Sunday, December 12, 2021

Guyana South America August 2021

All Pictures are at the bottom of this post!

If you are reading this, we have made it past the initial stage of the new normal of international travel. That stage is making sure we followed all the Covid-19 protocols to enter the destination country. 

For Guyana, they are as follows:

• Covid-19 Vaccine Card with the second shot (or first shot for J&J) being at least 28 days before departure.
• Negative PCR Covid-19 test no more than 72 before departure or 7 days if you want to have another test on arrival and quarantined until the results come back. We opted for 72 hours.
• Fill out a passenger-locator-form between 72 and 24 hours before departure.

Our flights are fairly straightforward. Philadelphia to Miami with a short layover before continuing on to Guyana.

Why Guyana?   A quick quiz.

Pick which of the following are the reasons (more than one may apply):

• A great country for Margarite to practice her Spanish. 
• See the place where the term “They drank the Kool-Aid!” came from. 
• See the highest single-drop waterfall in the world. 
• Visit some of the best rain forests in the world. 
• Guyana is one of the few countries in South America with declining Covid-19 cases. 
• All the above.

No prize for the correct answers, just bragging rights.

This trip will be on the shorter side, two weeks total. Guyana is a small country. Usually, when visiting Guyana, you might also visit Suriname and French Guiana. Unfortunately, both are closed to tourists at this time.



We want to thank all those that donated soccer equipment, art supplies, and toothbrushes. We have partnered with a school in the rain forests of Guyana to donate these items. At least we think we have, wish us luck. If our plans do not work out, I am sure we will find some deserving kids that can use what we are bringing.


Please read the bookkeeping items below the pictures. We can use your help.

More to come once we start our adventure. At least we hope so, we have been told electricity and the internet may be sketchy where we will be going.

An interesting fun fact: Guyana historically only gets about 2,500 international tourists per year. We don’t expect things to be too crowded.

If you picked, 1) A great country for Margarite to practice her Spanish. As one of your answers to the quiz, you got it wrong. Guyana is the only country on the continent of South America where English is the National language. The reason, it was colonized by the British.

We landed at Georgetown, Guyana international airport at 11:15 PM. While very efficient, it took an hour to get through Covid-19 screening, immigration, and customs. We landed 30 minutes late which caused two flights to get in at the same time, overloading the staff.


The international airport was built around a World War Two airfield. It is 45 minutes outside of Georgetown, Guyana, and that is with little to no traffic.

We arrived at the Cara Lodge just past 1:00 AM. Cara Lodge, built-in 1840, has hosted many dignitaries over its lifetime. From Jimmy Carter to Mick Jagger. The lodge is upscale for Guyana. Our room is very, very clean, though in hindsight I would have upgraded the room to a suite since we will be here four nights. Not complaining, but it would be a bit more comfortable because of the size.

Time to hit the sack, we have a 7:00 AM roll call.

Today is an immersion into the Guyana food culture. With a long history of immigration from all parts of the world from forced immigration with the slave trade, sort of forced immigration with indentured laborers from East India, and China, to colonization from the Dutch, French, and British. Guyana has a rich history of food from all over the world, all blended with the local foods of the indigenous people.

Salvador, our guide, picked us up at 7:45. Salvador immigrated from Guyana to the U.S. After many years of working in the New York Garment Industry, traveling the world searching for the perfect linen. Salvador decided to hang up his scissors and move back to Guyana.


Currently, Salvador and his wife along with a fully experienced team manage Wilderness Explorers the top travel booking company in Guyana.

Our first stop was The Grill and Jerk Bar, where we were served a sampling of different traditional breakfast foods. I need to apologize I did not pick up the names of all the different foods, but I can tell you they were all delicious.



Our next stop after breakfast was the office of Wilderness Explorers. On the way, Salvador pointed out some highlights of Georgetown, such as the parliament building, the president’s house, and the U.S. Embassy. One interesting fact is Georgetown is below sea level. The city streets are a grid running North and South and East and West. There are many large canals in the middle of the roadways throughout the city, as well as small canals that resemble back alleyways. Salvador said when he was younger, the kids would play in these smaller canals and catch snakes.

Once at the office, we met Jessica and Eon. Eon is the singing chef of Guyana and Jessica is his wife. Our next stop was one of the smaller canals. The reason we stopped was to collect leaves from the lotus flower plant. The reason for collecting the leaves remained a surprise. We collected about a dozen leaves as well as a few flowers.


