with a guy at one desk who arranges to lower his price to compete with his neighbour. I stupidly fall for this and go in to buy the ticket which turns out to be the same price as their poster stated - and miraculously the guy has disappeared. Fell for that one a little to easy but whats the point of worrying over a couple of pounds. Met another girl having ticket issues and we went for a drink to de-stress whilst waiting for the bus. Arranged to meet her tomorrow in Bolivar if I don't meet up with everyone for Angel Falls. Got the bus at 8pm and it was pretty freezing as usual. Got in at mid-night and got a taxi into town but he couldn't find the hostel I picked from the book for agess. Then as a stroke of luck we came across it but a guy shouted out the window that they are full. Just about to get back in the taxi when a loud Geordie shouts my name out of the window! Lucky she heard the taxi pull up. Time for a quick banter before crashing out in Jo and Andy's room for the early start tomorrow.
Tuesday 23 January
Early start to the office for some breakfast. The guy from the bus to Santa Elena is on the same trip, Stom. Drove for a few hours out to the airport. Stopped on the way by a road block which seemed to concern the driver a little but we just joked about paying our way through. Headed back to stop to use a phone (which was just sat at a table in someones garden for rental) and then we were told we would have to head to another airport as there was no way we could get through on the usual route. The plane was a little 6 seater and it was a bumpy ride. The pilot read his newspaper the whole way but we were just amazed by the views. Saw the Orinoco river and islands. The tepui (flat top mountains) are so stunning against the horizon and we got a could few of the falls at Canaima as we landed. The first group of us headed to the accommodation for lunch and then took a walk to the lake. Couldn't beleive the noise of the falls all the way across the lake in the accomodation block. Had dinner when the others turned up and then tried to work out the art of sleeping in a hammock. Really not as comfortable as they look despite being shown how to sleep diagonally much to the amusement of the staff.
Wednesday 24 January
Boat across the lake first thing and then walk up beside the first set of rapids. Got in another long boat the other side to start a 4 hour ride up the river to Angel Falls. Views just got more and more stunning as the tepui rose up either side of the river. Arrived at the next camp early afternoon and had our first sighting of the Falls which were about a mile away. You would see all the way to the top at this point through the clouds. We pushed on to walk up there before the cloud set in. Steep walk up but rewarded with a swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls. Got another siting of the top from here. The water dissipates as it falls so far and its incredible that the mist then turns into such a torrent of water in the pool below. Hiked down for dinner and another night in a hammock.
Thursday 26 January
Up at 5am for the boat back down the river. Strange sight to seen the light come up whilst headed down a river. The guides know the river so well as they seemd to negotiate all the rocks easily in the dark. Stopped for breakfast at another camp and then continued on to the lake where we went for a swim (nearly swam into an iguana) and then walked behind the falls. We saw an amazing rainbow through the canopy of water. Flew back out late afternoon (with pilot still reading his newspaper) and bused back to Cuidad Bolivar. The owner of the tour agency apologised for the problems when we returned but we said we weren't bothered by being a little late as it meant we had a longer flight and we had still fitted everything in despite having to get up early. He then explained that he had been concerned as the roadblock had been put up by locals who had taken the village. There is a long running dispute over illegal mining they have been carrying out for years that the government is trying to stop. He took us out for dinner at a local restaurant to apologise and we then went to get the 11pm bus to Porlemar (third time on that now).