The border crossing out of Brazil & into Venezuela took much longer than anticipated. Usually when we exit a country we merely hand in the temporary import vehicle licence and get our passports stamped. This time Brazil decided they needed to produce a whole new lot of paperwork, requiring lots of copies! Crazy, but who can argue with Aduana. This took ages. So instead of waiting in the queue in No Man’s Land for diesel we went straight to do our Venezuelan paperwork. They certainly looked the part, but were equally slow. It was nearly dark when we were finished, not the best way to enter a new country. So instead of a lovely campspot near a waterfall, we had to park in a hotel carpark. We woke early and headed off, deciding not to fill up with diesel here as the queues are huge (we had also heard that foreigners cannot buy fuel here)- naturally we were fairly low, as who would buy fuel in Brazil when it is so cheap here!
The first thing we notice is the magnificent tarseal road, then the glorious scenery of the Gran Sabana with Mt Roraima in the distance. Wow, wow, wow! Then of course many waterfalls - most a short walk off the main road. At our first army/police checkpoint (and there are many) we ask where the next diesel is. About 25km on. Phew, we are getting low so we should just make it. Only there is no diesel, only petrol. Oh no. Another 50km to the next diesel, so we carry on, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Oh no!! The fuel is inside an army complex and most certainly not for us. We have another 50km to get to diesel. Fortunately most of these kms are down a windy road through some magnificent forest. Sadly we don’t really appreciate the beauty of the place, as John coasts as much as he can to save fuel. We have never been so glad to see such a grubby little town. There are long queues, but these are for petrol. Before you know it John has managed to change some money for the local stuff and we get some sorely needed diesel. They will only give us 50litres, but it is free. We will need to find more soon. The next station gives us 200litres, again at no cost. It has been a huge day. We are relieved to find a nice quite spot off the road & have a BBQ for dinner.
After a long drive we finally reach Cuidad Bolivar. We see another petrol station and get another 100 litres for the tiny cost of $1. Our GPS map is pretty useless so we enter coordinates for Posada La Casita & hope for the best. We are getting closer when a 4x4 sees us & beckons us to follow. He leads us there….it would have been rather hard to find. We are here to arrange a trip to Angel Falls, the worlds highest waterfall. We can do a fly in on a 1 day trip, or longboat in & walk on a 3 day trip. John suggests maybe we should “get out of our comfort zone” and do 3 days. So the next day we are off.
We fly out in a little Cessna. We are the only 2 passengers; the rest of the space is packed full with boxes, one of which is leaking onto my seat. These we drop off at a little gold mining village. Finally on to Canaima where we see some magnificent falls as we circle & land. We are picked up by our “very dynamic” (NOT) guide Tony and taken to our very basic accommodation, and given instructions for the day. We are the only tourists there! After lunch, exploring & generally filling in time we get taken by long boat to walk behind the waterfalls. It certainly is magical – and we have it all to ourselves (if you forget about Tony). Afterwards we stay on the beach & discover a much nicer hotel with bar & restaurant overlooking the magical view. We stay there till dark, then head back to our more modest quarters for dinner. Actually the meals are pretty good. The next day we are due to boat up the river. But there is a problem! As there are only 2 of us they want us to wait another day! No way! Finally at 11am, when another group of 3 have arrived, they take us to our long boat. And by 11.30 we leave. YAY!! The other bonus is that Tony has been replaced by Daniel…a much more enthusiastic18 year old.
We are here at the beginning of the dry season so the water is getting lower. That of course means that we have to go up countless rapids. But before I get into that story I need to tell you about the gun. We are only an hr into the trip when our boat driver decides he needs his gun. Why the heck he didn’t load it at the beginning who knows! So we are all offloaded onto some rocks & told to have our lunch. An hr & a half later he returns with the gun, and again we set off. Every time we get to some rapids the driver has to judge the best spot to cross with his helper & our guide paddling for all they are worth. If we don’t make it the 2 guys hop out of the boat & push. At times John & the other male passenger jump out to help too. Then of course they have to leap back in as we start moving. Every now & then we stop to change propellers, spark plugs or just top up with fuel. It is a very long trip – the scenery is staggering. But it is getting late. Then we stop again….they have spied some caprybaras and haul out the gun. Fortunately they miss, but by now it is dark. The next hour is pretty scary as we maneuver rapids and huge rocks in the dark, still at full speed. Just to add to the fun it rains.
When we finally arrive the 2 ladies and I hug & scream with relief. Up to our hammock camp in the bush. The rain continues, so we don’t venture out of camp. Dinner & an early night.
Daniel wants us to get up at 4am to walk to the falls lookout before breakfast in the dark. He has a mutiny on hand. We agree on 5am. The next morning is an early start. The walk is pretty strenuous with rocks, roots and all sorts of obstacles. It would have been awful in the dark. We are rewarded by a magic view at the top. It was pretty awesome having only 6 of us up there. Some days there are up to 150 people at the camp. A quicker trip down & finally breakfast (that was really out of my comfort zone – I had to resort to crackers on the walk up!)
Before 9am we are back in our boat & motoring down the river. It is oh so much easier going this way & the scenery looks even more amazing. I truly think the ride is better than the falls. We see 6 very full boatloads, each with 10 or 12 tourists heading up, so we were truly blessed to have so few people on our trip. After a quick lunch we are back to the airport & flying home. We are really pleased to be back with GR2 and back in our comfort zone.
Coming soon: beaches & snorkeling….we hope