Roraima 101. It’s one of a range of tepuis that stretch through Parque Nacional Canaima in Venezuela, a tepui being a flat topped mountain that holds particular spiritual significance for the indigenous people known collectively as the Pemon people which, as Marco told us, isn’t entirely accurate. There are three tribes that inhabit the Gran Sabana; Arikuna (to exterminate), Kamatakoto (to say) and Taurepan (to do), divided by religion and dialect. Yeah, they have words in common but they don’t always understand each other and Marco told us that Pemon simply means “person.” Kinda generic dontcha think?
Anyways, it used to be that only the shamans could climb the tepuis because of how important and central they were to the beliefs of the local people but Marco told us that the shamans had spoken to the nature and now the living could climb Roraima (meaning bluish-green) and no harm would come to them. It’s also apparently the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”, where dinosaurs were discovered to still be living on top of the tepui. Well I bloody hope there isn’t, it’s bad enough that I’m near constantly cold and wet right now without risking having my head chewed off by a Velociraptor. There’s more facts and figures on Wikipedia which are pretty interesting. This is a blog, not a fucking education although I did learn something today. Before the days of toothpaste the “old people” (Marco’s wording) used to brush their teeth with charcoal and rinse with hot chilli. We found this out because Marco was wandering round scrubbing his teeth with a little lump of charcoal. Clearly I had to have a go. Doesn’t exactly leave your breath smelling minty fresh but my teeth we certainly less furry.
Anyway, on with the misery. Whilst I was holed up in Manaus I spoke to a few people who’d done this trek and as they drained the fluid from their blisters and applied industrial strength itch relief to their constellation of puri-puri bites I asked them if it was really worth it. For the most part, the answer had been “absolutely.” And I suppose if the weather conditions aren’t too bad and you get a bit of a view from the top then yes, it most certainly would be. But Roraima doesn’t read the weather forecast. In fact, Roraima has it’s very own little climate which it fucks with as and when it chooses, the weather can change in seconds. It’ll give you blue skies and sunshine and you’ll strip down to your basics and lie your wet clothes out in the sun and just as you’re beginning to relax… have some rain, fools! But on day four there was no teasing sunshine. Not even a misleading glimpse. It just rained. All. The fucking. Time.
But we set out on the walk anyway, come rain or shine Roraima is a pretty special place, much of the flora and fauna is endemic and there are heaps of interesting rock formations. And I never thought I’d use the words “interesting” and “rock” in the same sentence apart from when referring to a particularly intricate design through a stick of the tooth-rotting goodness that you get from Blackpool. Although it’s a walk marked on the maps, it isn’t really marked by a path, it’s more a series of stepping stones which we made our way slowly across. Ok no. I rephrase. I made my way slowly across, again with Raphael keeping me company, as the others hopped from rock to increasingly slippery rock as if that’s how they got to work every morning. This trek was certainly highlighting my inadequacies ay, I made a mental note to avoid any future activities with the word “trek” in them, especially when used in conjunction with the words “six day.”
We walked and walked and walked with nothing much to see through the fog and the rain. I wasn’t the only one who was over it either, we sheltered in a cave for a bit while Marco tried to cheer us up with chocolates and banter. He told us that the youngest member of the group had to go and show his or her arse to the rain to scare it away and fair play to Kris, he went out and did it. Didn’t scare the rain but it might have left a few of the endemic tiny frogs traumatised. Onward through the downpour, trying to be as optimistic as possible. We stopped at Crystal Valley and played with the quartz before heading on to The Window which, when it’s clear (Ha. Ha.) is a stunning view over the jungle of Guyana. Not much of a fucking window today though.
More rocks. More fucking rocks. Yes yes, it’s very nice and moon-like and can it be over now please? We were the kind of cold and wet where you think you’ll never be dry and warm ever again. I started to wonder why I was risking my neck hopping from rock to rock in a vain attempt to keep my already sodden feet dry, Raphael was in rubber boots and was just wandering through the little streams. Fuck it. If it’s a choice between wet feet and potentially slipping on a particularly precarious rock and smashing my face open, I’ll take the former thankyouverymuch. Me and Raphael splashed our way back to camp where we were welcomed by hot soup and coffee. Joy! I stopped sulking for long enough to get as dry and warm as Roraima allowed then crashed out until the weather cleared up. Yeah. It cleared up. Bloody typical.
Mount Roraima, Venezuela
Stayed at: On top of Roraima at an area known at Hotel Sucre
Activity: Roraima trek with Backpacker Tours