The lands between Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil are noted for their Tepuis. These are mountains that rise with sheer cliffs from the surrounding savanna. The most famous of these is Mount Roraima. The sheer cliff face rises vertically over 400 meters from the savanna. For many years it was thought that this was un-climable until Everard Thurn and Harry Perkins reached the top in 1884.
In June 2009 I joined a group from Back-Packer Tours leaving Santa Elena, in Venezuela, for a 6-day trek to summit Mount Roraima.
After a 2-hour drive over roads only suitable for a 4-wheel drive vehicle we arrived at the Amerindian Village of Paraitepuy. After a quick lunch and registering with the park rangers we set off on a 12Km trek over rolling hills and open savanna to Rio Tek the site of our first camp. This was an easy walk and we took time to get to know each other and get our leg muscles ready for Roraima, which we could see, in the distance. Rio Tek is a pleasant campsite overlooking the river with the tepuis of Roraima and Kukenan in the distance.
After dinner we retired early to our tents for a good night’s sleep, and be ready for an early start in the morning. It was a clear and cool night so I slept outside in my sleeping bag.
The day started with a wet crossing of the Rio Tek and 45 minutes later the Kukenan River. The rocks were covered with moss and very slippery. However I learnt that if you cross in thick socks they grip securely to the moss. After Rio Kukenan we started a slow climb to Military Camp, where we halted to regroup and have a lunch break. This got its name from the Venezuelan army who uses it at times. The few trees provided a welcome relief from the very hot tropical sun, which was taking its toll on the members of the group. The porters passed us and moved ahead to set up base camp. It will take another two hours of hiking to reach base camp.
Base camp is at the bottom of the wall and has a very refreshing stream nearby. From close up the scale of the next days hike was apparent. There is a “ramp” inclined at about 45 degrees, but first we had to reach it.
We left camp about 7.30 and for two hours made our way up a very steep trail to the wall where it joined the Ramp. This part of the journey is through dense rain forest. The thick trees and vegetation and steep sections make the going very slow. At the wall there is a waterfall issuing from the rock. The water is very cool and everyone took the opportunity to refresh and refill our water bottles. The ramp was on our left and for the next 2 hours the trail kept close to the wall. When we reached a clearing in the forest, and the clouds allowed it, we could see the Savanna and our first campsite in the distance.
I arrived at the top to find a landscape like no other. Its comparison to the moon is not exaggerated. Clouds were constantly swirling up bringing with them rain and cold winds. When they cleared the views of the surrounding areas was magnificent.
It took us another 30 minutes to reach a set of caves where we set up out tents for the next two nights. These caves provided shelter from the constant rain and cold winds. However every one was soaked, especially for those who made a detour to have a swim in some rain fed pools! It was very refreshing and invigorating!
We would spend the next day exploring Roraima. The weather was pleasant for most of the day and we were able to hike for a leisurely seven hours visiting many areas of interest. There are many species of plants, many of them endemic, rock formations and stunning views that I could have spent days there. But by 4pm we were all wet, cold and hungry and it was time to return to camp for a hot cup of tea, a warm meal and sleeping bag.
The next day we said our good-byes to the mountaintop took our last pictures and left camp at 7.30. The route down the ramp was very wet compared to our climb. We passed through several waterfalls that plunged off the top and flowed over the ramp before continuing their fall to fill the rivers below. By midday most of the party were at Base camp where we had quick lunch and set off for Rio Tek. Today was a long day of about 8 to 10 hours of trekking.
Rio Tek felt like home and we spent a very enjoyable evening with a celebration dinner, complete with cans of beer and bottles of wine chilled in the Rio Tek. The next morning we reluctantly left camp for a 3 hour hike to meet our transport at Paritepuy. We were not disappointed as they arrived with a cooler of cold ceveras, soft drinks and a great meal.
The trip from Caracas to Santa Elena involves a very long bus trip, or a flight and an eleven-hour bus trip. However, this should not discourage any back-packer that wants to experience one of the world’s truly unspoiled areas. You have to be fit to make this trek but there are no technical climbs to stop the active hill walker.
Backpacker Tours operate the best Tour Company I have hiked with. They offer a full service and own the Hotel Pinos, where I stayed, and a hostel, as well as the Toyota land cruisers to transport us to the hike. They also have their own good quality tents, and camping gear. Eric arrived in Venezuela many years ago from Europe and is in charge of the show. His wife looks after the hotel and their 2 children.
You can click on the thumbnail image to see a larger image.