Monday, June 25, 2018

Salto Ángel Overview

We finally visited the natural crown jewel of Venezuela about 2 months prior to departure. That's Salto Ángel, Angel Falls, or Kerepakupai Meru in the native Pemon language. It's also the inspiration for Paradise Falls in the Disney Pixar movie Up. This post will serve as an overview for the other blog posts about the trip. I took so many pictures and it's such a big experience that it needs more coverage. It's really worth digging into this trip as an amazing bucket list experience.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ara Merú Lodge

Our last night in Canaima was spent in Ara Merú Lodge because Waku Lodge didn't have room for us. Ara Merú had the opposite problem. We were told we hit them on a Monday between tour groups so we were actually the only guests. This allowed them to treat us to breakfast on the top of their observation deck to see the Canaima Lagoon and falls. Waku Lodge is right on the water so they have better views but this place does their best to make up for their location. It's a really nice and new place. They even have their own waterfall covering their vehicle entrance (above). We didn't spend much time at either lodge with all of the excursions so this place is worth consideration.

Kavak Gorge Waterfall

The fly over for Angel Falls is a flight to Kavak or Kavac. We were so focused on the bigger parts of the trip and getting to fly over Angel Falls that we actually didn't know what we were going to do there. We were told to wear bathing suits for another waterfall but we didn't know the setting for it. Spanish Wikipedia translates it to the Caves of Kavac but it's more of a gorge and grottos thing. We had to swim in this tight gorge to get to the waterfall pictured above. Most of these pics are blurry because once again the waterproof camera kept fogging up and couldn't handle taking pictures in the heavy mist. It was waterproof but not great for taking pics in that environment.

Flying Around Angel Falls

We boarded this small 6 person plane for a flight out to Kavak (more on that in the next post) and flew past Angel Falls on the way there and back. I was "co-pilot" going and my wife got that seat coming back. Our flight took is back over the long day trek from the previous day but of course this was much faster. We flew low over the river and close to the falls next to the lagoon before getting a little more altitude. Angel Falls is set back in the tepuy (table-top mountain) so we made hard banking turns in what was essentially a canyon on the way out. The return trip had us doing the same but then pulling up above the mountain to see a little of the flatter top. It was a great way to see the area but you only get a quick look in a noisy plane so the boating and hiking is an essential experience.

Angel Falls and Back Again

The previous post has lots of Angel Falls pics. The next day's morning light was better so there will be tons of pics in this post too. The trip back to Waku Lodge was only 2 hours because we were heading back downstream. I can't share enough pictures or words to convey the majesty of this area and the tepuy (tepui, mesa, or table-top mountains). Tepui is Pemon native language for "house of the gods" and they are special mountain forms. Their striking cliffs and waterfalls popping out everywhere were magical at times. Angel Falls is the grandest and tallest single drop waterfall in the world, but it ended up being the main crown jewel in an otherwise amazing area. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Trip to Angel Falls

This is the view at the top of Salto Hacha where we boarded a boat to start the long trek to Angel Falls (Salto Ángel). The camp near Angel Falls was about 4 hours of boat riding, hiking, and a restroom adventure (more on that later). We had lunch at camp and then went on a 3 hour round-trip hike up to the overlook (mirador) closer to the bottom of Angel Falls. The return from the overlook had us hiking in pouring rain and increasing darkness to nightfall. Surprisingly the river was lower so we had to wade across the smaller bit of the river in the dark to reach the boat for a bigger river crossing and back to the comforts of camp. Dinner was on our covered patio which was the only shelter. There were restrooms and a trickle of a shower to wash off the dirt but that was about it. They strung up hammocks for us after dinner. We slept on the covered patio as the rain lulled us to sleep. It was an awesome experience!

Salto El Sapo y Salto Hacha

The first amazing experience in Canaima was the falls (salto) of El Sapo (toad) and Hacha (ax). We took the boat across the lagoon and our indigenous guide took us on a hike to show us the local environment. He then lead us to, under, and through the falls in several spots. I emphasize through because we've never been wetter as the falls pulverized water into us. I had a waterproof camera but it fogged up and the lens was frequently covered in spray so some of these pics are a bit psychedelic.

Waku Lodge

Parque Nacional Canaima has several lodges to stay in and the best one appears to be Waku Lodge. They seemed to have the biggest presence right on the water across from Salto El Sapo and all of the excursions were well done. As usual, click on the pictures for a bigger version.