PN Canaima, Venezuela

Kerepakupai, Salto Angel: The River that Falls from Heaven

Curiaras on the Sunset
Curiaras used by the natives to lead visitors to Salto Angel, anchored on the banks of the Carrao River.
The Shaman of the Lagoon
An indigenous shaman in Lagoa Canaima
lacustrine conviviality
Teenagers live in the fresh water of the Canaima Lagoon.
Lagoon bathing
Children have fun on the shore of the Canaima Lagoon.
El Sapo Dive
Indigenous people dive into the Canaima lagoon, in the extension of Salto El Sapo.
natural shower
Guide returns from a waterlogged passage under the water of Salto El Sapo.
Great Curiara
Curiara anchored in the Canaima Lagoon, with reddish water due to the concentration of a natural chemical compound.
Motorized Curiara lifts water from the Carrao River.
a meseta or tepui
Tepuy detached from the jungle around the Carrao river.
stone to stone
Indigenous child in the pond formed at the base of Salto Angel.
To the air of Porlamar
Airplane takes off from Porlamar aerodrome, origin of frequent flights to Canaima.
Curiara trip
Curiaras go up the Carrao river side by side, on their way to Salto Angel.
Curiara & Lagoa Canaima
Curiara anchored over the colored water of Lagoa Canaima.
Uricao jump
Curiara with passengers passes in front of the Uricao waterfall, one of which feeds the Canaima lagoon
Little Pemones
Indigenous children next to a small curiara, on a bank of the Carrao River.
Pancho in curiara, Ahonda canyon
Guide Pancho aboard a canoe along the Ahonda Canyon.
ahonda canyon dock
Guia Pancho attaches a curiara to the bank.
Angel Falls or Angel Falls
The water veil of the longest waterfall in the world, the Salto Angel.
Bonanza before the jump
Still water of the Carrao river, immediately before falling into the Canaima lagoon.
In 1937, Jimmy Angel landed a light aircraft on a plateau lost in the Venezuelan jungle. The American adventurer did not find gold but he conquered the baptism of the longest waterfall on the face of the Earth

Little Cessna seems to have had better days.

We only get really apprehensive when we realize the size and likely weight of the only man at the controls. Saturated with his aerial routine, the pilot receives us with indifference. give us a briefing minimal. It immediately takes off into the sky over the Canaima rainforest.

Porlamar Aerodrome, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Airplane takes off from Porlamar aerodrome, origin of frequent flights to Canaima.

The atmosphere is cloudy, windy, full of air pockets. Make the plane jump all the time. Neither the turbulence nor the history of air accidents in that area affect rest from the commander who sinks into a huge Venezuelan newspaper and touches up the spot with his knees.

O flight is panoramic but short. As quickly as we ascend, we return to the ground. We are seduced by the privileged views of that strange South American domain. We landed in the vicinity of the Canaima lagoon. There, we are given two hours on our own.

Bath, Salto Angel, River that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Children have fun on the shore of the Canaima Lagoon.

Through the Jungle of Canaima National Park Above

Despite the lush environment that surrounds it, to the most urban eye, the Laguna de Canaima could be mistaken for the vast reservoir of any remote WWTP.

Its waters rest there, due to the whims of the river that rushes into it with violence in leaps with eccentric names: the Hacha, the Golondrina and the Ucaima.

Curiara jump Uricao, Salto Angel Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Curiara with passengers passes in front of the Uricao waterfall, one of which feeds the Canaima lagoon

For miles on end, the Carrao River meanders between the several tepuis (tables). It tears up the jungle and drags earth and humus that give the stream an ocher look. When this water is pushed to the limits of the broad meander that follows, the compound of fulvic and humic acids thickens and reacts.

The result is a suspicious foam and a gradient of tones that goes from black in the deepest parts to a yellowish-red along the edges. The scenario proves, in fact, chemical. As chemical as natural.

Curiara in Canaima lagoon, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Curiara anchored over the colored water of Lagoa Canaima.

Were it not for the treacherous underwater currents caused by the waterfalls, the lake could be considered safe, almost thermal.

The two hours go by. We return to base camp. We join a multinational group awaiting instructions from the guides to set sail above Carrao.

Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Still water of the Carrao river, immediately before falling into the Canaima lagoon.

The walk to the margin of Curiaras

Only that day, the air traffic to access the Canaima National Park had become complicated. Some travelers were late. Guides keep time accurately.

They know that they are at risk of being caught in the river after sunset, and that this would force the group to spend the night in the jungle on the banks. It is under the pressure of this misadventure that they conduct operations.

The base camp is at the western end of the Canaima Lagoon. At curiaras that await us are moored in Ucaima port, upstream of the Carrao River falls too violent to overcome.

Curiaras, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Curiara anchored in the Canaima Lagoon, with reddish water due to the concentration of a natural chemical compound.

We complete the walk around the lake almost at a run, at the pace of the native leaders who are increasingly concerned.

At a certain point, we noticed that the frenzy that gripped the entourage contrasted with the illusory peace of the river, there, just a few dozen meters from the abyss.

Once the missing visitors arrived, we boarded three curiaras (sturdy canoes of indigenous construction) powered by powerful engines. Upstream navigation starts off smooth. The waters quickly stir.

The Crazy Ascent of the Rio Carrao Rapids

When the Moroco rapids are imminent, the guides fall into an impasse that worries passengers. Until an order from Carlos – the person in charge of the journey – takes us back to action.

Determined and fearless, the helmsmen pull on the engines. They make the boats plow and climb the rapids. The trip is like a river roller coaster. We both climb the furious waves of the Carrao and descend into the river and see them partially encroaching on the ships.

