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Published: September 11th 2009
Wow.... what can I say about the last few days..... How about holy crap!!
So having overstayed my welcome a little in Lecheria (not with my friend but with her sister) I decided to take off to see, what is Venezuela’s most famous, and probably most spectacular, tourist attraction, ANGEL FALLS!!!!!!!!!!!! The highest waterfall in the world (989 m high, I believe). This incredible wonder, named one of the 7 wonders of the world, was named so not without reason. Having been to Machu Pichu (another wonder of the world), and many other breath taking places, now I truly understood, why the places that were actually called “wonders of the world” were wonders of the world.
You see I hadn’t planned on coming here, but I figured why the hell not. It was a super pain in the ass to arrange the tour etc. and I almost thought to myself... well it’s just another waterfall... I’ve seen so many like iguazu, Niagara, etc.... Do I really need to go? Yes.
So my sweet friend who had become like my sister, Amarylis, dropped me at the crazy bus terminal to catch my early morning bus to
ciudad Bolivar, where I would spend the night and catch my early morning flight to the remote town of canaima. The terminal was crazy, filled with the usual terminal harassment. Taxi! Tour! Taxi! Where you going! etc. Plus the extra special Venezuelan “hospitality” I had been receiving everywhere I walked, whistling, nasty kissing sounds, prolonged stairs, and in gross deep growly voices, “bella, bella,” “oh mamie”, “mamita!” I suppose it made a little more anxious than normal, I’m not sure why I got so much extra attention in this country compared to others but whatever, I was happy Lyly was with me.
The 4 hour bus actually took almost 7 hours. The german-run posada was nice (even if the owner was... well... basically not Latin American nice. -and I don’t mean in a “im trying to sleep with you” nice kind of way, but the warm and open friendly attitude most South Americans have.
Anyways I took a swim in the perfect pool, washed up, had dinner, and went to sleep in my outdoor hammock house, which consisted of nothing more than a roof and some mosquito netting. It rained which was cool, and the best part is
it only cost me 5 bucks to stay here rather than in an actual room.
Next morning, the airport procedure was a joke, they cared more about smiling at me rather than passports or luggage security, which was fine by me, considering I was packing. Lol. Just kidding!! But it was totally hilarious cause nobody really had tickets. They put us in the waiting room, and randomly after a while they would call some people to board various planes. I was taken aback when I saw all the planes were little antique 4 and 6-seater planes with only one propeller! I sat beside the pilot in the noisy vessels, and got to enjoy watching the manipulation of the 30 year old dials and gadgets used to fly the plane (as well as his HAND HELD GPS used to guide us to our destination), and most importantly the breathtaking scenery. Watching the deep forest change to colourful pools of strange coloured lagoons, rivers, and lakes. Than the tepuy (famous table top mountains bordering VZ and Guiana) mountains rose before my eyes! We flew between the clouds, hitting them like bumps (not the mountains, but the clouds). Tiny micro rainstorms enveloped
us and released us to peak at the orange rimmed, blue, green, and brown waters nestled by the rich tropical lands. The sight was incredible!!
We landed and I thanked the pilot. I asked about the tours they had to fly around the falls (as it was not included in my tour, only walking to the base of the falls, but not the airplane tour). He offered me a good price for the 50-minute tour, but even the good price was out of my budget so I passed. As I approached the airport hut, the guys asked me which agency I was with.
- Oh Kavac tours!! She’s all yours! As they referred me to an incredibly cute tour guide, Miguel, a native Peruvian, 29. He spoke perfect English but I continued with my Spanish, so we spoke Spanish. He asked me to wait in the reception area, as we were waiting for the other tourists to come in the rest of the planes. Then Peter, or actually Pedro came over. I could see by the smile on his face what the game was about. Little did I know Pedro would be my tour guide, and sort of
my friend over the next few days. So Pedro, 42, sat beside me and bought me a soda as we shot the shit. He asked me what I thought of Venezuelan men, and I said they were incredibly annoying cause they kept asking me to marry them within 3 seconds of meeting them. They were all in love with my hair and my eyes, and they all said the same things, but of course none of them were sincere. So I suppose Pedro’s mission (as he said) was to show me not all Venezuelan men were like that, and indeed his approach was more subtle, in fact he never made a move on me (not a direct one anyways).
