Woke at a time I’d usually be heading in from a night out – 4:30am – to start the tour to Angel Falls, buried deep in remote jungle. It’s funny the energy you somehow get, despite the crushing feeling of tiredness when you first wake up….the promise that soon you will see something that is world-renowned and something that you’ve only ever seen on TV and never thought you’d get a chance to see….that faint buzz of adrenaline and excitement is something I’ve experienced when heading off to see another natural wonder – Gunung Bromo in Java, or the architectural splendors of Angkor Wat, and the Taj Mahal. That buzz, and the air of excitement in the air brought by everyone else – only intensifies the closer you get to seeing something you know you’ll remember forever.
Getting to Angel Falls isn’t easy – but that’s all part of the Indiana Jones adventure. We got picked up in a truck, which took us 15 minutes down a dirt track to a calm river, outrigger canoes bobbing quietly in the pale morning light. We climbed into one of the canoes, and were speeded towards the northern bank. We reached it after 30 minutes, climbed out, and got picked up by a huge red tractor. The group of us – Spanish, Venezuelans, and Russians, then boarded the tractor trailer, and began an impossibly bumpy 30 minute ride to join the same river, though further down. The presence of a waterfall stopped progress all the way through on the river, so that’s where the tractor came in. Rejoining our motorized canoes, we sped up-river for an hour, through the jungle, before stopping at a wooden shack on the river side for breakfast, where we ate some sandwiches and had tea. We got back on the boat and headed up-river for 2 more hours. The views on the way were absolutely spectacular. Tepuis – flat-topped mountains synonymous with Venezuela, loomed up ahead of the steamy jungle, in front and on either side, enveloping us. They looked amazing – and ominously prehistoric at the same time. I half-expected a pterodactyl to swoop past. The skies became blue as the morning mist lifted, and the views became ever more impressive. Suddenly, we saw it. Salto Angel. Angel Falls. Silent and epic, the water as if frozen. Coming from a huge Auyantepui and funneling into moody rock skyscrapers of the Canon del Diablo (Devil’s Canyon), Angel Falls has a total height of 979m, and the water cascades down for a continuous drop of 807m. The world’s highest waterfall. Named after Jimmy Angel, an American Bush pilot, who ‘discovered’ it in the 1930s by accidentally crashlanding on top of the tepui it comes out from.. ‘Salto Angel’ proclaimed the guide proudly. We parked up further upstream, and began a 1 hour trek through quite dense jungle to get to the viewpoint. It didn’t disappoint. Never have I felt so dwarfed and helpless in the presence of Mother Nature, so in awe. Vero and I took a lot of photos, and then went down to the foot of the falls, clambering over the huge boulders that in the wet season are completely inaccessible. We’d picked the perfect time and day. The skies were blue, we could make out the top perfectly….usually it’s misty here. I felt blessed. Everyone seemed ecstatic – partly no doubt to the completion of what felt like a real adventure to get here. I could have spent all day here, but after an hour or so, we had to climb back down to the river. We had a chicken, rice and salad meal, then climbed aboard our boats for the trip back, which was shorter as we were going down-stream. We got to the area where the tractor dropped us off, but it wasn’t there. It started raining heavily, so we ducked into a traditional house and saw 2 native ‘Indian’ kids sheltering there too. They looked very cute, looking at the foreigners fearfully through their big eyes. The tractor came eventually. After we got back to the lodge we were greeted with a tea, coffee and cake buffet, which went down a treat in the chilly early evening air. Vero and I, shattered from a day of fantastic experiences, fell asleep, and were woken by a member of staff just in time for a late dinner. We finished a bottle of Chilean wine and eventually slept at around 1:30am. An incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience!