Thursday 07 May 2015

Visiting the Tallest Waterfall in the World – Angel Falls 3 Day Trip Review Part 2 of 2: Arriving At the Mysterious Angel Falls!

Bucket list - CHECK!!

In this 2nd part, you get to see the journey up river, the hike, and Angel Falls themselves! For the first part of my Canaima National Park review including the Canaima Lagoon waterfalls, and the 6 seater plane ride, click HERE:

1. Heading to South America for 1 Month – Details
2. Venezuela’s Black Market Money Exchange
3. Busses, Canyoning, & Paragliding in Venezuela – OH MY!
4. I LOVE WHITEWATER RAFTING! Review of My 18th Time in Venezuela Last Week
5. Visiting the Tallest Waterfall in the World – Angel Falls 3 Day Trip Review Part 1 of 2: Ciudad Bolivar & Canaima National Park
6. Timeshare Merchant Travel thats Affordable for My New Business!

Day 2 in Canaima National Park we would finally begin our journey up river to get to the much-anticipated Angel Falls. I was pretty excited, but I knew we had a lot of ground to cover still before we could see the falls, so I wasn’t quite freaking out yet. Here’s the itinerary to get to Angel Falls:
– 45 minute hike to the motorized canoe
– 4 hour motorized canoe ride up Canaima River
– camp overnight in hammocks
– 1 hour up-hill hike in the thick jungle
*Arrive at Angel Falls!

Not bad, right?!

I started to really like the motorized canoes. It was a very efficient way to travel, especially with the price of gas in Venezuela. Did you know that Venezuela has the cheapest gas in the WORLD?! It costs literally about $2 to fill up your car. It’s pennies for a gallon of gas. The government owns and controls their gas. Venezuela has a lot of corrupt parts about it, but they pride themselves in providing cheap gas for their citizens.
So for this reason, the motorized canoes are a great way to get around Canaima National park!

We packed small bags for the overnight trip. I brought 2 of my watertight, waterproof bags that I use when I kayak on this trip for this very reason. Great way to ensure that none of my stuff will get wet! These are the same bags that people use whitewater rafting, and you can get them at outdoor sporting good stores like Gander Mtn, Scheels, etc…
They had everybody put their packs into trash sacks, and we loaded them all into the center of the large canoe. We had the 2 of us, 3 guides, and 5 other travelers, so 10 people in the canoe. 2 of the other travelers, a couple from Hungary, had literally just stepped off their plane at the Canaima airport (see part 1 of 2 about the airport) just 5 minutes before hiking to the canoe with us! Insane…

We were told that we would canoe about 1 hour upriver, but then we would all have to get out and hike for 45 minutes upstream while the guides took the canoe through a long chain of rapids. They needed the boat as light as possible so they could just blaze through the rapids quickly, without having to worry about tourists falling in. The hike was through a hot and open area, almost like a desert. We finished the hike, and the canoe rolled up about 20 minutes later, and was very wet. We really had no way of knowing if any of our bags had fallen into the river until we would unpack all of the trash sacks later that night, haha! Wild times.

The river was generally flat, so we weren’t expecting to hit rapids after walking around this rapid chain. We went about another 20 minutes and hit a small area of rapids. The boat is flying up river, so we knew we had potential to get soaked. We hit the first wave WAYYYY too fast, and the guides didn’t even warn us as a wave of water went over top the entire front of the boat where all of us tourists were sitting!! We all were totally soaked from head to toe. Thanks for the warning guys…. We joked about that all weekend about how un-informative the guides were. We knew we were at one of the cheaper lodges, but a little better communication from our God about things would have been good.
Made it another hour and had lunch at a small shelter hut on the side of the river. We were all a little curious what the food would be like from the canoe. Surprisingly enough, we all had individual containers of spaghetti! They were in little to-go style containers similar to what you would get at an italian restaurant, and they were still warm! We had that along with water and tang, or so we called it. You know Tang, right? That orangeish tangy orange juice style drink that is a powder mix. It was the drink of choice in Canaima apparently.

The weather for the canoe ride was hot, then raining, then cold, then hot, then raining, then cold, repeat. It was changing constantly.

