At 4.30 in the morning the JBL team leaders Didier and Matthias met up to leave for Frankfurt Airport. By 6 a.m. the whole group was gathered in front of the check-in counter of Iberia Airlines. The luggage check-in passed without a hitch, but two of the passengers hadn’t made it on to the passenger list and it took some discussions before we could finally enter the plane.
After some strict security checks and some surprised stares at our luggage from the police and customs we took off for Madrid at 7.55 am and arrived shortly after 10 am, where some further expedition members joined us. The luggage was transferred so we didn’t need to check it in again. After a walk through the huge airport building to our next gate we continued on our way 45 minutes later for 9.5 hours in a larger Iberia Airlines plane to Caracas. This was our first chance to get to know each other.
Having arrived in Caracas we all picked up our luggage and met the last 4 participants. We stayed three hours before being picked up by buses for a one-hour trip to a small harbour. The luggage was balanced precariously on the back of a jeep.
When we arrived at the small harbour, four boats were waiting to take us on a 50 minute trip through the pitch-dark jungle to the camp. During this boat trip we saw a lot of fire beetles, fireflies, and the glowing eyes of caimans, and we heard the cicadas, frogs and the loud roaring of the monkeys. We had never seen such a clear, starry sky.
At about 11 pm (having lost six and a half hours) we ended our 24 hour journey, reached the camp and entered our huts. One part of the group was sleeping in hammocks, the other part had bed-like constructions in huts. Both sleeping arrangements were in “dormitories” in open-sided huts made of palm leaves on a wooden bridge directly at the Orinoco. As a special treat the jungle camp cook had prepared us an evening meal. While we were eating Heiko passed on some important safety information, laid down some rules of conduct and told us the plan for the next few days.
We had a roofed kitchen area, which also served as a “common room,” directly at the quay. There were sanitary facilities, consisting of showers and toilets, which were a lot more primitive than at home, but still a real luxury by local standards. We showered with water pumped up from the river, and the toilet was just a bowl. The toilet paper, though, was thrown into the rubbish bin beside it. Also these huts were open-sided and right in the jungle.
A few of our members to get used to the sanitary and sleeping facilities at first, but for a jungle camp it was really quite comfortable.
From the start we had a permanent team of guides and attendants who looked after us, cooked for us and organised boat trips for us, so that we JBLers were able to concentrate on our measurements, our data collection and on taking our videos and photos. We were still exhausted and went to bed early, in order to be fit and ready for the next day.