Surama, Guyana
4° 9' N 59° 4' W
Oct 19, 2007 18:48
Distance 311km

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Text written in: English

Surama, Come hell or high water

Friday, Saturday, Sunday - Got to Surama Village in Georgetown on Friday. Things started with a hitch and it just went downhill from there. Our guide, Paul, was expecting three 4 wheel drive vehicles to pick up the 15 of us (14 guests plus Paul), but instead only one 4WD Jeep and a 4WD mini-bus showed up. Once all the baggage was loaded on, we were off, but not for long. Within one hour the mini-bus was overheating, so we limped into Linden and waited 3 1/2 hours for back-up vehicles to arrive. However, losing 3 1/2 hours in Linden made it impossible for us to catch a ferry which stopped running at 6 PM (Paul did not tell us this at the time, we found out the hard way). Again, we were stuck in an unexpected place. My mates stayed in the restaurant after lunch, but I wandered to the local museum which I usually hate. The museum guide was a wonderful black woman the same age as I (actually she was two months older). She was so eager to tell me the story of Linden, and as I had the time I was keen to hear her tale. Like the workers at the saw mill, she was very proud of Linden, its history and wanted to tell the story of how aluminum is made from bauxite. I think that personal and collective pride and dignity are the keys to developing countries becoming more prosperous; the prevailing view of the locals in Africa and here is it is up to the government to make it happen, which unfortunately is beyond their ability and skill to do, especially because of corruption and tribal self interests. Linden has a large bauxite processing plant which the old lady had worked at. I pushed her to describe how life had changed since independence and especially since the processing plant was nationalized in 1971. She implied that when the British ran Guyana life was orderly, the streets neat and clean and life was simple. Once Guyana gained independence in 1965, and more so after nationalizing the plant in 1971, life went downhill and the plant went into dis-repair and life into some amount of dis-array. Her story sounded like the situation which occurred to many countries in Africa and elsewhere when the locals discovered how difficult it is to run a country. Note, the museum had an electric fan so I was cooler than my mates in the restaurant.

Once the new vehicles arrived we were off onto 4 wheel drive territory. These roads are red in colour, un-even and prone to being flooded, particularly after a heavy rain (which had occurred a few days earlier. The three vehicles were off, but they were not equal. Mine had room but no air conditioning. The others had air conditioning but were more crowded. After 1 ½ hours we were into total darkness and driving at 60 KPH through bumps, pot holes and streams. Unfortunately, the last vehicle had a problem - the shock absorber punctured the tire. After waiting an hour for it to arrive, one of the vehicles went back to see what was wrong. Rather than making the last ferry at 6 PM, we finally crossed the river in small boats and stayed at Iwokrama that night (will tell you more on this place as I stayed there officially later, very nice accommodation). Our vehicles remained on the other side of the river overnight. On these roads you average about 40 KPH, sometimes you are crawling and other times it is petal to the metal, the drivers are fearless and proud of it.

Rather than getting to our destination (Surama) at 6 PM on Friday night we arrived at 10 AM the next morning. Problem was we were scheduled to do an early morning hike, before the sun was high and it was cooler. Instead we were in the open at noon, complete with baking sun and no shade. Saturday was a 13 mile hike, which we did. Talk about sweating. We first hiked to a spot where herons nested; problem was they nested there in May, not October. Next we hiked and climbed a mountain to see where “cock-of-the-rock” nest, except that was months ago. Needless to say, we saw no wildlife other than bugs, not even birds.On Sunday we went for a short hike and stayed at a camp site on the side of a river. Went for a swim in the river, which was fast moving but cool (28 degrees, my new watch can tell temperature and altitude). Slept in a hammock for the first time. To sleep in a hammock you need to stretch out diagonally, with your head propped into one corner and your feet in the opposite corner. This way your body is erect, not bent, you can actually sleep on your side this way. Once you figure it out, it is actually not a bad night's rest. Each hammock had a mosquito net over it so bugs were not a problem, and it was pleasantly cool for a change. Next morning at dawn we were up for a river ride looking for birds (saw a few macaws and parrots in the distance and king fishers up close) and river otters. Guyana has the world’s largest otters. We were lucky and got to see otters in the distance. Surama is an indigenous Amerindian village where the locals are experimenting with tourism rather than mining and forestry to support them. It was wonderful seeing the locals all doing some task, be it guiding, cooking, driving vans, and cleaning up things or whatever. The village has built 4 huts and a large common area, the vision is to have 9 huts and capacity for 20 people. The idea is working out. The locals, however, don’t understand tourists as they have never been one. Overall, it was a wonderful experience to be in the village. We were not following the itinerary, but things were working out more or less. Note, so far even when we camped or stayed in simple accommodations, there were showers and toilets but not here. Restated, facilities were not an issue, so unlike Africa. And you would not want warm water - cool water was a blessing.

 

Photos / videos of "Surama, Come hell or high water":

The banks of the Demerara River near Linden, Guyana.  Each May/June the river level increases 3 or 4 metres and floods the surrounding area, but life goes on as usual as this is also usual Parade of ants.  This line up goes forever and they (ants) are everywhere.  Bugs are my new mammals, unfortunately. A typical rain forest.  What you have to appreciate is that the temperature is in the mid 30's (or 90's) and the humidity is drink a few litres of water a day. The "eye" butterfly at 12 times optical enlargement.  Enjoying the functionality of the new camera, only wish I had it for the African safaris. Eye butterfly at 18 x zoom Another butterfly at 12 times.  The shout of excitement about a butterfly on the first day of animal watching was too correct, have to re-adjust expectations. What a jungle or ran forest looks like in and after the long rain (rainy) season, these areas become large swamps and the animals and vegetation thrives. We trekked over 1 hour in extreme heat and humidity to see this swamp because herons nest here.  Only after we left did the guide say they nest here in May, not October. Land turtle, at this stage I'll take a photo of anything that may or did once move. Blue butterfly (dead). Sleeping huts in the village of Surama.  Very comfortable, almost romantic, except my room mate is John.  No hot water but you would not want it, private flush toilets. Monkey ladders; these vines start at the top of the trees and hang down (easily 30 metres).  The plants at the top use the vine to get water from ground level.  Until the vine hits ground level it survives on bird droppings View of the Surama indigenous peoples village and surroundiing area.  We climbed to the top of the mountain (300 metres up) to see "Cock-of-the-rock" birds.  Trouble is, they left in May.  imagine 38 degrees and 90% humidity Our sleeping quarters on the banks of the river.  Slept in a hammock (under a mosiquito net).  Once you figure out how to sleep in hammock (diagonally), you get a reasonable night's rest, just don't toss and turn too much. River otter in the distance.  Guyana has the largest river otters in the world. Another shot of the river otter.  We are on a dug-out canoe so we must be measured in our excitement lest the craft tip over. View from the canoe of the river bank.  At the end of the long rain (wet) season the river will swell up to 5 or 6 metres higher and flood all the surrounding area.  This is all part of nature, hard to believe.  Swam in the river; is was 28 degrees (82 F), very pleasant as the air was 35 +. An eagle purched on the end of a stump Interior of the river bank.  
During the wet/long rain season much of the rainforest is like this View from the top of Surama mountain.  Went looking for cock-of-the-rock birds but they had all left.  Climb was 250 M in 35+ temperature. Might want to google this bird, supposed to be very beautiful and unique These are huge trees.  Walbatree is about 500 years old, measures about 5 meter across at the base and is about 40 metres tall.  Not useful for logging