As we move toward the the Guayana Highlands on our small plane, we see the Tepui in the distance. These giant mesas dot the landscape. We touch down on a small patch of grassland. We then set out on foot toward Auyantepui, the largest of the tepui at 700 square kilometers. We walk first through deep scrubland where we see creatures like the anteater, its strange form dashing from anthill to antill, slurping up ants with its long tongue.
Scrubland turns to dense jungle. We bushwhack deep into the rainforest until we meet the trail to Angel Falls. We follow this until we hear the roar of the falls. The spray permeates into the rainforest and we know we are nearing our target. Coming to a clearing, our jaws drop. Angel Falls! We see the world’s tallest waterfall: the water plunges 979m to the ground. This is 19 times higher than Niagara Falls. The falls are actually so high that they only drop uninturupted for just over 800 meters. The rest turns to mist and hits the rocky floor of the rainforest. After many shots, we move on.
The group will divide up into two teams, one will hike up around the tepui and to the summit. The other will climb up the steep face of the tepui. The tepui is actually about 3,000 meters high, so both teams will take a while. Both teams set out, both struggling with the terrain: the hikers with the deep rainforest and the climbers with the steep cliffs. At certain times, the climbers needed to climb artificially, that is, completely separated from the rock, using ascenders to climb. The hikers move onto the steep back face of the tepui. It is climbable only with the use of switchbacks.
Finally after several hours, the climbing team makes it to the top. They wait as the hiking team concludes their trek. Both are at the top. Here the poor soil forces plants to get nutrients in other ways: leading to the evolution of many carnivorous plants. This place is known as the Devil’s Mesa and the Place of the Dead by the locals, but it is actually brimming with life. These tepui are ecological islands where endemic flora and fauna evolve separately from the rest of the population. There are many different types of frogs hopping around us, many probably not known to science. Even though this place inspired the Arthur Conan Doyle novel The Lost World we do not see any dinosaurs.
After seeing a wonderful sunrise and sunset from the top of the tepui, we go down our separate ways: either hiking or paragliding into the open lands below, wind whistling past us as we soar over this commanding landscape, and go off to the tributaries of the Amazon for our final adventure.