We arrived to the posada just to get ourselves together in order to commence the 90 km, 4 hour, boat journey up the windy, rapid filled, GORGEOUS, river. Pedro put me up front in the boat, where there was the least amount of slashing and he sat in front of me. We talked about all sorts of things, like our philosophies of travelling, people, nature, work, life, etc. Pedro told me how he had visited Romania and the true story
about count Dracula, it was totally fascinating! The conversation was pleasant and I really liked him (but only as a friend!). We stopped for lunch and then at a water fall for a swim along the way. I asked Pedro if it was ok for me to climb the waterfall, as it was climbable on the side (most tour guides are stuffy about stuff like that but not these guys). He said, sure, do whatever you want. So I did. I was the only one to climb the water fall. It was mostly easy (and not dangerous), but I had to take care weaving through the jungle roots at the sides, the last thing I wanted was some strange spider bite- and there were ugly looking spiders, but I was careful.
When I returned to the boat Pedro said to me “You know it’s really interesting to watch the tourists. Every once in a while you get someone who’s really different, like you. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s interesting. Out of all the tourists I bring here every day the majority just stay put, take their picture and move on, but not you. You like
to explore, see what’s more. You climbed the waterfall because you were curious to see what’s beyond. I’m the same way, but not many people are like that.” Sure Pedro was also probably hitting on me, but what he said I had heard before, and it was true. Not many people venture off to explore the unknown -i’m not sure why... It left me feeling lucky and special, but a little alone, where were the other me’s of the world?
Anyways after 4 hours of adventurous navigation up 90 km of rapid-filled windy river, we arrived!! But just before we reached the last bend, there it was!! Heaven falling from the sky, like gods love....
When I got my first glimpse of the angel dust exploding between the mountainous pillars, I was breathless and filled with awe. A sense of calm covered me like a veil of magic. I was impressed, thankful, and felt what cannot truly be described in words... Wow!!! This was why they call it a wonder of the world. It was just SO MUCH more special than anything!! It was so spectacular, so beautiful, so inspiring, thought provoking, a place where
you could just lie forever and just stare, thinking about the world... the people... the heavens and its earth, about history, about the Indians, about life, about magic, about nothing.
We got to the camp, right at the base of the falls and I put my stuff beside my designated hammock.
That night there was not much to do but relax after dinner. Pedro introduced me to another guide Antonio, a Pemon (native Indian here) and a experienced guide who had made the illegal 14-day trek up to angel falls 14 times before. Pedro and him were planning on doing the trek in late September along with some other guides. They invited me to join them (at no cost). Obviously the offer was tempting, as it was something I so badly wanted to do, but I couldn’t very well except the offer, since even though they did not strike me as psycho killers or delinquents, each one of these guides had separately hit on me at one time or another, with two proposing marriage (it’s a latin thing). I could only imagine how uncomfortable the trek might become...
Later that night I met Alex and his travelling
partner Alberto. Alex was delightful and we would soon become close. He confided in me a personal problem he was having within 2 hours of knowing me. Over the next several days I would help his navigate his way to a solution, but won’t post it on my blog.
Anyways, the next day I was the last to wake. Nobody woke me -it was delightful! My new friends, Alex, Alberto, and Rene (a delightful character from France), along with my comical tour guides, Pedro, Miguel, and Mumbo (peluchito), and the rest of the entertaining group of tourists were all having their peaceful breakfast. Nobody rushed anybody, and somehow in this place of magic there was time for absolutely everything.
After breakfast, we started the 2-hour trek to the bass of the falls to take pictures. A few us walked the extra 30 minutes to bath in one of the impressively fast flowing cold pools that the falls poured into. The trek was beautiful and impressive in itself, up and down, and mostly up, through dense, humid, gorgeous jungle!! The swim was ice cold and refreshing! Everybody was filled with utter joy. Happiness poured out of our faces as
the water did from the sky. It may sound gay but we were all connected by bearing witness to the impressive force of Mother Nature. The water flowed with such speed we had to bath carefully at the pool’s edge behind protective rocks. Its force created a wind with a spray that was so formidable you felt like you were bathing in the kingdom of heaven, a place where magic made sense, and peace, love, and wonder was alive.
As I looked at the faces of my friends I could feel that we were sharing the type of moment that connects all of us, and I knew it would not be the last time I felt this way, and for this I was grateful.
After all the recent hardship I remember once again why I am a traveler. The wonder, the power, the freedom, the joy, the connection, and all the world’s marvels at my finger tips just waiting to be experienced, to be sensed…
After the hike back we got into the boat and commenced the 90 km journey back to Canaima. Somewhere along the way Alex and Alberto had told me they were staying in
Canaima for a few extra days and invited me to travel with them afterwards. I already had a flight booked to Curacao in a few days, and my flight back to Bolivar for the following day, so I told them I had to think about it.
