The best group ever! Climbing the highest tepuy in the world, RORAIMA

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South America » Venezuela » Guayana » Roraima
September 6th 2009
Published: November 12th 2009
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How can I describe this experience? How can I describe my Venezuelan friends? Words are not enough... My heart can’t translate what I found in these people -and it wasn’t just the magic of Roraima (the highest table top mountain/tepuy in the world) or the bonds that develop when you struggle together. During this trip, this adventure, I actually managed to meet a group of people, and not just one or two, but a group, that I would choose to hand pick as friends for life. Each one with their special quirks that made them just so lovable to me. It’s hard to express how much I enjoyed their company and how much I wish I could just keep them in my life a little longer if not forever. To me, they put a piece of Venezuela in my heart and showed me just how much we have in common and how much there is to love in the people here.

Let’s begin.

I stepped into Mystic tours in Santa Elena to meet Roberto (the owner) in order to discuss the 6-day tour I was about to undertake. I had decided to climb Roraima, only 2800 m, but a 140 km circuit. Roberto was a well-spoken, pleasant man, who introduced me to my boys Carlucho (Carlos) and Antonio, two Maracaibos- not merecos, hehehe (that’s what they call people from the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo, whereas mereco means fag). The three of us were suppose to split a tent and also meet up with another group the following day to do the trek. Roberto, being the humorous soul that he was told me I would be the only foreigner on the trip and the only women- but he lied. I was only the only foreigner. Oh well, better luck next time, hehehehe.

I had no idea what fate had in store, and how these two Venezuelan guys, my boys, would change my mind about Venezuelan guys, and maybe men in general after all that had happened in my South American travels.

Carlucho, also called Peluche (teddy), was basically a big teddy bear with an awesome sense of humor. He was quite the character between his tattoos and his fluent colloquial use of English getto slang (he lived in the states for 7 years), but he was even funnier in Spanish with every second word being an affectionate “fagget” or “cocksucker” -well it was funny in Spanish- you had to be there. On a more serious note Carlos had a hidden heart of gold and a strong sense of loyalty hard to come by.

Carlos and his buddy Antonio were both sharp lawyers from the best law school in VZ. An unlikely couple, they made for a hilarious match that warmed my heart. All I can say is that I wish I had the opportunity to travel with these guys more.

Antonio was sweet and kind with a religious streak. Even more surprising, his faith of choice was the catholic faith, and we had several discussions on the subject, including heated debates surrounding gay marriage, etc. Anyways, both these guys were good men who appeared to be devoted to their current girl friends, a first for me to see in South America.

So Day 1, the three of us met for coffee and pastries before hitting the road to pick up the rest of the group from San Francisco (a nearby town), and begin the 2 hour jeep ride to where we would start our trek.

So who was in the group?? Well that’s the best part cause that’s really what made the trip.

Ivan and Marisa!! Ivan a cute little hottie from Maracay (Maracay, Ivan??), half Spanish, half Italian (if my memory serves me right) was a totally awesome dude. He had the most hilarious Spanish voice for telling stories, was smart, athletic (being an experienced horse rider/trainer), and best of all a traveller like me. In only 3 short weeks after our trek he was to go off to Spain (permanently) to begin his travels and new life abroad. Ivan was a funny dude, with a good heart, and made for interesting company. Probably his only vice was his terrible smoking habit, which he limited during the trip. Marisa, a good friend of his from high school (now working in Caracas as an economist), was a delightful gem. It took me a while to get to know her, but she appeared sweet, adventurous, and open. Her job was the polar opposite of her passion, the arts! Marisa was a generous gal, with big sweet eyes and a contagious smile.

Yolanda!!! The trip would not have been the same without this tremendous women! Yolanda, 68, was a feisty, full of energy and spirit, never gonna stop, kind of women. She was funny and colourful, not just in her vocabulary but also in her attire. Yolanda, a retired family lawyer, was a warm inviting soul, that led the group up the mountain, always ploughing first just nipping at the guide´s heals. Her sassiness and positivity were not only contagious but inspiring. What a wonderful women!

