Trek to Mount Roraima

Santa Elena de Uairen Travel Blog

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A rare clear view of Mount Roraima from a distance
I arrived in Santa Elena from Brazil hoping to hike to Mount Roraima, one of the most famous tepuis in Venezuela and the world. The mountain sits at the triple border between Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana, although the Guyana-Venezuela is disputed by Venezuela. I spent two days in Santa Elena to wander around the town and to find a group to do the hike. Crossing the border from Brazil was easy enough with the numerous shared taxis that cross the border from Pacaraima or La Linnea as it is known as. To pay for the trip I had to actually cross back into Brazil because the two ATMs in Santa Elena don´t appear to work with foreign cards. This was also advantageous because by bringing foreign currency into Venezuela you can circumvent the imposed fixed exchange rate that Venezuela has by changing money on the so called Black Market.
The trail through the jungle
The official exchange rate is about 2.1 Bolivars to the US dollar but if you changing US dollars on the Black Market you get at least 3.1 Bolivars to the dollar and if you are changing Reais you get about 2.9 Bolivars per US dollar of Reais so it is quite a significant difference. Though the Black Market sounds ominous, in Santa Elena it consists of numerous people that stand around the street corner near the Plaza Bolivar and openly change money; while being technically illegal it operates very freely and in plain view. The other strange thing about Venezuela is the time difference, the country is 30 minutes behind Brazilian time and 30 minutes ahead of Colombian time. Why 30 minutes? Because Venezuela lies more or less between the ends of each time zone so Chavez decided to split the difference, what purpose this serves other than to make people half an hour late or early I have absolutely no idea.
Looking up at the vertical rock face of Mount Roraima
 

It was relatively easy to form a group for the trek to Mount Roraima and I ended up going with 2 Japanese, 2 Colombians, an Australian, and a Swedish guy. We decided to do the trip in 5 days instead of 6 so that we had to carry one days less food and because the two Japanese were in a bit of a hurry. The Colombians joined our group at the last minute the morning of our departure and decided to pay for the fancy option where they had porters to carry their stuff and food and prepare meals for them as well. The full price of everything with porters and food for 6 days was 1100 Bolivars, for us, carrying our own food and bags cost 400 Bolivars. Unfortunately Santa Elena has just about the worst selection of food in the stores and there isn´t even a proper grocery store, and food isn´t cheap either, especially for what you are getting.
Our campsite under a rock ledge on the top
I did manage to find some ham and salami and cheese to make sandwiches and bought some other snacks as well.

The first day was easy enough and consisted of a two hour jeep ride out to the starting point that was a small indigenous village northeast of Santa Elena. From there we hiked for about three hours and after taking off our boots and crossing two rivers we arrived at the first campsite around 4:30pm. The weather was nice and sunny and we were lucky to get some excellent views of Mount Roraima in the distance. The tent was pretty cramped with three of us and sleeping on the hard ground was by no means comfortable. We started early on the second day because we had a long way as we needed to reach the top before it got dark and it was all uphill, all day long.
The scenery of the Lost World
The trail wound its way through the rolling hills of the Gran Sabana and after the first hour or so a light rain began to fall. After the second hour the light rain turned into a heavy rain and we continued hiking until we reached Base Camp, the last campsite before the trail really starts going steeply uphill towards the top. Here we had an early lunch and waited for the rain to let up, which it finally did, a little bit at least. From Base Camp the trail was very steep, at times requiring us to climb up rocky slopes. After about an hour and half of hiking through the jungle near the base of Mount Roraima and reached the foot of the shear rock face of Mount Roraima. It was still foggy and rainy so there wasn´t much visibility but looking up as the rock face disappeared into the fog and clouds was an impressive sight.
The vast unforgiving landscape on top
Forty five minutes later and we reached a steep section of the trail full of loose rocks on which a waterfall was cascading down from the top due to all the rain that was falling. Since we had come up in altitude it was considerably colder and we were all soaking wet from the rain, these two things made us hurry quickly through the waterfall, getting closer and closer to the top. The guide let us go ahead as we wanted to move a bit faster and so three of us reached the top first and were huddled under a small rock ledge to stay out of the rain and wind while we waited for the guide to arrive. Luckily we didn´t have to wait long and the guide led us through this bizarre rocky landscape towards a rock overhang that formed a shelter for our tents.
The bizarre foggy landscape on the top
It was nice to get out of our wet clothes and have yet another sandwich for dinner as night fell and the rains continued. The top of Roraima is at 2800 meters so it gets pretty cold at night, a few degrees above freezing sometimes, a cold that I hadn´t seen since leaving La Paz a month ago, but at least it preserved my sandwich meat.