As we continued up river, the scenery started to open up and get even more dramatic as masssiiiivvvveee Tepui mountains started appearing amidst mystical fog, and jungle lines. We saw several waterfalls of several hundred feet pouring from the tepuis from rainfall and small streams. We were constantly letting out gasps of excitement and being awe-struck by the scenery. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his book “The Lost World” which the Jurassic Park movies were made after, about this very region of the world and the scenery of the Tepui mountains. We were truly entering a very unique area that only a handful of people will ever see in their lifetime. No roads, no electricity, and no long line of tourists were anywhere to be found! This was absolutely The Lost World, and still in it’s unspoiled state.

"Oohhhhh, Ahhhhh!"


When it wasn't raining, the scenery was unbelievable!

The last 40 minutes of the canoe ride, the river started turning a lot more windy, and the rocks got bigger, and small rapids were more frequent. As we sped around a turn, sure enough, off in the distance you could see what looked like a waterfall pouring off a mountain. Could it be? It was… ANGEL FREAKING FALLS!!!

You could only see the top half from where we were at in the river. 10 minutes later, we docked the canoe at a rocky bank. It was a perfect viewpoint of Angel Falls, and also happened to be where we would spend the night. Check out this view of the tallest waterfall in the world:

Just chilling at the tallest waterfall in the world...

We got lucky that the clouds weren't blocking our view!

I had my point & shoot camera, my iPhone, and my waterproof camera with me. Needless to say I was playing with modes, and snapping pictures with all 3 of them! I was totally in awe of the sheer size of Angel Falls. A couple of days ago I wrote to you guys about how whitewater rafting is my favorite sport in the world. Waterfalls have been one of my most favorite places ever since I was a little boy, growing up in a family that would camp each summer. We would always find waterfalls to hike to, and I always had to stand in them, and swim!

Angel Falls was different though… This was the granddaddy of all waterfalls! We had just taken an overnight bus, a 90 minute flight, hiked almost 2 hours, and sat in a hard canoe for 4+ hours navigating the Canaima river to get to this point.  And we were still an hour’s hike through the jungle to the official foot of the falls! What a place.

The scenery in every direction was absolutely stunning. The waterfall itself literally flows right off the top of one of the special Tepui mountains. This one is called Auyentepui. Further to the right there was another tepui, and behind you was the river and another massive tepui in the distance. In between all of it was a wild wild jungle full of poisonous snakes and spiders that rarely see humans! This is not Yellowstone National Park, people!

We had a couple of hours before dinner, so we took some dips in the river, took pictures of the falls, and setup our hammocks for the night in the shelter. The shelter was super basic with a long picnic table, about 15 hammocks hung, and 3 small “bathrooms” that were made of wood, and had a toilet. The toilets didn’t flush though and there was no toilet paper. I brought my own bio-degradable toilet paper though for this trip and for the Amazon Jungle later in the trip.

During this break before dinner, I walked off by myself on the river banks and setup a little bed of rocks and literally just laid there and stared at Angel Falls, praying, and thanking the Lord for over an hour. I was just in awe! It was more amazing than I ever could have imagined. Just being there at all after the long journey, and realizing that one of my life goals was now complete, was extremely surreal. Heck, that the clouds were even aligned to see the whole thing was amazing in itself!
It reminded me of when my family camped at the Grand Canyon for a couple weeks. I remember sitting on the edge of the canyon with my feet hanging over the edge and staring at it for hours at a time, more than once, constantly in awe of the size and beauty, and having a hard time fathoming that there could even exist such a place.
Makes me super excited to be in Heaven someday, as the scriptures describe the most glorious place above our comprehension!

Our guides cooked some chicken, or variation of it (who knows!) over a big fire for dinner and it was pretty good. We drank more water and more tang along with the dinner. That tang was dang good (see what I did there?!)!
We went to bed early because we had to wake up at 5am to start our sunrise hike to the official view of the Falls. I had no problem falling asleep and slept for a solid 5 hours until I was abruptly awaken to my stomach going insane. Unfortunately I learned all too well what it was like to be a girl and to have to sit on those nasty camp toilets. I don’t know if it was something I ate, touched, or drank, nor when I consumed it, but I paid for it all night and even till now (a week later), just not as frequently. So goes traveling sometimes!

Our guide shook our hammocks at 5am and woke us all up. Even though I was crapping my guts out all night, I apparently think I slept more than everybody else. Most of the group said they only slept 30-60 minutes. I think they were a little delusional though b/c all of them except for 1 person were definitely sleeping each time I woke up to go to the bathroom. TMI?