On the drive to the market, we learned that Eon would be teaching us how to cook the 7 Curry Dishes. The market was full of fresh fruits and veggies. We purchase what we would need for our cooking class.


The highlight of the market tour was having a local gentleman whack off the top of a coconut with a machete, insert a straw and serve us the sweetest coconut water I have ever had.


One of the items I had for breakfast was Puri. Puri is deep-fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is eaten for breakfast or as a snack or light meal. It is usually served with savory curry. This was the first time I had Puri and thought it rather good.


Jessica and Eon took us to Tony Sitting Puri Corner. We learned this is the best Puri in all of Guyana. Tony has been making Puri here for the last thirty years. Tony’s entire family is part of the process. Tony making the batter, one son portioning the batter into the perfect size. The next son rolling the batter into perfectly round discs, and the last son frying the disc lightly to make the perfect Puri. After a taste, I was convinced, much lighter and more flavor than the Puri at The Grill and Jerk Bar.


Video - Tony’s Puri Guyana -


We dropped Jessica and Eon off at their house, they asked us to return in an hour.

The weather has been picture-perfect, with clear skies about 80 degrees with moderate humidity. We could tell this might change as we saw dark clouds approaching and could hear thunder overhead.


Salvador showed us around Georgetown. We stopped along the Atlantic coast where we could stand on the sea wall and see the Atlantic Ocean, which was higher than the city of Georgetown. We visited one of the locks used for drainage of the canals. There were many of these locks throughout the city. These locks were manually opened or closed depending on the tide, allowing the canals to drain into the Demerara River which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. During high tide, they would close the locks to keep the water out of the city, and at low tide, they would open them to allow the water to run out to the river.

It was getting close to the time we needed to return for our cooking class. On the way, we stopped at the city cathedral. We learned this church is the largest and tallest wooden structure in the world. Originally, the church leaders wanted to build the cathedral out of stone, but with Georgetown not having bedrock the concern was the weight of the stone would cause the structure to fall. To solve this issue, it was decided to use wood since it was much lighter than stone and would not sink.

As we left the church the sky’s opened up and the rain started coming down. When we returned for our cooking class Jessica and Eon had everything set up, they even had three of the curry dishes prepared. They were also prepared for the rain and had set up a tent for our class.


Luckily, the rain only lasted forty minutes.

There were four more dishes to prepare. We helped chop the eggplant and pumpkin. Margarite helped prepare the spices, all local to Guyana, by first roasting them to bring out the flavors and then grinding them with a mortar and pestle. After the spices were ground, chopped onion and tomato paste were added to turn the fine powder into more of a paste.


After all the cooking, we ate our creations. Remember the leaves of the lotus plants we had collected earlier in the day. We used these as our plates. Guess what I volunteered to do? Wash the dishes!


Now for the concert. Eon is known as the singing chef, the reason is in a past life Eon was a professional music artist and singer-songwriter.

Eon sang a few songs to us while playing his guitar. What a great ending to a great lunch.

Video - Cooking with the Singing Chef - 

 

We arrived back at our hotel at 3:15 PM to rest before our afternoon adventure. At 4:00 PM Luke, our driver from the night before, and Carlos our guide for the afternoon picked us up. We made our way to the water taxi docks on the Demerara River. The Demerara River in some places is two miles wide. People live and work on both sides of the river. To make their commute, they have two options. Drive far out of the way and take the one bridge that crosses the river, or take a water taxi.


Carlos booked us a water taxi to take us bird watching and to see a beautiful sunset along the Demerara River. These water taxis can hold forty people at a time. Our taxi had five. Margarite and I, as well as Carlos, the captain, and first mate. We spent two hours on the river. We saw lots of birds and a beautiful sunset.

It had been a long day, so we called it a night.



Today we get to catch up on our sleep. We are being picked up at 11:45 by Sugrim our driver for today. We will be taking a bush plane over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at Kaieteur Falls, the world’s highest free-falling waterfall.


If you picked answer to number 3) See the highest single-drop waterfall in the world, as one of your answers to the quiz, that is a correct answer.


Kaieteur which was first seen by a European on April 29, 1870, is in the heart of Guyana on the Potaro River, a tributary of the Essequibo. The water of Kaieteur flows over a sandstone conglomerate tableland into a deep gorge - a drop of 741 feet or 5 times the height of Niagara Falls.


