Lost in the Mists of Paradise: Venezuela

The forces of nature have painted Venezuela with a mystical beauty that evokes a place lost in time. Stunning waterfalls, enormous trees, dreamy lakes, and wild animals commune in a natural park called La Llovizna or The Drizzle.

The park is located in Ciudad Guayana, an industrial city in the south of the country where two rivers converge: Caroní and Orinoco. The whim of the elements and time have shaped sublime waterfalls that drop in the course of the river which flows through the jungle where the park is located.

Photo by Raphaella Ibarra (Venezuela)

The excursion started and we followed a trail surrounded by vast trees where monkeys jumped from one branch to the other, right on top of our heads. As we walked further into the jungle, the stones way led us to a rocky cliff from where we could see the magnificent sight that inspired the park’s name: the powerful waters that drop in the river create a dense mist that engulfs the whole area.

A rainbow painted in the mist enchanted us spectators and took us to the world described in Isabel Allende’s books: a world of spirits, magic, adventure and communion with nature. In the presence of such a view, it was not hard to understand why superstition, myth and legend are so intrinsic to locals’ beliefs.

Photo by Viviana Basualdo (La Llovizna, Puerto Ordaz, Vzla)

After tripping over wet rocks, feeling overwhelmed by humidity and hot temperature and being scared to death by playful monkeys, it was time to relax on the park train.

 The tour guide started by explaining the origin of the natural formations and the history of the park as we crossed a tunnel made of branches. On the other side of the tunnel, a dreamy landscape awaited us. Vast greenland, magical lagoons and even crocodiles were part of the amusement.

The tour guide pointed at a lake and announced the presence of an anaconda. As a response to our gasp, he told us not to worry since the anaconda only eats on Sundays…

It was Sunday.

Legend and the supernatural are also part of the park’s charm. As the landscape is shaped by streams, the park is connected by suspension bridges made of wood and stone.

However, there is one that differs from all others. It is made of steel. The origin of this bridge dates back to 1964 when the biggest bridge of the park collapsed and most of the victims were trapped underwater.

The calamity is known as “The Tragedy of the Teachers”, since the people involved had just returned from a national teaching convention. Once they arrived, the teachers rushed to admire the waterfall from the bridge. The forest warden advised them to evacuate but it was too late. In a matter of seconds, the bridge collapsed and there was only one survivor.

Half a century has passed, yet the legend lives on: locals believe that the spirits of the victims accompany the visitors as they cross the bridge… I couldn’t sleep that night.

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