Trip from Curiara, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Curiaras go up the Carrao river side by side, on their way to Salto Angel.

The adventure's soundtrack is also intermittent. When the engines release their power, we hear the bass roar of the pistons. And whenever the overwhelming flow conditions them, the high-pitched roar of the water is imposed. From time to time, there are still screams of panic from the passengers.

After a final acceleration, we beat the Moroco and Mayupa rapids and entered a pacified stretch of Carrao. The rest of the trip to Canyon de Ahonda is already done in the dark.

After the Adrenaline, the Night Rest in Ahonda Canyon

As soon as we disembark at the intermediate camp, two Basque traveling companions fill us in on the events: “Boys, these guys are crazy! As it was getting dark, instead of getting out of the boats and going back in later, they put us in those furious rapids!

Canyon Ahonda, Salto Angel, River that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Guide Pancho aboard a canoe along the Ahonda Canyon.

We read in a guide that several tragedies have already happened there. And that, during the rainy season, this is completely prohibited by the government.”

We continue to discuss the adventure over dinner that the hosts cook in a hurry. Carlos then lulls us with his geopolitical theories and conspiracies of the United States to dominate the Colombia and Venezuela. Sooner than we expect, the guides and outsiders give in to fatigue. They fall asleep, side by side, in the hammocks reserved for them.

Before joining them, we still looked over Canaima's epic past.

The Pemon Indigenous Group and the Yankee Jimmy Angel's Prospectora Adventure

This region was long known for its indigenous people. pemon and – some historians defend, during the XNUMXth century, also Fernando de Berrío, a Castilian explorer and governor who then arrived in these parts.

Shaman, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

An indigenous shaman in Lagoa Canaima

Two centuries later, the legend of a supposedly lost river of gold and the articles and maps of Venezuelan navy captain Felix Cardona Puig sparked the interest of an intrepid American aviator.

Jimmy Angel and his wife Marie Angel moved to those parts of South America. They teamed up with Gustavo “Cabuya” Heny, and a gardener named Miguel Angel Delgado, who specializes in handling ropes and machetes.

Tepui, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Tepuy detached from the jungle around the Carrao river.

Together, they formed an exploration team that carried out several approaches to the Auyantepui, the great plateau (it has an area of ​​about 700 km²).

He knew that the Kerepakupai Vená rushed from it, a waterfall that, at 979 m, would prove to be the highest on the face of the Earth.

For a fortnight, Jimmy Angel watched his colleagues' efforts on the ground. He flew over the area in his beloved Flamingo plane and dropped supplies and equipment attached to small parachutes.

The aviator had circled the top of the great plateau before. On these occasions, he did not find the legendary river of gold but found a flat area that seemed suitable for a landing. On October 9, 1937, the group of adventurers carried out the most insane of their plans.

At first, contact with the ground felt smooth to Jimmy Angel and Henry. The wheels ended up sinking in the mud. They brought about an abrupt braking that caused the fuel line to break and jammed the entire front of the plane.

A persistent cloudiness prevented the rescue of the two men. With the help of their comrades at base camp, Jimmy Angel and Henry managed to survive an arduous overland return to Kamarata, an indigenous village in the Gran Sabana.

Angel Falls, Salto Angel or Kerepakupai: the Controversy Imposed by Hugo Chavez

In 1964, the plane was declared a national monument by the government of Venezuela. Six years later, it would be removed by that country's air force and placed in the Maracay Aviation Museum.

Since then, the wild vastness of Canaima has continued to seduce the world. Its prodigious waterfall attracts hordes of onlookers. It was just a short time away for us to glimpse it too.

We departed Ahonda Canyon shortly after the break of the new day. We did two more hours of curiara. No longer in Carrao but upstream from its tributary, the Churún that flows along another large canyon, the Devil's Canyon.

Splash de curiara, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Motorized Curiara lifts water from the Carrao River.

We disembark at the Ratoncito field and take the jungle trail that leads to a privileged observation point for the jump.

When we get there, visibility is almost total. Give us a deserved reward.

Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

The water veil of the longest waterfall in the world, the Salto Angel.

We sat on a raised boulder. We are semi-hypnotized watching the Kerepakupai river launch itself into the abyss and dancing according to the wind that, close to the ground, suspends the increasingly dispersed water.

We had fun commenting that not even Jimmy Angel had had that view. When we detect two light aircraft flying over the top of the cliff, the epic of the American who died in 1956 after crashing in Panama comes to mind.

We praise your crazy pioneering spirit. It's something not all Venezuelans have chosen to do.

In 2009, inflamed as ever by totalitarian Bolivarianism and its anti-Americanism, the late former president Hugo Chávez took advantage of a TV show to ban the aviator's nickname. He claimed that thousands of Pémon Indians had seen the waterfalls before Jimmy Angel.

From stone to stone, Salto Angel, Rio that falls from the sky, Angel Falls, PN Canaima, Venezuela

Indigenous child in the pond formed at the base of Salto Angel.

He then decreed that the natural wonder would be called just Cheru-Meru, something he had to correct when his daughter handed him a note saying that that was the name of a nearby waterfall and that the right word was Kerepakupai.

After persistent moments of practice, Chávez proclaimed to Venezuela that he had mastered the pronunciation of the correct indigenous term.

He took the opportunity to accuse the United States of having violated his nation's airspace with a piloted plane: “It's the Yankees. I ordered them to be slaughtered. We cannot allow this.”

Jimmy Angel was already safe.

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