There are no other falls in the world with the magnitude of the sheer drop existing at Kaieteur. Amerindian legend of the Patamona tribe has it that Kai, one of the tribe’s chiefs (after whom the waterfall is named), committed self-sacrifice by canoeing himself over the falls. It was believed this would encourage the Great Spirit Makonaima to save the tribe from being destroyed by the savage Caribishi.


Kaieteur supports a unique microenvironment with Tank Bromeliads, the largest in the world, in which the tiny Golden frog spends its entire life and the rarely seen Guiana Cock- of-the-rock nesting close by. The lucky visitor may also see the famous flights of the Kaieteur Swifts or Makonaima Birds which nest under the vast shelf of rock carved over millions of years by the black water of the Potaro River.


Our plane carried twelve of us out to the falls. The flight out and back is an hour each way.

Once we arrived at the falls, a national park guide takes us to three of the four observation points. Unfortunately, the fourth point is closed due to a woman trying to mimic chief Kai and committed suicide by jumping off that point.

The fourth observation point is the only point where you can get a true understanding of the magnitude of the falls.

The trip was well worth the time.

We invited Sugrim and his family to dinner. They chose “The New Thriving Chinese Restaurant”. I swear that is the actual name. We enjoyed Sugrim’s family. What well-behaved children.


Can you believe it has only been two days since we arrived in Guyana? More updates to come as long as power and the internet hold out.

Guyana which means land of many waters, has several large rivers. On our first day in Guyana, we explored a small section of the Demerara River. Today we will be exploring the northern or mouth of the Essequibo River.


A fun fact, most rivers in Guyana flow from the highlands in the south of the country to the lowlands of the north, dumping into the Atlantic Ocean.


We got picked up a 7:00 AM and taken to Dragon Tours. Dragon Tours will be providing today’s tour. There are 28 people on our tour today. We loaded onto a bus which will be taking us to a jet boat.

You might think, this is crazy, riding on a tour bus during a pandemic. Remember the quiz from my first update, answer number 5 Guyana is one of the few countries in South America with declining Covid-19 cases. If you picked this as one of your answers, you are correct. Though in the last week, there has been a slight uptick, in cases, more on this later.


Why are we comfortable taking this tour? Guyana has very strict Covid-19 Protocols. Everybody who works in the tour industry (guides, drivers, all restaurant staff, anybody a tourist might come in contact with) must be vaccinated. Everybody must always wear a mask, even while outside. The only exceptions are when you are eating, drinking, or swimming. While outside, we sometimes removed masks for pictures, but we kept our distance.

Every time you entered a building, you have to either wash your hands or spray them with disinfectant. This includes entering a bus, taxi, boat, etc…


Restaurants must check for vaccination certificates and can only operate at 40% capacity.
Lastly, anybody who arrives from out of the country must show a negative PCR test and a vaccine certificate.

You might think this is overkill, but when your country has a poor healthcare system, an ounce, of prevention is worth ten tons of cure.


That is why we are comfortable going on this tour with 28 other people, all of whom showed vaccination certificates.

After leaving Dragon Tours, we crossed the Demerara Harbour Bridge continuing to the Essequibo River and Roed-en-Rust, where we boarded a jet boat, which is our transportation for the day. The first stop is Fort Island, the best kept Dutch ruins in Guyana.


We spent about thirty minutes walking the island. We saw the original government building, which is now the Dutch Heritage Museum. Unfortunately, the Museum was closed for renovations. We also visited the ruins of the Fort.


Our next stop, Bartica, the hub of the mining community in the northwest of Guyana. Bartica is a hive of activity as the miners pass through on the way to their claims further in the interior. The township is located at the junction of the Essequibo and Mazaruni Rivers. Most travel in this area is done by boat. We walked the streets of Bartica as well as the new boardwalk along the river. At Bartica the pioneer atmosphere is still strong and is often compared to a Wild West town.


In 2008, the police station was stormed, three officers and eight civilians were killed. The gold miners stored their gold in the police station. Why not? The police station must be a safe place to store gold. Several bandits from outside of Bartica heard about the gold and decided to rob the police station. These bandits were better equipped with firepower, the police, and civilians were outgunned. Our guide explained it was the worst massacre to ever happen in Bartica.


Our next stop, south of Bartica was Sloth Island. This is a small private island/resort. We had a nice lunch, swam a bit, and took a jungle tour looking for monkeys and sloths, we saw both.


After lunch, we stopped at a tiny, tiny, island called Kyk-Over-Al. On the island are the ruins of the former Dutch stronghold which guarded the junction of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni Rivers. On the way to Kyle-Over-Al island, we passed the Mazaruni Prison, one of the few prisons with a welcome sign.


