23. May: Alexander had told us the previous night that we would start to Angel Falls at 7:00. At 6:00 he gave the whole sleeping community in the shed a 'wake-up call' by calling out loud. The night had been coolish, I had kept on my long pants and my fleece pullover with a blanket. It had been raining most of the night, this could be heard very well on the corrugated roof and by the fact that there were no doors or walls in the shed. Alex was glad about the rain, since that would give us some more water in the river and make the boat trip to the falls easier. I hadn't slept very well, having been woken up frequently by the strange environment but also due to the unusual experience of sleeping in a hammock for the first time.
I washed myself a bit, the toilets didn't have running water since the pump doesn't work. There is a large barrel with water from which you can fetch a pail of water to flush. Breakfast consists of scrambled eggs, cheese, bread, coffee, jam, margarine, and we're off at 7:30. It is a slow journey upstream to Ratoncito Camp (Rat's camp), from where you can walk to Angel Falls.
Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall. Both World Trade Center towers could fit end-to-end under it!
The water level is still low, and we all have to get out of the boat and walk at least twice around places in the river which have extremely low water. The navigator who sits at the front of the boat with a stocky wooden oar is very busy manoeuvring the boat through the very shallow areas. He needs to get into the river and push or pull the water several times. The boat needs to be well balanced too, the captain, who sits at the back of the boar and operates the outboard motor, tells several of us to swap places for better balance.
After about three hours of riding the boat we reach Ratoncito Camp, which is actually just a shed. From there we have the first mist-filled view of Angel Falls in the distance! From here it's a walk of about an hour on a path through the jungle. Alex had told us that we would need to have hiking shoes, but I had left mine in the rucksack we'd left behind in Ciudad Bolivar. So all I had was my party damaged sandals, the left one's strap had partly come loose. They were wearable, but not too comfy. Their soles were worn down and so they would slip very easily on wet terrain. Alex didn't say a word about them so I guessed the walk would be possible with them. Alex went ahead and made a big fuss of kicking and hitting all large tree trunks in our way to scare away any snakes underneath. Apparently the requirement to wear hiking boots was not due to the terrain but because of snakes. The last part of the walk was uphill and a bit strenuous.
At last we reach the lookout to Angel falls. Wow, they are fully visible and it is a spectacular view!! The falls are almost 1000m high! It is the dry season and high, high up you could see the source of the falls, then the water pouring down, and a bit after halfway there was just mist to be seen. The water falls straight down due to a concave cylindrical area of the mountain, which no doubt had eroded off. We then walk on further to Angel falls lagoon, which is where the water of the falls collects for a short while before continuing it's course to eventually reach the Orinoco river.
Alexander takes off his top and swims in the lagoon and, although the water of coldish, I can't resist joining him. Unfortunately nobody else of our group follows us in. It is phenomenal sight, hearing the thunder of the small waterfall right in the lagoon and following up all the way to Angel Falls!! There is a powerful underwater current from the water. Some of the rocks are sharp and I cut my toe on one and got a long, shallow gash of about 4cm, which started bleeding immediately. Right opposite the Angel Falls you could see another set of spectacular waterfalls called La Cortina. They were surely many kilometers away, but their sheer size made them look spectacular even from this distance!
Then we start off back to the camp. The others of our group have sped on ahead, Annewien, myself and Alex are left as a group. We leave Alex behind, he wants to walk slowly since an injury from a Karate accident has left one of his feet vulnerable. Back at the camp, lunch is being served, it consists of chicken, mashed potatoes, salad and ice-tea. From the banks of the river there is a great sight of Angel Falls as well!
We start off back downstream, which means that our speed is much faster than the other way! It is a wild, splashy ride and it takes about 2 hours! As soon as we reach our camp, it starts raining. We have dinner and I feel I need to wash myself, so I take a bar of soap and go into the rain. Annewien joins me and it becomes a wonderful experience.
Alexander persuades us to chip in to buy a bottle of rum for 2500 Bs apiece. All but the Swiss couple are game, so we're all drunk by the time we're finished. Alexander pops up at our table and starts explaining stuff about Venezuela and the falls. Apparently he's done Roraima Tepui (which is to the south of Venezuela near Brazil) a number of times as a guide and he says it is a great experience.
By now we are very tired and we retire to our hammocks. I've gotten used to the thing, and since I now know that you really have to lie in diagonally, sleeping actually become quite comfortable. I'm getting to like these hammocks! It rains throughout the night, sometimes very heavily. Annewien told me next morning that I'd been snoring badly and I blame it on the rum.