Angel Falls, or Salto Angel, was named after Jimmy Angel, an American pilot who landed atop the falls in 1937. The plane stuck where it landed and Angel was forced to trek back to civilisation for the next 11 days. It was declared the world’s highest waterfall in 1949 and still holds that claim today. It is a staggering 979m high with an uninterrupted drop of 807m. Those who are lucky enough to have seen Niagara Falls can consider the comparison that Angel Falls is sixteen times as high! Sticking with the theme of visiting high things in Venezuela, I couldn’t miss this opportunity.
From Santa Elena where I finished the Roraima trek I took another night bus up to Ciudad Bolivar. I was searched twice by the military who look for US dollars and generally take them off westerner’s at any opportunity. It’s completely legal to have dollars on you so they’re breaking the law by doing so. Unfortunately, the last people you would want to call are the police who may take your passport, chocolate bars and anything else they can get their hands on. I’ll talk more on this in my Venezuela post at the end of my time in the country. Luckily for me, I hid my dollars well and without wanting to jinx myself, have so far emerged intact. I spent the night before the tour back at Posada Don Carlos, met some crazy German’s/French and an inspirational couple of travellers from Portugal and Poland. They accompanied me on the tour to the falls along with several others. The following morning was an early rise to get our six-seater Cessna aeroplane to Canaima, in the heart of the Canaima National Park. On arrival we were greeted by our guide for the three days, Carlos. Carlos was born and bred in Canaima and luckily knew his way around the area like the back of his hand.
Within an hour of arrival, we jumped into a motorised canoe and set off up the river in the direction of Salto Angel. The best time to see the falls is in August, at the height of the wet season, so visiting in September was fortunate timing, I couldn’t claim to have planned it that way. The 3-4 hour journey was an experience to say the least. We had rapids, intense sunshine and some of the heaviest rain I had come across. On a positive note, the scenery was unbelievable and any grogginess from the night before was washed away.
Eventually we arrived at our destination and set off on the 40-minute trek through the jungle. Turbulent flights and boat rides concluded, this was much more my thing and with two feet on the ground we soon reached the falls. We could hear the falls before we could see it but when the trees finally parted enough for us to cast our eyes upon the mighty drop, what an incredible sight it was. I am neither a skilled enough photographer nor articulate enough to give you a complete impression but here are a few of the photos from the day.
Once we were tired of posing for photos, we ventured down to the pools at the bottom of the falls. Instantly, I was into the cold, powerful water and as I lay on my back looking up at the almost kilometre high cascade I was content, almost euphoric, that I had made this trip and I felt that my travelling adventures had truly begun. With a dash of rum to warm the cockles we set off back to the camp where we would spent the night, my first night in a hammock. After a wholesome dinner including chicken cooked on an open fire we chatted away the evening. Again, the crowd included Europeans, Asian’s and South American’s all with their own unique backgrounds and stories. Aside from the sightseeing I’m already realising that meeting such diverse groups of people is a huge part of travelling.
The next morning and we set off back down the river to Canaima. After a quick stop off at ‘The Happiness Pool’, another smaller waterfall, we said goodbye to the majority of the group whilst the remaining six, including myself, set off to explore some local falls, Salto El Sapo and Salto El Hacha. To call these falls small is an injustice as they are some of the biggest and most impressive I have seen but perhaps only a fifth the size of Angel Falls. To make up for their slightly less adequate size we got up close and personal and actually walked behind both of these falls. It was an amazing experience to watch the sunset through a crystal curtain of water before we set off back to the resort.
That evening the two Germans (obviously) and I went to the local bar. After a short introduction to Salsa (no photos available) The Beatles came on. As the only Englishman in the bar I was honoured and have to say the generosity and friendliness of the Venezuelan people I have met so far is contrary to what you will find in any guide book. The following morning was spent exploring Canaima before eventually getting a flight back. I got the shotgun seat next to the pilot and managed to sneak a photo of him texting while flying. I’m sure this won’t get him into trouble but it reminded me of this video and I couldn’t resist.
Well I’m now in Caracas again planning my next escapade, it could be Merida for canyoning, paragliding and the Catatumbo lightning or it could be something a little more off the tourist trail. It depends of course on the purse strings and a few other things…mysterious!