Alexandra and Jesus, an out-of-shape, lag-behind-but-determined-to-conquer-the-mountain, kind of couple from Caracas would not show their charms until several days into the trek. Jesus would turn out to be a real funny, generous soul, and Alexandra, a young and beautiful women, who’s glow would began to shine when she opened herself to us in the final days of the trek.

Then there was Joel, who seemed a little shy at first, maybe because I don’t believe he knew a word of English. Nonetheless, he made every attempt at showing me his open and kind nature. Joel was a big guy and my personal garbage disposal, for the giant meals. Ok, maybe not a flattering description, but I mean it in an endearing kind of way. When I couldn’t finish a meal, I could always count on Joel to help me out. Every trekking group needs a Joel.

And before I forget, most noteworthy of all was this groups’ true spirit of generosity!! I mean everybody brought snacks, and we shared like we invented the word sharing. (They reminded me of only one person I know to be this generous with food, my friend Mei). But seriously, I’m not sure if it was a Venezuelan thing, but we shared more saliva across chocolate bars and dried bananas that I thought healthy or possible -ok that’s putting a disgusting spin on something that really was wonderful. Seriously, all these people were such givers that they inspired me to give away my last bites (even after the trek) in the spirit of sharing, even if I would remain hungry or empty handed. Thanks everybody for teaching me again the gift of giving. It’s truly something I will carry always, so thanks for making me a better person.
Enough sappy crap.

Ok, let me not forget our guides! Jose -mine, Carlos’s and Antonio’s “official guide”, was a pemon (i guess- Pemon are the native people of the reagion) and an experienced guide of the area. More than that Jose was an absolute crack up, with his crazy stories, of paranormal things “he never saw” but which “ he had heard about”, his paranormal snoring that sounded like.... well like something that belonged in another dimension, and his unforgettable, unmistakable, deep and growly voice, jam packed with sound effects. Jose was a hilarious man, with an excellent sense of humour, and despite him being light years older than me, I applaud his subtle attempts of hitting on me. Like showing me the mirador after dark, asking me if I had a boyfriend, always ready for an extra hug and kiss (on the CHEEK), with a slightly wandering hand, and asking me to stay an extra day in Santa Elena to drink beer “all day”. He was totally harmless, and really generous, just a man who never forgots he is a man.

Than from Arcangel (another tour agency in charge of the others) came la China (Yerily/Orca) and Rubmyr (Harpia). These two young entrepreneurs were from a group of seven who had organized this top notch tourist agency within the last 2 years.

La China was an awesome girl, really generous and really tough, and always on the ball. She was the watch dog, always making sure I didn’t jump off the edge of the mountain or run around and twist my ankle. She really had a good heart and nice energy, and despite a difficult hereditary condition that made everything more difficult for her, she led the group without falling a step behind.

Rubmyr led the back, never letting anyone fall behind. His patience and attention was a perfect reflection of his truly good, honest and open nature. Harpia (eagle) his nickname had a truly positive and loving nature and I think his good will really permeated the group, a true pleasure to be around. To me however, he was more like a seal than an eagle - not sure why- maybe something to do with his peaceful nature or the placid innocence of his eyes.

And last, and also the least, Zulimar. A beautiful Venezuelan women, who’s beauty was no match for her paramount attitude of a spoiled princess. She didn’t ‘t bother me in the slightest until the last day, although some in the group took a disliking to her during the trip. Zuli kept to herself. I wasn’t even aware she spoke English until the final day. I probably wouldn’t even have included a negative comment about her if it wasn’t for what I saw on the final day of the trek, when she literally latched on to Harpia as if he was a donkey. She was so exhausted from the trek she grabbed on to the back of his pack and had him tow her the last 4 hours. Anyone who has ever put on a heavy back pack knows the horrible feeling of anyone pulling your pack down even for a second - I can’t imagine pulling a 150 lbs brat on mountain terrain for 4 hours. If your gonna trek you should learn to pull your own weight and not take advantage of the good will of others. So sorry Zuli, thumbs down on that one. Fitting that she would end up with our black sheep, Dan, hehehe- but that story is to come.

