Venezuela Trek to Angel Falls
The Venezuela trek jungle, which stretched as far as the eye could see, instantly consumed an increasing slice of the view from my rear window.
Caracas, The Gran Sabana & E-Ticket Road Trips Isolated geographically by near-impenetrable jungle and a web of rivers and tributaries, Angel Falls lacks direct access. There are two traditional ways to see the falls: by air or boat. Both depart from the inland island village of Canaima, which we were also told was only accessible by air or boat. But that was before we met brothers Felipe and Enso Campisi, our new amigos and central ARB distributors for Venezuela trek. Rather than booking a pre-arranged tourist package, we were taking the old route through the Gran Sabana Venezuela Trek. A trek that would take us over the muddy 4×4 two-tracks of Indian miners, up ancient rivers in Indian curiaras (dugout canoes) and on foot through torrid and dense jungle.
Our destination was Canaima, a small Pemon Indian settlement and the jumping off point for the falls.
The midday sun of the Venezuela trek poured through the open window of the Jeep like a blast furnace. Bouncing off pavement’s end in the pueblo of La Paragua, we hunted down a man to arrange to ferry our vehicles across the river. Typical of half-developed third-world settlements, an eclectic blend of modern amenities mixed it up with timeworn tradition: Weathered old men sipping cool Polar cerveza under a shade tree. Chickens pecking the dirt yards of brightly painted homes, an iPod-clad kid shuffling by, a pale blue stucco shop with boom boxes for sale in the window. Overhead, a spaghetti-plate of exposed wire dangling in all directions from a power pole supplied electricity to those who could afford it.
The water was halfway over our tires as we nosed up the ramp of a small barge that would ferry us across the river. With seasonal high water obscuring most vehicle routes to the south. The marina, which also housed the two local bars, was a swarm of activity. Small boats and curiaras burdened with supplies for local farms and miners were busy with the day’s commerce. We were told that we were the first white men, or non-miners, into the jungle this season. Our flashy Jeep YJ and Land Cruiser pegged us as outsiders in the Venezuela Trek.
The Gran Sabana Venezuela trek extends over a 200-kilometer plateau of grasslands, rivers, and low-lying jungle. In the distance, the skyline was broken only by the elevated heights of the great tapuis, hundreds of ancient and isolated spires rising thousands of meters from the jungle floor. Disappearing into billowing folds of cumulus clouds. We navigated in and through a partially submerged two-track for a dozen kilometers. Following the supply truck, passing range cattle and wild horses. The supply truck pulled off at a ranch and our two-track eventually deposited us on the edge of a great lake, Lago Embalse del Guri. Normally a river crossing, the high water left us several kilometers from the next ferryboat and without any means of communication. Digressing back to an old-school method. We used a small mirror and the midday sun to signal the boat operator from an island midway across the lake. We set up for lunch and waited.
Peeling tires off the rims would be our nemesis. Clearing the rim of mud and resetting the bead was an hour task. The process involved trenching around the tire, digging out the mud, raising the vehicle with a Hi-Lift Jack. Removing the tire, then cleaning the bead and wheel with less-muddy water and gently working the bead back on the rim. We would end up repeating this process six times during the first day on the Venezuela trek.
Venezuela Trek at night
Twelve hours later, 43 kilometers short of our expected destination and well past twilight. We entered a small clearing and had arrived in El Tigre, home to a small family of Pemon Indians. The stars emerged like brilliant Christmas lights. A single dim light was visible from a small hut on the other side of the clearing. The place was empty, save one person. But after introductions, a few battery-powered lights were lit, a wooden table and chairs brought out, and the entire family emerged from a small mud and thatch abode. In the midst of living history, we contemplated the fact that this family’s ancestors had hunted this jungle and tended corn in these fields for a hundred generations before our arrival. As we settled into our hammocks for the night, the jungle came alive. Monkeys howled in the distance, a dozen species of birds cried out from nearby trees. Crickets and frogs sang in an uneven cadence. We were guests in a special place.
Venezuela trek -Angel Falls
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