HOLIDAY DISASTERS

She set off to find Conan Doyle's `Lost Country', but soon realised that El Nino had got there first ...

ate December 1998, eight thirtysomethings set off on the vacation of a lifetime to explore Conan Doyle's Lost World of Venezuela - including Mount Roraima and a river trip to Angel Falls. A panacea for all the stresses of life, and an escape from the British winter and all the Christmas commercialism.

Trek preparations were not without logistical problems - such as an elusive alcoholic trek leader with no kerosene. The trek commenced. Conditions were basic but this was "adventure travel" and so we strode towards the plateau of the Lost World... with a spring in our step.

Overcoming minor trials - river, mosquitoes and sandflies - we reached the plateau soaked by the rain but exhilarated. The rain never stopped. Dry season it may have been but Venezuela was experiencing the El Nino effect. Wet socks, wet boots, wet clothes. We were muddy, smelly, bedraggled and hungry in a pretty barren landscape.

Christmas Eve. Following a hearty breakfast of arepos (solid yellow flying saucers, supposedly made of corn), it became apparent that most of the planned activities were impossible because of the unrelenting rain. After lunch (cheese and ham, again), the afternoon was spent staring across the plateau at weird rock formations or reading chapters from The Lost World. Later, after several tense rounds of Mornington Crescent, it was time for supper: chicken soup with sweet potato. The vegetarian option was chicken soup sans chicken. This culinary delight was followed by prunes stewed in strong Venezuelan rum. I doubt prunes have ever been quite as popular as with this group of cold, damp travellers encamped beneath a rocky overhang, huddled in sleeping bags and reading aloud by torchlight. We all slept soundly that night: Christmas Day dawned in the usual fashion - with hangovers.

Festive spirit abounded as we prepared to descend this god-forsaken stony plateau, cheered by prospects of fresh provisions and alcohol. Donning our still-wet clothes, socks and boots, we descended in the rain. When we finally reached base camp, the rain stopped and we revelled in the almost sunshine. Three more hours to evening camp. Then the great deluge commenced. When you thought it was impossible to rain more, it rained. Soon, all paths flowed as rivers. Water swept over our ankles and into our boots as we trudged silently onwards, our festive spirit considerably dampened.

When we finally reached the Rio Kukenan, it had become impassable. Several other trekking groups had been lucky not to be swept away as floodwater torrented down river. Our tents were on the other side.

While our guides contemplated this conundrum, we sheltered under a yellow tarpaulin and continued reading Arthur's adventures. Would he fend off the dinosaurs and win beautiful Gladys?

Our trek leader announced that we would have to swim the river. Looks of panic were exchanged. This was not the local leisure centre. Tarpaulin transformed into a luggage-carrier, we stripped off, and dived to our fate in the torrent. Somehow we all managed to reach our guides instead of being swept over into the rapids.

Still muddy, still smelly, still wet - but alive - we had another hour of walking and another river to cross before relative comfort. A camp site to ourselves. Christmas night under a clear starlit Venezuelan sky, drinking wine and rum around a camp fire, eating pasta with cheese seasoned with river grit. Reflecting upon our families far away, enjoying turkey, port and Noel Edmonds, we were content in the knowledge that in spite of everything, we had made the right choice - a Christmas Day to remember. Incidentally, Arthur lost Gladys. To a solicitor's clerk.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Casual Visitor Experience Assistants

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To work within the Visitor Experience Departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created