My Week in Venezuela

I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about traveling here because the press paints a picture of Venezuela to be a completely unstable and violent place that no one should even think of visiting. The financial and political crisis covered by the media is a very serious issue. However, I learned so much about the situation during my time there and from my uninformed perspective, these problems haven’t changed the fact that Venezuelans are good people just like everywhere else in the world. This misunderstood country really solidified my belief that you can’t put too much weight on the way the media portrays a country without experiencing it firsthand. After networking with people living in Venezuela and making arrangements for the trip, I felt comfortable enough to take the risk and see for myself what the country was all about.  

Traveling to offbeat places has an interesting way of bringing people together. Mike and I had never met before we decided to do this trip together. I casually told him it was on my bucket list to go to Angel Falls and he said he wanted to visit his friend who was living in Venezuela. Thus this crazy adventure was born and we ran with it. I flew home from Europe specifically to apply for my visa and left three days after it was issued. He really took the initiative and discovered nothing is easy when it comes to Venezuela. Trips like this don’t just happen. They take effort from everyone involved so finding someone willing to take that on with you makes all the difference. Hours of back and forth conversations with the fixer, bank transfers, confusing itineraries with multiple flights etc. This trip would not have been possible for me without Mike and his connections.

It took a few uneventful days to get all the way into Canaima National Park but once we arrived, we instantly knew it was worth all the time and energy it took to get there. The little town of Canaima is surrounded by powerful waterfalls and dense jungle. We spent a day exploring the trails and ended up behind my new favorite waterfall, Salto El Sapo.

We woke up early to start our 4 hour boat ride up the river to Angel Falls. It was just Mike and I, our guide and three local hunters who made the trip. The river was winding and surrounded by epic mountain tops. As we turned the last corner and Angel Falls came into view for the first time, warm rain started pouring down. We ran around like excited little kids when we got to our camp, the feeling of being in this place completely alone was surreal. 

After making dinner and setting up our hammocks, our guide passed out at 7 PM. We went exploring through the jungle at night and Mike taught me how to find spiders using a headlamp and the reflection of their eyes. I was blown away how much more alive the jungle becomes at night. 

 In the morning we hiked through the jungle for a few miles, our machete happy guide leading the way. It looked like the path hadn’t been walked on for a while. Once we made it to the trails end, we were sticky and sweaty and beyond stoked. Looking up at the falls, you couldn’t tell where the clouds ended and the waterfall began. 

When we were swimming in the pool at the base of Angel Falls, Mike and I looked at each other and realized that this is what the maximum level of happiness feels like. In that moment, all the worries and distractions of real life faded away and all that was left was the human connection between nature and the spirit of adventure. There was nothing that could have made the experience any better than it already was. I consciously tried to remember everything about that feeling because I knew it was only temporary and I want to be able to channel that energy into my daily life. For me, these realizations are what traveling is all about. Before you leave you have no idea how much you’re going to get out of these experiences.

We made it back to Canaima after a long day on the boat. Mike and I went to have dinner in our little hotel to find the room packed with people. There was a local choir group of young kids playing violins, cello and singing in Spanish. I thought it was just a cute show the kids were putting on for their families. When they finished their songs, a man came up and gave a speech that made almost everyone in the room start to cry. It was such an interesting perspective for me because I had literally no idea what they were talking about but the emotion in the room was palpable. As Mike and I were standing there watching this whole situation unfold, a woman with tears running down her face leaned over to Mike and said, “This is my Venezuela”. The group of children sang a song about Venezuelan heritage to the Air Force fighter pilots who were visiting Canaima. It was so beautiful to see the way these military men connect with the local people in such a genuine way that they couldn’t even hold back their emotions. We ended up drinking low quality rum with everyone. I’ve never danced salsa before and it was so hilarious to have men and women take turns trying to get my clumsy body to do the right moves. It literally felt like Latin American people have some extra bone in their legs that allows them to move to the rhythm in ways I’m literally incapable of doing. We laughed and danced with the Air Force for hours that night. Venezuelans have such a unique fire and passion imbedded in their culture. They take so much pride in their country and they deserve so much more than their current economic and political situation. We were made to feel so welcome and as incredible as Canaima National Park is, this is the side of Venezuela that left the greatest impression.

Thank you to Mike Corey, Sandy Corey and Pablo Martínez for making this dream a reality!