So Day 1 after the jeep ride we began our trek midday. We hiked about... 20 k I think and crossed two rivers in our socks. Everybody chatted and exchanged laughs. We arrived at our final camp ground before dark and took the pleasure of an evening dip in the river. There were laughs and giggles, shared between the slippery moss rocks that would be covered by shampoos and soaps used to wash away the grime of the long days trek.

Afterwards we all ran to have a big dinner at our lovely wooden group table, situated under the shelter of a make shift roof. Thank god, cause as we ate it began to pour buckets. What a beautiful site it was as we broke arepas together. Hehehe. (kisses and hugs everyone).

As the night grew on and the ground dried up everyone but Ivan, me, and Dan went to bed. Dan was an American from Boston, belonging to another trekking group that hated him equally as he despised them, therefore he sought every opportunity to hang out with us, or prey on the females such as myself or Zuli. Dan had been travelling the world for 2 years (and he smelled like he hadn’t showered in all that time). Besides a voidness of energy that resembled a black hole, Dan was a relatively nice guy who left a wake of destruction in his path. I say that because according to him, unlike my trip, every time he left a place, some natural disaster or horrible accident killing dozens to hundreds of people would happen the day after his departure (and this had happened on several instances). I liked Dan as a friend, but he really was like a little cloud of doom.

Anyways, that night I got to know Dan a little as I forced him to explain his new theories of relativity. Dan was a grad student working in astrophysics and a little brilliant, so I enjoyed reviewing Einstein’s theories with him and also learning more about the theories of dark energy, antigravity or pressure force, various theories of varying c, and Dan’s break though perspective of absolute time being a fundamental principle in explaining the red shift that’s perceived as the universe’s accelerating expansion. Well actually his theory’ s a little different but I won’t continue to publish it or he’ll kill me. Silly Dan for trusting a scientist... hehehe

Anyways, Dan was really impatient with me the first night, thinking I was dumb or incapable of understanding and so I confronted him on that. He than changed his tune a little and decided he wanted to sleep with me on top of Roraima, which he told me. When I responded - In your dreams, buddy, I suppose he took it as a challenge and that’s when he said- we’ll see about that. Hahaha. Ya right!

The following days his tune would really change and he would become MR nice guy. Too bad he had showed his hand, you don’t play a game like that boy- nonetheless, sorry to be harsh, but Dan was definitely not “cohible” (fble). However, the next day I would take the opportunity to learn more physics’ theories until I felt he was going to step up his game a little- then I bailed!

And Ivan- well I just love Ivan. He didn’t talk much that night but later he would tell me all about his horse training adventures in the US and VZ. Like I said Ivan was a travelling spirit and really an awesome dude.

Next day (Day 2) would be a ridiculously short hike to base camp, which we would reach around noon. We spent the rest of the day showering in the most FREEZING river ever- like directly from an iceberg it seemed, and eating, let’s not
marecos help one anothermarecos help one anothermarecos help one another

sorry, couldn't resist!
forget eating. We hang for most of the day, and I forgot to mention the night previous my boys, Carlucho and Antonio got their own tent to be a little gay. Just kidding!! It’s an inside joke cause in VZ its popular to call each other gay (Mareco, which translates to fag). So because they were always saying Mareco this, Mareco that, I took advantage of making Jose’s (our guide) spooky night time ghost-in-Roraima stories come to life. I would go by their tent whispering Marecos into the night breeze accompanied by the bizarre sound of my batteriless winding flashlight. Marecos... Marecos... hehehe -after all it wasn’t me- It was Roraima calling my manly men a couple of fags, hehehe.

Day 3 was the steep, steep, accent of the table top mountain. I’m not sure how many k we would cover that day, but several up top just to reach the camp by night fall. This day was hard but fun. It was my ipod day, and the music would drive me up the mountain. Upon reaching the top, Souli (one of the porters, who was another awesome dude and who spoke perfect English having studied it in Guyana) would have ready for us our sandwiches and tang (as was our normal beverage). That tang went down like champagne as I watched the 64 km we had covered across the Gran Savana grasslands from this towering table that god had laid at the tri-boarder of Guyana, Brazil, and VZ.

I would later dance behind the group all the way across the spooky landscape to our camp. As my ipod rotated between funk and jazz, I would think about my life and joyfully dance with the loves in my heart, missing my former family.