Our next and final stop is Baracara Falls, which is off the Mazaruni Rivers. The jet boat dropped us off on the bank of the river. We hiked a half a mile to the falls, crossing a rather deep creek on the way.


The falls are not as huge as Kaieteur Falls, but much easier to get in and enjoy the water.


After the waterfalls, the Jetboat, cruising at forty-three miles per hour, got us back to meet the bus in an hour. We got back to Dragon Tours at 6:00 PM. Another long day but fun day.


Video - Essequibo River Tour Guyana - 



Tomorrow we leave Georgetown for a flight to the rain forest.


Today we take a bush plane to Iwokrama, an hour flight.


The Iwokrama Rainforest is a vast wilderness of one million acres. This protected area was established in 1996 as the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development. The Iwokrama Forest is in the heart of one of the four last untouched tropical forests of the world - The Guiana Shield of North-Eastern South America. Iwokrama was established as a living laboratory for tropical forest management.


From research to business, Iwokrama ensures local economic and social benefits from forest use and conservation. The forest is in the homeland of the Makushi people, who have lived here and used the forest for thousands of years.


The Iwokrama River Lodge, set overlooking the Essequibo River. Accommodation is offered in eight spacious timber cabins with en suite and verandas overlooking the river. Electricity, provided by a combination of solar and diesel generator systems, and wireless internet access, is provided for free in the main building.


FYI: the internet is great for emergencies, not so much for updates with pictures and video. To be honest, I am surprised we even have internet considering how remote we are.


We are the only guest at the Lodge. The river we overlook, the Essequibo River, is the same river we spent the previous day exploring, but a good, distance inland.


After a nice lunch, we explored the trails around the lodge with the Iwokrama Ranger Michael, and guide Lezlene.


With the rainy season running longer than usual, the trails are very wet, and the river is much higher than expected.


After dark, we set out on the river, looking for wild creatures. Using a spotlight, we saw several Caimans, which are similar to crocodiles. We also saw snakes, frogs, toads, iguanas, and lots of birds.

Sleep came very effortlessly.

After breakfast, we departed the lodge by boat, bird watching along the way. Our goal for this morning is to summit Turtle Mountain. A well-maintained trail winds through the forest before an exhilarating climb up the mountain to its summit at 935ft (approx. 360 m). It was a bit muddy and slippery due to the excess rain, but the effort was worth it, for the breathtaking views over the forest canopy. We saw both Black Spider and Red Howler monkeys. The monkeys were too fast and too far away for pictures.


Video - Turtle Mountain Hike - 

 

The rainforest lodge’s activities are similar to African Safaris, activities are in the morning and late afternoon/evening when the wildlife is active and the jungle alive. During the midday, we have a siesta to beat the heat and rest as the forest rests.




At 4:00 PM we set out by boat to visit Kurupukari Falls to see the Amerindian petroglyph. With the river so high, the falls were more like a big rapid. We could see the petroglyph on the rocks that breached the river.


The boat dropped us at the shore where a truck was waiting to take us on our late afternoon evening adventure. The goal was to spot a Jaguar, spoiler alert we did not see a Jaguar. Though Jaguars, known to be in this area, it is rare to spot one. Michael our Ranger and Gilbert our driver did a wonderful job trying to find wildlife for us to see. After three hours of searching for Jaguars, we decided to call it a day. We came home with nothing, but it was still worth the try. As Sweetwille would say, you can only hit the balls you swing at!!



Today we will be leaving Iwokrama River Lodge, but before we go, we embark by boat on the Essequibo River and circumnavigate nearby Indian House Island where we saw many birds and a few monkeys.


After breakfast, we explored some trails around the lodge with our guide Lezlene. We saw a troop of Brown Capuchins monkeys feeding in the trees.



It was now time to leave, Lezlene and Gilbert drove us by 4 x 4 along the trail that is one of the best places to see the elusive Jaguar. Yet, we still came up short. We did see some mammals, though I did not recognize them or understand their names.

One hour and thirty minutes / forty kilometers later, our journey concludes at the Atta Rainforest Lodge, home of the Iwokrama Canopy Walkway.


Video - Iwokrama River Lodge to Atta Rainforest Lodge -

 

The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway, situated near the southern boundary of the Iwokrama Reserve in central Guyana. The walkway has four suspension bridges leading to three platforms, the highest of which is over 30 meters above the ground. That is the good news, the bad news, a few days prior, a tree came down on one of the cables, and until the inspector gets out here, we cannot go up in the walkway.


