My Journey to the Lost World,
Venezuela's Roraima Tepui
by Fernando Santos, Caracas, Venezuela
Click images to enlarge
"Up to this part of the slope our ascent had been
fairly easy. We have now reached a spot where one long climb
will take us to the level summit, and we shall behold that which
has never been observed since the beginning of the world. "
Account from first expedition to Roraima, Everard Im Thurn
"From the side of the plateau on which we were, slopes
of woodland, with occasional glades, stretched down for 5 or
6 miles to the central lake. I could see at my very feet the
glade of the iguanodons, and farther off was...the swamp of the
pterodactyls...I could see a number of dark holes...which I conjectured
to be the mouths of the caves."
The Lost World, Arthur Conan Doyle
Mount Roraima or Roraima Tepui was made famous in 1912 when
Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle wrote his fictional novel entitled The
Lost World. It describes the ascent of a Roraima-like mountain
by an exploratory party in search of prehistoric plants and dinosaurs
that were believed to live isolated and unchanged for millions
of years on the mountain's summit. Conan-Doyle was inspired by
the British botanist Everard Im Thurn who on December 18, 1884,
with Harry Perkins, was the first to reach the summit of Mount
Im Thurn, whose skills included considerable expertise in
botany, collected specimens from the Roraima area, from which
scientists at Kew Gardens identified fifty-three new species
and three new genera. Im Thurn and Perkins were not the first
Europeans to see Mount Roraima. That goes to Robert Schomburgk,
a German-born explorer and scientist who explored the region
for Britain's Royal Geographical Society in 1838, and before
him Walter Raleigh described a mountain of crystal on his expedition
up the Orinoco to find Lake Manoa and El Dorado. But despite
the expedition's major contribution to botanical science, and
Im Thurn's own accounts of his journey, published variously by
the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Scottish Geographical
Society and Im Thurn's own Guyanan scientific journal, Timehri,
these were eclipsed by the work of fiction with which Mount Roraima
became associated: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's imperial adventure
novel, The Lost World (1912).
Im Thurn climbed Mount Roraima from the southeast by what is
now called the Im Thurn route, the only easy way to the summit.
His expedition had to fight its way through hundreds of miles
of wild rivers and jungles.
Im Thurn's route
It was these stories of prehistoric plants and dinosaurs,
bizarre labyrinths, adventure, and a chance to go back in time
that moved me to hike into Mount Roraima New Year's Eve 2007.
Im Thurn's route closer
Waterlilies in the Tek River
Climbing Roraima was truly an adventure. We spent our first day
crossing the Gran Sabana from the Pemon village of Paraytepui,
enjoying its landscape, and crossing the Tek and Kukenan Rivers.
The second day we left a camp next to the Kukenan River and headed
to base camp where we spent our second night in front of the
massive Roraima walls. The next day brought us into and through
tropical rain forests, sheer cliffs affording spectacular views,
and up the massive walls on a rocky trail.
When we reached the top, it was almost like walking on the
moon. Strange formations of black igneous rock, believed to be
over 1.8 million years old and eroded into all manner of strange
shapes, dotted the landscape. Growing among the rocks were strange
plants. Cascades of water formed pools and Jacuzzis which sparkled
in the landscape. Finally we reached the "Guacharo Hotel",
a group of shallow caves along the eroded rock suitable for pitching
our tents for the next two days.
Fernando atop Roraima Tepui >
Heliamphora nutans >
Lichens among the rocks
Additional Images > Complete 300K
Atop Roraima, weather changes rapidly as clouds move over causing
one minute to be grey and dark , and the next bright and sunny;
then the scenery fades behind a curtain of light rain. We spent
two days in this lost world, exploring its flora, fauna, and
places like the Crystal Valleys, where thousands of quartz crystals
cover the ground. We bathed in the Jacuzzis, small deep pools
among the rocks with water temperatures of 40 F (4.5 C). We also
made a day hike to "Triple Point" that marks the point
where the borders of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana meet. We also
climbed to the "car", a rock formation that looks like
a Ford Maverick, and it is the highest point on Roraima, offering
a unique, spectacular, breathtaking view of the Gran Sabana.
Finally on our way down we stopped at "La Ventana"
(window) showing us a different landscape, looking to the west
and into the Guyanan Amazon rain forest.
The rain forest from La Ventana
It took us two days to hike back to Paraytepui. Unfortunately,
there were no dinosaurs at the top of Roraima Tepui, but it was
an unforgettable adventure in a lost world to begin 2007!
For shorter download - Rainforest
Gallery | Summit Gallery