Friday, November 9, 2012

Trekking to the Top of Roraima -1

Strange how sometimes the most incredible things that we do, we do without thinking too much of it -- like producing a child (women), met a guy who casually said he designed a water system to move water from a stream about 70m to a house above in the interior and I trekked to the top of Roraima from the Venezuelan side with my unfit self complete with weak knees and ankles!
The top of Roraima is said to be one of the wettest places on earth due to the almost constant billowing clouds and frequent rainfall. Standing at the highest point of Guyana where the borders of Venezuela and Brazil meet, it is roughly 2700m high, being flattened on the top - called a tepui in these parts (mesa in the US, table-top in South Africa) which means temperatures often fall below freezing when the sun is not present.                
Odd Rock formations and ever-present mist

The top of Roraima on the Guyana side--  too rough for even a helicopter to land
The adventure started in Lethem where we got conned/persuaded to change money into Rials being told that it was a better rate of exchange here than in Venezuela (wasn't) but as we had the Time and now Brazilian money we eschewed a taxi directly to the Venezuelan border for the Public Transport bus from Bom Fim to Manaus where, we were told that we could get another bus to the border. Mich chatted up an Amerindian man and his family to find out how we should pay and we were blown away at the low cost! Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that we had JUST missed the Bus to the Border which apparently decided to leave early. Spirits still up we booked into a hotel near the station whose charges ate up whatever we saved on the taxi (and more!) and wandered out into the rainy night to one of the open-air eating places-- Brazilians love to eat al freso.
The next day we got the bus to the Brazil-Venezuela border and the scenery was pretty spectacular in places once we got off the savannah lands so I was glad we travelled during the day. The bus was freezingly cold! A quick snack and then we walked to catch a couple of taxis to get into Venezuela with another Brazilian/Guyanese Amerindian family. Our main thought was to not get conned so we pretended to be part of the family-- the border Guards obviously need spectacles because we obviously didn't look like the family in ANY way but I can now sleep easy knowing how secure the Borders are from the Druggies and Terrorists. The taxi dropped us off to the hotel in St Elena which was tightly locked - we tried calling at the family house opposite but the woman had apparently gone out.  Not wanting to look like the obvious tourists that we were we booked into the competition next door-- Hotel Michelle then wandered up the road to the Square, took some pictures of the inevitable Simon Bolivar, chatted with a Spanish woman selling trinkets to finance her 3yr South American tour and collapsed gratefully into a Chinese Restaurant for a meal.
Siesta time over, we made contact with our Tour Operators and found out that one of Mich's previous work colleagues was one of the Porters!   

Opting for the easy way out-- we agreed to pay Carlos to lug our main backpacks up the mountain - money well spent I may add - and then wandered around to check out the shops - walked to someone's home that was a living museum of the some of the Crystals found on top of the mountain - depend whether you believe they have mystical properties or not but we took turns to stand in the Circle and absorb some energy - nothing like making sure you have all bases covered for coming down in one piece!

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