Looking down on creation

Puerto Colombia, Venezuela


A while since the last email. We’ve been in southern Venezuela, where the best fun is to be had off road – or up river – and cybercafes are rare.

The south of this country provided an abrupt change of scenery – more reminiscent of Africa than America. I’m not sure this is really due to their ancient coexistence as part of Gondwanaland, probably just a trick of the light, and the red coloured earth and the rock and the heat and the flowering trees. Either way, a lovely thing to look at.

It’s a landscape famous for ‘tepuis’ – remnants from an ancient plateau ‘older than life itself’ as someone explained it to me. This is the land that inspired ‘The Lost World’ – and we went up the site itself, a tepui called Roraima.

A mean walk, climbing up 1600m in one day on a path encouragingly called simply ‘The Ramp’.

On the top its a weird place, full of half evolved things that seem to have got lost in time. A frog that can’t jump, many carnivorous plants, and plenty of (we love them) bromeliads.

The view off the edge – clouds swirling over the Guyanan rainforest – was tremendous, with the cliffs of the neighbouring mountains soaring in front of us.

Of course, like good South Americans, the Venezuelans don’t call it Guyana, they call it ‘Zona en Reclamation’ – and they’ve climbed up Roraima with a bag of concrete to erect a monument stating this nice and clearly for all us wandering tourists to admire. But then it wouldn’t be a South American border without a South American border dispute.

The almost prehistoric nature of the place left me plenty of time to ponder the layers of more recent history that have followed, and the landscapes that they have left, so much of which we’ve trailed through in the last few months. It was a moment to return to the source.

We met up with my parents and shared a week in the Gran Sabana, on what my brother has described as a ‘Waterfall safari’. The rivers wind around the green landscape over beds of amazing rock – in one place a river of jasper, in others littered with quartz crystals. It’s a jeweller’s paradise, and unsurprisingly there are lots of gold mines here. Whereas California has evolved beyond the 1849 goldrush to become the place that stands for (amongst other things) Hollywood, the Beach Boys and Tales of the City, southern Venezuela still feels like a gold rush place, with dodgy little towns full of dodgy looking sorts trading in gold and gems.

Finally we visited Angel Falls, and flying back today (the falls are not accessibly by road) we admired the view from the window of oxbow lakes as the rivers snake the countryside. And how ancient dried river beds still cultivate lines of trees, themselves snaking to the horizon in a kind of crazy paisley.

Walking back to happiness

The trek was our 14th in South America – a fact which we’re quite proud of, though in print it looks a bit scary. We’ve been able to walk through parts of 6 different countries here, and we spent our last few nights under canvas remembering some of them.

It meant this trek had a lot to live up to, it didn’t disappoint.

I think walking in the peace and beauty of the mountains will perhaps be our single strongest memory of this continent – it has so many tranquil places to offer.

Fittingly, both of our pairs of walking shoes collapsed over the final few days and we limped home. We’ve traded them in for marginally more trendy trainers – don’t anticipate as much hard living for a while.

Bye bye love

We’re heading to the Caribbean coast tonight. Tomorrow we will stick our feet in the sea and know we have reached the end of this part of the trip. We’ll be very sorry to say goodbye. It’s been such a wonderful place.

We’ve carried on asking ourselves ‘but where are all the bad bits’ but the answers (apart from Lima) aren’t forthcoming. The shear diversity of places, people and experiences have been fantastic.

When we speak again it will be with Tequila in our veins.

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