Like Iwokrama River Lodge, we are the only guest at Atta Rainforest Lodge. After we got settled, Dylan, our guide took us on a trail hike. We saw many insects, birds, and saw some monkeys.


Now it is time for lunch and a nap, then we go Jaguar hunting at 3:00 PM.


Another bust, no Jaguar. Though, Dylan found many birds for us to see. We hiked several miles on the main road, which is a rutted clay road. At 5:30 PM, Ryan picked us up in a motor-scooter and took us back to the lodge.


I would describe the lodge as remote and rustic. If you consider how far into the rainforest we are and how far from any modern resources, I would describe the lodge as luxury.


One surprise is the mosquitoes. At the Iwokrama River Lodge, there were a few mosquitoes, but nothing a light spray of mosquito repellent could take care of. Here at Atta Rainforest Lodge, we have yet to see a mosquito. The cabin does not even have screens on the windows and the en-suite bathroom is fully open air.


This morning another hunt for this elusive Jaguar, still no luck. The Jaguar has a territory of ten square miles, this is why they are so hard to find. Finding a Jaguar in the forest is like finding a needle in a haystack.


The meals have been great, everything is fresh and made in the community. When you are hours and hours from the nearest grocery, being self-sufficient is a must.


The canopy repairmen showed up this morning, so we hope later today we will be able to explore the forest from above.


Our wish came true. The canopy walk at Atta Rainforest Lodge is the only canopy walk in all of Guyana. Towering over 100 feet above the forest floor. The canopy has four bridges connecting three towers. The towers are Brazilian Cedar trees, each several hundred years old. Built-in 2001 by the local community thanks to a team of engineers from Canada. This canopy walk gives a bird’s-eye view of the forest.

Video - The Iwokrama Canopy Walkway - 



Again, dinner did not disappoint.

Today we leave Atta Rainforest Lodge, before we leave one more canopy hike, to see more birds.



We said our goodbyes and hopped in the 4x4 with Devon our driver to our next destination or should I say our next form of transportation. We had a forty-mile drive which will take about one and a half hours.


Video - Atta Rainforest Lodge to Rewa Eco-Lodge - 


As we left the rainforest, we entered the savanna, it was remarkable how quickly the landscape changed from lush jungle to dry plains. We made one stop to pick up a bag we will be delivering.

There is no postal, UPS, or FedEx in this part of the world. The way packages ship is by simply asking, “Are you going this way, if so, can you drop this package off for me?”. Occasionally, the package may take several drop-offs and pickups before it makes it to its final destination. In our case, the package we picked up has the same final destination as us, Rewa Eco-Lodge.


Rewa Village, located where the Rewa River runs into the Rupununi River in the North Rupununi. The surrounding area is rainforest, mountains, and oxbow lakes, teeming with wildlife, birds, and fish. The community of approximately 220 persons is predominately Macushi with a few families of the Wapashana and Patamona tribes. Villagers practice subsistence farming, fishing, and hunting with little opportunity for cash employment.


In 2005, the community constructed the Rewa Eco-lodge so that they could establish a sustainable eco-tourism business that is owned and operated by the village. The lodge itself is situated on the river bank overlooking the Rewa River. Along the riverbank, tables and benches offer a relaxing location to enjoy the river.


Devon dropped us at the boat landing, or should I say the edge of the flooded river. The river is a full mile wider than normal because of the extended rainy season.


As we left the landing, the savanna quickly turned from dry plains to lush jungle, the first half-mile in the boat was through think flooded forest. Once we hit the river, we had a fifty-mile journey to Rewa-Eco Lodge, which would take us two hours. In the dry season, this trip could take as long as six hours as the river would get so low that the boats would bottom out, and need to be dragged.



We arrived in time for lunch.

This afternoon we took a short boat ride from the lodge to the opposite bank on the Rupununi River. Hidden from the bank of the river is a lovely oxbow lake, normal it is a five-minute walk from the bank of the river to the lake. Today, with the high level of the river, we took the boat from the river to the lake. Once we reached the lake, we saw hundreds of Victoria Amazonica, the world's largest water lily and the national flower of Guyana. The leaves that float on the water grow up to 3 meters in diameter with a submerged stalk of 7 to 8 meters. The flowers which bloom at dusk are white on the first night. By the third night, they change color to pink and also change to a male flower. We spent over an hour on the lake watching the birds and monkeys play in the forest.


