Nature as an able sculptor has decorated this world with imposing structures that leave us awestruck. One of the oldest natural mountain formations, Mount Roraima is one such structure. It plays hide and seek with the clouds and threatens to touch the sky. Also known as Roraima Tepui or Cerro Roraima, it forms a natual border between three countries- Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana in South America. The 400 m tall cliffs leading to the mountain top have always been a source of awe, mystery, myths and legends for the indigenous people of the area.
Mount Roraima lies on the Guiana Shield in the southeastern corner of Venezuela’s 30,000 square kilometre Canaima National Park forming the highest peak of Guyana’s Highland Range. The mountain’s highest point is Maverick Rock which is 2,810 metres (9,219 ft) high at the south end of the plateau within Venezuela. The geological formations of Mount Roraima date back to two million years and today the breathtaking hiking trails are a dream come true for hiking and travel enthusiasts.
Needless to say, the mountains are extremely rich in unique varieties of flora and fauna. Pitcher plants form an integral part of the biodiversity. The Pemon and Kapon natives of the region of Gran Sabana believe that Mount Roraima is the stump of a mighty tree that once held all the fruits and tuberous vegetables in the world. Felled by Makunaima, their mythical trickster, the tree crashed to the ground, unleashing a terrible flood. Mentions of the mountains can also be found in popular culture. For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s seminal work “Adventures of the Lost World” are believed to have been inspired by real life explorations of this region. The “Paradise Falls” of Pixar’s much loved animated movie ‘Up’ has also been inspired by Mount Roraima. The documentary “the real Lost World” offers much useful insight into the biodiversity of this region. In course of the shooting of the documentary, two million years old caves of Roraima were discovered for the first time with distinct carrot like formations growing inside them.
Hiking in Mount Roraima
Hiking in the region has gained widespread popularity in the recent years. These days it is difficult to start hiking from the Brazilian side. (The access is through Raposa-Serra do Sol Amerindian reserve, where armed conflicts between the natives, rice farmers and the authorities have been frequent). Thus hikers popularly choose to start ascending from the Venezuelan side.
Ascent from Venezuela
The four day hike offers natural beauty, a sense of adventure and memories to last a lifetime. The sandstone cliffs are particularly beautiful and when clouds play peekaboo with the 400 m high cliffs, it is a striking sight to behold. To go hiking you can fly to the Santa Elena de Uairén airport. It is a town the Venezuelan side very close to the border and a number of buses and shuttles can be availed from here to reach the village of Paraitepui, which is the ascend point of the hike.
The fascinating hiking trails are a delight. Local people (the Pemon Indians) also operate as tour guides in exchange for small sums of money. One cannot leave the village after 2 pm though. Moreover any hiker is allowed to carry only 15 kg of luggage with them and hence the journey has to be planned accordingly. As the hills are part of a National Park, one is not allowed to carry off rocks or plants away from the trails (rule to be strictly adhered to). Prospective trekkers have to undergo thorough checking before they can start off with the trail.
The tabletop formation of the mountains resulting in steep cliffs make hiking rather difficult. One cannot undertake the climb without climbing gear from the Guyana sides. However it was the first ever tepui to be climbed.
Hikers start from Paraitepui and reach the base of the mountain in two days. Two more days along “La Rampa”which is basically a natural staircase shaped path takes you to the top. It is possible to set up tents at the top of the mountains and many hikers choose to spend one night atop the mountain enjoying the exemplary and breathtaking views. In that case return takes two days.
Longer treks can also reach the northern portion of the tepui, mostly in Guyana, with less explored and more intriguing sites such as the Lake Gladys, although this offers more dangers than its more popular southern part of the Mount Roraima and should only be attempted by well supplied groups. The less adventurous can also reach the mountain by helicopter tours available from the city of Santa Elena de Uairén (under favorable weather conditions).
The thing with Mount Roraima is that it still remains largely unexplored even today overshadowed by the fame of the nearby Machchu Pichchu ranges. This fact adds to the mystery surrounding the place however. The heady cocktail of adventure, a touch of mystery and its extraordinary other worldly natural beauty makes the place irresistible. So if you have any taste for either of the three mentioned above, go ahead and add Mount Roraima to your list of places worth visiting.