Guyana: So much to do, so little time

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South America » Guyana » Georgetown
July 22nd 2007
Published: August 6th 2007
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North of the equator but still in the tropics, Guyana is bordered to the east by Suriname, to the south and southwest by Brazil and to the west by Venezuela. Its vast 83,000 square-mile (214,000 km square) mass is dissected by numerous rivers, creeks and waterfalls. The main economic activities are agriculture (producing rice and Demerara sugar), bauxite mining, gold mining, timber, shrimp and minerals. Sugar is the largest export. Despite its massive and myriad resources, Guyana remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere but certainly one of the most beautiful. And it was this beauty that we had come to explore and share. We will attempt, on this visit, to see the majesty of Kaieteur Falls (the world's highest single-drop falls) and the breadth of Orinduik Falls, the expanse of flowing black water in the Essequibo River and the lush tropical rainforest.

Guyana is Vibert's country of birth. He was born in Kitty - a suburb of Georgetown (the capital) but his parents moved the family to Melanie Damishana when he was just a year old. Melanie lies some 13 miles east of Georgetown on the East Coast of Demerara with 'Demerara' being one of three major rivers which divide the country into three parts. The other two are the Essequibo and the Berbice. Melanie was named after a daughter of the late President L.F.S. Burnham and was a thriving community with a bank, post office, major supermarket, cinema, farmers' market and playground. These were all gone now following years of decline and neglect. We viewed the neighbourhood differently. Shanna was excited about the cows on the street, the sizeable land spaces, the music at every corner and the 'greenness'. Vibert was shocked, depressed and angry both at the residents and the governments past and present. His childhood friends, with whom he had played cricket on the red sand road, had all converted to 'Rastafarianism' and their unkempt hair and beard and the 'jah jah' sanctioned weed made them look decades older. Video piracy killed the cinema and person or persons unknown had stripped it. The bank, supermarket and post office had died a natural death and were similarly dismantled and lots of homes were in serious disrepair.

With borrowed bikes we rode around seeing thru very different eyes; very different realities. At one point we rode to the sea wall. Built by the Dutch to protect the vulnerable below-sea-level coast, the wall runs for hundreds of miles and is affectionately called 'breezy hotel' and 'world's largest hotel chain' by (mostly) the local males. It was low tide. The water had receded far, far away leaving a savannah of mud and crab holes. We stared in wonder at the endless mud lands, busy crabs, hungry birds and a single jhandi flag (Indian prayer flag) fluttering in the northeast trades. Vibert was somehow rejuvenated by the peace and tranquility.

Robert gave us a ride to town the next day in his stylish Ceres sports car. Reggae music with an overly heavy baseline caused the car's speakers to vibrate. Robert didn't seem to notice. We shared the car too with Ammiel - the splitting image of his father. The talkative, bright and hyperactive 4-year old immediately took a liking to Aunty Shanna and kept her busy. We sped past villages with names like Buxton, Lusignan, Beterverwagting, Le Ressouvenir and Blygezight. Shanna translated the Dutch 'Beterverwagting' as 'Better Expectations' and 'Blygezight' as 'Happy Face'. We diverted from the main four-lane highway unto the now paved 'old train line'. The Chinese-styled and constructed CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Headquarters came up on our left as did the difficult-to-describe government convention center. After about 30 minutes we entered 'GT', pulled up in front of Robert's workplace - IPED - and were welcomed warmly by the whole staff that had been following us online. We felt like celebrity (and so: we'd like to shout out the IPED peeps). Vibert commandeered the Ceres and the city tour started.

GT was laid out in grid-style by the Dutch with wide tree-lined streets and broad canals. Most of the city's historical buildings are wooden in construction, reflecting the unique 18th and 19th century architecture. Insurance companies now owned and had renovated some of the nicer older buildings. The City Hall which houses the major's office was particularly impressive at the junction of Regent Street and Avenue of the Republic. This building is a splendid example of Gothic architecture. Recognized as the world's tallest wooden building, the St. George's Cathedral stood majestic on a roundabout with its ornate interior and stained glass. The Bank of Guyana building commanded attention as it dwarfed the neighbouring museum. We drove around and photographed the High Court,
Red brick roadRed brick roadRed brick road

Vibert skillful bike master
Parliament building, the lighthouse, a statue to Guyana's turtle population and the Umana Yana ("meeting place of the people") - a thatched benab built by the Wai Wai Indians for the Heads of the Non-Aligned Movement Conference in 1972. 'Stabroek' market (translated 'standing pants') - the Caribbean's largest indoor market - was a needed respite from the biting sun. The back of the market sat just over the Demerara River and from there we watched passengers pile into speedboats which would ferry them over to Vreed-en-Hoop Stelling (docks) on the West Bank.

