After arriving into the boiling heat of Caracas we started a long drive West to a rafting base near Barinas. Here we spent a few days finding our feet paddling the local rafting runs (which were excellent), and gathering information on rivers from the local paddlers/rafters. We also managed to have our first epic on the Rio Canagua having to walk out from the second river after a flash flood caused it to rise 4 metres in 10 minutes!
Next stop was Merida, a beautiful city and the adventure capital of Venezuela. There are loads of rivers in the area so we set about getting them ticked off. The rivers are mainly of a very continuous, bouldery alpine style and the scenery is absolutely spectacular be it jungle or mountainous desert. Group favourites so far are the Rio Nostre Senora and the Rio Capaz.
We planned for our first multi-day to be on the Rio Aricagua and loaded our boats full of food, hammocks and cosy Alpkit sleeping bags. Unfortunately, Venezuelan maps aren´t the most detailed in the world so you occassionally have to depend on local knowledge for directions. In this instance we were told to put on on a small trib of the Aricagua and were promised that we would join the main river in about a km. We never found out how far it was to the river though as the tributary dropped away via hundreds of metres of unrunnable gorge. After half a day of portaging got us about 200m downstream we decided to cut our losses and return to the road where we had put in. Unfortunately our driver and guide had already set off for the takeout and were out of phone signal which meant a couple of days camped in the jungle waiting for them to return. We seemed to be camped in the coldest, wettest place in Venezuela and were definitely grateful for the extra warmth provided by Alpkit Airics slid under the hammocks.
After our epic on the Aricagua we were keen to get some solid boating done and were rewarded with the Rio Calderas. We originally headed here on a rumour that there were some waterfalls that may/may not be runnable. We didn´t find any waterfalls but we did find an excellent class 4/5 river which we believe to be a second descent and definitely a new favourite for the group.
The last couple of days have been spent on a sightseeing mission on Lake Maracaibo (aka the lightning lake), a natural phenomenon where lightning occurs around 300 days per year. Tomorrow we are headed up into the mountains near Merida to help Roque (our local guide), build a bathroom in his house as a thankyou for the help he has given us so far. The bedrooms are not quite completed yet either so time to crack out the Hunkas for a bit of a bivvy!!
For more detailed updates on our adventures check out our Team Blog