Venezuela is fortunate to possess great sources of renewable energy, viz. its rivers. The most important of these is the Caroní river, which collects precipitation in a basin the size of the State of Maine (35,500 sq mi, 92,000 km2). Three hydroelectric power plants are in operation along Caroní river, and a fourth is under construction.
The first to be constructed is the Macagua plant, which in 2006 renamed the Central Hidroeléctrica Antonio José de Sucre by president Hugo Chávez. When first put in operation in 1961 it had an installed capacity of 360 MW. But after the addition of two other generator units it can now deliver 3,140 MW, putting it in second place on the Caroní river, after the Gurí plant.
We were fortunate that we had as guide a son of our host in Ciudad Bolívar, who is an employee of the company operating the power plant, Electrificación del Caroní C.A., short Edelca. With its three hydroelectric power plants along the Caroní river, Edelca supplies three quarters of all hydroelectric power in Venezuela. We did not visit the third power plant. It is located at Caruachi, 30 km south of Macagua, and named after Francisco the Miranda.
Directions: The Macagua dam is situated only 10 km south of Ciudad Guyana. A visit to the dam can be combined with excursions to the Ecomuseo del Caroní, the Llovizna Park and/or the Cachamay Park.
Venezuela is fortunate to possess great sources of renewable energy, viz. its rivers. The most important of these is the Caroní river, the basin of which covers an area equal to the State of Maine (35,500 sq mi, 92,000 km2). Three hydroelectric power plants are in operation along Caroní river, and a fourth is under construction.
By far the largest of these power plants, both in terms of its reservoir and in terms of installed power, is located 100 km upstream from Cuidad Guayana, where the Caroní river joins the Orinoco river. The dam is called Embalse Gurí, after a village and river that were submerged by its reservoir. Construction took place in two stages, between 1963 and 1986. The reservoir is one of the ten largest in the world, with a volume of 111 billion (111*10E9) m3. Whereas the capacity of the power plant, 10,300 MW, makes it number three in the world, after the Three Gorges plant in China and the Itaipú plant in Brasil.
The power plant was originally named after Raúl Leoni, president of Venezuela from 1964 till 1969. But on March 31, 2006, Hugo Chávez renamed it the Simón Bolívar Hydroelectric Plant.
We were lucky to have as guide a son of our host in Ciudad Bolívar, who is an employee of the company operating the power plant, Electrificación del Caroní C.A., short Edelca. With its three (and soon four) power plants along the Caroní river, Edelca supplies three quarters of all hydroelectric power in Venezuela. Much of this powers aluminium, steel and oil industry.
The circular field in the foreground of the 'downstream' photo is a giant sundial. We post some more photo's in the travelogue Gurí dam and power plant.
Directions: From Ciudad Bolívar take the highway #19 direction Cuidad Guyana, but not quite half way to that city turn south along the Gurí-Upata road.
Corpoelec is short for Corporación Eléctrica Nacional, the mother company of Edelca C.A., which latter operates the hydroelectric power plants along the Caroní river.
The impact of dams for power generation on the environment is a matter of debate. The Ecomuseum must show that Corpoelec addresses these issues. Perhaps more to the point are the environmental projects that now accompany construction of the fourth dam in the Caroní river, the Tocoma dam. However, we had no opportunity to visit that site.
The museum struck us as rather sterile: huge concrete halls in style with the adjacent dam and power station. The main exhibits are prehistoric artefacts that have been uncovered during construction of the dams. These prove that the region as already inhabited about 10,000 years ago.
The Amerindians of that time also devised a symbol of concentric circles, the meaning of which is unknown, but which has been adopted as the trade mark of Edelca.
One hall was dedicated to paintings, some with an eco-message, some honouring the immortal Simón Bolívar.
Directions: The museum is located adjacent to the Macagua dam. A tunnel leads to a view of the generator hall of the Macagua power plant.
As you'll reach the Caura River, you'll get in contact with the yekwana community. Lots of men have travelled around Venezuela and most of them speak spanish, dress the western way and have some understanding of the venezuelian culture. It's not really the case of women who know little, if not, any spanish and live according to their tribe's tradition (language, body paints, outfits, eating habits...).
Wether you enconter a men or a woman carying her baby around, I've found that all the members of this tribe are trully welcoming and thankfull to foreigners that come all the way get to know them.
You can take a tour, or go on your own, all the way to Las Trincheras (4 hours away by car from Ciudad Bolivar) from which u can hop on a curiara (wooden canoe) that will take you up the river to "el playon". From there, you'll get to see one of Venezuela hidden jewels "el salto para". You'll be on Yekwana territory, an indiginous tribe spread in a total of 52 small communities that you'll spot on the river banks.
The Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world, are best reached from Ciudad Bolivar. There are several tarvel agencies taht organize expeditiions. The most fun is to approach the falls throug a combination of river boating and walking/trecking, spread out over several days.