Ian Wright travels to Venezuela, the country where Columbus
first set foot on South American soil. Venezuelans have
been voted the worlds happiest people and
who could blame them for being chipper, living as they
do in a country that has mountains, rainforests and
savannas, and where petrol is cheaper than water.
Ian starts his journey in the Andes.
Home to the countrys five highest peaks which
souring to heights exceeding 15,000 feet, the state
of Meridas is known as the roof of
Venezuela. Ian takes a cable car to the top of a mountain
its the unashamedly easy option, but he
finds an even faster way down again, paragliding! He
then sets out to explore Meridas. Its a university
town, and the lively student nightlife also attracts
From Meridas Ian heads south by bus to Hato
Pinero, a vast 500 square mile ranch situated
in the flat grasslands that cover almost a third of
the country. This is Venezuelas answer to the
Wild West, and its inhabited by the Yanieros,
some of the toughest cowboys on the planet. Ian thinks
he could learn a thing or two from these guys, whose
ancestors fought the Spanish in the wars of independence
and who are famed for their strength and bravery. He
helps out with the cattle round-up, then rides off around
the ranch hoping to encounter some of the wildlife that
thrives there. Hes not disappointed crocodiles
and piranhas are just some of the creatures who call
Hato Pinero home. But its not until the following
day that he teams up with a local biologist and goes
in search of the most fearsome inhabitant of all: the anaconda. Growing up to ten metres
long weighing more than a grisly bear, anacondas have
been known to eat humans, crush a man to death before
swallowing him head first. He also joins in a water
buffalo race, as he comes in last he realises this isnt
one of his strong points!
From Hato Pinero Ian heads to Caracas,
the capital of Venezuela where a quarter of the countrys
population lives. He stops off en route in the small
town of Chivacoa, the centre of a religious
cult sacred to Maria Lionsa, the nature
goddess. Cult members make a pilgrimage to a nearby
river where they perform a fire-dancing ceremony to
invoke the spirits, to the accompaniment of beating
drums, candles and cigar smoke.
Caracas is nestled between two beautiful mountain ranges.
After oil was discovered in Venezuela in the 1920s the
capital city became a boom town and a thriving metropolis.
Ian is lucky enough to hook up with the reigning Miss
Venezuela, who shows him around town. Venezuela has
won more Miss World competitions than any other country,
and its probably because they start them so young.
Ian visits a beauty school which teaches girls to be
beauty queens from the ago of eight, and picks some
modelling tips for himself.
Not far from Caracas is Los Roques, an archipelago of 300 sun kissed islands, coral reefs
and sand bars of the North coast. Its a favorite
sea-side haunt of stars such as Bruce Willis and Leonardo
Di Caprio and since it was designated a national park
in 1972 flights here have been restricted, which means
it never gets too crowded.
From Los Roques Ian flies south to the rainforest region
of Gran Sabana. The area is also known
as the Lost World because of its strange pre-historic
landscapes, where some people even claim to have seen
dinosaurs. He embarks on a 3 day boat trip down river
from Kamorata, through the rapids of Devils Canyon. For the final
part of his trip he has to trek through the rainforest
to reach Angel Falls, the world
tallest waterfall. Sixteen times higher than Niagara
Falls, three times the height of the Empire state building,
measuring over 1,000 metres in length, it was named
after an American pilot called Jimmy Angels, who was
looking for gold in the area and got his plane stuck
on the top of the mountain. He became part of local
legend, and his ethereal sounding name became forever
linked with this magical place at the end of Ians
journey route through Venezuela.