In the morning we woke up to lots of fog but thankfully no rain. This allowed us to go exploring on the top. The scenery on the top was truly amazing, certainly fitting of the title The Lost World. There were strange rock formations and alien vegetation that was like nothing I have ever seen before, shaped by the millions of years that have passed it by. Without a guide we would have been lost almost instantly as everything looks similar and it is almost impossible to actually walk in a straight line due to the various rock outcroppings and pools and rivers and marshy area.
Luminescent pools and rock reflections
The top is littered with quartz crystals of various sizes that in sunlight sparkle and shine. We made our way to one side of Roraima where if it were clear we would have had a view over the vast expanse of the Guyana jungle but unfortunately it was completely cloudy and foggy and we saw nothing but the drastic drop-off of the rock ledge disappear into the fog. At least I had already gotten to see the Guyana jungle when I was in Guyana. After some further walking we came to some strangely luminescent pools that had cut deep shapes into the rocks and reflected the surrounding alien landscape. We returned to camp for lunch and some rest and the weather continued to clear and we managed to even get some sun for a few minutes here and there but it was still cloudy in the distance and we had no views at all.
Looking out along the rock face of Mount Roraima
Some 30 minutes later we were treated to a clearing in the clouds and we rushed across the rocky landscape toward the edge of Roraima. From the edge we had panoramic views of the vast expanse of the Gran Sabana far below and we could see the small dot of the Base Camp shelter where we had come from the day before. Later in the afternoon we hiked up to the highest point of Mount Roraima at 2880 meters and with a brief clearing of the clouds we had clear views of the shear rock face of Roraima as it tumbled towards the fringes of the jungle surrounding its base. In the distance on the top of Roraima was the unique and unforgiving rocky landscape and vegetation that extended as far as we could see and gradually merged with the descending fog. We enjoyed a few moments of sun as the weather capriciously changed about every two minutes, alternating between sun, clouds, rain, and wind, and sometimes all four at once.
The rock face of Roraima
The rain set in once again as we returned to camp for yet another night on top.

The hike back down was pleasant and of course we managed to get lots of rain which formed lots of waterfalls streaming from the top of Roraima its sister tepui which were beautiful to see, when you could see them. We made it to the first campsite and got to relax and swim in the river while our clothes dried in the sun. And luckily it was only one more night to sleep in the tent, which I had grown to loathe due to its lack of space and the hardness of the ground. And the last night also meant that my monotonous diet of sandwiches, strawberry sugar wafer, nutri grain bars, and cookies was also coming to an end. One more morning of mostly dry hiking and we arrived back at the village where we met our jeep to get back to Santa Elena.
A view of the Gran Sabana from Mt. Roraima
I was so looking forward to sleeping in a bed that night, but after cleaning up the first thing I did was to head across the border to Brazil to eat in a churrascaria. It was by far the best tasting food I had eaten in the last five days and raised my spirits as I began looking forward to my next stop, Angel Falls.
knowledgebee says:
Nice blog, thanks for sharing your experience. The tabletop mountains look absolutely fascinating. Was it easy to secure an expedition group on your own?
Posted on: Nov 05, 2011
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A rare clear view of Mount Roraima…
A rare clear view of Mount Roraim…
The trail through the jungle
The trail through the jungle
Looking up at the vertical rock fa…
Looking up at the vertical rock f…
Our campsite under a rock ledge on…
Our campsite under a rock ledge o…
The scenery of the Lost World
The scenery of the Lost World
The vast unforgiving landscape on …
The vast unforgiving landscape on…
The bizarre foggy landscape on the…
The bizarre foggy landscape on th…
Luminescent pools and rock reflect…
Luminescent pools and rock reflec…
Looking out along the rock face of…
Looking out along the rock face o…
The rock face of Roraima
The rock face of Roraima
A view of the Gran Sabana from Mt.…
A view of the Gran Sabana from Mt…
Strange rock formation on top
Strange rock formation on top
A tiny black frog from the top
A tiny black frog from the top
The confusing landscapes from the …
The confusing landscapes from the…
Green pool and green vegetation
Green pool and green vegetation
Brightly colored sand and rock arc…
Brightly colored sand and rock ar…
Exploring the top of Roraima
Exploring the top of Roraima
Strange vegetation and rock format…
Strange vegetation and rock forma…
The wet and damp alien world of th…
The wet and damp alien world of t…
Ancient rocks from another era
Ancient rocks from another era
The edge of Roraima and the Gran S…
The edge of Roraima and the Gran …
Another rock ledge and campsite on…
Another rock ledge and campsite o…
A view of the 600 meter waterfall …
A view of the 600 meter waterfall…
More scenery from the top
More scenery from the top
The tepui next to Roraima amidst t…
The tepui next to Roraima amidst …
Roraima and the neighboring tepui …
Roraima and the neighboring tepui…
Santa Elena de Uairen