Getting ourselves ready...
It took a couple of days to sort out out a tour to climb Mount Roraima. There are about 5 or 6 companies who offer tours and they generally run different days. I got up too late to a tour Saturday and Sunday no-one really departs so had to wait around til Monday. I bumped into Ralf (Holland) in the internet cafe while trying to wile a few hours away and it turned out he wanted to go as well (with his girlfriend Judith) - they had spoken to Mystic Tours, so decided to go with them. Going Monday meant spending a couple of days in Santa Elena - not a great use of time as there isn´t anything to do in that town, especially on a Sunday when everything closes (I mean everything!).
On Sunday evening we had a pre-hike briefing with Roberto, the enthusiastic (and somewhat overweight) owner of Mystic Tours.
Looking refreshed and relaxed, that didn't last long!!
He gave us loads of information about the tour and also his views on UFOs in the area - he has actually mapped ´sightings´and passionately believes in them, even asking us to keep our eyes open especially in case we could add to his map!
We were all excited when Monday came round and luckily two more joined our group, Will and Patrick from London. That had two advantages - making our trip more fun with more people and also reducing the price! After sorting out bags etc (I still plumped for taking my main backpack (somewhat decluttered) with everyone else taking only the bare minimum in small rucksacks...would I regret this decision later I was thinking?!?
We jumped into the 4x4 for the hour-and-a-half trip to Paraitepuy, the village which acts as a starting point for treks to Mount Roraima.
Rio Tek camp, night one
We immediately people who had just finished their treks, looking generally a mess, totally shattered, but also with smiles of satisfaction which insinuated that this was no walk in the park. We waited while our guide got himself organised. We were wondering what the delay was until we realised that Jose, literally having just returned with another group, was turning straight round to take us up! Bet he loved the tour owner for that!!
So fresh as dasies, we set off from the village, wondering what lay ahead of us. Will and Patrick were slightly disorganised, having just come from Angel Falls - and were sporting trainers as their footwear of choice a 6-day 80km trek - good on ya chaps! We had about 4 hours walking on the first day to get to the Río Tek camp - with the packs on our backs and searing heat we were soon sweating like pigs.
Will attempting to cross the river at Rio Tek
Luckily water wasn´t a problem as Jose told us we could fill up our bottles straight from the rivers as the water was so pure - and honestly, you could not taste any difference from the bottled water you buy in the shops! After the porters set up camp for us and cooked up a tasty dinner, it was soon dark. You don´t get electricity in these parts, which meant total darkness except for the unbelievably bright moon and stars, which happily allowed safe passage to the bushes for a midnight toilet run! Knackered and knowing we would be up early, we made our way to our tents by 7.30pm!
A slightly out of sync cockrel had everyone awake early - crowing at 3.30,4.30 and 5.30 he certainly made sure there was no sleeping in.
Not that it was likely for me - I´ve never been a camping fan, particularly because I cannot sleep on uncomfortable surfaces and the mats provided by Roberto were sadly lacking any factor of comfort. Add to that sharing a tent with Will and Patrick (a tad cramped and very smelly due to Pat´s incessant farting!) and I must´ve got about 2 hours. Still, after a breakfast of arepas (bloody stodgy for 6 in the morning!), we were ready to get going again. We didn´t feel too bad after the first day but knew there was a long way still to go. Day two consisted of getting to ´Base Camp´, about another 12-15km away. Roraima gradually drew in on us as we aproached - dominating the horizon, never allowing us to forget how high we were going. It wasn´t a simple journey, however - we had to cross two rivers, both requiring a certain amount of dexterity and fancy footwork - quite difficult when you´re scared your backpack could be soaked at any point if you put a step wrong.
Ralf taking a much needed break!!
Still, we amused ourselves by laughing at our Russian comrades who seemed to be following us (with a suspiciously un guide-like guide from Guyana), particularly the guy in the full army outfit who looked the part, but still managed to get drenched trying to cross!
We reached Base Camp, knowing that we had a tough day ahead of us, so after a tasty supper of Spaghetti Bolognese, expertly prepared by Saleem, we played of few rounds of our new favourite card game, ´Toepen´(a dutch game), which everyone took ultra seriously! Pat sadly struggled to grasp the game completely and didn´t win a single hand! Another night in the lovely smelly 3 man tent, but at least we didn´t have the cockrel this time!
Roraima General Tips & Advice review
Cheap, good value tour!
In Santa Elena, there are about 5 or 6 tour companies offering treks to Roraima. They all do the same route and the camps on the way are the same, so… read entire review