Return to the Gran Sabana: Tepuy Chirikayen
Trekking Tepuy Chirikayen – Part 2
After departing from Santa Elena and hiking in the savannah regions, we began our ascent of the 1,650 meter Tepuy Chirikayen. The table-top mountain is also known as lugar de los pericos in Spanish, translated as “place of the parakeets”, because of the many parakeets that can, apparently, be found hanging about in the surroundings (I didn’t see any if you’re wondering).
Maybe I didn’t see any parakeets, but the land certainly didn’t let me down for interesting flora. This incredibly unique landscape is populated by a vast array of interesting and unusual plants. Chirikayen was covered with these yellow leaves, the occasional strange cactus, and the yellow clustered-star flowers I’d originally seen on the trek to Mt. Roraima. The region is known for having its fair share of carnivorous plants and I wish I’d been able to get some of their names, but I’m not a big botanist.
Originally it seemed like the trek to Chirikayen would be a lot more laid back, but the climb was slightly more difficult than I expected (because I expected a walk in the park). Still it was just a half day hike up to the top. In comparison to Mt. Roraima, Chirikayen was far more vegetated, completely covered in grasses and the weird yellow plants. One side of the tepuy overlooked the savannah while the other side was the perfect place to peer through the mists at the other tepuis in the distance; you could barely make out Roraima if you knew where to look. We made camp underneath the skeleton of an unfinished building that was abandoned when people couldn’t extract minerals there.
While the day had been scorching sun, the night on top of Chirikayen was cold and windy. There weren’t any rock formations to hide yourself in so we all huddled around our fire and a blanket windscreen while sipping rum-spiked hot beverages.
Trekking down turned out to be the most adventurous part of the excursion and we all had to clamber down a steep and rocky cliff side like little lost goats. At parts it wasn’t really a trail and we were making things up as we went along… it wasn’t too dangerous I think, but I had to stow my camera so I had the full use of both legs and hands.
We hustled down the steeps into more savannah region and traversed a few jungle patches. It’s pretty amazing the contrast, most people don’t typically think of expanses of yellow grasslands being dotted by jungle regions. But there are so many rivers and waterfalls in the Gran Sabana that it comes quite naturally here.
I was happy to be able to spot a rattlesnake before the hike was over, but our guide wasn’t too keen on me getting as close as I would have liked (yes I know they can kill you). There was also time for one more great natural swimming pool to stop by. Water cascaded down rocks striped by reds, almost a natural waterslide. Everyone took a dip in the freezing water and then laid out on the sun-baked rocks.
The trek concluded in an adorable little community, also by the name of Chirikayen, that’s situated in the plains below the tepuy. While the village itself was small and peaceful, apparently a young man had been murdered very recently by a group of natives from the region. It’s a group that, apparently, hunts people as a sort of sport, though their targets are never tourists.
There was some sort of mix-up with our transportation and we were forced to spend the night camping inside the town’s community hall. None of us really minded though as it gave up the opportunity to eat both dinner and breakfast at one of the local resident’s houses. We were all pretty crazy about the hot sauce:)
Here’s a VIDEO of some scenes from the trek!