Venezuela - Journey Latin America

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Venezuela - Journey Latin America

Journey Venezuela


60 Venezuela

Venezuela at a glance

TONY MORRISON

Venezuela is a Latin country with a Caribbean

beat, and an important surviving indigenous

presence. Its jagged, snow-capped Andean

mountains shelter quaint colonial towns, while

the indian communities of the Orinoco and

Amazon basins maintain their primitive lifestyle.

Special attractions include the ‘Lost World’ of flattopped

table-lands where waterfalls plunge over

towering vertical cliffs, the extensive savannah

grassland of the llanos, with its teeming wildlife,

and some lovely Caribbean beaches.

Venezuela has a comprehensive road network,

or you can reach places of interest using frequent

short domestic flights. In addition to its

impressive and growing range of accommodation

there are now many opportunities to undertake

adventure activities such as horse-riding,

mountain-biking and canoeing.

1. The llanos prairies

Lying between the virgin jungle of the Orinoco

delta and the Andes in the west is an area of rich

grasslands, cattle-raising territory which is a haven

for wildlife. There are a series of comfortable

lodges, or hatos, where you can base yourself for

a relaxing stay.

ISABELLE MAZILLE

COLOMBIA

2. The Andes

This is the most northerly outcrop of the Andean

range, with many snowy peaks. There is a variety

of scenery from rainforest on the lower slopes up

to the highland moors (páramo). Situated on a

river terrace, Mérida is a pleasant town and good

base for visits to the area.

Venezuela essentials

ECUADOR

PHOTO ON PREVIOUS PAGE BY DOMINIC HAMILTON

Climate: Over half the country enjoys a

temperate mountain climate. The coasts

are hot and humid. The northwest is

arid desert. Most rain falls in summer.

Rainy season May-November.

Festivals: Carnival (2-5 Feb 2008,

21-24 Feb 2009), Semana Santa/Easter

(16-23 Mar 2008). Dancing Devils of Yare/

Corpus Christi (22-24 May 2008).

Time difference from UK: -6hrs GMT

Travel Time from UK: 11½hrs

South America

Map to scale

0 Miles 200

0km 300

PERU


Venezuela 61

CARIBBEAN SEA

CONDOR VERDE

3. Caribbean coast

The heavily indented coastline

harbours a number of beautiful

palm-fringed beaches. On the

sandy coral reef archipelago of

Los Roques there are facilities

for water-based activities.

ARUBA

Coro•

CURAÇAO

BONAIRE

Los Roques•

3

• Maracaíbo

Caracas •

Carúpano•

TRINIDAD

AND TOBAGO

2

ANDES

Barinas•

Mérida•

Hato El Cedral•

• Hato Piñero

Llanos

1

• San Fernando

VENEZUELA

Puerto Ordaz•

Ciudad Bolivar•

Orinoco Delta Lodge•

Tucupita•

5

CONDOR VERDE

Canaima•

4

Angel Falls

Kavac•

GRAN SABANA

Roraima Tepuy•

Santa Elena•

GUYANA

4. The tablelands of the Gran Sabana

Angel Falls is one of the most

spectacular sights in the world – viewed

from the air or from a boat at the foot.

At 979m it constitutes the world’s

longest single drop, plunging over

the lip of one of the series of tabletopped

mountains that dominate the

grasslands of the Venezuelan veldt

(the Gran Sabana).

BRAZIL

5. The Orinoco delta

The vast network of waterways which form the Orinoco

delta is home to the Warao indians, who live a simple life

along the riverbanks. Visit this remote area from Tucupita

or one of a number of more remote lodges.

JON CRWYS WILLIAMS


62 Venezuela

Suggested itinerary

Highlights of Venezuela

Tucusito

Tuesdays or Fridays from the UK

16 days, 14 nights

Caracas 1 night, Canaima 2n,

Orinoco Delta 3n, Caracas 1n,

Mérida 2n, Hotel on the páramo 1n,

Hato (cattle ranch) 3n, Caracas 1n.

Caracas


Orinoco

Delta

• Mérida


• Puerto

San Fernando•Llanos

Ordaz

Canaima• VENEZUELA Angel • Falls

COLOMBIA

BRAZIL

Day 1 Morning flight from the UK to the capital Caracas. Day 2 Fly to

Canaima National Park for a 2 night stay. Day 3 The climax of a visit to

this protected area of savannah and table-lands is the view of the Angel

Falls (below right) Day 4 Fly to Puerto Ordaz and drive to a basic lodge

in the Orinoco Delta (p63), mantled in jungle and mangrove swamps.

Days 5&6 Excursions offered include river trips, visits to indian villages,

bird-watching and piranha fishing. Day 7 Return to Caracas. Day 8 Fly to

Mérida, an Andean university town and a centre for outdoor activities.

Day 9 Take the world’s highest, and at 12.5km, longest cable car offering

views of the surrounding mountains. Trekking, horse-riding, mountainbiking

and para-gliding are all available locally. Day 10 Drive to Hotel

Los Frailes, a converted 17th century monastery, or similar

accommodation in the area of high páramo plains, visiting several

Andean villages and the glacier lake of Mucubaji. Day 11 Drive south

to the llanos – the floodplains of the Orinoco, grasslands rich in bird

and animal life. Accommodation is on a working cattle ranch.