Reaching camp we would be welcomed by hot soup. Then Carlucho, Antonio, Ivan, la China, and myself would get buckets of warm swampy lake water to give ourselves showers in the most freezing of conditions. I say, there’s nothing like watching each other scrub their magic parts while yelling, more water, more water, my ass is still soapy!!, for bonding…

That night I would make two trips to the mirador to watch the clouds dance off the edge of the tepuy mountains.

That night, the first of two up top would be the coldest night ever. I literally shook the entire night long and didn’t get a wink of sleep, despite 5 thermal layers and a minus 3 sleeping bag. Maybe it was something about sleeping on ice rock floor in a cave or about being a wimpy Canadian, not sure- it was only about 6 degrees outside before dawn.

Day 4 would be a lazy 10 k walk to make-believe sites with fancy names giving to strangely shaped rocks and cliffs edges. Maybe it was the terrible grim cloudy, foggy, weather (thankfully it didn’t rain), or maybe it was the chastisement of not being able to run free along the top of the mountain like a wild horse, but instead being forced to follow the heard like a starved mule, that made me sad and depressed, and that sucked my energy. As I watched the mystical smoke rise between rocks that bordered the cliff’s edge, with a powerful force that made you dizzy with fear of being knocked over, I couldn’t help but think of my dear friend that died last week, unexpectedly from a terrible illness. He was a member of my family, although not by blood, and I thought of his life and his soul and where it was now, and of how maybe he was here. I couldn’t help but feel sad and drained, and the voidness of his absence and the pain of his death permeated all my thoughts in every step.

Finally the group separated and Ivan, Marisa, la China, Rubmyr, and Jesus along with myself, would be the only ones to climb the highest point of the mountain nicknamed, el carro (the car). Up top we were surprised to find Dan about a cm from his death sitting on the sloped edge of a rock. Within minutes the dark, grim clouds lifted as we came up, and god kissed us with sunshine. Wow, the mist and clouds lifting appeared mystical as the sun fought its way through. What a view, the entirety of Roraima and the neighboring tepuies!! Breathtaking.... We took some pictures and then the group leaders yelled us off the mountain as the typical shit you find with group tours, but I suppose we had to go anyways cause the sun was about to set…

That night was not quite as cold, plus I wrapped my butt in additional plastic to keep it warm. That night peluche, along with Ivan and Rubmyr stayed up with me a little to discuss nothing much. Eventually we all went to bed and I finally had a good night sleep on the corner of my ass (too cold to let my whole body touch the ice cold ground).

The next day would prove to be the hardest, but really fun. After the most delicious breakfast dumplings and arepas we started the long trek back, and would cover at least 40 to 50 k that day. We trekked across the top of Roraima and began our decent. I was in the back with Rubmyr cause the group was unbearably slow, and it was difficult for me to decent slowly with my knees and all 13 kg of my backpack. After about an hour I discovered my boys had hitched a faster ride down by following one of the porters, Mario. Hey!! Not fair!!! So I grabbed the next porter/guide, Soulin and me, him, and Vanessa (another porter), scammered down the mountain to base camp in record time. Seriously fast! We practically caugh up to the boys. My knees were sort of hurting and it was careful work running in Soulin ‘s quick footsteps as part of the decent were quite steep. We arrived to base camp just 10 minutes before my Maracaibos (Carlucho and Antonio), were we would wait almost a good 2 hours for the rest of the group to catch up.

Then we had a well deserved lunch before trekking until dusk to our night camp across the two rivers we had crossed day 2 of the trek. This camp was really nice (AND WARM!!!). I took a real swim in the river (cause the previous days the rivers were too shallow for actual swimming), along with the Maracaibos and a couple others joined us. Wow, the best shower/bath EVER!!!! Afterwards I felt amazing in the night breeze overlooking the river where the rest of my friends were bathing. I did just a touch of yoga to stretch myself out before heading up to have dinner. Dinner with the group was awesome, and we all said our heartfelt piece about how we had all grown so fond of each other…

Then afterwards we all sat around in the moonlight exchanging jokes in Spanish, most of which I didn’t understand- but the others seemed to have fun, and I was happy for them. I had been on a lot of tours and this group really seemed to enjoy each other more than the others. I felt really happy to share in these special moments, that I knew we would all always remember.

