Doug Pridham recently took some time out from running Explore tours to visit Venezuela’s Angel Falls, following the route Explore groups take on our Angel Falls and Orinico tour. However this time, rather than being with an Explore group, he was travelling with his family. Read on to find out more about his experience of stunning views and old friends.
Saturday 3rd August
Today is a big day! It's the start of our trip and the day we fly to the Kamarata Valley. We took the option to overfly the falls en route and what a spectacular flight it was!
After a couple of heart-stopping swoops around the falls, the pilot set off across the top of Auyantepui table mountain and into the heartlands of the Kamaracoto Indians. Usually we land in Kavac or Kamarata, but on this occasion, as we have a little extra time, we landed in Uruyen.
Sunday 4th August
Today we visited a canyon and the waterfall tucked deep inside the sheer narrow walls. It's always a thrilling experience and the kids loved playing in the nearby river.
In the afternoon we crossed the Uruyen River by dugout canoe to visit Uruyen village and meet Pinatel Carballo, the village patriarch. He's rumoured to be 105 years old! He gave us some hot sauce and cassava bread, the staple diet of the Pemon Indians.
Monday 5th August
Another big day - today we're going to start the boat journey to Angel Falls. We're following in the exact footsteps of Ruth Robinson's 1949 expedition - the first to reach the base of Angel Falls. We set off across the savannah and walked for an hour to the village of Santa Marta. Here we crossed the Kavac River and made the most of my local contacts! Jose Alexander picked us up in the Kamarata village truck and took us to the village where I met up with old friends I hadn't seen for ages. After a quick catch-up we continued to the Akanan River. Here Balvino, Jose's dad, was waiting and we jumped aboard another boat and zoomed off downriver to Iwana Meru.
Tonight is our first night in hammocks and I gave the hammock demonstration usually reserved for Explore groups: "You have two hands to open up the sides – use them! (Otherwise you’ll miss the hammock and end up on the floor and your friends won't stop laughing for days – I speak from experience!) Then you lie crosswise (not lengthwise) and if you want to "turn over" you simply swivel your legs from one side to the other." Simple.
After everyone got the hang of the hammocks we had Indian barbecued chicken for dinner - the best in the world! That night, camped next to the raging rapids swinging in the hammock was heaven – such a peaceful, easy time.
Tuesday 6th August
Today we leave the Akanan River and join the mighty Carrao for a day on the water. Tonight's camp site, Arenal, is in front of the mysterious Wei Tepui and surrounded by jungle.
After arrival, we followed a jungle trail to cut fishing poles and see what the deep jungle was like. There was a green tinge to the light, creepers tangled up in the tall trees, strange bugs and beautiful clear calls from invisible birds.
Wednesday 7th August
TODAY’S THE DAY. Impatiently we piled into the canoes and zoomed down the Carrao to the mouth of the Churun River, its dark waters pouring out from the Devil's Canyon. The boatman adjusted the propeller, drew a deep breath and off we went.
There is a 50m height difference from the mouth to the campsite upstream and the river is strewn with rocks and rapids and bends. The adrenaline was rushing as much as the cold water and there were many shocked screams when inevitably a wave splashed into the occupants, plus cheers and applause when we passed a difficult to navigate stretch of rocky river.
Finally we arrived at the campsite where we found a magnificent view of the falls just 50 metres away. We’re going to spend two nights here so after some awed looks up at the falls we lazed around camp, went swimming and I took photographs.
Thursday 8th August
Today's activity is a hike up to Laime's Lookout. When we arrive we have a clear view of the dizzying 990 metres of Angel Falls looming right above us. We had to share the lookout with some tourists - the first tourists we've seen so far on this trip - and then we went down to the pool where we took an exhilarating swim in the cold refreshing torrent with the falls practically vertically above us.
Friday 9th August
After leaving Angel Falls there is one more thrill in store in the shape of Sapo Falls. A thundering curtain of water hammers over a 60m drop and we walk behind it!!
We also got to admire the beauty of Canaima Lagoon which is surrounded by pink sand beaches and palm trees with three huge waterfalls pouring over the rim of rocks to the south of the lagoon – a great way to end the getaway.
Saturday 10th August
Today our journey ended. However, on Explore’s Angel Falls and the Orinoco tour the adventure continues and there are more thrills in store in the form of anacondas, piranhas, capybara, alligators, giant river otters, dolphins and many, many birds!!