Days 12&13 Complimentary excursions by jeep or boat through the

llanos. Day 14 Drive to Barinas airport and fly to Caracas. Day 15 Fly to

the UK arriving the following day.

Gran Sabana and the Orinoco

Romance and adventure:

Venezuela’s wild south

South of the River Orinoco, half of the territory of

Venezuela consists of barely populated wilderness: the

river’s immense delta where indigenous tribes live

simply on the banks of the spider’s web of dark, sluggish

waterways; the blanket of grassland prairies (llanos), with

vast cattle ranches patrolled by cowboys on horseback;

and, most evocative of all, the ancient sheer-walled

tepuys of the Gran Sabana, known as the ‘Lost World’ with

a nod to Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure story. Here, the

Angel Falls, discovered by the aviator explorer Jimmy

Angel over 70 years ago are the centre of attraction. Even

some of the towns have a frontier feel: prospectors gather

in hope of riches from the vast mineral-rich veins of rock

– the search for mythical El Dorado in colonial times was

concentrated here...

JON CRWYS WILLIAMS

*Please note: The order of the itinerary is subject to domestic flight schedules.

Prices from £2,091pp based on two sharing, excluding transatlantic flights.

How about

›› Relaxing on the beach in Aruba in the Dutch Caribbean on the way

home (p58). ›› A laid-back Caribbean stopover in Tobago (p57).

›› A beach wind-down on the Paria Peninsula or at Coro (p64).

Below: Hotel Los Frailes, near Mérida in the western Andes.

KATE HUGHES

Above: Excursions by canoe on the lagoon at Canaima to the foot of the Yuri falls (shown here)

are included as part of the Canaima extension.

Angel Falls

Daily from Canaima

4 days, 3 nights (by river) from £296pp,

or 3 days 2 nights (by air) from

£123pp. Based on two sharing

The base for visiting the Angel Falls is

in the National Park at Canaima.

Here, a huddle of chalets faces a

pink sand beach and tannin black

lagoon; but the Falls, which cascade

from the top of Auyan Tepuy, are not

visible from the encampment.

Canoe expedition:

Upon arrival at Canaima by air,

overnight in a simple lodge and then

travel upstream by dugout motorised

canoe to the foot of the Angel Falls

where crystal water and veils of

agitated spray plunge over a precipice

with an unimpeded drop of almost a

kilometre. It is an hour’s tough walk

through rainforest to the point on

a rocky ledge where there is a

magnifi cent view of the falls.

After a night spent in hammocks,

return to Canaima. There is the

opportunity to take a light aircraft fl ight

over the cataract. Overnight in a

simple hotel and return to Canaima

airport.

The rivers are at their highest, and the

falls at their most spectacular, in July

and August. At other times it may

be necessary to disembark to allow

canoes to be portaged over rapids.

By light aircraft:

Upon arrival at Canaima by air,

overnight in a simple lodge

overlooking the lagoon. The lightaircraft

fl ight over the Angel Falls

offers stupendous views: a veil of

misty spray in the dry seasons,

while three separate cataracts are

visible in the wet.

Flights are subject to demand and

weather conditions and will not

operate in poor visibility. Other

extra excursions can be arranged

locally, including a trip to Yuri Falls,

or upstream to Isla Orquídia with

views of the Tepuys.


Venezuela 63

Active

Lost world plateau trek

Orinoco delta

adventure

KATE HUGHES

Regular departures from Santa Elena

8 days, 7 nights

From £366pp based on two sharing

Daily from Puerto Ordaz

4 days, 3 nights

From £453pp based on two sharing

The hike up Roraima is

considered one of the most

compelling on the continent.

You have to be fit, and there

are plenty of bugs, but the

rewards at the top make the

effort well worthwhile.

Following a night in the Venezuela-

Brazil border town of Santa Elena,

drive by jeep northwards into the

savannah, over dirt roads to reach

Paraitepuy, the Pemon indian village

from which you set out for the base

camp. Start the trek the next day:

it is a 5-hour hike across rolling

grasslands, fording streams, with

ropes if necessary. The savannah

rises steadily towards the base of

Roraima. After a night under canvas,

climb a diagonal trail through the

rainforest, picking your way through

broken rocks and luxuriant flora,

sheltering from waterfalls above, to

reach the top (5 hours). Explore the

surface of the plateau, an otherworldly

land of huge rocks, water and bogs.

Descend to the campsite at the Río

Tek. On arrival in Paraitepuy, return

by jeep to Santa Elena. Depart from

Santa Elena airport.

Below: Several places in Latin America

claim to be the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s

Lost World – Roraima Tepuy is probably the

best candidate.

The banks of the Orinoco and its

tributaries are sparsely-inhabited by

the Warao indians or ‘canoe people’

and the only means of transport is by

river. The Orinoco Delta Lodge is

located 4 hours from Puerto Ordaz

by a combination of ferry, car and

motorised canoe and accommodation

is in simple cabins with bathroom.

