Seasonal rains had left long stretches of our road flooded across the upper reaches of Lag
Recent rains had rendered local rivers and lakes swollen to the banks. Pulling into the flooded streets near the marina, a small boat loaded with crates of supplies trolled by and between our vehicles, its operator pulling the motor up in the shallows. The water was halfway over our tires as we nosed up the ramp of a small barge that would ferry us across the river. With seasonal high water obscuring most vehicle routes to the south, the marina, which also housed the two local bars, was a swarm of activity. Small boats and curiaras burdened with supplies for local farms and miners were busy with the day's commerce. We were told that we were the first white men, or non-miners, into the jungle this season, and our flashy Jeep YJ and Land Cruiser pegged us as outsiders.
A crowd of patrons watched in curiosity as we boarded. Two curiaras, long dugout canoes with Yamaha outboard motors, were used to power the vessel. Sharing the four-vehicle platform with a supply truck for a local ranch, we paid the Capitan our tariff and pulled away from the ramp. Thirty minutes later, the ramp was lowered onto the muddy banks of the east side, we locked in the hubs, and rolled off.
The Gran Sabana extends over a 200-kilometer plateau of grasslands, rivers, and low-lying jungle. In the distance, the skyline was broken only by the elevated heights of the great tapuis, hundreds of ancient and isolated spires rising thousands of meters from the jungle floor and disappearing into billowing folds of cumulus clouds. We navigated in and through a partially submerged two-track for a dozen kilometers, following the supply truck, passing range cattle and wild horses. The supply truck pulled off at a ranch and our two-track eventually deposited us on the edge of a great lake, Lago Embalse del Guri. Normally a river crossing, the high water left us several kilometers from the next ferryboat and without any means of communication. Digressing back to an old-school method, we used a small mirror and the midday sun to signal the boat operator from an island midway across the lake. We set up for lunch and waited.
Spending the night out on a small island in the middle of the flooded Gran Sabana, our hos
Burdened under the weight of our rigs, navigating our way through the shallow channel of s
Dropping the ramp into the unknown depths of the swamp, we eased our front tires into the
A few hours later, another small barge appeared on the horizon and slowly made its way to our location. As the ramp was lowered, Hildera, whose family lived on the river for many years, stepped off. He had befriended Felipe and Enso on previous visits and welcomed us to his corner of the Gran Sabana. Operating the only transportation to the jungle to the southeast, he was an excellent source of information. The sun was setting, and he offered us his island to camp. Working our way through a ghostly maze of dead and half-submerged trees, we made landfall at Campo Chiguao near last light.
Hildera and his family live a fairly simple life. The only electricity on the island is from batteries, charged by a car alternator and run by a small Briggs & Stratton motor. A few structures made of local wood and covered with mud shared the island with a half dozen thatch-covered huts. With the day's work done and the night settling in, only a light breeze broke the dead silence of our isolated location. We had two orders of business before joining the family for the nightly fiesta: hang our hammocks, and replace a hub on the Jeep that we had broken during a deep-water crossing. The drinks flowed with generosity, and the day's catch of fish was pan-fried in oil over a 55-gallon drum that had been converted to a stove. About midnight, Hildera walked into our camp with a 12-gauge shotgun. It was time to go caiman hunting.