Up at 06:00 to grab another muscle car taxi, only this one was even more beat up than the last and sported a nice pair of shiny "slicks" for tyres. This car was so run down even the needles on the dials on the dashboard had fallen off! Good excuse for speeding I suppose! At the airport the Slovaks decide to it's too expensive to fly to Canaima (claiming it to be 880,000 Bs per head) and prefer to taxi it to Ciudad Bolivar instead for cheaper airfares. They ditch me because I'm an odd number and they didn't want 5 in a car for a 100 km journey. So I buy me a ticket to Canaima for only 270,000 Bs!? My Spanish sucks. Nobody here speaks English. Simple questions like "one-way or return" elude me. I end up buying a one-way ticket, naturally!
The plane is a small 10 seater and was 1½ hours late. I board with a French couple Patrice and Claude (his wife) and another couple, Sean (a Canadian from Vancouver) and Monika (his Hungarian wife) who've been living in Shepards bush for a while. Sean and Monika also arrived the other day from Heathrow but via Frankfurt. Their bags didn't arrive either! And they don't turn up until midway through their trip to Angel Falls. The airline offered to ship them out to the jungle, but as they couldn't even ship them to a mainline airport, they wisely turned the offer down!
It turns out that Sean and Monika are doing the Angel Falls trip with Bernal Tours, the same people that I want to do it with, meaning I should meet a rep at Canaima airport.
The flight took an unexpected detour for a flyover of Angel Falls! Brilliant! And the sights of the Tepuis (table top mountains) were awesome. Once we rocked up to the tiny Canaima airstrip it became obvious that I was meant to have paid for the trip before I arrived; everyone is asking for a pre-paid white voucher. Naturally, I don't have one. Sean helped explain that I wanted the same trip as them, and I paid the rep $160 US for a 3 day / 2 night tour. We walk for 5 mins and transfer to a small boat with an outboard to the island. On arrival I spy an amazing latina babe sunning herself on the rocks, sporting a skimpy bikini and a sexy pose. Little did I know she'd become a good mate over the next few days along with her British fiance Will!
The camp is brilliant. The mess tables and hammocks are all in view of the spectacular Salto Golondrina waterfalls. I lend Sean and Monika a big dry bag and pick a hammock next to theirs; they're really friendly and include me in everything. I change into swim gear and follow a large group for a tour of the waterfalls. First stop is a beach by a lake and ALL the girls instantly strip down to bikinis and start splashing about in the water! I take a dip also, the water's warm and orange (due to the roots of the water plants) and when I look down I look like I've a fake tan. We see Eagles and walk under and over the waterfall by the lake before heading to the BIG waterfall by the camp site.
The relentless brutal pounding of the rocks by the waterfall is awesome. Combine that with actually standing under it with lots of squealing bikini babes in a tropical paradise setting and you may understand why I had an ecstatic smile on my face that I couldn't wipe off!
At dinner I notice the Slovaks are here too and Peter greets me with a hearty, "I told you we'd meet again!" Sean and Monika went to bed (well, hammock) early and I spent the evening around a fire on the beach chatting to Sarah, a girl from Poweys, North Wales no less. I feel like I've finally done it, I've started travelling around South America - I'm doing it, I'm doing it!
Unfortunately I'm not to travel in the same boat as Sean and Monika and Will and Adriana but with the po-faced Slovaks (laugh or smile damn it!) along with Patrice and Claude and with Peter and Martin, two Check dudes from Prague who do marketing for Intel. After starting an hour late, it's a 4 or 5 hour affair in a long wooden boat. The jungle scenery is stunning and as the day wears on, the Tepuis (flat topped mountains) loom larger. We stop by a mini waterfall and rock pool for lunch. Peter and I take a dip. Halfway through another boat stops for lunch, it's full off Latina bikini babes who instantly start splashing about and posing for cameras. This country is wicked!