The people were busy and the pace was brisk. Hustlers were out hustling and vendors vending and beggars begging. School children were out of school during school hours and carts with pirated music blared music of every genre at every corner. The cacophony was deafening as people shouted in regular conversation and car horns competed for air time. Boyish 'Guyana Police' in black uniforms patrolled the town at various points carrying high-powered automatic weapons. Traffic police tried, mostly in vain, to direct the runaway traffic. Georgetown was alive and a sight to behold! Like they were specially schooled at 'Road Hog U', the bus drivers drove fear into us. Two lane roads became four-lane. The drivers overtake and undertake with impunity and blatant disregard for the newly installed traffic lights. Their buses rattled with 'boom boxes' powered by giant amplifiers. Along with the taxi drivers, they created a kind of deviant sub-culture which made Shanna cringe and their passengers pray. Not one to give in easily, Shanna quickly conceded that she couldn't drive GT's roads.

Shanna, Shanni, Bushman Terry and Vibert set out the next day at 10:30 am to walk across the world's longest floating bridge - the Demerara Harbour Bridge. The metal structure with metal sheets is held afloat by floating barges which are anchored by buoys. At a distance of 1 1/4 miles long, the bridge spans one of the narrower sections of the river. Toll fees are charged for vehicles but pedestrians can walk over for free in a specially designated area. Only 'foolish tourists' make this walk since the sun, the metal and the water all combine to sap every ounce of strength from a body. With stops for pictures, we did it in 35 minutes before catching a taxi on the other side. Shanni and Terry would continue up the West Coast but we had things to do and people to see in GT and so we hopped on a speed boat at the Vreed-en-hoop terminal and chugged over the Demerara River. We hid under a canvas as the occassional errant wave would send sprays flying into the boat. Aaaah, the joys of modern travel!!

To round out a hectic couple of days, we headed to the Guyana Zoo. There, Vibert tried without success to coax out the manatees. For G$200 per person (USD 1), the zoo itself had plenty to see. Harpy eagles, toucans, snakes, turtles, storks, jaguars, fish, caimans and crocodiles, otters, weasels, monkeys, a sloth and a giant anteater were all present. We left with mixed feelings; happy that we were able to view so many exotic creatures up close but sad that they were in captivity unable to be as free as we are. A trip to Bourda market with Pops would soon make us forget all about the zoo. The vegetables were fresh and in abundance. The bora (type of string bean) seemed fatter and longer than we knew them to be in a St. Maarten supermarket and the pumpkin had almost a neon orange color. That's what rich soil does.

You must appreciate the difficulty in trying to compress such a dynamic, huge, varied and exciting place into a few paragraphs. There was more to see here and do here than we'd ever be able to tell. And unless you readers are willing to invest in a machine that can allow u to see in panorama, smell, taste, feel and fear then we're afraid that we might fall short in bringing over the true GT, East Coast and West Bank experience.
Check this page often as you will find that we will constantly update it with pictures that we can't post now because of time constraints.😊

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Additional photos below
Photos: 116, Displayed: 28


Ready set goReady set go
Ready set go

After the muddy ride we made blazing speed on the seawall
Newborn calfNewborn calf
Newborn calf

This calf still had a dried up umbillical cord hanging
Coconut drinkCoconut drink
Coconut drink

Shanna wasn't a pro at this, she kept wetting her whole face
Viberts schoolViberts school
Viberts school

Viberts primary school

28th June 2007

Hi guys, Sorry for the had me in a tizzy...but it's all good now. Vibert I see you doing a ting wid de coconut. I could do with some myself..LOL. Always wanted to visit Guyana..if I dont get the chance, thanks for the tour guys. Keep safe
28th June 2007

Me ananas!!!!!!!! Graag ook nog 2 van die manja's en 1 papaya:-) Kissssssssssses Annelies
29th June 2007

Taking a trip
I feel compell to go home for summer. If only these classes could done now, I too would catch some of these scenes live. You guys are having a roll. Keep on keeping on!!!
6th December 2009

Nice it took me back man i shed a tear or two. good job for location scouting for movies too.
1st November 2010

dream world
I have no nothing to say so butyfull country I like to visit in my live ones to guyana
16th December 2010
City Hall

I like the pics they are rly close up and the objects captured are of great interest to the general populace, so overall great job.
6th January 2011
Our ride back to Georgetown

lovely picture i feel like coming back home to live
14th February 2012
Tallest wooden church in the world

the tallest wood church is in Surdesti - Maramures
St Georges’ Cathedral, being built in 1894 is 143ft tall (43.5m) . St Mike and Gabriel been built in 1721 and is 72m tall.
26th April 2012
Tallest wooden church in the world

Going to Guyana after so so so so many years, hope I fit all of what uou guys did in 2 weeks..... Thanks for the photo it brought back many memories.

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