About the Roraima Plateau in Venezuela

Mount Roraima

Roraima is a table mountain and one of the main attractions of the Latin American continent. “Roraima” translates to “big blue-green mountain.” The flat top of the tepuí rises high above the clouds. Travelers who have conquered Roraima feel as if they are on another planet: the views from the top of the mountain are so unrealistic. Being on Roraima can be compared to being on a desert island. Only instead of the blue waters of the sea, the tepuis are surrounded by an ocean of milky white clouds.

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Video: Sunset on Mt. Roraima

Where is Roraima

The natural landmark is located in the territory of three states at the same time. Most of it belongs to Venezuela. The other host countries of Roraima are Brazil and Guyana. Table Mountain is located at the southeastern point of the Canaima National Park, which belongs to Venezuela.

Birth of a natural wonder

Table Mountains are called mountains with flat peaks and nearly vertical walls. This type of mountain came from a sandstone plateau located between the Rio Negro, Amazon, and Orinoco rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. Erosion had been acting on the plateau for a long time and that caused it to break up. This has resulted in mountains with peaks as flat as the surface of a table. Roraima is called the highest tepui in Venezuela. The highest part of the mountain reaches 2810 m.

Climate, flora and fauna

The climate in the lowlands of Roraima is almost the same as at the top of the table mountain. Seasons of drought here are replaced by seasons of rain. The higher you go up the mountain, the colder and wetter the air becomes. In the morning hours the temperature does not exceed 0 ºC. The rainy season lasts from May to October. During this period, fog falls on the plateau, which does not disperse for weeks. Visiting Mt. Roraima during the rainy season is not recommended.

One-fifth of the surface of the table mountain is occupied by bodies of water: rivers, small lakes and peat bogs. The most impressive place, called “the bow of the ship”, is considered the northern tip of Roraima. It is a sharp ledge.

Many of the inhabitants of the animal and plant life of Mt. Roraima are endemic. This means that the living creatures are constantly in a limited area and go through their own evolutionary path. One of the striking representatives of the endemics of the Tepuis is considered to be Oreofrinella kwelcha, a small-sized black toad. The amphibian’s peculiarity is that, unlike its brethren, it can neither swim nor jump. If Oreophrynella is threatened, it curls up in a ball and rolls down between the rocks.

Expeditions that have visited the plateau have managed to describe about 230 plant species. The greatest diversity is represented by the composites, millipedes and orchids. Many plants have been forced to adapt to the local soil, which has lost much of its organic and mineral matter due to constant rainfall. Of particular interest are the insectivorous plants: Dewdrop of Roraima, Helimamphora spiny, and Vesicle.

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Surrounded by legends

The word “tepui” (or “tepuy”) is not only used by the Pemon Indians of the Roraima area to refer to the table mountains. Above all, it is the name of the abode of the gods. One of the legends says that on the mountain once lived the goddess Quin. She became the foremother of all people on Earth by analogy with the biblical Eve. According to another legend, Mount Roraima was part of the trunk of a giant tree from which all the fruits of the planet originated. One day the tree was cut down by Makunaima, the hero of local legends. The stump that was left was called Mount Roraima.

Locals never go up to the “abode of the gods. The place is cursed to them. A man who dares to climb to the top will be severely punished and pay with his life. Scientists believe the legend is worth heeding. However, the journey to Roraima may not end badly because of the curse: The top of the mountain often attracts lightning, which can kill a man.

Modern scientists have not been able to solve all the mysteries of Roraima. During one of the expeditions on the plateau, a circular area was discovered without any vegetation. Such an area could not have appeared naturally. Moreover, a silvery powder consisting of an alloy of rare metals was found on a strange part of the plateau. It was found that it is impossible to obtain such an alloy, even with the latest equipment. Among the scientists there is a version that the mountain has been repeatedly used by aliens as a space launching pad.

Many unusual things the researchers have found in the mountain caves, the walls of which were painted with images of animals and creatures that resemble humans. Scientists found strange skeletons. From the bones emanated a sweet aroma. Inhaling the unfamiliar smell, some members of the expedition fell into a coma for several days. When they regained consciousness, they told colleagues about their strange visions and travels to other worlds.

One expedition lost its bearings on the plateau. The explorers wandered for months. At one point, the scientists themselves described, they were caught up in a whirlwind and swept away from the top of the mountain. A few moments later, the expedition found itself in the middle of an Indian settlement living near Roraima. The explorers were sure they had only been gone a couple of months. It turned out the expedition had dragged on for four years. According to the scientists, being on Roraima for such an amount of time was impossible. The supply of provisions was designed to last several weeks. The travelers would have starved to death. Time flowed differently on the tepui than it does everywhere else.