The English-speaking guides offer a

flexible itinerary that includes canoe

trips, bird-watching, piranha-fishing

and a visit to various local indian

settlements. The delta has a diverse

biosphere with an abundance of flora

and fauna, particularly bird-life. There

is the option of spending one of the

following nights in a more remote and

basic camp.

How about

›› Going overland via Guacharo

Caves to Hacienda Bukaré (p64).

Our comment

Rooms are large and open – no

walls, only mosquito screens,

and basic – with beds, one small

table and electricity from 6am

until 11pm – but overall you will

have the full experience of being

in the midst of the jungle without

being necessarily exposed.

Above: They say that caimans don’t attack

humans. But you wouldn’t want to get too

close...

Right: Hoatzin. This unusual bird, with a

call somewhere between a peacock and a

clapped out gearbox, is considered to be

the closest thing to living proof that birds

evolved from dinosaurs.

CONDOR VERDE

Hato Piñero

Daily from Caracas

4 days, 3 nights

From £427pp based on two sharing

This working ranch is a de facto nature

reserve, the owners having prohibited

hunting. The land lies in the north

central Llanos, 6hrs from Caracas.

In the rainy season (May-Sep) 80% of

the land is flooded. The open

savannahs are used for cattle pasture.

The ranch has many different types of

habitat, and the list of mammals and

reptiles spotted includes a few rarities

– jaguars, giant otters, and tapirs –

and others, such as capybaras,

caimans and howler monkeys, which

are more common. Some 300

species of birds have been identified.

The only planned activities are

observation of the flora and fauna,

by boat, horse-back, truck or on foot.

The ranch-house itself is charming,

with polished stone floors, furniture

and beams made from local wood

and a wide verandah.

KATE HUGHES

Our comment

Simple but good. Food is fresh

local produce, served

communally. Bird watchers

especially will be entranced.


64 Venezuela

Winding down on the Caribbean coast

“Paradise on Earth”

This was Columbus’s ecstatic assessment of Venezuela’s

Caribbean coast when he first set foot here, and it

certainly does have some exquisite scenery. West of the

capital there are pretty colonial towns and sparkling

beaches lapped by deep turquoise waters. The little town

of Coro, founded in 1527, retains much of its colonial and

19th-century charm; with cobbled streets, ochre

doorways and terracotta frescoes. East of Caracas, the

outstandingly beautiful Paria peninsula is one of those

unsung and almost unvisited areas of the coast which

evokes an era before tourism reached the Caribbean.

Los Roques consists of 42 sun-bleached cayes and over

300 islets situated 160km off the coast.

JON CRWYS WILLIAMS

Los Roques

Daily from Caracas

4 days, 3 nights

From £398pp based on two sharing

Hotel

Granja el Ojito

Simple hotel/guesthouse

Near Coro

Hotel

Hacienda Bukaré

Simple hotel/guesthouse

Paria Peninsula

The islands can be reached by air

from Caracas. The electric blue

crystal-clear water, aquamarine

lagoons and beaches of pristine,

dazzling white coral sand make this

archipelago a popular destination

for winding down. Surrounding the

islands are 20km of coral reef with

excellent snorkelling and diving:

organised diving excursions and PADI

courses are available. There are a

number of small and charming barefoot

posadas and guesthouses here

for you to choose from, each with a

homely and relaxed style, where

you can hang out in a hammock or

dabble in water-sports.

This simple, German-owned

establishment is located on a coconut

palm plantation overlooking the

Caribbean Sea. Accommodation is

in a row of white-washed, one-storey

rooms with hammocks on individual

terraces. There is a small pool, tennis

court and a broad fudgy beach close

by, and on the tiny isthmus to the

north of the town and beyond, a

wilderness area of sand dunes.

Our comment

This is a good base from which to

explore the area – you can visit

nearby coffee plantations and

Coro, as well as the quiet beach

100m from the hotel.

Top: The beaches in the far east of

Venezuela have the advantage that they

are not easily accessible by road from

the metropolitan areas of Caracas. This

is Playa Medina on the Paria Peninsula.

Above: Distance from Caracas has

meant that Coro hasn’t fallen prey to

new development at the same rate as

other parts of Venezuela.

The Hacienda Bukaré is a small

family-run farmhouse on a cocoa

plantation. There are just 4

whitewashed rooms in a one-storey

building with a wide verandah. The

rooms overlook a neat garden and a

small swimming pool, surrounded by

trees. The hacienda is also engaged

in small scale chocolate production.

It is located 15 minutes’ drive away

from beautiful palm-fringed beaches.

Our comment

The Bukaré has that warm,

personal touch: more like a home

from home. The unspoilt beaches

and remote fishing villages make

a stay more of an ‘experience’

than a conventional beach

holiday.

JON CRWYS WILLIAMS

Above: Fresh from the cacao pod to your

plate; home-made chocolate is a delicious

complement to Hacienda Bukaré’s menu.

Above: Los Roques. There’s almost no natural shade, so 4 days here is strictly for sun-worshippers and snorkellers.

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