Fucking puri-puri. It doesn’t matter how much you cover yourself with clothing or coat yourself with a layer of DEET or that hippy baby oil plus Vitamin B12 crap, as soon as you drop your trousers to pee they hone in on your pasty white arse reflecting in the moon light as the welts on my rear end attested to. Sometimes you can catch them, you’ll feel a stab, like an injection and there’ll be this smug little fly with its face buried in your flesh. I take great satisfaction in smearing them across my skin to serve as a warning to their evil, flying brethren. Mwahahaha.
Uh, anyway, this trek. Yeah. So we set off for half a day of walking to Base Camp, starting the walk with two river crossings and a swim in River Kukenán. Heh, after all that effort to keep dry yesterday. The swim was lovely though, beautifully refreshing. The current is really strong, you feel it as soon as you get in and if you lose your footing or let go of the rocks you’ll be carried away. So of course we all just let ourselves be swept towards another set of rocks past a rather ominous cross hanging from a tree on the bank. Hmm. And that’s another thing I like about Venezuela; If you tried doing that in New Zealand or Australia you’d be called back by a panicked guide brandishing a life jacket and a rope to pull you back in. Here, our guide jumped in after us and rode the current to hang out with us. Getting back isn’t easy but hey, it’s fun. Once you’re out of the water you have to get dressed as quickly as possible before the puri-puri completely strip the flesh from your bones then it’s back on the trail.
Now, I’m not the fittest person alive. There are injured koalas that move more than I do and sloths are practically hyperactive compared to me so what on earth made me think I was capable of this trek I do not know. It was only day two and I was already trailing behind the group (apart from two Venezuelan couples who were even behind me) but I was happy. I enjoyed meandering along at my own speed, picking my steps carefully in the trickier parts, thinking about stuff and things. I didn’t really need any breaks apart from when I got to the top of a hill, but I was a long way behind everyone else. I was content with this. The rain came down again as I made my way up a small cascade, wrapped in my bright yellow poncho, step by step. Steady and slow, that’s what mother tortoise said, right?
By the time I got to Base Camp I was cold, wet and aching like a motherfucker but I was still basically ok. My muscles maybe not so much, I think they were plotting mutiny. Whilst the others wondered how they were going to spend the afternoon I crawled into my tent and crashed out. I heard Marco at one point asking who wanted coffee or hot chocolate, I tried to raise my head to ask that a funnel be placed into my mouth and coffee carefully poured into it at 5 minute intervals but I couldn’t will a single part of me to move so I settled for drooling into my pillow until I was called for dinner. I’ve gotta admit though, I haven’t ached that badly before, even during my gym-obsessed days. I wondered if I was going to be able to make it through day three which was entirely uphill. Ah well. Two days down, four to go… Fuck it. I’m doomed…
I was dragged into consciousness by the sound of talking, the roar of a powerful stove flame, the clash of pots and pans and other noises that meant that coffee was imminent. I tested my legs. They still worked. As in, I could move them, whether they’d bear my weight or indeed carry me up a mountain remained to be seen. I emerged from my tent and struggled to get upright. I ached in places I didn’t know I had places but I ascertained that walking was indeed possible albeit with no small amount of pain. I wasn’t looking forward to squatting for a piss ay.
So I’m stood at the bottom of this tepui with sheer sides looking up thinking, how the fuck does anyone get up there, never mind someone who only has feet to stop them from blowing over in the wind? I absently picked at my puri-puri bites, thankful that at least they didn’t carry diseases although to be honest, I didn’t care if they showered twice a day, I’d still rather they kept their teeth to themselves. The weather was already ominous as one of the guys led some of the group in warm up exercises to prepare their muscles for the 5 hour climb we had ahead of us. I repeat. Why the fuck did I want to do this again??
Eventually we set off, I was meant to go at the front and set the pace because I was the slowest but I can’t handle that, I don’t like the idea of people behind me, I would have felt pressured so they let me fall back to the back of the group and we made our way to the part ominously known as The Wall. I use capitals with good reason. If you thought standing at Base Camp and looking up was intimidating, when you get to The Wall you redefine intimidating in your head and nothing will ever seem as scary ever again. Fuck me backwards, it’s steep. Access to the top is gained via La Rampa which is literally that. A ramp. Not a nice, smooth, tarmacked ramp of course, a fucked up Up-And-Down mission of a ramp where you have to use your hands to drag yourself up in some parts and slide down on your arse in others. I took it step by step as always, one of the porters, Rafael, by my side, making sure I was ok.
You trek up and up and up and down then more up. You walk through a waterfall which no poncho, bright yellow or otherwise, will protect you from then you carry on up and up until you round a corner and you’re there! You’re finally there! Hours and hours of slogging and you’re at the top of Roraima Tepui, after all that. As if to congratulate us the sun came out for a few minutes to warm us up as we took a break and ate some sandwiches then we were off again to our camp for the night. The camps on the top of Roraima are called hoteles and we would be staying in Hotel Sucre. Tongue in cheek, no?
It was awesome though, like a cave. The porters set the tents up and me and Laurent ended up in prime position right next to the kitchen where we could be served breakfast in bed. Score! Breakfast in bed is one of my favourite things in the world, ranking just after wine and movies in bed and rampant sex in bed. Eating toast in bed is also a favourite but that’s more to piss the mrs off than anything and the all time number one is farting in bed and trapping her head under the covers.
Once we were set up, Marco took us to a place called the Jacuzzi which isn’t bubbly and it definitely isn’t warm. Hmm. One feels that it will take surgery to remove ones tongue from ones cheek after Roraima. We got to it using a different route to usual because it’s shorter than the main walk, however this shortcut involved jumping over a trench of water that couldn’t be waded through unless you were technically a giant that other giants had to look up at to talk to. Bugger. That’d involve athletics then, another epic weakness in my large repertoire of weaknesses. Everyone else made the jump, some more confidently than others, then it was my turn. I wasn’t sure I’d make it but fuck it, these things have to be given a shot, right? I took an entirely pointless run up, faltered at the edge, jumped anyway with all the grace of a crippled giraffe and barely made it, falling hard onto the rock on my hands and knees. Smooth.
But despite the bitter cold that certainly made your nipples sit up and take notice, the Jacuzzi was fabulous. We washed off the day’s sweat and grime before we headed back to camp for the evening and settled in. Shit I ached so fucking much, every movement had to been torn from my broken muscles. Stretching. That’d be a good idea. I should have stretched my muscles before clambering into my tent. What I actually did was coma out and sleep through dinner. Ah well. It’s the thought that counts… Right?
Somewhere near Mount Roraima, Venezuela
Stayed at: Roraima Base Camp one night, Hotel Sucre (not actually really a hotel at all, more of a cave) the next.
Activity: Roraima trek with Backpacker Tours