Exploration of Mount Roraima

The first descriptions of the mountain can be found in the works of Sir Walter Raleigh. The English explorer described Roraima in 1569. The first Europeans who explored the area around the mountain were the Englishman Yves Sern and the German Robert Schombruck. They published a report on their expedition in a German magazine. Then came the book, in which Sern and Schombroek described in detail the unusual flora and fauna of the environs of the “abode of the gods. Many fellow scientists did not believe them. The book, written by Sern and Schombroek, was categorized as science fiction.

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It was only possible to reach the top of the mountain in 1884. The expedition led by Edward Im Thurn made the ascent. The flora and fauna of the top of the tepuis were even more amazing than the flora and fauna at the foot. For hundreds of years the plateau had been isolated. No one had climbed it, and no one had descended from it. Isolation from the outside world has allowed Roraima to preserve unique species of plants and animals that are already extinct or have been exterminated from the planet.

Thanks to an expedition in the 2000s, the largest known quartz cave system in the world was found on Roraima. To get into the cave, you have to descend to a depth of 72 m. The uniqueness of the 11 km long dungeon is that it has 18 exits.

Roraima inspires

Mention of the legendary mountain can be found in both fiction and film. “The Abode of the Gods” has inspired the creativity of many artists.

  • The general public became aware of Mount Roraima through the novel “The Lost World” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The English writer was inspired by the published accounts of the expedition led by Edward Im Tern. Conan Doyle “settled” dinosaurs on Roraima. In the plot of the novel, they were able to maintain their population by being isolated from the outside world.
  • In the early 1990s, famous Hollywood director Steven Spielberg chose the foot of the “abode of the gods” as the setting for his sci-fi movie “Jurassic Park.
  • Roraima was the subject of the 2008 documentary “The Lost World,” produced by Gryphon Productions. The film recounts the journey of a team of modern explorers who dared to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.
  • In 2009, “Pixar” film studio created the animated film “Up”. Mount Roraima was chosen as the place of action.

How does the climbing take place

Every year, thousands of tourists visit the tepuis. The journey begins from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. From there, adventurers head to the small town of Santa Elena de Huiren. You can get there from the capital by bus. A tour to visit Roraima must be purchased at local travel agencies.

Climbing the mountain on your own is forbidden for two reasons. First, it is too dangerous. Secondly, the “abode of the gods” is located on the territory of the national reserve. The traveler, who bought the tour, gets a guide at his disposal. This guide is usually a member of the Pemon tribe, who knows the Roraima Mountain itself and its surroundings very well. You can hire a whole team of guides. Indians will carry the traveler’s belongings and prepare food for him. A trip with a guide-carrier will cost $250. If hikers prefer to cook their own food and carry their own belongings, the tour will cost no more than $150. It is also possible to climb Roraima by helicopter. However, not many adventurers choose this way to conquer the plateau because of the high cost. In addition, the traveler will not be able to get acquainted well enough with the flora and fauna of the mountain.

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From the city of Santa Elena de Huiren, the expedition arrives at the village of Paratepui. Travelers are usually transported by jeep. The tour lasts from six to ten days. First, the guide leads his clients through the savannah to show the foothills of Roraima. On the third day, the ascent begins. It is necessary to prepare for the hike in advance. To climb the mountain, a person must be in good physical shape. It is desirable to undergo a complete medical examination before the trip. You are to take only the most necessary things for the trip: warm water-proof clothes, mosquito repellent and a food supply designed for 6-10 days.

Climbing into the lost world. Venezuela. Roraima.

Besides oil, Chavez and the military coup, what do most of us know about Venezuela? Probably not much. And Venezuela is also the beautiful sandy deserts that dot the southern Coro, the amazingly beautiful Amazonian jungle, the largest rainforest on our planet. It is a paradise azure coast of the Caribbean Sea with secluded bays and islands, where thousands of island lovers dream of visiting. And, of course, Venezuela is the Amazon with its crazy cycle of flora and fauna. There is also the highest waterfall in the world – Angel, or Kerepakupai Meru (in the Pemon language), and Gran Sabana with its lost world of Roraima. That is what this story will be about.

