Santa Fe is such a chill little place. Unlike Jericoacoara, Brazil which is billed as a small fishing village, this one actually is. The beach is small and quiet but in the mornings, there's a bit of a hustle and bustle in the north end as fisherman weigh and sell their catch and the fruit and vegetable markets are in full swing. I headed into the 'big city', Puerto del la Cruz, on Saturday to do big city things. I found an ATM willing to give me cash and then surfed the web to my hearts content as Internet access in Santa Fe is horribly slow. I spent the next day in Santa Fe alternately swimming, drinking beer and renewing my commitment to learning Spanish. I hit the books hard and took notes until my hand started to cramp. It was a Sunday so there were lots of families splashing around in the water and enjoying the day. The manager in the restaurant below my hostel made me the most delicious shrimp in garlic butter for lunch. Dreamy. It was a great day that went all too fast and ended in a beautiful sunset.
I left early the next morning to catch a minivan down to Puerto del la Cruz in order to switch to a five hour bus to Cuidad Bolivar. I was expecting a big city but it's really just a very beautiful small one. I found my way into the small downtown and located a hostel run by a wacky German guy, Gerd, who immediately put me at ease. We chatted for a while and then booked my Angel Falls tour with him. I took a walk down to the main street lining the river Orinoco and up around the city. The churches, buildings and monuments were in pristine condition and made a beautiful backdrop. Later on at the hostel I wanted to run down to the store to pick up a few things for my excursion but Gerd warned me against going out alone at night and sent one of his friends to walk with me. A real class move. Up early to head to the airport with Gerd on the back of his motorcycle. I pretty much prayed the whole way and cursed myself for not wearing a helmet.
Our plane for the 50 minute trip to Canima was tiny and a bit flimsy looking but it sufficed. The five of us were met at the airport in Canima and taken straight to a hotel where we met up with eight more travelers before beginning our journey. We headed out on a 30 minute walk around the nearby lagoon until we reached the boat docks. Four bum numbing hours of a boat ride were in order. The scenery was of course lovely. All around are tepuis which are grass covered flat-topped mountains. Unique to this region I believe. Just as our boat pulled up near Angel Falls it started raining heavily. We all got out of the boat as quickly as possible and stretched our stiff limbs before we were quickly led off on a one hour trail up to the viewpoint . The rain dissipated quickly but in the end we were so glad for it because it cleared away the mist covering the falls and we were treated with an amazing view. The falls are almost a kilometer high so by the time the water reaches he small waterfalls below it has turned mostly to mist. A really ethereal sight.
We walked a few minutes more to a small waterfall and pool at the base of the falls where we could jump in and feel the powerful water pushing us around before heading back down the trail to our campsite. They treated us to barbecued chicken and rice before we hit our hammocks for a good night's sleep in front of the falls. When we woke up for breakfast the falls were completely covered by mist but all of a sudden the mist cleared away and we had a beautiful view for about thirty minutes. The ride back on the river was much faster as we were traveling with the current, thank heavens. The water is a dark red and stings your eyes because of all the tannins in the water. The sn was out and the sky was all blue but most of the tepuis we'd seen on the way to the falls were completely shrouded in mist. Did I menion how lucky we were. Lots of people go on the excursion to angel Falls and see nothing but mist and heavy rain the whole time. Back at the hotel we said goodbye to over half our group who were returning to Cuidad Bolivar. It was just five of us again.
We had relaxing lunch and siesta before heading out to check out two nearby smaller waterfalls. We caught a boat across the lagoon to see the Sapa waterfall first. We walked a short way to the falls and then walked about 100 meters along a very slippery path behind the wall of water. There was one point where there was so much water coming down you couldn't really see your next step. I just took a deep breath and went for it. There was a nice area on the other side where we sunned ourselves for a bit before heading down to the beach for a swim and then up to the top of the falls for the view. Acha falls was next. It looked the same on the outside but walking behind the cascading water felt like being in a hurricane. A strong wind was blowing water spray everywhere and you could hardly see. I was glad to make it back out of that one.
(Psst, mom, this is a Canima orchid!) Dinner and a few drinks and I was off to bed. The next morning was all free time until our flight back to Cuidad Bolivar. We were all ready to board the plane when I realized that I'd forgotten my sneakers back at the hotel. Our guide Freddie was kind enough to run and retrieve them for me but as they'd been left out in the rain all night and day they added a horrible rotten smell to the flight. Oops. Oh well, I'm back in lovely Cuidad Bolivar. Tomorow's a big day. Go Ecuador!