Visiting the house of the gods in Venezuela

Out past La Gran Sabana, The Great Plain, in a remote part of Venezuela is Canaima National Park, where you will find one of the most fantastic natural formations anywhere in the world.

Called tepuys, they are a system of vertical mountains which rise out of the plains, sometimes for thousands of feet in height. They contain very steep cliffs on all sides and are flat on top. Because the tops of these Tepuys are almost impenetrable they are called the `house of the gods’ by the local Indian population. Once you do manage to ascend a tepuy you will find an environment that is positively alien when compared to the plains below, and are so unique that they became the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World, about a place on earth that was so remote and unexplored that dinosaurs still managed to survive.

Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall, plummets from the plateau of a tepuy from a height of 979 m (3,212 ft) with a plunge of 807 m (2,648 ft). To give you an idea of its height, Angel Falls is nineteen times the height of Niagara Falls. In fact, the falls are so high that much of the water doesn’t even reach the bottom of the drop, but evaporates or is blown away during its fall.

Angel Falls actually drop from the Auyantepui which is the most visited of all the tepuys, due to the fact, not unsurprisingly, that most tourists do want to see the world’s highest waterfall. The plateau on top of Auyantepui covers an area if 650 square kilometres, and it is 2,535 metres at its highest point. Because much of the plateau is covered in cloud for most of the time, and the temperature on top of the plateau can be very cold, a lot of water does congregate on the plateaus.

The highest tepuy is called Mount Roraima and it is at least two Billion years old. On its plateau is the triple border of Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. Despite its height, it is also one of the easiest tepuys to ascend as it has a giant ramp leading up to its plateau.

The summit of the Roraima is completely rocky. It has sculpted formations because of the effects of water and wind sculpturing it over many millions of years. There are some amazingly complex natural rock carvings, and huge sinkholes that have been created by collapsing rock over the years. One of the areas has been called `the crystal valley’ because of the fantastic quartz shapes that are found nowhere else.

The tepuys are difficult to reach, and usually involve a flight to either Puerto Ordaz or Ciudad Bolivar and then a river trip in small canoes to the base of Angel Falls. This trip can normally only be done during the wet season from June until December, and if you want to walk up to the top of Auyantepui or Roraima you will need at least five days to complete the round trip, and quite a bit of stamina.

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