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Lost World of Venezuela: Sir Conan Doyle and His Lost World Atop Mountain Tepuis Amongst Dinosaurs...
Venezuela's Gran Sabana Region...
One of the most incredible trips I’ve ever taken was an adventure expedition through the jungles and arid grasslands of Venezuela to visit “The Lost World”, written about by Sir Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame. This is not the Lost World from Jurassic Park, even though I’m sure that’s why that movie was named accordingly. The book is about an area in southern Venezuela that has flat topped “tepuis”, or plateaus, that have plants, vegetation, and animal life that only exists on each separate tepui. Over millions of years, the land surrounding these tepui’s eroded and developed these islands of highland all around the area. They range in height up to about 12,000 feet or more, and as the land around them dropped away the various species left on top became trapped, and evolved separately there over eons of time. That produced indigenous varieties of species that exist nowhere else on earth, even on neighboring tepuis.
Sir Conan Doyle wrote about possible dinosaurs that were still alive on these tepuis, and an expedition that went to find them. It is a very interesting book, and a great read for anyone. Having been on top the most famous tepui, Mount Roraima in the lost world, I can say that I didn’t see any dinosaurs but I can’t say they weren’t there hiding in the background! I did see many other types of strange and unusual creatures though, and I’ll tell you about them soon.
Flying into Caracas...
We flew into the capital of Venezuela, Caracas for our trip to the lost world of Sir Conan Doyle, and I remember being amazed at the many mountains right around there as we landed at the airport. It didn’t seem the safest, and not too long after that I read that a plane had accidently crashed into one of the mountains on either landing or takeoff, so I guess I consider myself lucky! Caracas is a nice city, or at least was… I can’t speak much to it because of the communist takeover of the country, but there was a lot of poverty there as there probably is in most big cities in South America. People would all come to the city to seek work and they would build these little tin huts with any material that they could find up in the surrounding hills and mountains of Caracas. They somehow tapped into the neighboring power lines to get power for themselves, so in effect they were “squatters” and living free.
The traffic in Caracas some of the worst I have ever seen, and no one obeyed the traffic laws. On two lane highways, cars would cram into three lanes with no problem, and anywhere they could fit. Traffic lights weren’t an issue for these drivers, and all I can say is that I was glad I wasn’t driving! It’s best to just hire a taxi while you are there unless you are used to that level of insanity on the roads.
The Lost World...
From Caracas we flew into an inland cow town with lots of new construction and expansion going on, where we boarded some four wheel drive Land Rovers to begin our southward journey through the many small gold mining towns and jungle areas to our destination at the extreme southeastern tip of Venezuela, where it meets up with Brazil and Guyana. The paved road soon ran out, and was replaced with clay and dirt roads which at times were very hard to traverse. We crossed streams and other muddy areas, so I’m very impressed with the capabilities of the Land Rover!
Finally we reached our destination close to the base of Mt. Roraima, which is probably the most famous of the flat topped tepuis written about by Sir Conan Doyle in The Lost World. We had parked our vehicles at a local Indian village where I purchase a set of authentic bow and arrows and blowgun, sans the poison tips that they use! We readied our backpacks and hired porters from the Indians, and set off for our intensive hike to the mountain. We were carrying 80 pound packs in one of the hottest times of the year, so it was a pretty physical activity to say the least. We had about a full day’s hike to get to the base of Roraima where we would set up base camp and spend the night. There were a lot of uphills and downhills, and it seemed like a never ending roller coaster ride! Finally we crossed a big stream, and we were there. The porters had already arrived and set up camp, and we set up our individual tents for us.
Climbing Mt. Roraima...
In the morning, we began what was the most intense climb of the whole trip, a mad scramble up the face of Mt. Roraima and to the top of the lost world! There is only one way up, and one way down, and it is a very muddy, dirty, and exhausting climb. It took all day to get to the top, which was around 9,000 feet or so, and 50 feet from the entrance at the top you cannot tell where you just came up from! Everything at the top looks the same, and without our guides we would have been hopelessly lost! In fact, just a few weeks prior to our arrival, the government had to rescue some people by helicopter that became lost at the top after losing their way. Before we could get permission to climb, we had to stop at the local military outpost which consisted of a few guards walking around with machine guns at the ready!
At the top of Roraima, there are really only two kinds of landscape, solid rocks, and extremely soft boggy marshland, which you cannot walk in or on at all! I tried once and immediately sunk down to one hip, so that was the only time I tried that! Walking on rocks was the only way to go, and sometimes we had to hop a long way to get to the next rock. We finally set up camp for the night, and I found a ledge under and overhanging rock that seemed like a good spot… It seemed like it anyway, but I woke up in the middle of the night with rats crawling over me, so needless to say I was in a tent the next night!
It was cold and windy at the top, and the next day we set out on our trek to the 3 country marker, where Brazil, Venezuela, and Guiana all meet together. I had my picture taken on all 3 sides, so in effect I can say that I’ve also been to both Brazil and Guyana as well! We made it back to our camp and stayed another night, and we saw many awesome animals and plants there. There are incredibly tiny black frogs that have evolved all by themselves, and many varieties of pitcher plants and orchids and other flowers. It was a very strange and eerie place, and my trip to the lost world was one of the best experiences ever!
Canaima and Angel Falls...
We set about on our downward trek, and needless to say it was much easier than coming up, but still a struggle because of the steepness. Finally we made it to base camp and got to relax and clean off in the river before going to sleep that night. We slept well, I can tell you! The next day, we wrapped up base camp and loaded everything on our backs again for the long hike to the vehicles. That was a great trip, and I would do it again in a second!
The next part of this fun adventure trip was a flight over to Canaima, where they have some incredible waterfalls in a little village, and then on to Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world… But that is for another article, this one is getting too long as it is! Remember to consider adventure travel as an option for your vacations; you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from it! If you ever get the chance to visit Sir Conan Doyle's Lost World, then I highly recommend it! Get off the beaten path, take the road less traveled, it may be the thing that makes all the difference!