Eventually most people would trickle off to bed until it was just me, Ivan and Rubmyr. I would then entertain them (being so gracious, hehehe) by dancing and doing headstands in the moonlight.
Eventually, after that we would say goodnight and go to bed.

The next day, day 6, was sadly our last day. We would walk all morning back to our starting point, up and down the rolling hills. I was so energized from the trip that I ran part if not most of the way- but after enough complaining -Vivi!!! Vivi!! Slow down, stay with the group!! Bla, bla, bla, I finally stopped. Well my ipod ran out of batteries, and so did the one Harpia had lent me, so my motor was out. It was ok, cause I would spend more time chatting with some of my favorites, Antonio, Ivan, and Marissa. Later China would be so nice as to split her earphones with me and we would walk for a couple hours like Siamese twins…
After getting back to where we had started the trek we would all share a lunch and say hasta luego until night fall where we would reunite to supposedly party. Carlos, Antonio, and I would go in one jeep with “our guide” Jose. We stopped at a waterfall but the boys were too tired to go so they chilled in the car as I went with Jose.

The bath in the refreshing falls was amazing!! The place was filled with tourists and the rocks were incredibly slippery. The river bed below was incredibly smooth and the water shallow, forming like a slippy slide. The kids would run, jump, and slide, for like 50 plus meters!! It was really cool, but my tush was a little too delicate cause the rocks were a tad rough so I slid slowly- kind of like a turtle or awkward porpoise. Lol. Anyways after enough fucking around we finally finished the long jeep ride home. Wow, a real shower in my luxurious posada room… How nice…

Afterwards the group came to meet us in Santa Elena (as all but the three of were staying in the neighboring town of San Francisco), but things were strangely arranged, and I would end up going with the Maracaibo boys across the border to Brazil to try to have dinner, while the others would stay back and try to sort out exchanging everybody’s mountain of pictures. However, it was Sunday so when we got to Brazil we found that nearly all the restaurants were closed, so we decided to come back to have dinner with the rest of the guys. However, I would have never anticipated the confusion of that night. We returned to find the group fragmented. Everybody had somewhere, and no matter what I said I couldn’t get a straight answer. I don’t know if everybody or nobody knew what was going on, but I ended up making circles in the neigbourhood only to find extreme hunger. The boys went to the hospital cause Carlucho was having a sore throat and got overly concerned. Eventually we would end up in the same restaurant with just a couple of the others to have pizza while China finished making the electronic copies of photos in the internet café. Eventually after that we would end up in one restaurant all together but by that time I felt seriously ill, maybe from the three beers I had on a starving stomach or maybe just the prolonged state of starvation after a full day of activities in the hot hot sun…

And then it was time to say goodbye. My friends dropped me home in their jeep, and since my birthday was in three days everybody agreed to sing me the SUPER LONG version of the VZ happy bday song. WOW!! It was the most special, beautiful song anyone ever sang me, and it left me with practically tear-filled eyes. They were all so amazing!! They all told me how much they loved me, and how the trip would not have been the same without me. I told them I loved them too and I meant it. When we said goodbye, I would never even imagine how much I would miss these people in the days to come. You know the feeling you get when you are on top of the world after climbing a mountain, looking at everything beautiful, and everything you accomplished, that’s the way the love of these people made me feel, on top of the world. I can honestly say that no group of people ever made me feel so special (sorry crappy family and other friends). Thanks Venezuelan buddies! LOVE YOU, LOVE YOU, LOVE YOU!
I know that in my life I will make it a personal mission to see at least some of these people once again. Perhaps when my trip is done my life will revolve around visiting all these wonderful friends I have met (Carlos, Antonio, Rubmyr, Ivan, and others).

And shout out to my best friends I made in my trip so far, Eran, Danny, Will, Carol, Fabbio and Amarylis (people I will definitely visit all across the world- I love you guys)!

Ok, and I still love you guys back home too (Sang, Netta, Sarit, Brad, Mei, lazy Pradeep, Derek, and Murali bear).

If I haven’t mentioned you its because you need to show me more love fuckers! (and I’m not including family).

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