We had hoped to see otters, but no luck.



Dinner was great.

Of the three lodges we stayed at so far, this is the most rustic. You have to remember we are in one of the most remote parts of the world. We are now fifty miles by water to the nearest road, and calling it a road is being liberal.

I think Margarite hit her limit when she used the en-suite bathroom and saw a cockroach as big as a small rat. She calmed down once she remembered we are guests in the cockroach’s home, not the other way around. It is funny how different things affect you. The rat the size of a small cat that ran across Margarite’s foot at the pharmacy in Georgetown did not even make her flinch, but a cockroach…

Sleep came easy for me, not so much for Margarite. Before leaving for Guyana, I had offered to bring Margarite a silk sack to sleep in, she said she did not need it. I think she may be regretting that decision now.


After breakfast, we hiked up Awarmie Mountain. To get to Awarmie Mountain, we took the boat 40 minutes to a small island. We learned that the Rewa Village uses this island for farming as it is high ground and rarely floods. Even with the island being high ground, our first part of the hike was through water.


Awarmie Mountain is 1,000 feet high, at the top you get a 360-degree view of the area. It is clear how lush this area is, and we even saw some small savannas.


Video - Hike Awarmie Mountain - 


The television show “Naked and Afraid was filmed in this area. Davis our guide and Carlos our boat captain, were both involved in the show as support crew.


Before heading back to the lodge, we visited Rewa Village. We stopped at the village to drop off some football (soccer) equipment we brought.


We got to meet with the village council. They were truly grateful for our gifts.

Everybody that donated, Thank You!!!

I had mentioned earlier that Guyana’s Covid-19 cases had been trending down until very recent. Let me explain, the area we are in is very rural, and is close to the rural area of Brazil. Both areas (Brazil and Guyana) had not been experiencing any Covid-19 outbreaks until March 2021 a full year after the Pandemic was ravishing the rest of the world. March 2021 is when the Brazilian Variant found its way to this area.

This is the cause of the slight uptick. Luckily, the vaccines were distributed quickly, and the virus never got out of control. At this point, Rewa Village is over seventy percent vaccinated. What is driving the high rate of vaccination is the government put a rule in place, unless all adults are vaccinated schools cannot open.

This afternoon we will take the boat up river 45 minutes and the drift back to the Lodge.


Drifting on the river was peaceful, not the boat motor is annoying, but you can’t beat only hearing the noises of the Jungle. We saw many monkeys. With the trees so tall, it was hard to get good pictures.


Video - Monkeys on the Rewa RiverMonkey - 


Today, we head by boat back to the landing Davies and Carlos had originally picked us up at. From there we will be driven a good distance to another landing where we will take another boat to our fourth lodge, Karanambu Lodge.


Karanambu, a 110-square mile former cattle ranch located in the North Rupununi, was the home of the late Diane McTurk, conservationist and a world-renowned expert on giant otters. Known for its expansive wetlands and savanna, as well as its biological and cultural diversity, Karanambu encompasses savanna, marshy ponds, riparian forest, and a 30-mile stretch of the Rupununi River. Karanambu is located roughly in the middle of this beautiful and fascinating biological hotspot where species like the Giant Otter, Black Caiman, Jaguar, Giant Anteater, and Arapaima can be found. The number of species found here is much higher than expected given its size, with at least 600 species of bird, and over 200 species of mammals. The seasonally flooded savannas and forests also draw substantial fish migrations, with as many as 700 species of fish — more than anywhere on Earth.


This region is rich in history and is the homeland of the Makushi and earlier peoples dating back more than 7,000 years. Several prominent explorers and naturalists have written about their experiences here, including Robert and Richard Schomburgk, Charles Waterton, Evelyn Waugh, Gerald Durrell, and David Attenborough.


Before departing by boat to Karanambu we stopped for lunch at Rockview Lodge. Colin, the owner gave us a tour of his beautiful property. When Colin started 30 years ago, he had a vision to turn this piece of the savanna into a beautiful oasis, for travelers to visit. His vision came true.


After lunch, we got our boat to Karanambu Lodge, our guide Kenneth and Captain Shawn were a great team.

This evening we went out to the pond to watch the sun set, and the flowers of the water Lilly’s open. It takes about forty-five minutes for the flower to fully open.


Kenneth served us drinks and snacks while we enjoyed nature.


