climbing the highest of the table-top mountains
18.10.2008 - 23.10.2008 25 °C
Roraima is one of the most interesting treks in South America and one that Eden has wanted to do since last year. It is the highest of the table-top mountains in southern Venezuela, and was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Lost World".
The tepuis (table-top mountains) are among the oldest rocks on earth and were formed before Africa separated from South America. Because the tops of the mountains are isolated from the Grand Savannah below, a large number of endemic plants have adapted to this environment and exist nowhere else. They are a kind of "Galapagos Islands" in the middle of a continent. The fact that most of the tepuis are unclimbable, due to 1000m cliffs, has enticed travellers and locals alike. The indigenous Pimon people believe that Roraima was a great tree that their ancestors fell in order to get its fruit. A large volume of water sprung from the trunk and flooded the land. When the water subsided all that was left was this huge stump (and it actually looks like a stump if you have a bit of an imagination). Some of the most interresting species on top are the carnivorous plants and black frogs that are more similar to frogs in Africa than those in South America.
While the trail to the top of the mountain is easy to follow, the top is a maze of eroded rocks, boggy areas and the shifting clouds make things disorrientating. For this reason most tourists go on a guided tour.
We began our trip at a small town nearby, and set off after a quick lunch. The path was through rolling grassland, and around 2pm it started to pour. The sky was dark and beautiful. Two hours later we arrived at camp in soggy boots and wet underwear but our raincovers had saved everything else. We quickly set up our tent and then hung up our clothes to dry.
The Gran Sabanna is very hot and dry and by 9am it was already 35C. We forded two rivers, stopping for a swim at the second and then a 2 hour siesta after lunch on the way to "base" camp. Given the temperature, it didn't take long for our boots to dry out.
The third day we began our ascent of Roraima up "the ramp". At first the mountain appears unclimbable, but a British expedition discovered this route in the 19th century. However, the jungle was so thick at the time that they were unable to get close enough to verify this. It wasn't until a large part of the jungle was burned (accidently by the Pimon) some 50 years later that the first two Westerners climbed to the top of the mountain. This was the hardest day, with an ascent of over 1200m. The top of the mountain is shaped by wind and rain into various shapes. Very little of it can be considered flat. One of the most prominent rocks is shaped like a car and is easily recognized from below. The two nights on the top we stayed at one of the "hotels". These are large rock overhangs large enough to accomodate several tents.
The fourth day we explored the tepui climbing the car, swimming in the jacuzzis (cold pools with quartz crystals on the bottom), and some other areas. The fifth day we went back to our first camp site. The sand flies and mosquitos were bad this day and we had a lot of distance to cover. And the sixth day we walked the final 12km back to where the Landcruisers were waiting for us with lunch and cold beer
Excellent trek, excellent people, 50km logged, 5 more nights in a tent. To date over 800km trekked and 70 nights in our tent.