Friday, July 30, 2010

Viva Venezuela! El Ultima Parte

Okey dokey, this is my last honeymoon post.  If you can make it through this doozy of a recap, you get mad props cuz it's a long one.

Anyways, although we gladly would have stayed another week relaxing on the beautiful beaches of Los Roques, adventure was calling our name and so we embarked on the second half of our Venezuelan trip.

It took us three different planes to get to Canaima, the tiny indigenous village in the southern part of the country.  The village is only accessible by plane; there are no roads because it is too remote and it would be too dangerous to try and drive from the nearest big city, even if there were roads.

So we took a plane that looked like this:

It sat a whopping six people (Mr Trail Mix was the co-pilot) and the fuel gauge was broken.  When we pointed this out to the pilot, he just grinned and gave us the thumbs up signal.  Sweet, dude, now I feel much better...

Thankfully, we had enough fuel to make it to our destination and were greeted with this view as we landed.

We stayed at a delightful posada called Tapuy Lodge, which was right on the lake pictured above.  All meals were included and there was a beach on the lagoon for swimming, which was lovely.

Our room was great and the best part? We had our own little patio, complete with a hammock, perfect for lazing about and reading a book while indulging in a beer or two. Brilliant.

The town of Canaima is part of the Canaima National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This means that it is protected against development and has been recognized as a unique culture worthy of preserving.

There were a series of waterfalls (called "saltos" in Spanish) that created the lagoon on which the town was centered around.

While our primary reason for visiting Canaima was to see Angel Falls, the world's tallest waterfall, we had several days there to enjoy the various other waterfalls in the region.  Our first day, we booked an excursion to see Salto El Salpo, another fall that we had heard was beautiful.

We thought it would be a mild hike to the top of the falls, we'd ooh and ahh at the view and bing, bang, boom, that would be all.

We were so, so, SO wrong.

First, we took a boat ride across the lake.  The boat was in the style of a typical indigenous canoe, which was pretty cool.

Then we hiked for about an hour up to the top of the falls.  Great,we thought, excellent excursion, well worth the price of a guide. Little did we know what we were in for next...

Our guide had warned us in the beginning of the trip that we would get wet but we thought he meant from the mist of the falls.  That turned out to be an incorrect assumption because the reason we got wet is because the next part of the hike led us behind the waterfall.

And let me tell you, folks, this ain't no little mild-mannered, trickle o' water flowing down.  This was a rushing, raging, crazy-ass, angry-at-the-world, full-due-to-the-rainy-season waterfall that we somehow traversed behind, clinging for dear life to a rope that lined the 2-foot-wide path while getting absolutely drenched.

At one point, we had to turn our backs to the falls and hold on to the rock wall while sidling along like deranged crabs as the water poured over us and created quite a strong wind, making it hard to even breath! I just remember saying to myself "Holy sh*t, holy sh*t, holy sh*t" until we made it across.

Whew, it was such a rush and definitely one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life!

We survived, huzzah!

And the funniest part was that once we got across and saw the falls from the opposite side, the only way back to our canoe was...You guessed it, back through the waterfall. Good times, good times....

The next day, it was time to head off on our two-day excursion up to see Salto Angel (It's the waterfall from the movie "Up" if ya care..."

Our posada booked our tour and dropped us off at the docks, along with four other tourists, an Aussie couple on their extended honeymoon tour of South America (so jealous of that!), one British mate on holiday and one absolutely nutty Czech woman who spoke no Spanish and very little English.  All in all, a very engaging and interesting group to converse with while motoring up the Carrao River in our motorized wooden canoe.

We stopped for lunch at a little waterfall (called Salto Feliz, or Happy Falls) and got to have some fun swimming and jumping off the rocks.

We also passed an over-turned canoe, which Eduardo, our guide, gleefully told us had capsized the day before.  Luckily, everyone aboard was fine, although he did make some sort of joke about the piranhas eating all the luggage.  At least, we think it was a joke...

Finally, after four hours of motoring up the river, along with some hiking, lunching, swimming and exploring, the falls were in site.  And friends, it was such a glorious sight.

We had heard from others whom we had told that we were heading to Angel Falls that it was a very special place and that the native indigenous population consider it a spiritual experience to visit it but honestly, nothing had really prepared us for the grandeur of the falls and how damn big they are!

Here we are with a Norwegian couple that we made friends with during our trip to Canaima (they were the other passengers in our teeny little plane and it's amazing how you bond with people when you're all absolutely terrified.) They were the chillest kids ever and engaged to be married next summer, so of course I told Kjesti (the girl) all about Weddingbee!

These pictures do not do Angel Falls justice, it's simply impossible to capture 3,000 feet of waterfall on camera.  I read that about 1/3 of the water actually evaporates before it hits the ground since the drop is so long.  Cool, right?

And then we got to swim at the base of the falls, making sure to stay close to the edge so we didn't get sucked into the rapids from the water flow.

Because it had taken us so long to get up to the falls, we spent the night in a lean-to of sorts in the jungle, complete with hammocks and mosquito netting. 

Our guide along with some helpers cooked us this incredible dinner of chicken roasted over an open flame, spanish rice, salad and bread.  I don't know why but whenever I'm camping, food always tastes so good and this was no exception. Mmmmmmm, another one of our favorite meals from the trip...

The next morning, it was raining and we were cold and sort of cramped from sleeping on hammocks (which are not as uncomfortable as one might think but still not anywhere as comfy as a bed.) 

We headed back down the river on our canoe and were thoroughly glad to finally arrive at Tapuy Lodge and change into some dry clothes and stretch out on a bed for a nap.

We spent our final day in Canaima hiking to another set of falls, exploring the town (which is extremely rural and poor) and making friends with an alcoholic parrot while watching the afternoon World Cup game.

And because I've mentioned before that I am incapable of writing a honeymoon post without a sunset photo, here's my favorite off the lagoon where our lodge was situated.

And with that, my friends, our Venezuelan adventure came to a close.  It took us four planes and 20 straight hours of travelling to get back to New York City and I think we both spent the entire time re-living the trip and marveling at all that we saw and experienced.

It was truly the vacation of our lives and I will always cherish the memories from our Venezuelan honeymoon.   Viva Venezuela, siempre en nuestras corazones! 

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