To quote Margarite, "It is clear this Lodge is run by a Women". The all the lodges have had excellent accommodations and food. Karanambu Lodge is a level above the rest in cleanliness and the finer touches.


This morning we had an early wake-up call. The goal of this morning was to spot a giant anteater. To date, we have not had much luck with our animal spotting. We have struck out with spotting Jaguar and Otter, wish us luck with the anteater.


Karanambu Lodge resides on a working cattle ranch. Luckily, Cecil, who happens to be Kenneth’s older brother is a cowboy on the ranch.


After driving through the savanna for two-plus hours, Cecil called Kenneth on the radio. He had spotted a giant anteater. Our luck has changed. We hurried over, keeping our distance to make sure we did not stress the animal.





What a sight to see.

Video - In Search of the Giant Anteater in Karanambu - 


After the sighting, we headed back to the lodge for a well-deserved breakfast.


In the late afternoon, we headed out to the river for a view of the birds nesting and a beautiful sunset.


Kenneth and Shawn were awesome hosts, serving rum punch and cookies.






Video - The Bird Dance - 



Today we leave by boat, to the nearby Amerindian village of Yupukari and Caiman House.

At the edge of Yupukari Village in the Central Rupununi is Caiman House Field Station, a combination guest-lodge and education center focused on research and conservation projects along the nearby Rupununi River. The Field Station is the hub of several participatory development projects, including the introduction of classroom libraries in all three village schools and an Internet-enabled public library. Visitors have the opportunity to meet local craftspeople, including the furniture builders at Yupukari Crafters, a nonprofit venture to create village jobs and generate income to sustain educational development.


Four modest but comfortable guest rooms, situated around a central lounge area in the lodge behind the research center. Guest rooms feature comfortable beds, en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets and running water. Caiman House Field Station and the Guest House, powered 24 hours a day by a large solar array.


On our arrival, we met our guide, Howard. Howard is local to the village and has been working with researchers at the Caiman House for the last ten years.


Our original plan was to support and participate in an ongoing field study of the Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger), the largest member of the alligator family and an endangered species. Normally, we would have accompanied the indigenous crew as they search for and capture Black Caiman on the river. We would have had the opportunity to observe the capture from a separate boat but offered the opportunity to assist in data collection. Caiman, weighed, measured, sexed, and tagged before being released back into the river. The research has already discovered interesting information on caimans’ nests that was previously unknown.

Unfortunately, with the water levels high, finding and capturing the Black Caiman is impossible.

As with the nature of travel, we went with plan B. Howard took us on a tour of the village. We meet with the village chief, who explained the goal is to make the village economically self-sufficient. We learned about their business model of developing skills to manufacture unique crafts to be exported. The company, called Wabbani which means platform in their indigenous language.

You can buy their products on Etsy. After we met with the chief, we got to meet the ladies making this all happen. Not only do they make the crafts, but they grow the cotton, pick the cotton, clean out the seeds, spin the cotton into thread, and then make the crafts. A very slow and laborious process. Everything to produce the crafts is done manually.


After learning about the crafts, Howard took us to the woodshop. This is an area Howard runs. He trains the woodworkers and designs the projects they make. The shop does have power tools, such as a table saw, planer, and lathe. Recently, the shop got a contract to build desks and chairs for a school.


While we toured the village, Howard showed us one of his research projects, which involves the local endangered turtles. The project starts by retrieving the eggs that are laid in the wild. These eggs are then reburied on a simulated beach that Howard built. By doing this, the eggs go from a ten percent survival rate to close to one hundred percent.


After the eggs hatch, the turtles are raised for one year, before being released into the wild. At the one-year mark, the turtles are large enough and strong enough to survive their predictors. Which would be birds of prey, as well as Caiman and Jaguar.

Howard notches the turtle’s shell before releasing them. This allows Howard to identify turtles from his research, spotted in the wild.

Out of each batch of turtles, Howard keeps two for research. These two are monitored for ten years before being released.

Howard is very passionate about his project.

Next was our meeting with the men’s and women’s football (soccer) coach of the village. Unfortunately, the kids were not around to see all the goodies we brought.


Caiman House is very close to the border of Brazil and football is a big deal. The gifts were well appreciated.

Late in the afternoon, Howard took us out on the water to explore the area and see what wildlife we could find. Our Captain’s name was Moosetifer. Another beautiful evening to be out on the water. Our last evening in this part of Guyana. Howard spoke a lot about the culture of his people. He is very concerned young people are not learning the culture.


