He came across him and the Foundation on the web and wanted to meet him. A few words: they immediately recognized and got to like one another.
A couple of months later we were involved in the expedition on the traces of “The lost giants” in Yaracuy Venezuela, extraordinary trees hidden in the great Selva Nublada.
Endangered trees also, due to systematic deforestation and over exploitation by poor “campesinos”, confined in the forest to escape the heavy economic crises.
Our main objective was to spot some of the greatest trees in the forest and raise awareness among local populations on the need for their effective protection.
Edison, the shaman, organized a local team and all the equipment required for the expedition. Andrea, as scientific head, arrived directly from Italy.
We left discreetly from Caracas in the hope not to be detected by potential thieves, interested in our photographic and climbing equipment. According to Edison Andrea was in fact a “walking dollar” and, though used to dealing with hard situations, he was an easy “prey” of bad guys.
The general conditions were much better in the forest, at least concerning criminality, and the base camp Santa Elena in Fernando’s Bioturismo, has been the ideal place where to perfection the last arrangements.
Mist and rain nearly every day created the setting of our first excursions, organized to familiarize with a new type of forest, particularly unusual to European explorators.
Spiders and poisonous snakes often arose from the dense vegetation, and we soon learnt how to move safely and detect potential threats.
Our first giant Cobalongo (Sloanea caribea) was standing in front of us above the forest in the opposite valley.
Its crown seemed amazingly huge and it formed a semicircular shape above the rest of the canopies.
Edison e Hedilberto, our guide, had already seen it, but it took a huge effort and several days wandering in the forest after the giant that first reached out of the fog every morning, and we still could not find it.
We were not able to spot a single tree with such a giant size and, according to Carlos, Cobalongo was hiding itself because one of us was “not prepared to make its acquaintance”.
An undeniable truth based on popular beliefs diverted the whole team toward the second objective we wanted to “chase”, one of the tallest trees in Selva Nublada, known by locals as Candelo (Gyranthera caribensis).
Despite being team leader, Andrea had no word against this decision.
We ventured through the forest with two mules loaded with equipment, but it was only after a week that we finally found our tree, climbed it up to the top and took scientific measures. Candelo had grown by the banks of a small river and so had developed an impressive root system, forming a sort of retaining wall.
Taking its measures has not been an easy task! The first branch was 35 meters high and the tool we used to launch the rope, a long sling called big shot broke after a few failed attempts. Thanks to an improvised fixing up of the rope and a lucky throw we managed to reach this first branch and there we found something new to stop our climb: a huge nest of “pegones” (a type of Melipona bee) nearly 2 meters wide was blocking the way!
Once we understand that these are only “biting” bees we succeed (not without troubles) in getting over the nest which occupied nearly half of the trunk.
Shortly after another insect attack follows: this is the time of the very small and terrible “flamingas”, flies which stick all over us, especially on the eyes, making it very difficult to proceed.