I’m not too sure how I found out about the Roraima Trek in Venezuela’s Gran Sabana, part of the breath-taking Parque Nacional Canaima. It’s in the Lonely Planet so it could have been that or maybe it was because I met a few people whilst I was holed up in Manaus feeling very sorry for myself who were passing through fresh from the trek. Buuuut anyway, I’d heard of it, I knew I wanted to do it and I knew a small set of facts;
I knew it would be raining and we’re not talking a light drizzle here, we’re talking rain in a tropical country in the rainy season. Think buckets.
I knew it would be cold. Temperatures can plummet to 5°C at the top and there’s nowhere to plug your electric blanket in.
I knew there’d be a fuck load of uphill walking, not my favourite pastime even if there’s free ice cream every 100 metres and a pub at the top.
I knew there would be an abundance of a demon called puri-puri, small biting flies that come at you like ninjas and you only know they’ve been there on account of the itchy, red welts that show up on any bit of skin you were foolish enough to leave exposed. What I didn’t know was, why in hell did I want to do this walk??
So I got myself to Santa Elena and booked myself onto a walk with Backpacker Tours and off we went towards a small, indigenous village at the beginning of the walk called Pataitupüy, managing to blow a tyre on the way whilst doing 140kph. Gotta love Venezuela. Miraculously we arrived in one piece, registered then began the walk. Day one of six. Bring it on, bitches. The first day is about 12kms across the savannah and you’re advised to walk in long sleeves and trousers so the puri-puri have less options for sampling the goods that are your blood cells. Anything that bites bites me so I complied, not entirely comfortable but I’d seen the state of some of the people who’d just done the trek, you could barely see parts of their skin for the bites. Fuck that for a game of soldiers, I’ll just sweat.
But you don’t have to worry about the heat for long, we were maybe halfway through the walk when in rolled the clouds, down poured the rain and out came the ponchos and there aren’t many things you can do to make waterproof ponchos look good but one suggestion might be, don’t buy one in bright fucking yellow. There’s something about bright yellow that not even the highest paid supermodel could rock. Still, it’s better than nothing and it keeps you dry and… oh wait… no… no it doesn’t thanks to the sideways rain and the split down the side. Ah well, given the circumstances I’ll settle for dry-ish.
I was given lots of advice for this trek off others that had been there, done that and yes, got the t-shirt and the best piece of advice, which I shall pass onto you now, is make sure you keep a complete set of dry clothes for the evening, preferably that covers most skin areas. You’re provided with a large, plastic bag before the walk, ideal for keeping stuff dry in your backpack (which will probably get wet) as long as you keep it properly closed and don’t put wet stuff in there with the dry stuff. Under no circumstances sacrifice your night clothes. You get so fucked off with being wet all the time it’s pure bliss to be able to strip off your sodden clothes when you reach camp and change into something dry. And if you thought the bright yellow poncho looked hot you’ll simply love the night time fashion we sported; flip flops, socks and your trousers tucked into your socks to stop the puri-puri going for your ankles. New York and Milan ain’t got nothin’ on us.
Now, let’s talk toilets because no blog of mine is complete without something involving bodily functions. We had one of them tall tents you can stand up in that have the sole function to act as a bog and inside this poo tent was a potty like thing, some blue bags and a bag of white chalk. What you do is, you put your hand in a blue bag and use it like a glove to grab a handful of white chalk, turn it inside out and place it in the potty. Then you shit into it. Not pee, you’re not meant to offload any liquid into it, just shit. Once you’re done you tie a knot in it and put it in another bag which is hanging up in the tent. I’ve never really seen the point in scented bog roll until now; I find it ridiculously hard to have a shit without peeing regardless of whether I just pee’d or not and scented bog roll is fabulous for pressing to your nostrils as you try and coax your sphincter to ease up and drop the kids off without your bladder for company, uncomfortably aware of the bag of poo hanging disturbingly close to your head. My heart went out to the poor bastards whose job it was to carry the excrement of others down the mountain. Oh, did I not mention this? It’s forbidden to leave human waste anywhere on this trek, it all has to be carried back down to Santa Elena. If you’re hiking independently then you carry your own damn shit and if that isn’t a reason to sign up for a tour then I don’t know what it.
Pooing arrangements aside, our first camp at Camp Tök was lovely. Once we’d changed into our dry stuff, been fed and watered and counted the first day’s bites, our guide, Marco, told us a bit about the area and the tepuis of which Roraima is one. As we were walking, we saw two tepuis; Roraima which is a positive mountain where the shamans have climbed up and asked the nature to give safe passage to the people who climb it, and Kukenan, also known as Matawitepuy which means “kill yourself” or “suicide mountain.” Comforting. Matawitepuy is Roraima’s sinister neighbour. It’s a negative mountain which warriors defeated in battle would climb up in shame and never come down again. Marco has been up there and he says it feels like there’s someone standing behind you or that someone’s watching you. Hmm… yeah nah, I don’t think I’ll bother. Even if my fitness level and budget allowed it I don’t think it’d be a good idea to go wandering up negative mountains whilst I fight daily battles with my own negative demons.
He also told us a couple of stories about people going missing and being found in caves and rivers with their eyes, nose, lips, fingertips and genitals missing. Kinda creepy actually when you’re camping out in the middle of fucking nowhere, even though the rational part of your brain knows that these are the softest parts and therefore the most likely to be eaten first by completely un-supernatural animals. Anyway, that night I settled into my tent with my tent mate, Laurent, knowing one more thing; six day hikes probably aren’t the most sensible way to discover exactly how poor your fitness levels actually are.
Somewhere near Mount Roraima, Venezuela
Stayed at: Camp Tök
Activity: Roraima trek with Backpacker Tours