"The Lost World"
By Fernando Santos
Click images to enlarge
In April of 2003, Fernando Jr. and I travelled to one of Venezuela's most beautiful places, La Gran Sabana, also called "The Lost World". Our base was a village called Kamarata, where Capuchin monks run a mission. It was a great week with fantastic scenery, no bugs, no rain, full sun and many miles walked. It was the first time that Fernando Jr. had the opportunity to see this extraordinary place.
The region sits atop the Guyana Shield in the southeastern corner of Venezuela. Clouds blown from the eastern Africa coast and over the Atlantic Ocean shed their load as they meet the higher ground of the shield, feeding the huge watersheds of the Orinoco basin to the north and the Amazon to the south.
The geological background of the area is not well understood. There are three main geological formations. The oldest is an underlying igneous-metamorphic base formed some 1.2-3.6 billion years ago while South America was joined to Africa as the super continent. The first of these formations is too deeply buried within the region, but second (known as the Roraima Group) forms the basis of the area's extraordinary topography. It consists of quartz and sandstone strata, which were probably laid down in shallow seas. Lastly, during Palaeozoic and Mesozoic times magma repeatedly penetrated the existing sediments forming intrusive rocks.
The Gran Sabana is characterised by towering table-top mountains called tepuis with their vertical walls and waterfalls, plunged in infinite yellow-green savannahs and deep green jungle. The word tepuy is the Pemón (traditional inhabitants of La Gran Sabana) denomination of "Table Mountain" and is complex and profound. The tepuis are sacred mountains for the Pemón. They are the "guardians of the savannah" where the spirits (called Kanaima) in the form of men may steal the souls of the living.
The isolation and the height of the tepuis has allowed a very
special eco-system to develop and many species of plants and
animals are found there, species that have followed a different
evolutionary path than similar species that can be found just
a few miles away
botanists' paradise. We saw native Cattleya,
Laelia, Encyclia, Oncidium, Heliconia, Bromelia and a tiny
Sarracenia that I found on our way to a cave.
The picture at the top of the page has a story. In the afternoon after being at the village of Kavak, we went to see another small Pemón village about two miles from Kavak. There was an old four-wheel-drive Toyota pickup at Kavak that gave us a lift, but something went wrong with the gearbox after crossing a river. We walked to the village and then we went back, taking a short cut to Kamarata, about eight miles walk. A huge storm was coming from the southwest. After half an hour of the walk, I turned and I saw the Auyantepuy... eight waterfalls were pouring down from the lower terrace into the savanna. Due to the lack of light they can't be seen in the picture.
Profile - Fernando Santos