Adventurers flock to Venezuela's 'Lost World' mountain

Tue Feb 3, 2015 6:26am EST
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By Andrew Cawthorne

MOUNT RORAIMA, Venezuela (Reuters) - A mystic, flat-topped mountain on the Venezuela-Brazil border that perplexed 19th-century explorers and inspired "The Lost World" novel is attracting ever more modern-day adventurers.

Once impenetrable to all but the Pemon indigenous people, several thousand hikers a year now make the three-day trek across savannah, through rivers, under a waterfall and along a narrow path scaling the cliffs of Mount Roraima.

While those throngs are a boon to Venezuela's tottering tourism industry, they also scatter a prehistoric landscape with unwanted litter and strain a delicate ecosystem.

Standing at more than 2,800 meters (9,200 feet) high, Roraima is sacred ground for the Pemons and a spiritual symbol for many other Venezuelans.

"It used to be more solitary and inhospitable," recalled Felix Medina, a 59-year-old guide who has been taking people up the mountain for more than a decade.

"I still love it, but there are too many people," said Medina, his calves aching after he led two groups up and down Roraima with the local Akanan tour agency. "It's chaotic sometimes."

Between 3,000 and 4,000 people are climbing each year, up from hundreds a few years ago. That creates queues during peak times over Christmas and Easter, and sometimes leaves the few sheltered coves at the top crammed with tents.

Helicopters bring wealthy foreign tourists, especially from Japan, to the summit.   Continued...

Kukenan (L) and Roraima mounts are seen from the Tec Camp, near Venezuela's border with Brazil January 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins