A Travellers Tale To The Lost World

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who travelled no further than a Lecture Theatre in London, has inspired many to attempt a journey to Angel Falls in Venezuela, to see for themselves if there really is a Lost World as he described of prehistoric animals and a warlike Native American tribe.

After a long road journey, stopping off to see the many sites, from Caracas to Santa Elena on the Brazilian Border, my personal journey was to take me back part way along to same road and with two flights back to my original destination, the Island of Margarita.

The Gran Sabana has some unusual places, no more than the airstrips that allow air travel between the smaller places within the country. Without any buildings, there are no security checks, ticketing and issue of boarding cards, the frustrations of 21st Century air travel are not to be found here. Just wait for an aircraft to land, put on your own luggage in a small hold, then board and take off.

At Arekuna we were to begin one such flight to see for ourselves the great Falls. Seven of us boarded the small aircraft that was soon into the sky. Anticipation was high as we had already discussed our expectations and we were well versed in the story of the Lost World. Buffeted under the clouds, the air had been unstable since the storm the night before, the small aircraft made its way slowly towards Auyantepui on which Jimmy Angel in 1933 made his ill-fated landing on the summit, in his own aircraft to find gold and who the Falls are named after. Just like him, our journey was not the success we had all wanted, as the highest part of the Falls was covered in low cloud, it was the rainy season. All we could see was the water coming from beneath the clouds and dropping into the river that was forming below. Our disappointment was palpable, its secrets still safe, we made our way back to the Canaima Camp for a further night.

The following day, now eleven of us were to return to Margarita. After meeting the crew of our small aircraft, the Captain had logged in his routing, of which we knew nothing; we set off for our destination. We were soon flying in the clouds and could see nothing even less was discussed. I had made my disappointment known to our guide at not having seen the falls and been told that I had had a chance, even though it was unsuccessful. So all appeared lost. Our aircraft had been travelling for sometime when amazingly it began to descend and the clouds slowly disappeared to reveal the surface of a tepui, hopefully it would be Angel Falls. It was possible to see a sea of dark green vegetation that covered the ground but alas no prehistoric animals or Native Americans to be seen. Water was collecting in the central stream from all over this very large slab of rock and moving quickly towards the edge then cascading over it. The Captain indicated that if we wished to take a photograph, now was the time to get out a camera. I had remembered the advice of the guide, that the experience would be better looking through the aircraft window, rather than through a viewfinder of a camera. It was an awesome site as we moved over the edge, looking vertically 3212 feet to the ground below. The water was free falling in a mass except for a little blown back like rain. The engines of the aircraft screamed at first, and then went strangely quiet, as we dived over the rock. The lady passengers screamed too, as it dipped, the men trying to put a brave face on it, prevented themselves from doing so, we moved quickly away from the rock. The pilot then circled to give us a parting view of the Falls, his passengers relieved and elated that the purpose of our journey had been achieved and in a most spectacular way.

Our journey back to Margarita was uneventful, but on landing I decided to thank the co-pilot for making it possible to see the Falls and for fulfilling a dream of mine. I got the feeling from him it was no great event, that this is what he did and often but for us it was a dream achieved, a journey of a lifetime, that later we could add our own tales too the many that have travelled to the Falls.

R Catlow

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