Back to the boat and we start motoring up Grade 1 rapids! Occasionally the engine stalls and we start floating backwards and picking up speed. We just sit there as the guides start to panic, try to stop us pummelling into the banks and attempt to re-start the engine! At one point we all get out and the boat makes a running start at some real shallow rapids. It's not uncommon to hear rocks scrape under the the bottom of the boat. It's dry season and the river isn't that deep anymore. And yes, we get soaked, constantly. Martin remarked that it's better than the Log Fume at Disneyland, I retort, "Nope, this is the real thing!"
We reach camp at 16:00 and I've a real sore arse from sitting on the wooden plank seat for 4 hours. We ditch our kit and take the 1 hour trek through a jungle forest to a view point. The path is just a mass of rocks and tree roots. The we see it - Angel Falls; the crash site of Jimmy Angel. Cool! The guys from the other boat turn up. They waited an extra 1½ hours for another couple to turn up (Mark and Lisa who flew in with 20 frozen chickens and a 20" flat screen TV!). Their boat engine was under powered and due to hitting rocks in the shallow, they had to change the propeller 3 or 4 times! After soaking up the scenery Sean and Monika, Will and Adriana and I all walk back together before getting naked to bath in the river (there is no shower) with the falls in the background. Sean and Will both reckoned the river had a high shrinkage factor. Pansies!
Sean wakes me up at 5:30 am for we decided last night to hot foot it back to the falls for dawn. I make it in half an hour, not bad for a fat Welsh boy! I don't stop at the view point but continue round the corner to take a dip in a pool under the falls itself. More bikini babes! A refreshing cool dip is just what I needed after a hot sweaty trek. I love this place! I walk back to camp with Will and Adriana (they're engaged and hope to marry in a few months) just in time for breakfast; slice of ham, slice of cheese, scrambled eggs and arrata (local corn pattie). It's then back on the long boats for the ride down the rapids back to Bernal Tours, stopping only for a quick swim off a sandy beach river bank and to take photos of a face in the rock. Oh, and again when the boat gets grounded, we all had to jump off to float it free. We also had to walk for half an hour overland while the boat went around and met us on the other side. We were supposed to visit an Indian village - but I only saw a souvenir shop. Whatever! I decide to go topless and catch some midday rays for the duration of the walk.
The Checks think I'm very brave doing the jungle thing and touring South America with no grasp of Spanish. In fact, most people think the Angel Falls trip is an adventure, hence think what I'm about to undertake is very extreme. Actually, when I think of it, everyone has commented on how brave I am and it's even been mentioned that the British in particular have a sense of adventure. The Checks make a point of saying goodbye and give me their email address to hear how the jungle went. Sean and Monika, Will and Adriana also leave the Bernal Camp - I'll miss them all.
Only the Brits Mark and Lisa and Steve, another Canadian, are left. This is, until Susanne arrives. A short, large breasted Venezuelan girl - man, I love bikinis! I go out with them for another tour of the falls. Susanne is quite bubbly and takes a shine to me, holding on to me whilst walking down steep downhill bits. She catches her bikini bottoms in the back zip of her denim skirt and asks me to sort it. It's wedges in pretty good and I fail. Still, I got a good unexpected view of her arse! The waterfalls have dried up significantly over the past 2 days, however the BIG one is awesome still. On the walk back Steve has the gift of the gab and inadvertently steals Susanne away from me. I can not compete. He is further triumphant on returning to camp as his multi-tool has a pair of pliers which he uses to release the stuck zip. Defeated I head to the shower to wash some clothes. On my return I gross everyone out because I took a photo of a toad in the toilet with a huge blood sucking tick on it's side!
Speaking to the owner of the camp, she lets me stay for an extra night or two for free as long as I pay for food. Cool. But she's concerned about my one-way ticket as there's nowhere in Canaima to buy a return! Ulp! She gets on her Walkie Talkie and says she'll sort something out. (this whole conversation in Spanish of course!) After dinner, which always comprises of meat in sauce, rice and salad, we head to the beach and start a fire. I spend most of the night chatting to Lisa whilst Mark, Patrice and Steve find wood and tend to the fire. After the couples leave, only Susanne, Steve and I are left. I feel awkward for the other two seem to be getting um, close. So I head back early to my hammock. Shame, because I was really enjoying staring at the stars in the sky.