Canaima, the Lost World

When Pixar made the movie "Up" the animators could have drawn anything they wanted to represent  Paradise Falls and the Lost World that Carl, the grouchy protagonist, longed to visit.  Instead they used Canaima National Park as their source, a 3,500,000 hectare, beautiful lush jungle with amazing waterfalls, and giant mesas or tepuis, located in a south east corner of Venezuela.

We had hoped to visit Canaima when we started making plans for our vacation.  We just couldn't seem to make it work and had given up on it by the time we left.  When we arrived in Puerto Ordaz to visit my husband's friend Cesar, he informed us he had a pilot friend aptly named Angel, who would see to it that we got a chance to visit one of the most beautiful places in Venezuela, if not the world, and stay at the best lodge in the park.

I have to say I felt like a VIP as Angel met us at the entrance to the airport looking quite dashing in his uniform and dark aviator glasses.  He took our bags and strode through the busy airport arranging for our boarding passes and ushering us through security to our gate.  We waited patiently for the rest of the passengers to join us.  I was embarrassed when one of the staff rushed over to us apologizing for the delay saying they'd had some trouble with the other three passengers - perhaps she thought we were VIP's too.  

Angel told us he would take us to Waku Lodge and we could have a look around.  He encouraged us to look at the other places that were available and make our own decision - no pressure.  "There are other lodges," he said with smile, "but only one is the best."

I don't know if this picture does it justice, but when I walked through the reception area of the lodge and looked towards the water, I saw this view before me.  It's beauty took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.  I turned to my husband and said with a laugh.  "We're staying here."

Later that afternoon, accompanied by our native guide Isaac and a dozen or so tourist like ourselves, we took a boat to the shore, on the far left in the photo above.  We climbed a  steep  stairway made of tall square rocks and walked along a flat rock ledge behind that raging water.  It was phenomenal.

We continued on our hike climbing up the rocky edge on the other side of the falls, through the jungle and over volcanic rock.  We walked carefully across the top of another waterfall and had a swim in dark water that varied from the colour of amber rum to lightly steeped tea due to its high mineral content.  It was the strangest sensation...feeling both cold and comfortable at the same time.  We walked behind a second waterfall, not quite as spectacular as the first,  and looked over incredible vistas with massive tepuis rising out of lush forest floors.

We returned to the boat and headed back to the lodge making one last stop in front of three palm trees growing out of the water, about forty feet from the shore.  Isaac told us they were 250 years old.  We walked out to the trees for a photo op, marveling at the tall slender trunks that stretched almost 100 feet in the air topped by tufts of green.  

It was one of one of the most amazing experiences of my life and the tour ended perfectly with the sky glowing pink as we pulled into shore.

After dinner there was more to come as we were treated to a concert by five students from the Canaima Youth Orchestra.  Chavez may have some strange ideas, but his focus on culture and music is one step in the right direction.

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