Like any respectable male I first went in search of Miss Venezuela and came within sniffing distance of her apparently. At the Angel Falls I was in a truck and saw some beautiful girls passing by to whom I gave my best "Hola Bonita!" eyes. To which they all replied with their "Get lost you weirdo" eyes and I don't think my drooling helped me much! Unfortunately they didn't hop on our bus and our guide informed us later that one of them was Miss World ... sooo close! Not to be put off I then continued my search and eventually got lucky in the Orinoco Delta as you can see in my photo on the left ... meeting Miss World 1938! Sat behind me is Mr Universe 1939. It's a romantic story of them both fleeing the limelight together for the jungle hence the happy smiles when I asked for a photo!!
Despite all of this I have had a great time here and wish I could spend more in Venezuela. World News has highlighted political and violent issues and in some cases you can't really go out after 8pm as it's unsafe yet I have been to some cool places over last few weeks and hardly scratched the surface. I write all this uncomfortable stuff from the comfort of my cousin's air conditioned apartment drinking a lovely Chilean Chardonnay so I am seeing everything here through rose tinted glasses bought with my US Dollars. But other travellers I met have also said the same things. Don't take my word for it and come visit, but be quick before all the goods fly off the shelves!
Check out a photo below of my grandfather ... also a ginger (but with a full head of hair) any likeness???
Camp life: Despite the rainy season we got lucky with mostly sunshine when walking. With warnings of cold I didn't take thermals so summit camp was spent drinking rum and zip-locked in my sleeping bag. As for the puri puri...they take no prisoners and go for all out attack! I got 10 bites (often bleeding) on my right foot within 15 mins as I forgot to spray below the ankles ... fellow trekkers legs and arms looked like a voodoo doll! Smaller and quieter than mosquitos they are the silent destroyers, the ninjas of the biting insect world! Otherwise camp life was good with good guides, good food and good company from all parts of the globe.
It was a visually stunning trek as every day you saw the flat top mountain in various shades of colour depending on sun or cloud. Had to cross numerous rivers to reach the camps with the final push walking underneath waterfalls with all your gear ... my trainers were soaked! The flat top and vistas to the Gran Sabana (including Guyana - known as the Zone Of Reclamation on Venezuela maps after us Brits took it and it's now independent) below was well worth it. On the top numerous pools, caves, quartz fields and unusual rock formations gave it a moon like landscape.
As I have mentioned before if you see me in a tent you have permission to kill me (as Sir Steve Redgrave once said) as I realised after night one why I hate camping! A small tent on hard ground. The only small print to my death sentence is that if I have a comfortable sleeping mat and big enough tent for my 6ft frame then I will do it. Bruised hips and sleepless nights were not what I signed up for.
There is only one way in and out and that is by plane...in my case a 6 seater Cessna for 50 mins. The landing is awesome as it comes over Canaima Lagoon...a series of smaller falls that provided an extra bonus to the area. These falls were super cool as we were able to walk behind them and see/feel the ferociousness and power of the water falling just c.30m...think what Angel Falls would feel like at 979m!
My first night provided much entertainment as I made friends with a British/US lad from the plane (fresh off on his 7 week hols and super keen for beers!). To set the scene the isolated town has 2500 residents for tourism and booze cannot be brought in as the locals get super lashed! There are 3 bars that we found although this discounts the airport (landing strip) as closes at 5.30. At the end of the crawl around the lake we found the main bar with the promise of 5 girls but it had just locals ... very very drunk locals. Turns out they were all local gold miners so rich (comparatively speaking) and bored on a Wednesday night! 2 of them could hardly stand yet didn't fall over ... I think the Latin dancing ability prevents that! Many Westerners came in and turned around but Paddy and I persisted along with another couple from the lodge. It soon emerged into a scene from "Shaun Of The Dead" but with drunk zombies. They spoke to us but we didn't understand a word. They also wouldn't leave us alone, our only escape was to pretend to be drunk zombies and blend in and walk away to the other side of the bar. This worked for a while until they caught on - finally the lights went out annoyingly without telling us Last Orders! The worst dude was thrown into a boat; another taken into the woods to sleep it off; and another simply lying down on the dance floor.
What is interesting about Canaima that surprised the Venezuela tourists is that you can use your iPhone to guide your journey home at 11pm and not get mugged/shot ... it can't happen anywhere else in Venezuela. Canaima has no police and relies on the local chief for mediating between the families.
Now the highlight is obviously the Angel falls and the only way there is a dug out canoe paddle for 4 hours upstream through rapids! Followed by an hour walk to the viewpoint and further 30 mins to the pools. This gave the adventure an Indiana Jones feel (turns out Harrison Ford has visited!). It was well worth it and what a sight seeing the falls with the longest interrupted drop of 807m. Even better when sharing with only 20 tourists all afternoon. The advantage of Venezuela right now! Chilling (and the water was cold) in the waters admiring the falls has to be up there with top things to do. We spent the night in hammocks by the river and got up for sunrise to admire the beauty of the falls once again. (Don't tell the Venezuelans but the Iguazu Falls tops the Palmer waterfall index!)
Only downside to the jungle and more so than previous jungle areas have been the Mosquitos! I sprayed and wore long sleeves but these are super Mosquitos who bite through clothing...I reckon they are the SBS (Navy Seals if you're a yank) of the mosquito world - so my back and legs look blotchy and itch like a bad case of scabies! How do they get you between the fingers and toes when you're covered with 100% deet??