I’m now in Mérida, in the Andes, still in Venezuela. I arrived this morning, 28th November.
Now, where did I leave my last travel story… I was in Guyana, I think. Georgetown, British Guyana’s capital is a nice enough city, very hot and dry in the day. It is on the coast and it’s possible to walk through the city passing all the historical and government building as you lazily stroll down to the sea wall. Many locals will stop you along the way and ask how you are, your name and where you are going. I made it to the sea wall as dusk was settling. A lovely breeze emanates and it almost feels cold as darkness falls. I ate two hot dogs from a nearby stand and chatted with locals. A taxi dropped me at the place I was staying sometime later.
The next morning, a Brazilian couple who were also spending the night with my couch surfing friend, took me to the botanic gardens at the lovely time of 6 am! It was cool and the birds began their usual early morning calls. We later had breakfast, fish and banana chips! Before going our separate ways.
I hired a taxi to take me to the most interesting places in the city, as it was easier than trying to find them by minibus, especially as it was hot and I had little time. Georgetown has the National Commission of the Disabled, a place where disabled people can go to socialise, use a computer with speech software, and get general help and support. I headed there, checked my emails and organised a night bus to Annai and the lodge in the middle of Guyana.
Annai is an Amerindian village in the middle of Guyana. It’s possible to fly there from Georgetown or Lethem, a town on the border with Brazil. Or there’s the night minibus which takes a bumpy 13 or so hours with a river crossing on a ferry included!
I stayed at Rock View Lodge as the guest of Colin Edwards and his wonderful family. Rock View is an eco-lodge in the interior of Guyana. They promote eco-tourism, mainly bird watching, nature walks and cultural activities. It’s all run and organised by Amerindians, and maintains a fine balance between local culture and nature, combined with individual and small group nature tourism. It is about maintaining and improving the natural environment for everyone to enjoy.
I spent three lovely days there. I walked a nature trail with the help of Gabriel, a lovely Amerindian guide and knowledgeable local bird expert, and Stuart, Colin´s youngest of seven children. The trail is comprised of rough rocks and stones cut into a hill. There are wooden hand rails in places. It’s a steep climb and best done before sunrise because of the heat! Once at the top, a large plateau gives views of the spiralling savannah and Annai Village below. I heard a couple of turkey vultures. After a brief rest we headed down: I later relaxed in a hammock.
My second day was spent swimming in the outdoor pool, shaped in a figure of eight, hearing cashew nuts roast local style: a large fire is created for the roasting of many nuts. Colin later took me up on the hill for a peaceful walk and climb. He took photos of me overlooking the lodge. I even got a group photo of me with all the local ladies who work at Rock View. I was looked after by the family and staff magnificently and cannot thank them enough. Waking at 6 am each morning and listening to the many different bird sounds while drinking cashew, mango or Jamun juice is a treat to behold. The peace and quiet and gentleness of the place is a kind of paradise, if only for a while. A traveller like me needs to be moving, talking with people, seeking new challenges. But I must say visiting Rock View as Colin´s guest was a privilege and pleasure that will live long in the memory.
After Annai it was a quick stop in Lethem to say hello to the Catholic priest and a guy from the Philippines I´d met on the night bus to Annai. The priest arrived later, but my friend was there and showed me around. I got to touch some interesting trees and fruit. They later took me to the Brazilian border and I headed to Boa Vista on an afternoon bus. Two hours later, Kyuruy, the guy I was to couch surf with collected me from the bus station. He spoke little English and I almost no Portuguese, but with use of a language translator on a computer in an internet café, we managed to communicate. Kyuruy is a lovely, kind and interesting Brazilian, a wonderful host. He showed me some of his city and introduced me to one of his sisters and his brother. Two days later with assistance from Kyuruy, I headed to Venezuela and Ciudad Bolivar to embark on my adventure to Angel Falls.
I left Boa Vista, Brazil at around 10 am in a shared taxi and arrived in Ciudad Bolivar via Santa Elena around 2.00 am the next morning, let’s just say it was a long bus journey! Once at the guesthouse, Posada Don Carlos, I headed straight to bed only to re-awake around 7 am the same morning to fly to Canaima National Park. The flight took around 90 minutes in a tiny plane. Once at Canaima, I was greeted by my private guide George. He looked after me for the two night and three day tour and was fantastic. He made sure I got food, information and was safe at all times.
On the first afternoon we went to a lagoon where I heard several waterfalls. We later took a motorised canoe to an island and walked to one of the falls named Hacha Falls or Chapple Falls. Here I changed from boots to flip flops and climbed up many rock steps and went behind the curtain of water into the fall itself, naturally, I had help from George. It was amazing, the sound of water hitting rocks was like thunder! I got a shower of water, which sent a cool icy shiver down my back, after the heat of the savannah. The rocks were slippery and some were sharp. We walked all the way across the waterfall and back again, it was a real thrill.
The next day we began the long motorised canoe trip to Angel Falls. The 40-strong group were divided into two canoes and later into four smaller ones. It is the dry season and the rivers are very low. The boat continuously became stuck on the river bottom and the passengers had to push the boat through. I sat in the middle and tried not to get too sun burnt or wet and held on. It took six hours, but we finally made it, and as we approached our landing spot, Angel Falls appeared in front of us, towering above like a silent image.
We landed, had the perpetual lunch, and then the fun began! I had to cross a rocky beach, wade through a knee deep river onto another bank of stones and rocks, and then we started the rocky ascent through thick forest. George guided me as I tripped and stumbled over rocks, stones, tree roots and branches. I slipped and slid my way slowly, sweating, up 750 metres painstakingly to the viewpoint of Angel Falls. The group made it there and back within 3 hours! It took me three hours just to reach the view point. Once there, I rested and listened to Angel Falls as it simmered and rumbled 50 metres beyond my reach. The rise and fall of the wind shifted the sound of the falls, and to me it resembled the sound of the sea on rocks, but distant. It was a privilege to be there and without any other tourists: I was extremely lucky. The descent was even harder going, and by the end, my toes were very battered and bruised. I was knackered. It was dark by the time George and I were half way down. When we re-crossed the river some five hours after beginning, it was more than half deep. As I entered camp, I was greeted by a round of applause! It was like we had returned from the moon or something!!
Soon I head to Colombia and the last three weeks of my trip in South America, what a continent. The people are so kind and helpful.