The Wettest Place on Earth

There are lots of places, which claim to be the wettest place on Earth. I’ve been to three of them. The first was a place just south of Townsville in Northern Queensland called Tully. It rained once in the 6 weeks I was there but it was heavy enough to flood the streets…impressive but not that impressive.The second place was Mt Roraima, a vertical sided mountain rising 2800m out of the jungle on the border of Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana, a place shrouded in cloud and so wet they call it a rain desert; the theory being that there’s so much rain it literally washes all life off the mountain.  Well, that’s not strictly true, since I was there in 1992 for David Attenborough’s “Private Life of Plants’ to film some of the life that isn’t washed off, like the Roraima pitcher, the Roraima bladderwort and the Roraima sundew and the insects that they eat.The weather was so bad it took us 3 attempts over 2 days to land our helicopter on top of the mountain as we searched often in vain, for a small window in the cloud through which we could see to land. We spent 10 days on top of that mountain and it rained pretty much all the time.  Drenching rain whipped at us viciously for 10 days and 10 nights. Our tents were perched on solid rock and held down with other small rocks and the weight of the equipment cases and occupant because there is no soil to bang a peg into. At night, I lay on a little stone island in the middle of my tent surrounded by a moat of water  and being splattered by rain through the leaky tent fabric every time there was a gust of wind. This certainly seemed like the wettest place on earth.

rain(1)

The third place I visited which claimed to be the wettest place on Earth was a specific spot close to Cherrapunji in the Meghalaya Highlands in North East India. It’s that little bit of India trapped by Bangladesh and Myanmar. I was filming a rain story for ‘Human Planet’ about the ‘Living Root Bridges’. The Khasi people living there have a tradition of growing bridges from the aerial roots of banyan trees to safely cross raging torrent filled gorges. It takes 60 years to grow a bridge and it just gets stronger by the year. Ingenious! I’ve been there three times now for a total of 7 weeks in peak monsoon and it didn’t rain once which was a shame because that was rather a crucial part of the whole story.  Not impressed!

Richard Kirby filming at Elk Falls(1) run

So the clear winner for me is Mount Roraima, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fabled Lost World and the destination in the Animated feature ‘Up’ together with it’s neighbouring peak Kukunon which I filmed for ‘Planet Earth’, Sadly, there are no dinosaurs up there in the clouds but there is a little grey toad, the Roraima toad which is perfectly suited to enjoy the wettest place on earth. This is what it looks like up there in the clouds

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