We saw how most of the village gets around in traditional canoes, some with motors, but many by paddle.


Video - Canoeing in Guyana's Rainforest - 


We got back after dark and had a wonderful dinner before hitting the hay.


Today is a travel day back to Georgetown. We got picked up by Fernando at 5:15 AM. Our first step in today’s travel is a two-hour drive from the Caiman House to Lethem. Lethem is a small town in Guyana, a stone’s throw from the Brazilian border.


On the drive Fernando spotted three Giant Anteaters. Yes, the same animal we spent three hours searching for just a few days back. Now we see three as we drive through the savanna.
We arrived at the Lethem Airport at 7:15 AM, got all checked in for our 9:15 AM flight. The terminal was literally one room. Security was a person asking you if you had anything dangerous with you. If you said, No. you were allowed in.

I have been bragging about how well the folks we have met, have dealt with Covid-19, that was about to change.


At 7:45 AM, a group of people clearly felt self-important showed up. One identified himself as the Minister of Labor, Joseph L.F. Hamilton.

Margarite and I were outside the spacious terminal, but could clearly observe, since the room has four feet by four feet windows, or should I say holes in the wall. When you walk into the terminal, there is a sign “no entry without a mask”. There is a security guard that sprays you and your luggage with disinfectant.

This group all had masks, the issue, the masks covered their chins and not their noses and mouths.

No need to say, we never went in the terminal.

As the clock passed 9:15, 9:30, 10:00 we started asking about departing, the plane had arrived much earlier.

We learned the office was having trouble printing a PDF file, the pilot had to sign before we could take off.

Once they figured how to use a printer, we got to board the plane. I sure hope the pilot can operate a plane better than a printer.

The group of government dignitaries did cover their noses and mouths once they boarded the plane. All except the minister. See a quick video of him putting his mask on before deplaning once we landed.

Video - Maskless Minister Joseph Hamilton, Minister of Labor, Guyana - 


To say the least, this was not comfortable, being on a small plane, a tiny plane, in an area close to the Brazilian border with a maskless person. We were too far back from the minister to say something, but the video is going viral in Guyana.

Maskless Minister Joseph Hamilton, Minister of Labor, Guyana.

Upon landing, we went straight to a Covid-19 testing center. Not because of the minister’s behavior, but to get tested for our return to the U.S. The new normal!

After that, we got dropped off at our hotel.

Tomorrow we have an early morning departure, or so we thought.

I guess the East Coast of the U.S. was getting some rain and our plane could not make it to Guyana.

We got a free day in Georgetown.

Yes, we eventually made it home.

This was our third trip flying since the pandemic started in January 2020. Our first trip was domestic, to visit our nieces at their universities. The second trip was international, to Guatemala.

I would not hesitate to travel during the pandemic. On the first two trips, we were not vaccinated, at the time the vaccine was not available. I would research before you go to see if the cases are trending up or down at your destination. I would check if the area has the proper Covid-19 protocols in place, and the people follow them. Such as mask mandates, vaccine mandates, etc… Lastly, visiting places with a climate you can be outside is a plus.

Besides our hotel in Georgetown (which had strict Covid-19 protocols), we were never inside an enclosed building.

The answers to the original quiz.

Pick which of the following are the reasons (more than one may apply):

A great country for Margarite to practice her Spanish. See the place where the term “They drank the Kool-Aid!” came from. See the highest single-drop waterfall in the world. Visit some of the best rain forests in the world. Guyana is one of the few countries in South America with declining Covid-19 cases. All the above.

Answers are:

2) See the place where the term “They drank the Kool-Aid!” came from. - in 1978 Jim Jones got close to 1,000 people to drink Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. He even convinced some parents to give the poison to their children. This did take place in Guyana, though we decided not to visit. Until the September 11th attacks, the tragedy in Jonestown on November 18th, 1978 represented the largest number of American civilian casualties in a single non-natural event.

3) See the highest single-drop waterfall in the world - you saw our visit to Kaieteur Falls, which is 714 feet tall.

4)Visit some of the best rain forests in the world. - Hopefully from our updates you agree with this reason

Guyana is one of the few countries in South America with declining Covid-19 cases. - This was true when we planned the trip, but since arriving the cases have had a slight uptick.
Guyana is the 68th country I have been to. The pandemic has slowed me down a bit. Hopefully, this slowdown is over as I have six countries on the agenda for 2022. Two are repeats and do not count and four are newbies.

Cheers,
DUG

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