Exploring Venezuela’s lost world

We told you about Roraima, the remote and rugged region along the border of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil last year. Known for its flattop mountains, called tepuis, Roraima was made all the more famous when it was featured prominently in last year’s Pixar movie Up. Now, U.K. newspaper the Guardian has discovered the allure of the place, posting a story of their own.

Known as the Lost World, Roraima is said to have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book of the same name. Grainne Mooney, the travel writer for the Guardian, was similarly inspired when visiting the place, starting with the wildlife. The lowland areas are teeming with animals, including crocodiles, giant anteaters, monkeys, and capybara, the largest species of rodents in the world.

Eventually, the writer’s attention turned to the mountain itself, which towers more than 9200 feet above the jungle below. The entire trek would take six days to complete, including two nights spent on the flat summit. Beginning in arid grasslands, the hike eventually moves up into humid rainforests, before climbing above the tree line altogether. On top, the mountain seems like another world, and the rocky surface is often described like being on the moon.

Not only is this story a good overview of what it is like to visit Roraima, it offers plenty of insights into current conditions traveling through Venezuela as well. The writer notes that the capital city of Caracas is the most dangerous in the world after Baghdad and with inflation running wild, it is recommended that you exchange your dollars for bolivars on the black market, where the exchange rate is much better.

Seems like visiting Roraima isn’t the only adventure to be had in Venezuela.

Adventure Destination: Roraima

Here’s a tip for an out of the way adventure travel destination that isn’t on the radar for many travelers yet, and remains a remote escape for those looking to get away from the tourist crowds.

There is a region in the Amazon Basin known as Roraima that sits where Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana come together. The area is dominated by rainforest, as you might expect, but there is a small patch of savannah as well. But the most awe inspiring aspect of the landscape is the towering tepuis, or flat topped mountains, that rise up from the jungle and dominate the horizon.

Roraima is incredibly remote. So much so that it was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Lost World in which dinosaurs are found roaming the jungle. It is a tropical destination with a warm, wet climate, at least at the lower altitudes. When you scale the tepuis, the altitude changes the climate dramatically, bring gusting winds, cooler tempertures and thick clouds.
The highest of those table-top mountains is Mount Roriama, which reaches 9,219 feet in height, and is generally the destination of choice for trekkers and backpackers to the region. The steep walls seem daunting when viewed from a distance, but there is a natural ramp carved into the side of the rock that makes for a non-technical, but physically demanding hike to the top.

And when you reach the top, you’ll find an eerie lanscape carved by the constant winds and often wrapped in thick clouds. The experience is made all the more unique by the fact that the mountain is large and flat, and unlike most other mountains on Earth. In fact, the tepuis in the Roraima area are considered to be amongst the oldest geological structures on the planet, and seem oddly out of place in the jungle setting.

Treks through Roraima can be organized in any of the three bordering countries, but it is most easy to get access in Venezuela. The hike, which includes a trip to the summit of Mount Roriama, generally takes about four to five days, and will lead the adventurous traveler through remote and relatively untouched areas.

Brazil’s Other Adventurous Side

With Brazil’s big party, Carnival, coming to an end a few days back, I thought that it was appropriate to look at the country’s other adventurous side, far away from the beaches and party scene of Rio and the other major cities. Brazil has plenty to offer the traveler who is looking to get off the beaten path, and explore some of its more remote regions.

One of the more famous of these attractions is Iguassu Falls, located along the border between Brazil and Argentina. Iguassu is a collection of more than 275 waterfalls compressed into an area that is roughly 1.5 miles in length. Some of them are as tall as 270 feet, and the total amount of water that crosses over Iguassu Falls is more than twice that of Niagara.

While Iguassu doesn’t see nearly as much traffic as Rio or the other major cities, plenty of intrepid travelers still make the journey to take in that natural wonder. For something a bit further off the tourist radar, consider a trip to the Brazilian region of Pantanal, a tropical wetland, much like the Florida Everglades, but on a much larger scale. During the rainy season, the Amazon River overflows into the area, creating a unique and diverse ecosystem with literally thousands of species of birds, fish, and other wildlife. Exploring the area by boat is akin to taking an African Safari, with giant river otter, colorful maccaw, marsh deer, and even piranha on display.Of course, the most famous region of Brazil is the Amazon Rainforest, the vast region that covers much of the South American continent in a dense jungle that is home to more than tens of thousands of plants alone, and thousands more animals. This is a part of the world that most travelers never venture into, even if they come to Brazil, but it is possible to camp and trek through the rainforest, And for those that want to experience the place for themselves, but don’t feel like roughing it, there are a number of eco-lodges in the region, such as the Araiau Towers.

Finally, for the truly adventurous, there is a little known region that falls on the border of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana known as Roraima. This very remote place was the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and has become a favorite destination for backpackers. Roraima lies beyond the Amazon Basin, and is in the most distant area of Brazil. The tallest mountain in the country can be found here, and it is possible to hike to the summit of the “table-top” mountains, known as “tepui”, that are the hallmark of Roraima. Adventurous travelers can expect to spend four to five days en route to the top, where they’ll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding area.

While Brazil has a much deserved reputation for being a party destination, there is also plenty to offer the adventurous traveler who goes there as well. Get out of the large metropolitan areas, and there is plenty of unique and interesting places, unlike anywhere else on Earth, that will give you a completely different impression of the country.