You're running out of money sonny.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
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Flag of Venezuela  ,
Friday, February 25, 2005

So I am on a 15 hours night bus ride heading north from Manaus to Santa Elena de Uairen, a small town in Venezuela on the border with Brazil. The air condition is turned on max, and everyone seem to have blankets, sleeping bags or jackets to cover themselves. I however, in my bliss ignorance, forgot this Latin American phenomena on long distance night busses. I'm traveling in shorts and t-shirt. It's freezing cold, and I got no access to my backpack. So I have covered myself in six or seven head rest covers I found on different seats. I guess I look pretty smart where I am sitting and waiting for sunrise. Shall we say it's one of my longest nights ever, closely beaten by the night in the mosquito swamp hellhole in the Amazon.

So I am not taking this 15 hour detour to tick off more countries. One of my must do's and see's before I left Seattle was to try and hike to the top of Roraima. Roraima is one of many tepuis (table mountain) typical to Southern Venezuela. It's supposed to be truly spectacular and I have wanted to visit for years. Hence the trip to Santa Elena de Uairen, a gateway town to Roraima and the Gran Sabana. I have about 12 full days before I need to head south again to Boa Vista in order to catch my flight to Rio. It's kind of low season (at least for Angel Falls), so I figured that 12 days is the absolute minimum I need in order to organize and do what I came here for. Tour companies usually need a group of people before they will run a trip, so it often makes it much more difficult to organize things if you are on your own. At least expect to wait around for a few days for other tourists to join, or pay up big time. My plan is to try and get on a six days round trip hike to the top of Roraima, plus a day or two around Gran Sabana, visiting waterfalls and viewing other spectacular tepuis. And if possible, catch a 90 minute Cessna flight from Santa Elena to Canaima National Park in order to visit the highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls. Angel Falls is one of my other longtime must see's, but it's dry season so I may save it for a future trip. And if nothing works out, I'll take another detour heading southeast into Guyana, in order to try and visit the Rupununi Savanna and the Kanuku Mountains. Another area I want to visit one day, together with Guyana's Kaieteur Falls.

After arriving in Santa Elena, I immediately start to shop around the towns many tour companies. I manage to find a really cheap six days hike to Roraima, but they are not able to organize the other things I want to do. Mixing trips between different tour companies also doesn't work out as several of the trips run on the same day etc. I'm tempted to go for the cheap six day option and skip the rest, but then I find a company who are able to offer me a full package. Starting with a three day trip to Canaima National Park and Angel Falls, followed by a day trip around Gran Sabana in a jeep and topping it all off with a six days hike to the top of Roraima. It costs me more than an arm and a leg, US $850 in fact for an all inclusive ten day package. It's very expensive, mainly due to the flight to Canaima and back. And for different reasons, the six days hike is more than twice as expensive as the cheap option I found earlier. Pure luxury backpacking. But I am here in Venezuela, and I am very exited that I am able to do everything I set out to do. So I swallow the bait again, and think so much for independent travel while signing the contract. Heading out the door, I bump into two friendly guys from Poland. Poland, wow, that's a new one. Over the last few months I have met many tourists from around the world, but these guys are the first from Poland. I start to think about the different countries from where I meet most people, and in addition to Latin American tourists, it's probably more or less in this order:

Canada, Holland, USA, New Zealand, Germany, Israel, United Kingdom, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, Australia, Austria, Switzerland, South-Korea, France, Italy, Denmark, Ireland, Slovenia, Finland, Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Portugal.

Angel Falls tomorrow guys, hope there's some water left for me. I feel lucky!
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