Daily Log : TRIP TWO
12th January - 31st.January
the PROW of RORAIMA
Friday 12th January
Drive to London Heathrow. American Airlines LHR
to Miami, with connection to Caracas. Met at Caracas Airport by Antonio
Saturday 13th January
In Caracas. Rendezvous Steve Groves who arrived
from holiday in Tobago. Steve had taken a taxi from the airport, and
was held up at gunpoint. There was a driver, and an accomplice but,
unlike my experience where my attackers merely wanted money, Steve's
assailants had apparently mistaken Steve for someone else. They made
several calls cell phone discussing the description of their passenger,
in apparent confusion. When they realised they had picked up the wrong
person, the two men did demand money but Steve was not carrying much
and in the end Steve was dropped off at the hotel unscathed.
Retrieved equipment from British Embassy, and
spent day packing and organising for an early departure by road tomorrow
Sunday 14th January
Departed early from Caracas for six and a half
hour drive to Ciudad Bolivar. Shopping for provisions.
Monday 15th January
Meeting at Rutaca Aviation to organise aircraft
rental, and fitting of dual controls. Filming of Jimmie Angel's "Flamingo"
plane which is now at the entrance to Ciudad Bolivar Airport, having
been lifted off the summit of Auyantepui in the early seventies. More
shopping for provisions. Drive to Guasipati.
Tuesday 16th January
Drive from Guasipati across the Gran Sabana to
Santa Elena, near the Brazilian border - this will be our base for this
filming trip. Very misty and raining - this is supposed to be the height
of the dry season. We had been hoping to enjoy spectacular views of
the Tepuis but we saw very little. Spent evening unpacking and preparing
camera for filming tomorrow.
Wednesday 17th January
Filmed waterfall and red jasper riverbed at "Quebrada
de Jaspe". Drove to Paraitepui, the last Pemon village on the way
to Mount Roraima to organise and schedule porters for our climb. Aircraft
from Rutaca has not arrived.
Thursday 18th January
Unable to film aerials since aircraft did not
show up. Meeting with Raul Arias at Raul Helicopters to arrange helicopter
trip to the summit of Roraima. Aircraft from Rutaca arrived this afternoon.
Friday 19th January
0430 call to prepare aircraft with Wing Mount.
Took off at 0600 to film aerials of Roraima and Kukenaam. Mountains
very clear but air quite bumpy and a battery failed towards end of roll.
Did not make second flight this morning due to the bumpy conditions
and unfortunately, in the afternoon, it was heavily overcast.
System from Last Refuge used in the aerial filming (see
Saturday 20th January
Weather bad today - heavily overcast and raining.
Sunday 21st January
It rained during the night but by dawn it was
beginning to clear. Took off at 0600 to film dawn mist over the forest
- air was very smooth, and light was beautiful. Landed at Wonken to
change film magazines. Filmed aerials of savannah burning near Wonken,
returned to land to change film magazines. Took off again to film the
summit of Chimantatepui and to simulate Jimmie Angel's landing on Auyantepui.
Returned to Santa Elena. We flew again this afternoon to film the southern
cliffs of Roraima and Kukenaam, together with the savannah approaches,
but the air was bumpy so the filming was not very successful.
Monday 22nd January
Took off at 0600 to film Kukenaam, and then made
a second flight to film Weiassipu, Roraima, and Eluwarima. Unable to
fly during afternoon since the airfield was closed for maintenance.
Tuesday 23rd January
Took off at 0530 to fly direct to Uruyen, flying
time 75 minutes. Refuelled and flew to Sarisarinama to film the sinkholes,
flying time 90 minutes. Conditions good. Returned direct to Santa Elena,
flying time two and a half hours. Flew again in the afternoon to film
the southern side of Roraima and the savannah approaches but conditions
were very bumpy (again).
Wednesday 24th January
Took off at 0530 to fly to Salto Montoya, reputed
to be a high and little known waterfall on the rio Paragua, right on
the Brazilian border. It is very far: four hours flying time there and
back. Filmed clouds and forest on the way. Salto Montoya covered by
low cloud and we had to turn back. Landed at Wonken to change film magazines.
Unable to fly in the afternoon since aircraft needed maintenance.
Thursday 25th January
Tried to film Salto Montoya again but conditions
there very hazy with bumpy air. Not very satisfactory. Tried to film
waterfall on rio Caroni near Wonken but air very bumpy. Unable to fly
during the afternoon due to bad weather.
