December 21, 2007
Angel Falls Trip Day 2
Last night we learned that we wouldn't be able to camp at the high camp near Angel Falls because "It was flooded." However, we met another tour group coming down from that camp early in the morning and confirmed that it wasn't flooded at all. All was well, though, because one of the tourists told me that camp sucked anyway. "Why was that?" I asked. "Because the toilets were gross and there was no coffee." "But what about the highest waterfall in the world?" "Oh yeah, that was nice, but at some point you still have to go to the bathroom." Everyone then proceeded to discuss that quality of the food that had been served to them so far. Some people I will never understand.
The boat ride up to the high camp took a couple hours, but it was too cloudy to see anything. From the campsite (which looked just like the other one to me), we walked without any coffee for about an hour through the forest to the waterfall's viewpoint.
Despite what you would understandably assume, Angel Falls was not named after anything religious. Instead, its name comes from an American bush pilot named Jimmy Angel who crashed his airplane on top of Auyan Teupi in 1933 and had to walk for ten days with his wife and two other companions to the bottom. Eventually people figured out that the waterfall that flowed over the top of the tepui was 979 meters high, making it the highest in the world.
When we reached the viewpoint for Angel Falls, it was cloudy and we were constantly sprayed by the waterfall's mist. After some patient waiting, though, the sky cleared and we got a good look at it. It was hard to believe the waterfall was really 979 meters high (more than twice as high as the Empire State Building), but then again it was pretty far away and there was nothing near it to give it scale. I was certainly impressed by the sight of it, and now I can say that I've been to all of the great waterfalls of South America: Iguazu, Kaieteur, Gokta, and now Angel Falls. So don't even try talking to me about waterfalls.
We walked back to the campsite for lunch, and I realized that it was definitely better not to camp there, not because of the toilets, but because it was only 3:00 and there wasn't much to look at there. We took the boat back down the river, and the sky was perfectly clear this time, allowing us to see all of the tepuis in the region. The scenery was absolutely incredible, some of the best stuff I had seen in South America. We didn't see much wildlife on the trip, but there were a few birds singing to us when we got to the lower campsite, and a rare cock of the rock flew past us at one point.
The daily tropical storm hit us early in the evening and didn't let up all night. The rain here is far more powerful than anything I've ever experience in the US, and I was really grateful for the protection of the campsite's tin roof.
The photo album for this entry is here.