Mount Roraima is the highest tabletop mountain in Venezuela. It’s one of many tepui’s, as they are known in Venezuela. Most are found in the region but at 2,810m, Roraima is the highest so naturally I had to climb it.
I went with a group from Backpackers Tour Company as one of nine tourists, a guide and three porters/cooks. The group consisted of three Venezuelan’s, two Korean’s, a Japanese, a German, an Austrian and myself. A mixed bag which lead to many an interesting conversation. We set off from Santa Elena in two jeeps and after a bumpy 2-3 hour journey we arrived in Paratepui, home to some indigenous Pemon’s (the local tribe) and where we started the trek.
The first day was a relatively easy 12km, we could see Roraima in the distance and edged closer towards it but didn’t gain much elevation. By the time we arrived the porter’s had the tents set up and had started cooking despite carrying three times as much as us and most of them just wearing crocs. It was a little embarrassing really!
The second day was all up hill and far tougher. We had a couple of river crossings which are always easier earlier in the day and by midday we had arrived at ‘Base Camp’ avoiding the worst of the heat. We were now at ‘the wall’ and could see what’s referred to as ‘the ramp’, the steep but walk able slope first discovered in 1884 by Sir Everard Thurn who was the first to scale the mountain. However, from Base Camp it still looked ridiculously steep to be called a ramp, in fact, it was ridiculously steep. The rest of the day was spent killing time, drinking, eating, sleeping and trying to conserve our precious rum we had planned to save for the top of the tepui and the colder weather that came with it.
Day 3 started even earlier and was a bit like climbing steps for 4 hours, except big, bumpy, slippery steps. At 1km/hour it was slow going with much of it scrambling rather than walking. We certainly weren’t breaking any records. Luckily, the surroundings were incredible. We ascended through a cloud forest and every few hundred metres, the jungle-like foliage opened up enough to reveal staggering views for many, many miles.
After climbing up through a waterfall we finally reach the summit. It was a total contrast from the past four hours with a barren, moon-like landscape. Really, like nothing I had seen before. We had a dip in one of the many pools on the 31km² tabletop and headed to the hotels, natural caves where the tents were pitched away from the wind. The following day and a half was spent exploring the top. We found many of the species endemic to Mount Roraima. Among them were carnivorous plants, tarantula’s and colourful birds which were as interested in us, as we were them. My favourite though, had to be the thumbnail sized frogs which I am told are the only frogs in the world that can crawl rather than jump.
Unfortunately, day 5 arrived and we started the return leg of the trek. After 16km we were back at Rio Tek, the first camp. We were greeted by the news that a random hut 12km from civilisation and over 30km from a main road was actually a functioning shop stocked with…COLD BEER. There is a common phrase in Spanish, ‘todo es bueno’ which translates to ‘Everything is good’. It was very fitting as we supped our cold beverages while admiring Roraima and its closest neighbour, Kukenan. We were also treated to a full moon and a cloudless night, all in all, a pretty good day.
The last day brought the final 12km, a stop-off at a larger indigenous village where a football tournament was underway and finally we arrived back in Santa Elena. Next up was Angel falls, the world’s highest waterfall, military searches and my eventual return to Caracas…