Eh, Roraima! The same Roraima that was the starting point of everything and the point of no return to the past at the same time. And so it began! And yet, I should mention that traveling to this country was neither my goal nor my dream. After an interview at a construction company in Belarus, I was sent there to work for almost a year as an interpreter at a construction site in the hot savannah of the agro-town. It was not my first trip to Venezuela, I was lucky enough to get to know it from one side by the will of fate in 2009, but then I didn’t have a chance to see all the beauty of the real Selva. Now it was different. My business trip went smoothly: I was accommodated in the small town of San Juan de los Morros, which, as I thought, had nothing of interest. Later I learned that I could do rock climbing and parachuting there – now I regret that I came to rock climbing not in 2011, but only in 2016. Belarusians used to spend their free time boringly: sitting at home and watching movies, chatting with relatives on Skype or discussing work. The room where I lived was more like a prison cell with a small window near the ceiling, but it was cozy and clearly fit my state of mind. Psychologically it was not easy for me, because I could not find like-minded people there in my interests. I lived in my own world – I drew, wrote essays, communicated mostly with myself. The New Year was coming, and the company had a few days off. I thought, I could not bear the Belarusian pubs, the bars on the windows would drive me crazy, and my asshole would not let me lie idle on weekends, so I had to do something! Thus loomed my first journey, my first escape to the origins of who I really am. After time, having visited many countries, I will still consider that place one of the best in the world! A place where the soul is healed and the consciousness is cleansed, discarding as husks all that is truly unnecessary in life. When I told a Venezuelan comrade on the phone that I was going to Roraima, he said: “Roraima? Oooh, that’s power! Chris, you’ll probably cry when you climb the plateau. But that’s okay. It’s amazing, but almost all the people there cry. The gods must be washing away their pain and suffering. The journey began with a long drive across the country 1,390 kilometers one way. The travel time from the top of the country to Roraima is 23 hours, including one change in a small town. But that’s when everything goes according to plan, and if the bus connection fails, you have to add another 6-7 hours on top, which passes at the train station in constant danger of being robbed or killed for a simple phone call. Venezuelan train stations are not the best place to wait, especially if you are European. The first rule is to dress like a local, blend in with the crowd. The cheaper and simpler things are, the more chance you have of going unnoticed by muggers. This is a rule I have always used when traveling in Latin America. No jewelry, no phones or cameras, no ponces. You go out on the street as if you were part of the crowd, part of the slums. Just a cap and tucked hair, a cheap t-shirt with sleeves and ripped jeans. Respect the locals, you’re just a guest in their territory. Latin America is dangerous, it has no rules or privileges. The year before this trip, when I lived in Maracaibo, I was transported as valuable cargo, I didn’t even walk across the street to the store.

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I was told that a man could be killed within a meter of his house, and God forbid I should not have anything of value on me – they might just put a bullet in my forehead in anger. Going to work, out of sheer boredom and the impossibility of sitting in this cage – I came out of isolation and became part of the crowd. When I understood the street – I understood the people and because of that I was able to travel around the country alone when my colleagues were robbed right outside the office. Roraima is almost on the border with Brazil. The path to Roraima itself is off the highways, and the approach to the wall of the tepuya will take you three days. At the top of the plateau, a 3-4 hour walk is the intersection point of the three states of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana – 5°11′00″ N. 60°46′00″ W. On this trip the road was grueling. It’s all about the fact that Venezuela has the coldest buses. In a tropical country, heat is always a problem. People are so tired of it that they have everything on minimum in their offices, malls and buses to feel cool. But almost everywhere they go overboard with air conditioning. So if it’s +42 outside, it’ll be +10 on the bus! If you do not want to die from hypothermia – you should take a plaid, a hat, a jacket and woolen socks, otherwise there is every chance to fall ill after a one-night ride. So, our route lay across the desert savannahs. Once we reached the town of Bolivar, my companion and I boarded another bus that was packed to capacity and continued on our way. We were headed toward Gran Sabana, a national conservation area protected by UNESCO, where the terrain is dotted with flat grass, tall solitary palms, and flat tepuy mountains. The bus was small and we drove slowly over the pass because the serpentine turns were quite steep. That was the first time I saw a real tropical rainforest at night – it was unforgettable. At about four in the morning we drove out onto the Gran Sabana plain. The thick fog parted and gave us views of the tepuis. The semi-darkness and fog created bizarre images of boulders scattered chaotically across the vast savannah. At dawn we finally reached Santa Elena, the town where all the tourists making the long journey to Roraima or crossing the border into Brazil settle. There we checked into one of the cheapest hostels, ate our fill of pasta and sausages, and in the evening we met our guide (part-time porter) who would lead us to point X (the triple point on the Roraima Plateau). Early in the morning an old Jeep Wrangler drove up to the threshold, and the porter began to load our baulks and backpacks. In an hour we were already jolting in this rarity car, and the road aroused a sea of emotions in all the members of our team with whom we planned to share the coming days of trekking. The team included guys from the Czech Republic, America, Canada and Japan. As we got to the start and left the car, we saw in the distance our goal, the majestic Roraima. It was gorgeous! For the record, the park checkpoint is two to three days’ walk to Roraima itself. Only a certain number of people are allowed in a day. So without a guide you will be turned back to Santa Elena. It is forbidden to take relict plants and crystals down from the tepuy. Leaving trash all over the track is also forbidden, on the plateau you have to stick to the principle “I go, and the trash goes back with me”. On the plateau to go to the second necessity strictly in the bag, your crap to go down on the principle of the usual garbage. You shouldn’t yell and scream on the plateau, either. It’s bad form for the Pemons. Touching little toads is forbidden.

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