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Published: August 22nd 2009
Kaieteur falls from the Johnsons viewpoint
the dog from the Guesthouse that followed me.
I forgot to setback my watch when I crossed from Suriname and hence woke up an hour earlier than I should, I sat in the front desk area of the hotel reading all the local papers trying to kill time. I get to encounter English words we don't normally use in the USA. Frank arrived to pick me up at 6am Guyana time, Ashley(from Delaware) and Emily and Tad(West Virginia) were already in the 4WD truck, they will be my trekking buddies for the next 5 days, the girls are Peace Corps Response volunteers and Tad is here to visit his sister. The roads were good up to Linden, we saw Bauxite processing plants in the area, raw materials for aluminum. The rough roads started after that, dirt, gravel road, not so bad the first bit, we stopped at a popular restaurant Jo and Ruth something, for lunch we had delicious Guyanese food. They also eat farinha here the Brazilian cereal thingie made from cassava, not a big fan. Frank said this road also leads to Lethem so I shall be back here again. After lunch we head on, 20 minutes later is checkpoint, while waiting for Frank
to check us in a guy came to sell coconut juice.
We took a smaller dirt road from hereon, potholes got bigger and we were bouncing on these bumpy roads the road was made by a Canadian company from what I understood from Frank, lush forest despite the road. We arrived at 12pm to a ferry stop to cross the Essequibo river. Took about 15 minutes to cross, the current was a bit strong. Dirt road continued on the other side.Stopped AT Mahdia for refreshments, and check out some booths there is afair here of sorts i got a map from the tourism office, Emily's coworkers from G'town are here so they got to chatting for a bit while I walk around. When we heded on again, the road got narrower and the potholes deeper and filled with water, the forest remains lush, took ages to get out of the road, good thing we have a 4WD. We met the crew that will take us to Kaieteur, they load up the boat with supplies and then us, so the crew included Fred, Soldier the boatman and one other guy, somehow they are all related to Frank, so all in
Park ranger Martin walking near the edge of the falls!
The boat ride was about an hour beautiful scenery of the vegetation in the Potaro river, a tributary of the bigger Essequibo, Actually Kaieteur is part of Potaro river. It was very hot so its nice to put your hand in the water, then we got reminded later electric eels and piranhas abound here, not that they are really out to kill tourists, its safe to stick your hand out in the water we were told. Arriving at our 1st camp, the Amtuk falls you can hear roar, it is plit into 3 i think the island we are camping at sits in the middle. We ahd a walk around, nice palce, white snady beach, Amerindians live here. They make cassava bread and I had to pay this woman when I asked her to be in my photo. i did not bring enought cash with me so when I paid her 20 Guyanese dibdobs( a few US cents) she was not happy, Ruth, Soldier's daughter who will be our cook was laughing so hard when I gave the photo money, she knew the girl will balk. oh well.
Dinner was fabulous, we had gaslights, to light
the table, we have a delicious chicken and rice, great start, I pounced on it, knowing that when i am on the road I hardly eat right. Hammocks were set up with the nets, but there was no mozzies really, quite surprising to me, the sky looks incredible with all the stars, they look closer to you. We were in bed at 7:30ish! I stood in the dark for a bit admiring the stars then off to bed, slept well in the hammock, good breeze every now and then, lightning lights up the hotizon every so often but rain did not come.
Woke up early, had our breakfast of scrambled eggs and bread, packed up and ready, Soldier took us by boat closer to the Amtuk Falls to have a better look, above the falls we take a smaller boat for the next camp. We loaded the boat and crossed to the other side of the island where theocals here live then we carried our gears and equipments about 25 minutes walking to where the other boat is waiting. In this heat and humidity I felt I was melting, I carried my pack and a heavy
road to Mahdia
bag of condiments, each one carrying something to help out. one dude carried the boat motor by himself! and gasoline etc, these guys are very tough, never again will I underestimate their size, small but strong, even Ruth she carried the cooking gas tank on her shoulder and raced through to the other side as if nothing. Fred ripped one boat as he tries to pull it to the water so we used another one, he bailed out the water and we put our things there and off we go, we got dropped off somewhere to do some hiking in the forest, with us is Fred and the other guy who is very quiet. Fred showed us plants in the forest, their medicinal purposes etc, quite a nice walk, the forest here is very dense am happy to say, sad part there was a sign posted on a tree and Fred said its the boundary line, they will tear this forest apart to mine for gold and diamonds.
We arrived at Wartuk camp Most of the people staying here are miners, apparently you get a permit/license from the government and then you can be a freelance miner except the
Amerindian lands, we met miners at the camp site owned by the park, gthey were very nice people and they related their stories to us, how gold and diamond go hand in hand and black diamonds can be found here, we quizzed them on how environmentally safe is their process, how they dispose or reuse the silver they use to extract the gold from the soil, hopefully they are telling the truth. They said there is a lot of gold and diamond in this area and they read the terrain, some go further in the forest, and also Brazilians come here to prospect as well,illegally crossing in the forest so they dont get found out. The camp is a lodge, 2 storey house with flushing toilet, the miners stayed below and we at the top hammocks in place, we chilled for a bit, went for a swim in the swift currents. Lots of veggies planted in the garden.Dinner was again good,an Indian dish. I turned in early as I was tired,fell asleep to the sound of the Wartuk falls gazing at the stars.What a life...