We put on our headlamps, and headed into the thick jungle. The night before, I saw a spider on a rock the size of my fist, and our guide warned us that there are very poisonous snakes and spiders in the jungle. We were on high alert, that’s for sure! Night hiking is a very creepy and humbling thing.

It was supposed to be an hour hike to the viewpoint, which was mostly accurate. It was a GRUELING hike in which we sweated it out. Good Morning Angel Falls!! You can’t see the tallest waterfall in the world in the middle of the Venezuelan jungle without putting in some work! I like it. After awhile of hiking the sun came up and headlamps weren’t needed anymore. We hiked up, and up, and up, and UPPP!!! There wasn’t much information about this trip available online before hand, so we really had no idea what to expect. Most people were wearing lots of layers and were laughing at me for wearing shorts and a tshirt/light jacket. I laughed later as they all shed soaking layers until they were half-naked. The hike was very steep, and really took a lot of energy! We hadn’t eaten anything that morning (poor planning), and most people didn’t sleep well, so we were really struggling.

About an hour and 15 minutes into the hike of the ever so thick jungle, we got a small peak of the falls but they seemed to be mostly covered in morning clouds except for the mist at the bottom. If we hadn’t been spoiled with the most perfect view the night before at the campsite, I would have been severely bummed! The roar of the falls and the mist was majestic though, so I was getting really anxious to see it up close. 5 minutes later we arrived at the official viewpoint where there’s a massive  boulder to sit on as you take in the tallest waterfall known to man. Still cloudy though. Occasionally we would get a glimpse of part of the falls. We sat there for about an hour, mostly pretty quiet. Most of us had smiles on our faces, some people were meditating, some people were listening to music and staring deep into thought, some taking pictures. It was a very special time for me and everyone else involved in the trip (8 of us hiked up). We were the only people at the falls. No other groups, and not a sound was heard that wasn’t natural.

After sitting there for about 45 minutes, you could see that there was about to be a clear gap in between clouds and it looked like we were about to get a total view of the falls from top to bottom. Just getting all of it clear is a task as it falls over 3,000 feet. Water falling that far creates almost it’s own weather stream too, as it’s almost like it’s raining on that part of the mountain 24/7. Sure enough, the clouds blew by and we got the most PERFECT view of Angel Falls, right up close, and very personal!  It was one of the best moments of my life. Check it out for yourself:

Bucket list - CHECK!!

that water is falling over 2,900 feet!

One of the best moments of my life!

After a lot of smiles, pictures, oohs, and ahhs, we hiked back down to base camp. We still had to pack up our stuff, and boat 4 hours downstream back to Canaima to make our flights back to the city that afternoon. We came down the same way we came up, and the river looked about the same in terms of rapids. The scenery was a little different as we got to see all the Tepui mountains from a different angle. That was neat. The weather was pretty similar to the prior day with fluctuations of rain and clear skies, and we definitely got wet!

After arriving back in Canaima, we had lunch at the lodge and then headed to the small airport for our flight out.


In one weekend I broke my smallest plane record twice! If you remember, the plane ride to Canaima National Park was in a 6 seater plane. This flight was in a 4 seater plane! Kate rode shotgun with the pilot and I rode in the back with my new friend Mike. PICTURE:

Prettyyyyyy small!

We had quite the sketchy first few minutes. We threw our bags in the back, and the pilot shut our door, and he pointed at the door lever and asked me to turn the handle so the door latches shut. I turned the handle and it BROKE OFF in my hand! I should have demanded some MILES!! Oh if they only existed in the Venezuelan jungle… It actually was pretty awkward as he seemed genuinely bummed that the handle broke! Not my fault man! It looked like it was held on with super glue prior, so I don’t think I was the first, nor will I be the last person to break the door handle. Crazy!


When we took off, we sped down the runway in the tiny plane, which was smaller than every vehicle I’ve ever owned. When the pilot pulled to take us up in the air, we lifted off the ground for about 2 seconds, but then fell back down and bounced sideways off the runway!! We skidded slightly sideways for a split second, and then lifted up again! The pilot gave us all like a nod that all was okay, but it certainly was NOT okay 5 seconds ago! It definitely felt like I was living in an Indiana Jones movie, that’s for sure!

In summary, I have always been amazed at the beauty of waterfalls, and Angel Falls delivered to every extent! I couldn’t believe the size in person, nor just how incredible the whole journey would be. I highly recommend anyone who appreciates outdoor beauty and has an adventurous spirit to visit Angel Falls.

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