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Relaxing at a cascade after lunch

Mel to the right,
Jackie to the left

For lunch, we stopped at a picturesque cascading stream to play on the rocks and dip in the fresh water.  This area made me think of some streams around Gatlinburg.  After all the salt water we'd been in over the past few months, the fresh water felt wonderfully clean. We were served sandwiches and drinks for lunch.

We continued upstream, branching off on a secondary river.  Much narrower, the current flowed considerably faster.  The level of the water was low and the boat often scraped the rocky bottom.  Sometimes we had to shift our weight to one side or the other and a few times we had to move several seats up toward the front of the boat. 

Once, the water was so low that we had to get out and walk so the boat could make it up the shallow water. 

Rocks shone pink and white in the bright sunlight.  Large mounds of light green grass, some with tiny white flowers, grew here and there along the banks and in the shallows of the river.  A few yellow flowers blossomed.  I asked the guide about a deep pink bloom floating in the water and he pointed up into the trees.  Blooming vines draped amongst the high branches.  Other trees sported feathery mimosa-like blooms, half  scarlet and half white.  The bow of the boat was subtly inclined as we headed upstream, slowly climbing higher and higher in elevation.  As the river narrowed, we encountered more and more rapids.  The guy at the back of the boat had to lift the outboard constantly to prevent damage to the propeller.  It was surprising that the boat could climb some of the rapids several feet high.

We rounded a bend and got our first glimpse of the falls.  Looking up about 4,000 feet to an elevation of 8,800 feet, we saw the water spill from a river at the top, falling 3,000 feet, spreading into a misty column as it tumbled to the pool below.

Finally, after more than four hours on the rivers, we reached base camp. We unloaded the boat and thought we could take a siesta.  After all, it was 1600 hours and we had left the marina in Puerto La Cruz at 0600.  It had been an exciting but tiring day and we were entitled to a relaxing cocktail.  Right?   Wrong!  We were told to wear water shoes, take hiking shoes, and get ready to take off again.  We waded across several narrow streams then changed into hiking shoes, hiding our sandals in the brush.  We walked through the rain forest behind our guide.  Gigantic trees formed a canopy overhead as we stumbled over huge roots along the path.   I must confess that I was not feeling well, just recovering from a week of sinus infection and flu-like symptoms.  I'll spare you the details of my discomfort, but suffice it to say that I went as far as I could and then I could go no further.  Bob stayed with me as the other four went on with the guide.  They said after they left us the path went almost straight up before they reached the top to behold the entirety of Angel Falls.  Our over-the-hill gang decided not to descend to the pool because it was late in the day and they realized that where you go down, you must come back up again. 

By the time we got back to the base camp, it was heavy dusk under the trees.  Candles were the only light in the darkness.  An open-sided shelter 50 x 50 foot with a thatched roof supported by beams and posts provided excellent protection from the weather.  The area around the structure had been raked and some plants landscaped the paths to the river.  Another path marked by rocks led to the four enclosed toilets, real porcelain fixtures with ceramic tile floors and walls!  It was a minor inconvenience that you had to dip the flushing water from rain barrels outside the stalls.  There was no running water so after brushing teeth, we rinsed with bottled water.  Bob and I took a quick dip in the freezing river water in lieu of a shower before changing into dry clothes.

A crew of three staffed the camp and assisted our boat crew in preparing the evening meal.   For dinner, they cooked chickens on vertical wooden spits over an open fire shielded in the back with corrugated tin.  Coke was provided straight or with whatever stronger libation we brought.   Everyone was famished and woofed down crackers as appetizers.  For dinner, along with chicken, we were served potato salad, rice, and rolls. Although heavy on starch, it was an outstanding meal!  When the watermelon was served for dessert, I brought out a candle and blew up a couple of balloons for Bob's birthday and we sang happy birthday to him.  He will never have another birthday party like that one!  Not long after we ate, we headed to our hammocks and crashed.  Yep, we slept in hammocks suspended from the overhead wooden supports of the shelter.  Light blankets were provided.  It had been suggested that we bring sweats and socks to sleep in since it got cool at night.  Bob went to bed in his shorts and tee shirt, using his blanket as a pillow. About midnight, he got up and rummaged through his backpack to get his sweats then unfolded his blanket to use as cover. It was cold!  Whenever anyone shifted in his or her hammock, the whole structure moved a little.  A hard rain pounded on the thatched roof during the night but we did not get wet at all.  The sound of the rain on the thatched roof reminded me of sleeping under a tin roof.  Great sleeping although I got a crick in my neck.  Mel slept in hammocks in the Navy and told us that the secret to sleeping in a hammock is to lie at an angle.  The natives were short people and fit the hammocks better than some of us taller Americans.  When the candles were extinguished, it was pitch dark, no moon or light whatsoever under the trees, totally dark as a cave.

Crew cooks dinner

Joan sleeping in a hammock

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