Friday 26th January
Last day of aerial filming. Weather good, and
clear. Flew to Roraima to film the northern prow, and across the valley
to the ascent point of Kukenaam. On returning we heard that the Rutaca
DC-3 that took off in front of us had crashed near Ciudad Bolivar, bursting
into flames and killing all on board. Spent afternoon reconfiguring
the camera for normal filming and starting to pack for the Roraima climb.
Saturday 27th January
Departed by four wheel drive vehicle at 0400
for an area of forest near Icabaru to film forest interiors and for
sound recording. We had hoped to film mist over the forest at dawn but
the weather was very overcast. The sounds, however, were excellent.
Sunday 28th January
Departed early again for the forest to try to
film the mist at dawn. The weather was brighter and we were moderately
successful. More excellent sound recording. Returned at midday to Santa
Elena in order to continue packing for our climb which starts tomorrow.
Monday 29th January
Departed early by vehicle, carrying everything
we need for our Roraima climb, for the two hour drive to the Pemon village
of Paraitepui. Once there, the Inparques officials inspected our papers
before we started to negotiate for porters. They complained that the
loads we had prepared were too heavy (they only like to carry 15 kgs
each!), but what they really wanted was more money. Finally, over budget
and running very late, we set off on foot to reach the first camp at
the Rio Tec. It took us many hours since I kept stopping to film. We
encountered some impressive bush fires on the savannah, and also two
Giant Ant bears. Apart from ants and Antbears there is very little wildlife
on the savannah - the fires, started by the Pemon Indians, are too frequent
and too destructive. The landscape is beautiful though; the rolling
grassland is intersected in dips and hollows by patches of gallery forest
which also follow the courses of streams and rivers; while the horizon
is dominated by the fortress-like cliffs of Roraima and Kukenaam.
Tuesday 30th January
We made an early start from our camp, since I
wanted to find and film the site of the abandoned village Indian of
Teruta, abandoned in the 1920s and the last outpost for the early explorers,
in the latter part of the nineteenth Century, who approached Roraima.
From this point they would have rested and surveyed the cliff wall looking
for a way to ascend to the summit. The village site is now marked by
circular bare patches of hard earth where the huts once stood, on high
ground above the river Kukenaam. We crossed the river without too much
difficulty; the riverbed is composed of slippery pebbles and boulders,
and is often impassable for a few hours following rain on the summit
of Mount Kukenaam. Once across the river, the trail starts climbing
the long ridges of savannah leading up to the base of Roraima. It was
steep, and tiring in the heat, but probably would not have taken more
than four hours or so had we not kept stopping to film. As it was, the
climb took us all day, and we only reached our campsite just before
sunset, situated on the highest point of savannah before the trail enters
the forest belt that more or less surrounds the cliffs of the plateau.
Looking back and down along the trail we had just climbed, the savannah
stretched for mile upon mile, its grass covered ridges and undulations
looking like crumpled velvet. Our camp was cool and became very windy
as night came due to the katabatic airflow from the mountain.
Wednesday 31st January
Today, we knew would be an important day. We
should reach the summit of Roraima, climbing the same ledge as Im Thurn
back in 1884. The weather was bright and clear, so was good for filming.
The trail was steep and eroded from the hundreds of visitors who now
make this climb every year. When I first climbed Roraima from this side
in 1974, the trail, such as it was then, was indistinct and difficult
to follow. Back in Im Thurn's day, the forest belt at the base of the
cliffs was thick and extensive, but a fire in 1925, started by local
Pemon Indians, destroyed most of it, the fire even reaching the summit
of the plateau by way of the ledge we were about to climb. Although
the trail is steep, it is not particularly arduous; the light was beautiful
and the filming was very rewarding. Various look out points on the ledge
remind one of the huge scale of the cliffs; from below, the ledge looks
quite narrow and treacherous, but, once on it, it is wide and impressive.
It was late afternoon by the time we crossed the ravine and began the
ascent of the upper section. We were soon in shade as the sun dipped
behind the summit. At one point, a waterfall sprinkled lightly on to
the upper ledge - after rain the fall is probably quite considerable
- the rocks are slippery and remind one that a broken ankle here would
be a real problem. As we arrived on the top of Roraima we saw the familiar
though extraordinary rock shapes that so impressed Im Thurn. It is difficult
to navigate on the summit - it is impossible to walk in a straight line
due to the crags and ravines, and easy to lose one's sense of direction
since the rock shapes change their character completely when viewed
from different angles. It was dark by the time we found an overhanging
rock under which to pitch camp. It was cold, misty and damp.