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Friday, June 19, 2009

Angel Falls

We flew on a Cessna 5-seater from Ciudad Bolivar to the remote Peman Indian Village of Canaima, which is also the gateway to the Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The over-30,000 sq km Canaima National Park contains not only Angel Falls - the world's tallest waterfall at 979m - but also savannah grasslands (known as Gran Sabana), impenetrable Amazonian rain forests and numerous tepuis (mysterious table mountains with their own unique ecosystems and endemic fauna and flora) that inspired books and movies such as The Lost World and Jurassic Park.
 
From Canaima, we headed for Angel Falls on a boat on Rio Churun, passing through initially rolling grasslands flanked in the horizons with awesome tepuys. Angel Falls lies on the cliffside of Auyantepui ("Mountain of the God of Evil" in the Peman language), the largest of all tepuis.  At over 700 sq km, the vertical massifs of Auyantepui are larger than all of Singapore and Rio Churun originates from the heights of the tepui and flows through it.
 
Our boat entered Auyantepui through the appropriately named Canyon del Diablo (Canyon of the Devil). On both sides of the river were dense jungles that rose gradually to the forbidding vertical walls of the Canyon which towered above us. Occasional falls cascade off the misty cliffsides into the jungle canopy, but none of them approaching the grandeur of Angel Falls itself.  Heavy rain came and went in the four hour boat ride, not to mention the numerous rapids we rammed through.  We were completely drenched by the time we reached Angel Falls.
 
Then it was a rigorous one hour trek through the tropical jungle to reach the furthest viewpoint you could go.  My long-suffering kneecap complained non-stop, not to mention the loud mocking calls from unseen frogs, insects and unknown creatures in the jungle. There you are – the world's tallest fall in front of us.

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