The simmering heat remained with me as I left the Orinoco Delta and made my way north towards the Caribbean sea. Even the local people were feeling it and the it was not uncommon to see children playing in portable swimming pools and picnics by the river but my favourite scene was a woman lying in a hammock cooling herself down with a garden hose – absolutely classic!
Being the Easter break things were a lot busier than usual and there were a lot of people on the roads enjoying their holiday. Unfortunately it meant a relaxing time on Playa Colarado was permeated with crowded beaches, constantly loud music and most disappointedly streams and streams of rubbish littering this beautiful area. However, determined for a good beach I did manage to find (although the route to get there was most unpleasant and stinky) an almost deserted cove and got to enjoy a more relaxing time on the beach while watching the small crabs run up and down the beach.
Leaving Playa Colarado we visited the main city of Caracas before once again heading for the sea. This time we went to the sleepy town of El Choron near Puerto Colombia. The town was full of character with old buildings, wooden fruit stalls and other small shops.
As much as I did not want to leave the beach the thrill of seeing some exotic animals was too exciting. So it was off to Los llanos (meaning the flat plains). Besides the beautiful bird life (I think we saw over 50 varieties of birds) I was extremely lucky to see a giant Anteater who unfortunately was far too fast to take a decent photo off and an Orinoco crocodile having its lunch.
The days were scorching hot but unfortunately we could not swim as the rivers are filled with cayman and piranha. A little less piranha now as we caught a few for our dinner that evening. In between spotting wildlife and catching fish we came across a Mata-Mata turtle – a wonderful find as this prehistoric turtle is not seen very often. Our guide picked it up to show us how its heads curls sideways into its body and I could not believe the stench. This is the reason why these turtles still remain today as the locals will not eat them because of the smell – aren’t we lucky!
One of the evenings we set off on the river in search of the night animals. You can´t really see too much on the river at night and it was not long before I had my feet on the chair in front of me as fish constantly jumped into our boat – I was not sure if it was going to be a fish that could easily bite off my toe or those sneaky silver dollar fish just trying to scare me. It was a little tense for a while as we waited for another fish to hit us but all was forgotten when we spotted it – an anaconda – just a head as it was taking a breath of air. Our guide was in the water in a flash and after about 5 to 10 minutes had finally wrestled it out of its underwater cave for us to see. It was about 3 meters in length and a lot skinny than I had expected but it was still an Anaconda. Everyone got a chance to drape the snake around their necks and take lots and lots of photos – sorry to disappoint you all but I declined the offer and watched everyone else as they squealed in delight.
After we had got our fill of excitement it was off to the town of Merida, nestled in the Andes, to party at El Hoyo del Queque – described as the best bar in the world. We got to salsa all evening to the Latin American beats which was great fun.
I arrived at Boca Uracao – it was a Monday afternoon and the port was heaving with people most who were just actually sitting around and looking like they were taking in the atmosphere, pretty much like we were while we waited for our speed boat transportation.
For those who are unaware The Orinoco Delta is a series of waterways that weave through the jungle and the only way to get to the remote parts is by boat.
Finally my wish to see a jaguar came true when I arrived at the Orinoco Delta Lodge, my relaxing accommodation for two nights. He was still very much a baby and played a lot rougher than a kitten – I made sure my toes were tucked away – absolutely gorgeous to watch.
The Lodge I stayed at was really unique as each of the chalets had no windows but a series of mesh on all four sides allowing you to hear nature, see the river and sunrises without leaving the comfort of your bed – what bliss.
Staying at the lodge also let me experience close up some of the animals native to this area. The lounge area was often visited by a Toucan and Macaw – who liked to sneak up on you for that last piece of bread on the plate, the very friendly Spider Monkey who often jumped up next too you to take your hand in his like you were his long lost friend – aahh! AND then there were the cats, the baby jaguar and the elegant Puma, who unfortunately but luckily for us was actually enclosed in a cage.
As I mentioned the only way to get around the Delta is by boat, so we spent most of our time on the water motoring up the waterways to view the beautiful surroundings, birds and sometimes if we were lucky some wild monkeys. On the riverbanks native inhabitants – the waroa Indians – still live. Their housing is very simplistic, a wooden construction on stilts, with a few hammocks and cooking equipment. We waved at the children as we went past them, but as they are reserved and shy in nature is was not too often we got a wave back. I was lucky to visit one of the families for lunch and smile at the little girl with big brown eyes.
It was an idyllic few days in the Delta before we had to catch the boat back to Boca Uracoa – which looked like a different place, the hustle and bustle had left the port – maybe they too were sad to see us leave.
I cant believe I have been in Venezuela for almost three weeks now and have not communicated with you all on my journey – I think I may have fallen into the Venezuelan mind set that not only is tomorrow another day but the day after next and the next….
The people here are way too chilled and so enjoy a more relaxing way of life. It does however seem in most parts that your role in society is defined by your gender as you often see men drinking beer in the street cafe´s while the women look after the children while chatting to the lady next door. But hey everyone thinks it seems to follow the general South American lifestyle or attitude but it is the first time I have had to wait 1½ hours for a hamburger or change my watch by only 30 minutes at the border so that they are in a different time zone – well they are in more ways than one. It is what makes the country unique and the reason why I have loved my time here.
Entering Venezuela from Brazil was a relief for me as for one I was now once again in Spanish speaking land and for another I did not quite gel with Brazil.
It was my time for a chilling out period and what was not a better way than exploring the beautiful landscape of the Gran Sabana. The Gran Sabana is in some cases pretty much flat vegetation intermingled with hardy colourful plants and waterfalls. I should not forget Mount Roraima where travellers around the world flock around the world to climb for magnificent views.
But for me it was the waterfalls that made it interesting. From the red floored waterfall Salto de Jaspe to the sharped angled waterfall of Salta de Kama and of course the most famous – Salto de Angel (Angel Falls). The highest waterfall in the world it falls from the Tepui some 980 meters to a rock pool beneath. Being the dry season there was not as much water as normal but the sheer fact you had to crane your next to see the top showed you just high up it actually was.
My trip to Angel Falls was great. Leaving from Ciudad Bolivar I caught a small 6 seater plane to Canaima National Park – I could not believe what a smooth ride it was and how breathtaking the scenery was, as we flew over green forests, meandering rivers and the flat rock formation of the Tepui.
It was an extremely hot day when I arrived so to cool down I took a motorised canoe across the Canaima Lagoon and walked under Salto de Sapo (one of the curtain waterfalls) for a throughly soaking shower. After sunning myself on the other side and drying my clothes I then had to retrace my steps underneath the waterfall in order to get back to the lodge for dinner.
The next day I was extremely excited as we were going up river to finally get a glimpse of the falls. The boat trip took about 4 hours and it was partly relaxing yet energetic as we maneuvered through the rapids trying not to get too wet as we dodged the bucket loads full of water splashing into the boat.
Once we reached our base camp it was about a 1½ hour walk through the forest to get to the view point. My pictures do not do complete justice to the view but as I was looking at the waterfall I will still remember my mind saying ´Wow – look how high it is!` I was pleased to have finally seen Angel Falls and that night I certainly looked forward to sleeping in my hammock in the open air to dream about waterfalls and surfing rapids.