This was one of my my wife's (Kimberly) and myself's big "exotic" adventures. We have been all over the world now, but there is always something memorable about that first exotic trip.
We flew in Ciudad Boliviar from SLC-Miami-Caracas-Cuidad Boliviar. We only had 9 (8 after flight time) days for our visit to South America, so it was rush,rush,rush. We waited and boarded a bus for San Francisco De Yurani. It was a long scary 15 hour ride with a bus that felt like it could fall apart any minute. We arrived in the middle of the night and found that the entire town was asleep. We found someone awake in the street, and he said we could sleep in the futbol field. We tried to get a few hours of sleep.
After about an hour of sleep, we scrambled around trying to find fuel for our stove and transportation to the mountain. We found some fuel, and tried to find a ride to the mountain, but no-one would give us a ride unless we hired a guide. We had hoped to go independantly. We were invited to come long with some guys from England and one from Spain that were doing a documentary for the discovery channel, who had already hired a guide. They thought we were nuts, being out here and doing the mountains for fun.
Day 1: Kimberly was new to hiking and carrying a large pack, so we struggled to keep up with the rest of the group the whole time. She was a little nervous about crossing the Rio Tex which was swollen by rain water. The next river crossing (Rio Kukanan) was a bigger problem. Kimbery got help from the guide, but she slipped and pulled them both into the water. Since we were both wet, we were in bare feet. We began to set up the tent. Everything went well until we were attacked by huge army ants. They were an inch long and bit hard! We also found out that the stove didn't work because it clogged quickly with the fuel that we had. We ate our dinner cold. It was too late, but the Discovery Channel people said we could barrow their wood for the next night to cook our dinner.
Day 2: We got up early and struggled to keep up with the rest of the group. The hike changed from savanna to jungle, and the going was more difficult. The route up to the summit of the peaks was very steep, slippery, and strenuous. The group left us behind and when we got to the top we were totally lost in the fog. We coudn't see a thing. Now is when we needed a guide. It was pouring rain. The wind was fierce and our cheap ponchos were completly shredded by the wind. We were soaked to the bone and very cold. We wandered around a bit for about an hour, and by the time it was dark before we met up with the guide who came looking for us. All the campsites in the area were full (there isn't many!), and the only flat place we could find was under a little waterfall. The waterfall (about the same amount of water from a bathtub faucet) spilled onto the tent all night. Luckily the Discovery Channel group let us cook with their wood.
Day 3: Most people went on a long hike. It was still pouring rain and we tried to hike in our underwear and shredded ponchos, but we turned back early. We were still soaked to the bone. Clothes just do not dry in the tent when the humidity is 100%. We spent the evening in our underwear and attempted to dry our clothes on the cooking fire our companions built. Our companions had fun photographing us in our underwear and teased us (at least I think they were teasing) about showing pictures of us in our underwear on T.V.
Day 4: It was still pouring rain. We packed up the very wet camping gear, and started our retreat down the peak. We did the wet and slippery descent down to Rio Kukanan. This time Kimberly didn't fall in so we hiked to the Rio Tex, crossed and set up camp. I ran up the Kukenan as high as I could while gathering information for a friend of mine, Mike Kelsey who wanted information for his guidebook. I sketched the route the best I could in the clouds and returned to camp. While I was gone, everyone else went for a swim. Kimberly and I decided to sleep under the stars instead of unpacking the soaked camping gear. It was hot sunny and dry down in the Gran Sabana. In the middle of the night it began to rain. Dang, should have set up the tent. There was a dilapidated shack nearby that we crawled into to go back to sleep. We woke up an hour later screaming. We were covered with those huge biting ants! We ran out of the tent, frantically brushed off the ants, and set up the tent. I think we slept an hour.
Day 5: Kimberly was exited that this was the last day of the hike. We went as fast as we could accross the hot, dry, and shadeless Gran Sabana. That night we stayed in San Francisco de Yarani. We ate in a outdoor "restaraunt". It was noticed that there were several strange birds flying around while we were eating. They sure made a weird sound, and they flew really strange for a bird. One landed on the table where we were eating. We were shocked when we noticed that the birds were not birds. They were giant beetles! they had big jaws and looked like they could bite. We started to leave and were avoiding these swarms of giant beetles which were alnding all over now. When a little six year old girl noticed us avoiding the beetles, she went over, picked one up, and stuck it on Kimberly. I guess they were harmless. That night we stayed in a guest house. It wasn't completly enclosed, and we got eaten alive by mosquitoes. Actually though, the worst things were the rats. Many (it seemed like hundreds) of rats were running across the rafters of the hotel. We had had enough! We left in the middle of the night and set up the tent on the dirt outside the guest house. We caught a bus back to Cuidad Boliviar the next morning.
Roraima and Kukenan are facinating mountains; don't be afraid to go there. Just go well prepared. We have much better rain gear now. Camping in the "futbol" field is the best way to get a good night sleep in San Francisco de Yarani. The climbs are actually alot of fun. And whatever you do, wear shoes, and don't sleep out under the stars!