I so badly wanted to stay in this place of wonder and beauty. Extend this moment of happiness, and feeling of comradery just a little longer, and so when I got the stuffy response from my couch surfing host in Curacao stating that 2-3 days stay was sufficient versus all the open arms I was receiving here in Venezuela, I thought to change my destiny. I cancelled my flights and stayed.
That night we had the fare well dinner and dance, and I salsa danced the night away. Alex and Rene proved to be quite the dancers!
The next day, we had a FANTASTIC tour of the Sapo waterfalls. Wow!!
Now I may sound like a broken record, but it was truly an incredible experience. The waterfalls were not enormous but they were impressive. We passed under the falls along a path stretching the entire length of the falls (maybe
about 50 m or more). The walk was to die for! The light was orange from the rays passing through the iron rich water, and it reflected within the rocky chasms, as we scrambled up and down along the rock face. With a cool refreshing spray blowing all around you, sometimes so strong it resembled a tropical shower, surrounding you in a confusing envelope of water that prevented you from seeing where you were going. It was fantastic! Magical! Beautiful! Intense!
We walked on and on, until we got to the other side where we could swim in the pools, and take showers under the pouring spouts of water. It was great fun.
Later I climbed to the top of the waterfall and took the opportunity to lie down and do nothing. I closed my eyes, rested, and took in my life just as I was living it. After about a half hour I heard, Vivi!! Vivi! (my new nickname). Vamos, Vivi, ven. Ok. Me voy.
I walked back by myself under the cathartic falls. Perhaps this was why my heart beat? To see and feel these things…
We got back to the picturesque lake of
Canaima (which I forgot to mention we crossed by boat to reach the falls). We crossed back and the rest of the tourists went off back to where they came from.
I spent the afternoon on white beach with orange water, surrounded by waterfalls, and strange palm trees growing in the midst of the lake. I was tired and napped in the shade. That night I hung out with Alberto and Alex. We grabbed a bite to eat, and then Pedro and the owner of the posada bought me a beer and we all sort of hung around. Miguel (one of the tour guides, the Peruvian), sparked up a heated political debate with Alex, who was an unpopular pro-Chavez advocate. It was all done in fast, whimsical Spanish and hard to follow. Nonetheless, I found the conversation incredibly interesting. I had recently been reading about Latin American history, and was captivated to learn more about the origins of the current political conflicts, as well as the nation’s fundamental problems. Miguel surprised me because not only was he really intelligent, but extremely well educated and versed on the subject. Later I approached him, and would discover he in fact had
a degree in political science and was just working as a guide temporarily. He was just travelling as I was, but staying in places longer to work in order to pay for his travels, and experience the country.
Miguel gave me a fascinating account of his version of the formation and disintegration of Gran Colombia, and the South American liberators. He also had an in depth knowledge of Peruvian history, and guerilla/gang activities. We discussed the driving forces for guerilla activities in Colombia, and the differences between Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador, in terms of their history and current governance, and how things came to be the way they are. Really interesting stuff…
Anyways, long story short, later that night Pedro informed last minute that there was a mistake with my flight change and that I needed to leave tomorrow. Ok fine. That sucked but whatever. That night I had my very own mattress in Alex, and Alberto’s tent. It was nice and comfy and best of all free!
I suppose everything happens for a reason, because when I got to the “airport” I asked the friendly man when my flight was. Things are not very organized
here, you just jump on whatever plane has space. The man asked if I was alone and to my advantage I was. He told me to come with him, than he asked if I had my camera ready. I said yes, why? He said because you are going to the angel falls!!
Wow… Basically I got a cockpit seat view to an aerial tour of angel falls that had been paid for by a bunch of French tourists before flying back to our destination, ciudad Bolivar. How wonderful!! We dipped between the majestic cloud covered mountains, and just as the fog cleared and sun came out, there it was. The majesty and awe of the epic waterfall… Wow… We passed by it four or five times, taking pictures from every angle. My heart went out to this place. I knew then, that one day I would be sure to return. I smiled at the pilot and thanked him for adding this tremendous experience to my life.
The pilot was a good looking man in his 50s, probably with a family, and I wondered about how he had come to become a pilot. He must have loved flying, and here
he was in his daily job, hovering over some of the most impressive landscape god had ever created. Wow. ….
And so it was. So was my trip to Angel falls. My faith renewed, my energy renewed, from the very same earth that bore me.
What would be next?.... Not sure, but I knew whatever it was I would face it with a smile. Peace out.
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