A City Divided by the Rio Caroni'
"San Felix and Puerto Ordaz"
In 1961, San Felix and Puerto Ordaz, which are on alternate sides of the Rio Caroni, and at the confluence with the Rio Orinoco, were joined together to form a new industrial city named Ciudad Guyana by CVG Alcasa and CVG Venalum, the Venezuelan government owned mining and smelting companies . This planned city was designed by planning specialists at MIT and Harvard, but had also been criticized for being a new city in a nowhere place without regard to either cultural or environmental considerations. Today, Ciudad Guayana remains divided into the two cities, but is the fastest growing municipality in Venezuela, due to it's abundant supply of electricity from the hydroelectric dam at Guri (the second largest in the world), a strong industrial base in mining and processing iron, aluminium, gold, and diamonds, and growing corporate agriculture. Ciudad Guayana is the most important export port on the Rio Orinoco and the likely future port for even Brazilian exports. Ciudad Guyana is a very large and spread out city, with San Felix and Puerto Ordaz joined together by three bridges, and as this photo shows the once abundant rainforests along this section of the Orinoco have largely disappeared in favor of development. San Felix and Puerto Ordaz so combined into the new municipality of Ciudad Guayana, which is heavily influenced by Venezuelan national corporations, have now a population of nearly a million inhabitants. Despite three bridges, Ciudad Guayana seems disconnected. The Rio Caroni and the Orinoco rivers are on the scale longer and wider than the Thames, Hudson, or even the Rhine. These are BIG long rivers. The Orinoco is longer than the Rhine River, and is at least two miles wide at a narrow point where a new bridge spans. The shorter Rio Caroni still rivals the world's largest rivers in terms of volume output of water due to the tropical rainfall of the La Gran Sabana region, but now because of Guri, and seasonal rainfall, the Caroni can alternately be a torrent or a placid flow. Behind the dam at Guri is a reservoir that is one of the largest man made lakes in the world.
"The New Orinoquia Bridge Over the Orinoco"
At the time of our visit, we had the choice of either back tracking 100 km to Ciudad Bolivar to cross the Angostura Bridge (first bridge across the Orinoco, built in 1967) or taking the ferry from San Felix to Barrancas. For better or worse, the common method as of Nov 2006 will be a 3rd choice: the Orinoquia Bridge. This bridge is something of an engineering wonder, having been planned for outside lanes for bidirectional traffic for autos and trucks, and a center lane for trains. The train tracks to the Caribbean haven't been built, but the promise of this bridge is so important to Brazilian exports from the Amazon basin that Brazilian President Lula da Silva joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during the ribbon cutting ceremony. This will probably mean that the paved route through La Gran Sabana to the Brazilian capital of Roraima state-- Boa Vista on the Rio Branco--will become a busy international highway in the future, cutting its way as it does through virgin rainforest--a bleak prospect for the indigenous tribes in the area. Luckily for us, during our visit, we were still able to experience the old fashioned wait and romance of crossing the river by ferry between San Felix and Barrancas. There is however a Youtube video clip (when finished watching it, close the YouTube window to return to this page) posted of the new Orinoquia Bridge showing the towers and suspension system lit up at night. I would recommend, if possible, trying to take the bridge in one direction and the ferry in the other, as the Orinoco River is a mighty river worthy of an attraction by itself.
"Cachamay and La Llovizna"
The greatest attractions for tourists in Ciudad Guyana are the city parks of Cachamay, Loefling, and La Llovisna. These are parks are slightly downstream from Guri, the hydroelectrical dam, behind which is one of the larger of the world's reservoirs. At the time we visited, the dam was still under-construction, and we could see the cranes in the distance. This was during the rainy season and the cascade of La Llovizna was particular spectacular. This is a must see place and well covered in my tips with description and images.