The Uniyakers are back from their expedition to Venezuela and here they sum up a great trip.
All photos © Rob Moffatt. Thanks Rob
In Venezuela, thousands of unknown rivers tumble and roar through thick South American jungles, deserts and grassland on their journey to the country’s two thousand mile stretch of lush Caribbean coast.
The fourth British Universities Kayaking Expedition set out in June 2011 to spend three months exploring this vast land and its geographically diverse environments, running as many rivers and drops as possible and recording their experiences in order to make an amazing destination more accessible for future paddlers.
Our first destination was Merida. High in the Northern tip of the Andes, this town proved to be the ideal base to access all the steep bouldery rivers which drop from the magnificent Andes and offer stacks of paddleable runs and several incredible multi day possibilities. The test piece run in this region is Aricagua, which provided the expedition with an unrelenting 2 day trip of continuous class 4/5 jungle paddling with snakes and squawking monkeys to complete the experience.
The first attempt to paddle this river didn’t quite go to plan. We accidently got on the wrong river, paddled/ gorge walked down a ridiculously committing gorge for a day, then camped and turned back after realising we were totally out of our depth. Deep in the jungle, surrounded by snakes, jaguars and continuous, torrential rainfall, we waited for 5 days until eventually we got through to our driver to re trace the 2 day journey to the get out to come and pick us up. This was the low point of the trip for everyone and a reminder of how difficult and potentially dangerous expedition kayaking is.
The next area of Venezuela that we travelled to was the River Orinoco which drains 75% of the country and rises dramatically during the summer rainy season. When we arrived, we jumped straight onto the river at unusually high flows (33,000 cumecs). This created; huge wave trains, holes and super sweet waves which made the kayaking extremely full on and out of control at times. It had a very Nile-esque feel with extremely powerful main channels coupled with loads of back channels to explore. The huge volume of water creates huge world class waves dotted all over the 2km wide river. These made even our Everests look small as we surfed or just disappeared into them. We ran loads of new rapids and discovered unbelievably powerful features which made this my favourite river.
The final area that we had left to explore was called the “Gran Savannah” which is known by tourists as the land of waterfalls. This isn’t surprising because as at every turning there is another sign for “Salto” which is Spanish for waterfall. After deciding that Angel Falls was probably not the best place to start, we followed every “Salto” sign and found some beauties. From long slides to 12m drops we paddled as much road side stuff as we could. This was however only the tip of the iceberg, there are thousands more Saltos to huck, all you need is a Paraglider or a set of good legs to access them.
To top off an incredible expedition, we spent the last week up on the beautiful Caribbean coastline where we were greeted by amazing 6ft surf pounding in from the Atlantic. We paddled as much as we could survive until it was time to head back to Caracas and fly home.
Venezuela is the most diverse country I have ever been to and makes for awesome kayaking. We survived countless epics, paddled gigantic rapids and ran awesome waterfalls making for an intensely exciting trip.
For some extra action check out the Video
Thanks very much to Alpkit for all the excellent kit that you provided, It kept us cosy in the jungle, warm in the savannah and all our kit bone dry on the rivers, we couldn’t have been without!
For more information about this amazing country visit our website Kayak Venezuela