Five years ago today, I was literally in “the lost world.” In March 2005, Liz visited me in Venezuela (where I had a job as a field technician on a stream ecology project). We met in Caracas and headed southeast toward Venezuela’s border with Brazil and Guyana. In the town of Santa Elena de Uairen, we met up with Eric Buschbell’s Backpacker Tours (highly recommended, by the way) to climb Roraima, the tallest of the tepuis, or “table mountains.”
We knew it would be a fascinating trek – the tepuis are the remnants of the Guianan Shield, a 1.7 billion-year-old rock formation that covers much of northeastern South America. Most of the Shield has eroded away, leaving only the distinctive steep-sided, flat-topped tepuis. Organisms living on top of the tepuis have been isolated from other tepuis and from the forest and grassland below for millions of years. Weird carnivorous plants and other creatures inhabit the wet, labyrinthine dreamscape of the tepuis’ surface. The Venezuelan tepuis are thought to be the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World.
After a 2-day hike through the Gran Sabana grasslands, we ascended Roraima on March 15. Here are a couple of pictures from the surface.