Mount Roraima is the highest of the many Table Mountains (tepuis) scattered over the grasslands of The Grand Sabana. The strange rock formations, quarts fields that look like a diamond encrusted fairy land, insect eating plants and many high waterfalls gives the whole area unreal feel and have been an inspiration to writers and movie makers. It is thought to have inspired Arthur Cone Doyle’s book ‘The Lost World’, published in 1912 and more recently it was the setting for the animated Pixar movie UP. Roraima trek is a must to do for all adventure and hiking lovers, unique place with unreal scenery.
There are some unique fauna and flora on each of the tepuis since species have developed in complete isolation on top of them over millennia. The top of the mountain is shared by three countries; Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana and can only be hiked from the Venezuelan side.
Tour companies for Roraima trek
Tours are normally 6 to 8 days, taking three days to reach the top, then one to three days exploring the top and it takes two more days to come down the same trail. You cannot hike this route independent since a guide is compulsory. There are many companies in Santa Elena that offers all-inclusive tours; you can also try to find an independent guide to lead your trek.
We initially approached the three main companies; Backpacker’s Tours, Mystic Tours and Alvarez Tours after which were very lucky to meet Luiz (Vago L Suarez) owner of ‘Trekking Roraima Pemonpé’ through an Irish friend at Michelle’s hostel. Backpacker’s tours were the most expensive at 110 000 VEF ($157), Mystic Tours charged 99 000 VEF ($141) and Alvarez tours 90 000 VEF ($128) these prices include food, porters, transport for a six day tour, even a portable toilet gets carried along.
We opted to go with Luiz for 7 days; he acted as guide and assisted us to rent all equipment and shop for food. We rented a tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, pots and a stove. Our trek worked out VEF 28 000/$40 per person, all-inclusive for seven days. We did not have porters, thus carrying our own food and packs and cooked for ourselves. Together with Martin and Jana, a Czech/Slovak couple we were a group of four. Luiz can customize your trip as you want, we do not like organized tours, but he does offer all-inclusive tours as well.
Roraima trek, 7 days
Day 1: Paraitepuy to Rio Tek Camp
After some last minute shopping we left Santa Elena with Luiz’s 4×4 on a 2-hour ride to the town of Paraitepuy. You can see the massive table mountains (tepuys), Roraima and Kukenan as you approach the village. At the start of the trek route our group grew from 5 to 7, Luiz was approached by a couple from Argentina/Colombia. They were camping at the entrance trying to hook up with a group, since they were not allowed to do the trek without a guide. Luiz agreed and they joined our group.
We had lunch of boiled eggs and sandwiches after which we did a 4 hour walk to the first camp of Rio Tek. After pitching our tents we went for a quick swim and met our new mortal enemies; The Puri-Puri. These sand flies (midges) are everywhere the first two days. They are small and basically invisible, but leave extremely itchy bites. Their bites often bleed and form big red welts on many people. So keep your tents closed and wear long pants, DEET is effective! There were two other groups also camping at Rio Tek and their guides caught and killed two snakes in the camp. I was not too happy about the dead snakes, but they said the snakes are very poisonous so walk around with a torch!
Day 2: Rio Tek Camp to Base Camp
It was again only about four hours walking, we crossed two rivers there is a nice swimming hole at the second. The river here is quite strong and we helped each other to get all the backpacks across. There were a couple of groups at basecamp; there were still a lot of Puri Puri around. We went for a swim close to the camp, I almost got a heart attack, the water was freezing!
Day 3: Final ascent
The climb to the top was steep; it was going through jungle, waterfalls and at places climbing up rocks. It was quite tough going up with heavy packs still full of food at places.
Alya got to the top in about 3 hours (she is always very fast) and I arrived 30 minutes later. We went to set up camp in our ‘hotel’ one of the caves that served as our camp. It took another hour for everybody to arrive. The mountain is beautiful on top, not perfectly flat, with many pools and smaller flat top hills scattered over the surface. After camp was set up we climbed ‘Maverick Rock’, the highest point on top of Mount Roraima and the view was spectacular.
Camping in the hotel was great, but pitching the tents on rock made for some hard sleeping. It got quite cold at night. But do yourself a favor and walk out of the cave late at night when the sky is clear, the stars were spectacular! We spent the next two days exploring the surface. Keep a look out for the carnivorous plants, there are a few different kinds around.
Day 4: Exploring on top of the mountain
Exploring the various sites on top took about 8 hours. We walked past some strangely shaped rocks, and I remember a cool one looking like a turtle!
Our first stop was at La Grieta, there is a massive crack in the mountain and the split creates the big freestanding part of the mountain.
We continued to the Mirador, this view point had some amazing views of the valley.
But the view from our next stop La Ventana (The Window) was unreal, one of the most spectacular views that I have ever seen. Here you can see many waterfalls dropping down from the opposing Mount Kukenan.
Then on the way back we went for a swim in The Jacuzzi, it was nice. But the water temperature was not as such that anybody went for more than a quick dip!
Day 5. Exploring on top of the mountain
The walk to the triple point where the borders of Brazil, Guiana and Venezuela meet. It took about three hours, you could walk around the beacon and be in 3 different countries in 5 seconds.
We had lunch here after which we walked on to Lake Gladys.
The walk back to camp took about four hours and we walked through Valle de Quarzo (the crystal valley). This surreal crystal covered landscape looks like something out of a fairy tale.
It is illegal to remove crystal and we were told people sometimes get searched after the trek, with fines up to $500 for removing crystals.
Day 6: Mount Roraima to Rio Tek Camp
This was a long day covering the distance of days 2 and 3 in one day while descending. We cooked double dinner the previous night and packed half in plastic containers for lunch, we stopped at base camp for lunch after which we continued to the river just before the Rio Tek camp for a long swim after which we went to pitch our tents at the camp.
On the way up Luiz left some of our food for one dinner and one breakfast as well as a bottle of fuel for the stove with a local lady that lives on the campsite grounds, paying her to keep it safe until we return. Unfortunately someone from another group stole this, leaving us with very little to eat after a long day’s hiking. We were not compensated for our missing food. I will not recommend that you leave goods at a campsite, expecting it to be there when you come down the mountain. Luiz organized some food and fuel from other groups.
Day 7. Rio Tek Camp to Paraitepuy
We walked about 3 hours back to the town. It was a relatively flat walk. It was amazing to see so little pollution the whole way, this day however we saw many empty beer cans that one of the big groups threw everywhere as they walked on their first day. The porters must have been sick of carrying the two dozen beers and the hikers disposed of it over about 5 kilometers. It is sad that one of the big companies allowed this. Together with Luiz we picked up all the cans we could and threw it away in town. His wife picked us up in Paratepuy and took us back to Santa Elena.
The trek was amazing, we walked a lot, but it was not too hard since we did not climb too much and altitude was not a factor. It is one of the most beautiful, unique, impressive places that I have ever been and I will recommend that anybody that loves hiking puts this one on their must do list!
Contact Luiz (Vago L Suarez) owner of ‘Trekking Roraima Pemonpé’, a really nice guy that knows the mountain, the fauna and flora and all the accompanying legends like the back of his hand. He will go out of his way to organize the cheapest trip according to your needs.
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