Mount Roraima Hike - Venezuela
Nothing clears the mind like physical activity and spending time with nature. What better for The Pack Track to recover from the recent loss of Skyla than a 6 day 5 night trek in the Gran Sabana, destination Mount Roraima.
Mount Roraima is one of the table top mountains, most famous of all due to its relatively easy climb (no equipment required) and proximity to other frequented sites. The table top mountains have been the inspiration for books and movies due to the early belief that the isolation atop of these ancient mountains had species long gone extinct in the rest of the world. The book 'The Lost World' is the most notable of these but more recently the childrens movie 'Up', which we made sure we watched to get excited about what to expect on top!
Stu investigated packages for the trek when we were in Santa Elena de Uairen. Most guides take groups of four people plus so if you are travelling alone or as a couple you will likely be grouped with other people to bump the numbers up and obviously make the trip more financially worthwhile for the tour operator.
There are lots of tourist centres that can organise the trek in Santa Elena, all of which include the 4WD transport to the starting point of the trek in Paraitepuy, around 100km north of Santa Elena and the quotes were around $USD350 for two people. As we planned to head north after the trek and therefore didn't need to return to Santa Elena we'd save by avoiding the 4WD trip and so took the risk of riding to the nearby town of Kumarakapay (also known as San Francisco) and searching for a guide to take just us. A friend of ours suggested we ask for Kendall. He and his wife own a restaurant in San Francisco and Kendall had done over 330 guided tours to Mt Roraima. We struck the jackpot with Kendall. He agreed to take just us two on the trek, organised a safe place to leave our motorbikes and he spoke perfect English so we could ask him heaps of questions on the trek. The itinerary for the hike was as follows:
<li>Day 1 – register for the trek in Paraitepuy (passport details, nationality etc.) then walk 14km to Rio Tek and set up camp for the night.</li>
<li>Day 2 – walk 8km to base camp.</li>
<li>Day 3 – trek 4km to the top of the mountain (a lot of climbing).</li>
<li>Day 4 – explore the top of the mountain.</li>
<li>Day 5 – decend back to Rio Tek (equivalent walking of day 2 and 3).</li>
<li>Day 6 – return to Paraitepuy.</li>
Most of each day was spent walking (and talking for Stu) for around 4 hours but when you include toilet breaks, drink breaks, food breaks and all the fun of camping the events of the day drag out to around 8 hours. This still leaves plenty of time in the day for taking photos, swimming in rivers and drinking camp coffee. Its got to be the simplicity of the trekking experience that frees your mind and spirit. You are essentially going back to the basics of eating, sleeping and moving, there is no WiFi, no money and no worry.
The excitement of getting to the top drives you for the first three days. You really have no idea what to expect when you reach the wall of the mountain and then getting to the top. Mt Roraima definitely didn't disappoint when we reached the top, its really like walking into a lost world. The rocks are black with the most unusual formations, you could spend days walking around making out different objects and animals from the rock shapes. Kendall pointed out the 'turtle,' the 'alien' and 'Fidel Castro' just to name a few. The sand is a pretty pink with quartz crystals and plenty of spots to take a swim or 'shower.'
At certain times of the year there can be lots of people visiting the top of the mountain. We think we were lucky that it was the off-season. For starters, we were able to set up camp in one of the 'hotels,' a sheltered area under a cave. And secondly you don't have to be on the lookout when using the toilet, which by the way is behind a rock in a designated toileting area (one of the most spectacular toileting experiences you'll have in your life!!)
Kendall accommodated for our dietary requirement really well. We don't eat meat or diary products (Janells a bit like Leonard in the Big Bang Theory when it comes to lactose) so it made things more interesting for Kendal we had:
<li>breakfast - dumplings or arepas with free range eggs;</li>
<li>lunch – bread and sardines with freshly chopped tomato, onions and cucumber;</li>
<li>dinner – pasta or rice with tuna and tinned vegetables.</li>
Unfortunately on Day 5 of the trek we had to pack up and make our way back to where it all started in San Fransisco. With approximately 31km2 of surface area to explore it was hard to leave after only spending one day seeing such a tiny portion of the mountain. We chose not to do too much walking on top but rather see the native flora and fauna. There are options to trek to the highest point or to trek 10km to visit the triple point where Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela meet. Its up to you and the group you are with as to what you want to do. Because we didn't have to do too much walking we were able to spend lots of time taking photo's, flopping around in the natural jacuzzies, looking at quartz crystals and making quartz crystal angels (that was Stu).
The early beliefs of a lost world was not entirely incorrect, a few species of fauna and flora do exist that are endemic to the table to mountains and Roraima specifically, including the Oreophrynella quelchii (AKA the Roraima black frog). These little frogs are adorable and easy to find after the rain. There are also plenty of plant life you won't find anywhere else in the world.
The path you take on the decent is the same as the ascent but you do it in two days instead of three. Its certainly less tiring but your thighs get a massive workout and we couldn't walk properly for two days after we got back to the bikes. Watching Stu walk down stairs was hilarious!!! When we finally got our things together back in San Francisco after a feast at Kendalls restaurant it was back on the road. We looked back nostalgically in our rear view mirror at Mt Roraima hoping one day we'd meet again in the clouds.