Venezuela - Brazil Day 334 - 357
28.10.2011 - 21.11.2011 30 °C
Days slept in hammocks in Venezuela and Brazil= 12
Consective days with at least one meal containing rice, beans and coleslaw = 12
Height of Angel Falls = 979m
Overall 'blob' games tally = Richard 6 Laura 2 Pauline 0
Something we had been looking forward to all year was the trip deep into the wilds of Venezuela to see the world's highest waterfall. Angel falls didn't dissappoint. But first we had to survive the 'death plane'. The only way to get to the small town that allows access to Canaima National park is to fly in one of those tiny 6-seater planes that look like toys. Richard was excited, I was terrified and Laura said she was dreading it more than an operation! It all went off without a hitch, and Richard was over the moon to be coined 'co-pilot' in the front seat next to the pilot while the Gallon sisters cowered in the back next to the luggage. The views were spectacular (once we'd dried our eyes!) and the landing, although a little unconventional, as smooth as you like. I say unconventional as we landed just to the right of the run way in order to avoid the skeleton of last weeks plane that hadn't landed so smoothly!
Now pro's at hammock sleeping, after a few rounds of risk with our group the 3 of us had no trouble dozing off in the camp to get an early start for the trek to the main draw. We'll let the pictures do the talking on that. It's the skyscraper of waterfalls for sure, I did my scientific test as in, if you have to crane your neck, then look up again to see the top, its a skyscraper. After a sweaty ascent, we cooled off in the pool at the foot of the mighty falls and took the mandatory 'cheesy' group pics. On our way back to Canaima from our camp the canoe got stuck on the rocks and the boys got stuck and nearly stranded pushing us free. Further down the river we had to get out and walk a stretch to avoid dangerous rapids, a luxury they hadn't granted us up stream due to lack of time, white water rafting in a motorised canoe is scary.
There are several amazing waterfalls in Canaima too and our tour included a closer look at Salto el Sapo. We got to walk behind the curtain and got totally soaked, not all of our group made it passed the underwater stage but we wont mention any names!
Almost at the end of our time in Venezuela, we returned to Ciudad Bolivar then took a night bus to Santa Elena, on the border with Brazil. Out of season and out of Venezuelan Bolivares there wasn't much to entertain so we settled for pool, cards and cold beers. We met a Scottish traveller who didn't pay for his beers (no stereotypes please) and who dealt cards according to Laura 'like an amateur'. He went on to beat us at every game we know - typical! Next day we took a taxi to the border and so began our Brazillian adventure. It started badly when, too engrossed in our game of blob at the bus station and oblivious to the fact that Brasil is 30 minutes ahead of Venezuelan time, we were politely called to get on the bus as it was rolling out of the station. It soon picked up when a very handsome man (one tooth, half a T-shirt and an impressive belly) took a shine to Laura and chatted to her most of the way to Boa Vista.
Manaus was our first real Brazillian stop off and we all liked it almost immediately. It's a bustling city with plenty going on and cheap! Our hostel was about a sixth of the price of the rest of Brasil and the pay per kilo restaurant across the road helped us to settle in. Despite liking the place, we all decided it would be a shame to miss out on an Amazon Jungle trip so we put our trust in Eule and set off into the wilderness once more.
After boating to the 'meeting of the waters' where the light brown Solimoes river meets the dark Rio Negro and the Amazon truly begins, we took a motorised canoe to a floating lodge which would be our accommodation for the night. Whilst chilling in the afternoon we got a treat of sorts, spotting a rare sloth bear practically drowning in the River. We (or in truth one of the brazilians) rescued it and we dropped it off back on the river bank. After that start we went piranha fishing again but this time Pauline's luck turned and Richard was the only one of our group to catch one. Our guide, Joshua, showed us all how it's done hooking what must have been a 25-30lb catfish. After dark he also talked us through the features of an alligator after he dived into the reeds after it. Bit of a show off really! The next day we headed further into the Jungle and set up our hammocks to spend a night in the true rainforest. Whilst the rest of us spent the time worrying about tarantulas, Laura became obsessed with the stick that was used as a wedge to hold up her hammock. Convinced she was going to fall to the jungle floor in the middle of the night she was constantly asking 'do you think my stick will hold', much to our amusement, whenever the wind (or Richard) gave the hammocks a swing.
Back in the relative safety of Manaus, we put Laura on her plane to Rio 'by her own' and headed for our boat journey down the rest of the Amazon to the Brazilian coast and Belem. Sold as a 3 nighter, it turned into a 5 night slog, arriving roughly 2 days late! It was a true test of mental strength since it was packed full of people and fish and the entertainment was limited to tubby blokes dancing under the on-deck showers. We even resorted to inventing prison-style schedules to keep us going (shower 7am, lunch 12.30pm, exercise 3pm etc)! Still the river dolphins, sunsets and child pirates, who hooked there small boats to ours to save some rowing time, helped to break the monotony.
Arriving in Belem was a relief even if there wasn't much to see there. We switfly moved along the coast to Sao Luis and after spending two hours trying to find a hotel that wasn't falling apart and had a room that had been cleaned we settled down for one night and then moved on again. In what we hope might be our last night bus (wouldn't be surprised if you can hear us shouting for joy from here!) we decided to go all the way to Recife (24 hours) and then up the coast a few hours to a small beachside town called Jacumá. So that's where we sit now having enjoyed 3 days of pure relaxation on possibly the best beaches we've seen all year, not to mention a few too many caipirinhas and huge breakfasts that Richard won't forget in a hurry.
Only 8 sleeps left on foreign soil. We plan to be in Rio by Saturday so we have time to take in the sights before BA kindly fly us home next week. I hope it's bigger than a cessna!
.................................................There are new photos in the gallery, it just wont let us publish them in this blog.........................................