Week 5 - Return to CivilisationApril 9, 2017 in Venezuela
My final week in the Jungle was a short one, as I left on Friday, but I had a great final few days. Me and Orlando spent Monday morning in laughter whilst moving mattresses, bed frames and furniture around cabins in preparation for future guests. We used the old boat to help (I got to drive it!) and did a lot of messing around as were both in a giddy mood. The day became even better when after lunch we headed to the jungle. We had to cut, carry, and transport bamboo from the jungle to the camp for building material. It was hard work, cutting down enormous shoots with a machete was one thing, but dragging them back to the boat through a dense, muddy, hot wnd humid jungle was unpleasent. We needed 20 large bamboo, but the machete broke after 10, and thank God it did - I was fucking exhausted. Before leaving the jungle, Orlando climbed vertically up a 50ft palm tree to get coconuts. It's normal practice for the people here but I was scared for him; one slip is all it takes... Anyway we ate some coconut and i drove the bamboo-filled boat back to camp. At this point I wanted my bed, but I still went out in my kayak for a few hours down the jungle-river to complete an awesome day.
On Tuesday afternoon a new volunteer arrived. Maycon, A 28-year-old backpacker from Brazil, had just come from Roraima (my next destination) and would spend a month at the Lodge. He'd lived in New-Zealand for 2 years, and in Brazil he was an English teacher, so speaks perfect English, lucky me! He's a cool guy, and we worked all of Wednesday together so got to know eachothers well. We talked about our travel plans and it turns out we're both doing a similar route, so will probably cross paths in Colombia. He also told me all about Roraima and how awesome it was so I'm now very exited for it.
On my last day in the delta, after packing and cleaning my cabin, I took Maycon on a Kayaking adventure down my favourite 'river'. We did it at peak high-tide, so the usual overhanging branches and vegetation were low and touching the water in places. It was difficult for me, but for first-time kayaker Maycon it was a challenging 3-hour battle. The river was super dense and there was shit everywhere so it was tricky and he really struggled. Anyway we emerged back out of the jungle 3 hours later; scratched, bitten and bleeding, just before it was going dark. We had a great afternoon, and for me it would be the last time Kayaking here.
Friday morning was my departure from the camp. After saying goodbyes I boarded a tiny wooden boat with a local Warao family at 7am. It would take some 2 hours rough journey uncomfortably sat on the floor to reach Tucupita, the nearest town. There I met Orlando, who had just come out of hospital with wife and newborn baby girl Estelle. He helped me get to the transport terminal and onto a shared 'taxi' heading for Puerto Ordaz. Compared with my last Venezuelan travel experience, this one was fairly straightforward, and I even fell asleep in the car.
Joel and 12 others were passing through Puerto Ordaz on Friday night, on their way to Roraima, and were staying at 'the Mara inn'. This is where I would stay the night, and I had no idea what to expect, but I arrived to a fancy modern hotel with a room-price to match (£20 a night is a lot here!). I paid, but was short on cash, so after talking to the receptionist, her friend drove to the hotel with a binbag full of bills. I gave him $150 (just 3 notes!) in return for 500,000bolivars (all in 100's and 50's notes) weighing more than my bag. Anyway, I had arrived safely and obtained cash by 2pm so had the whole afternoon to relax before my friends arrived in the evening. It was great to see everyone again; we had some food and then drank spirits all night at the bar. After a month without alcohol, it hit me pretty hard, so i had a good night! The next morning I would see them all again at breakfast before they set off on their 12 hour drive in the minibus.
That morning (Saturday) i found a couchsurf host, so I checked out of hotel around midday and got a taxi into town to his place. Romel, a really cool quintuple-lingual local welcomed me with open arms and some incredible home-cooked food. We hit it off instantly and had loads in common so becme instnt friends. After chilling in his appartment we headed to the Parque Llovinza, a huge riverside park with several waterfalls, bridges and water-crossings. It was a beautiful place and we had a great afternoon; we ended up trekking 3 hours back in the late afternoon sun through scrubland, rivers and forest. And of course, we were chatting and laughing the whole way.
That Night we would go to a 'concert' with Romel's friend Thais, which in actually turned out to be an intimate gig on a terrace in the outskirts of the city. There was an awesome band, a female singer 'Mariana', and of course beer and food. It was a great way to end the perfect day, but Sunday would turn out to be even better...
Romel's 34th Birthday started with home-cooked Arepes and music with the 3 of us in his flat. In the afternoon me and Romel got a haircut which was an experience; he had longish hair and a big beard, but came out buzz-cut and clean-shaven - a completely different man! We then headed to a hotel on the Caroni river where an incredible adventure would await. The hotel ran daily kayaking tours, so we geared up and met with the group we would be with. First, we would kayak a few kilometers towards La Llovizna waterfall, before getting out and preparing for a swim. We then swam around some rocky outcrops and into a hidden horseshoe of several incredible waterfalls. These waterfalls were enormous, powerful, and loud. The volume of water falling into this bowl made it difficult to swim close, so we would try a different approach...
Following the lead of a guide, we vertically climbed a rocky cliff face (with difficulty) to get to a ledge high above the water. We were now stood right beside the main waterfall some 50ft up. There was only one way down, and of course this was the reason why we climbed in the first place. After a nervy leap, the thrill of jumping from such a height and feeling weightless made me want to go again. This time 3 of us would jump at the same time, which gave me some awesome Go-Pro footage. This experience combined with the awesome scenery and people was the highlight of my week. After, we would shower under the cascading water and climb around to the top for some incredible views in the late afternoon sun. Upon returning to the hotel in out kayaks, we saw capuchin monkeys up close with a background of the Caroni river and the setting sun. What an amazing day. To finish a great weekend, me Romel and Tais went to the Orinokia centre; a huge modern mall that you wouldn't expect to find in Venezuela. We ate loads of food and ended the perfect day with a shite film and buckets of popcorn in the cinema.Read more