In the morning it is still lightly raining and the sky is leaden grey. We are up at first light and have breakfast. The river is two to three feet higher than it was last night, and a couple of trees that were on the river bank are now surrounded by water.
We set of along the river towards Devil’s Canyon. As we bear left off the Rio Carrao, we begin fighting against the current of its fast-flowing tributary, the Rio Churung. We pass between dense trees on either bank, views of craggy rocks above us half-shrouded in mist. The engine labours against the current as the driver steers a sure path between treacherous rocks, but water comes splashing into the canoe. It is almost chilly in this grey damp morning!
Our first glimpse of the Angel Falls, even from a distance, is awe-inspiring – the falls high off a distant craggy backdrop. On the other side to the left, four rock sentinels stand guard over the canyon.
After about two hours, we stop abruptly at the side of the river and disembark. The other canoe is not far behind us, battling up the white water. We are moored up on a small island between two branches of the river, and we must cross the minor, but still fast-flowing, branch on the other side before entering into the forest along the trail to the falls themselves. Although only thigh-deep, the fast current threatens to knock us over, but our guides make sure that everyone is across safely.
The forest here is more like the rain forest I was expecting than the ‘genuine’ rain forest back at the Caura Lodge. The path is criss-crossed with the roots of many trees and we have to step carefully.
After some climbing, we finally emerge in bright sunshine onto a large rock set into the valley-side. The cloud has lifted, and the falls, in full view at the head of the valley, sparkle in the light. It is breath-takingly beautiful. Water cascades down in great waves of spray, spreading and mingling as they fall as if in slo-mo. Below is the V-shaped valley, shrouded in a perpetual mist. The trees on the valley’s flanks form an unbroken verdant canopy, and far below the river cascades down its course around great boulders in a raging torrent. We stay for some time, drinking in the perfect view.
Back near the boats (and safely across the fast river), we stop for lunch in a small clearing with a shelter and benches. The falls are still visible, framed through a gap in the trees. The sunlight has moved round to the side now, glinting off the edge of the water and is about to disappear behind the cliffs.
Our return journey down the rapids is very fast, and with the exception of one large splash near the start, fairly dry. Back at the camp a swim in the swollen river is probably out of the question, but there is plenty of time for a good wash at the water’s edge. Then we sit on the veranda, watching the beautiful late-afternoon light on the rock faces across the river.
Dusk falls, and we have barbecued sausages for dinner, cooked by our guides on wooden spits arranged around a blazing fire. We eat, as last night, by candlelight, but the wind has got up and keeps on blowing them out. Sim improvises a guard out of an aluminium drinks can, but this has the unwanted side-effect of blocking most of the light too. The empty plastic water bottle is more successful until it gets a bit too close to the flame. We end the evening on a more intellectual level with the card game ‘nosey’.