No, as majestic as the falls were I did not have a religious experience. However, my guide’s name was Jesus. So in a matter of speaking Jesus guided me to Angel Falls.
The tour started with an early pick-up to the airport for our flight to Canaima. The closest village to Angel Falls. A beautiful beach front paradise well worth a couple of days of rest by the beach and exploration through the jungles, if you have the time. Which I did not, unfortunately. However, with the amounts of bugs I was happy to leave early as I started to look like elephant man. My left arm was so swollen it resembled Popeye, while my right foot barely fit in my shoe. Deet does not work on this buggers. Puripuri’s they are called and you won’t know you have been bitten until 2 or 3 days later. Ouch, scratch, ouch, scratch, argh!
But I digress. At the airport be patient. Not my best trait. I was informed early by one of the pilots that, “It doesn’t work like in Europe. You will go when we decide.” Sounded a little communist to me. I wondered if I needed to bribe him with a dozen eggs or something. Instead I hung out in the airport until my name was called and then get into 6 person plane, including the pilot, for a 1.5 hour flight. It is quite a beautiful flight over cloud mountains, rivers and finally the Ucaima, and Sapo Sapito falls.
In Canaima,some waiting of course and told to change in our swim wear and take bug spray and ponchos in a small bag with us. One word of advice you will have to walk to the boat, so even if they say wear flip flops, don’t. I highly recommended just a good pair of water sandals for the whole 3 days. Like a pair of Keens. Unfortunately, I left those in my big backpack at the airport and was stuck with trail shoes or flip flops.
Finally in the boat. Which was a long wooden canoe, reminiscent of those I saw in Haida Gwaii in shape only, as it had no paintings and now oars, just a big old motor. Okay, it has one oar I found out later when we went through the rocky, rapid sections. A guy would sit on the very front of the boat and use the oar to maneuver around the rocks.
The boat journey was beautiful, seeing all the vegetation, remnants of forest fires and even getting out for a 30 minute walk as the boat went through the worst part of the rapids. The end of ride took us through devil’s canyon which sports four sets of horns at the top of the mountain. And just like that it began to pour for the next half hour or so. I have never been so wet. I couldn’ t believe how hard and fast it came down. Other mountains had bear and faces formed out of the rocks. My favorite were these amazing rocks that sprouted out of the water. They call them tongues, but to me they looked like humpbacks whales jumping out of the water. As always, the best picture is in my head, as we whizzed by to fast for a shot.
We arrived at our destination, with a super view of the 957m tall Angel Falls. Spent the evening swimming in the rapid river full of pink stained rocks. The water has a pink hue to it due to some kind of plants in the water. And enjoying a great barbecue chicken dinner, cooked to perfection on stakes in a fire pit. As another downpour started I settled into my hammock, my bed for the night. It was surprising the comfortable and the round net around me made me fill I was sleeping in a cocoon.
The next we walked up through the jungle. Unfortunately, our guide got stuck also guiding a group that came with a none local guide, and they were a bunch of very unfit and slow people. I don’t know if it was just our dumb luck that we got stuck with them or if you go with another tour group that wouldn’t happen. But something to look into before you book. Anyway, the mother almost fainted and had to lie down in the middle of the trail. I couldn’t believe it. I was impatient and started running once we started to get going again. The trail just begged to be run across. Jesus finally realized I wasn’t as helpless as he thought I was when he insisted on taking my shoes and pack when we did the river crossing. Yes, I know what you adventure racers are thinking, “You took your shoes off for a river crossing?” I figured I had to keep with the illusion of caring like the rest of the group. Once I ran up, and climbed some of the sketchy rocks at the top he figured I was good and let me go down myself at my own pace. I got there about 40 minuted before everyone and just hung out on the beach.
But let’s go back to the Angel Falls look out. It was pretty great, but I couldn’t stop thinking about just being on the other side, right above the falls. Walking the ridge and eventually standing right over it.
Waiting for lunch back at camp I stared up at Angel Falls and thought again about being above it. Jesus came by and asked jokingly, “Are you praying to the falls for a boyfriend?”
“No. I want to be above the falls.” I said.
He then said you can. It’s a 2 week trek and he is doing it in October. I would just have to fly back and he would let me in on the trip for free. Maybe I will be back. It is in Jesus’ hands now.
As we waited for our boat to head back to Canaima, this crazy guide decided to swim across the raging river to get his boat. He wanted me to join me. I was tempted. I mean I had done it before, with a life jacket, Bob Miller by my side and Jim’s awesome team to save my ass. With out them, I thought I should pass. But he was very impressive.
On our way back to Canaima we stopped at Salto Felicidad (Happiness Falls). Although it was cold and cloudy we all had to take a dip for our own happiness. I think I only made the bugs happy though as it was there I got most of my bites and on the beach in Canaima.
After a not so restful night in Canaima, due to the parrots and roosters starting their squawking at 2a.m. are days was to ride to the beginning of the trail and then walk behind the Sapo Sapato Falls. I thought it was just going to be a little behind the falls walk, get wet see the falls from behind. You know, like Niagara Falls. Wow! Was I ever wrong. At one point I thought for sure I would drown. Water just kept rushing at me. I was afraid to open my eyes because I was sure I’d loose my contacts. I couldn’t see any way. With every breath my nostrils or mouth filled with water. Andari (Spanish dude) gently nudged me forward. It was really quite frightening and uncomfortable. However, we all miraculously made it across. The crazy swimming guide was now wearing a native loincloth, made out of tree bark. He even managed to keep his loincloth on but only barely. There was a a long tear in the back. The power of the falls was incredible. Loincloth clad guide wanted a picture with me and started going to a rock near a really sketchy section of the falls and told me to follow. No way I shock my head. He came back and grabbed me by the hand and took me to the rock. On the way I stepped in the wrong place and fell to past my waist into the falling rapids. I thought I was done for. I mean this little guy was no way strong enough to drag my ass if I starting going down the rapids. Luckily the rock stopped me from going any further. But had I fallen on the other side of the rock I would have started sliding down the falls. I could hear the gasps of everyone watching behind me. Then he hoisted me up and sat me on the rock beside him. Nuts! Nuts! Nuts! I suppose though it wouldn’t be an adventure had I not gotten a war wound. A nice scratch down my leg.
On the way back I ditched my group and rode back with the loincloth guides group. Who professed his love for me and asked if I felt the same way. If only my Spanish was better, I would have said I like my lovers not to try and kill me. 🙂