Rain came past midnite and never abated, it poured down heavily
for a time, and when it was light, the rain kept on, stopping intermittently. We waited for it to stop,we saw the sky clear up and we headed on, it turns out we are giving the miners a ride, on a small boat with all our heavy supplies and gears, plus 12 people! The girls were worried, we are so heavy that they keep bailing water out, later Ashley showed me the yellow marker line on the boat, the water was up to there, we were that low, we made it though, getting dropped off at a spot and we hiked again this one about couple hours. We hiked up this beautiful waterfall, 6 More Falls I dont know why they called it that, the way up was tricky, the boulders were very slippery but well worth it, gorgeous falls, the sun is in and out, threat of another rain never came though. Tad and me and Emily went all the way to the bottom of the falls, Ashley waited for us below. I ripped my favorite pants here, again! Took it off and clamber up the falls in my boxers.
From there another hour walk and we made
it to the next camp Tukite. There is a waterfall on the other side of the river and a nice sandy beach, Soldier took us there to have a swim, he will set his tent later to try and catch fish, and we mentioned crayfish and crabs, I got excited and before I knew it he was turning rocks in creeks to catch them for me but nothing was found. We headed back to the camp but before then Soldier showed us a glimpse of Kaieteur form the boat, he had to go into this bend as the river snakes into the valley, you have to be in the right angle. The hammocks were set again,t rained a bit but not much, there is a lodge here being built, after dinner we had a bonfire and Soldier told us stories, legends about the waterfalls. 7:30ish, past bedtime we headed back to sleep, before then tad had an ingenious method of using the pit toilet, he sprayed febreeze before going for number 2, it worked! you dont smell the you know what. I went in after him,great idea!Nets were hung again not because of mozzies but because of vampire bats! we
dont want our bloods to get sucked byt these guys.
We saw some bats flying but were not sure if they were vampire bats, but just to be safe. Fred claimed he got bit one time.
This is the OMG day(Oh My God). We hike up to the last camp site through and over this hill, they advertise this as the OMG trek, the toughest part, partly because you need to carry your own backpack here, no boats anymore, we got spoiled earlier on, the boat brings our packs to camp while we hike the trails. As usual, our guides zoomed as if nothing, 2 young boys came early from the other campsite and picked up a chainsaw among other things from our camp and they headed on ahead of us with the heavy loads on their backs, oh they also carry a gun to hunt and shoot whatever happens to be in the trail as they walk past, talk about tough, they should be in the army!!
Our hike started alright, through the beautiful forest, then it went uphill slowly, we rested a lot, and then we got to the 1st OMG part, very
loading supplies, Potaro river
steep but you climb only about 5 minutes, Ashley struggled, it wasnt so bad for me, but only cause I am used to hikes like this, I've had worse. We had fruits ready at the top, watermelon and pineapples for snack while resting. Then off again, the 2nd OMG was also tough and longer about 10 minutes, we all made it albeit at different paces. Then another break with fruits, after that flat trail for about half hour, all in all with the rest period took us 2:30 hours, these guides can do it in 45 minutes they claimed. The walk was nice we saw a dead animal and an odd insect, Fred said normally they see a number of wildlife, not our lucky day. When we got to the waterfalls area, we left our packs next to a tree and walked to the first mirador called Johnsons viewpoint, walked through huge boulders and out into this beautiful area where the gorge opens up and in front of us is the Kaietuer falls, ohhs and ahhs... We also saw the golden/yellow frogs living in these giant bromeliads. Took heaps of photos then off to the next one.
bailing out water
our packs and walked about 3 minutes to Boyscout viewpoint, closer to the falls but not as spectacular. The roar of the falls is incredible, frothy water below the canyon, this is the Potaro river continuing on after the massive drop of 841 ft. Moved on again to the next, the Rainbow viewpoint, where you see the rainbow obviously. More open area, there is a sign in each of the miradors, stay 4 ft away from the edge, but no railings really, if you are afraid of heights stay away from the edge. We proceeded to the camp from here, actually its a Guest House, we dropped out stuff and headed on to have a swim at the river, about 100 feet from the drop, to be safe,the current is moderately strong but not taking risks at all, then Fred came and soap himself up and bathed in the river a good 20 feet away from the edge, he swam in the current, brave dude. THe park ranger Martin later came and talked to us about the waterfalls as we relax in the river, far away from the drop! I found a mirador where there is a bench and took
Tad and Emily there, great view, then Tad decided to have a photo of him on the rock overhang, as he bravely crawl to the middle, not close to the edge, enough to be called daring, while me and Emily cameras at the ready, suddenly in the background we saw Martin swimming towards the edge and walked over to the lower part of the drop, talk about stealing Tad's thunder! It made him look like a sissy. Martin proceeded to go one step further, he was at the middle of the falls, standing on a mossy ledge. That is brave and stupid! For a park ranger to do that, does not bode well for tourism! but he claimed they did that since they were kids, they know where to go and be safe.
Most of the time after lunch was spent near the falls either swimming or just sunbathing, Tad tried to go further out the river as Martin keeps an eye on him, I saw him standing and clinging to the reeds for dear life ! Quite funny while Martin swims towards the edge. The rest of us were not that daring, at least not on the first
day. We checked out the giant bromeliads for the golden frogs,and cock of the rock, an orange bird common in this area. At dusk I went with Fred to watch the swiftbirds go back to the caves behind the waterfalls, its incredible, they come back in swarms then as they get close to the falls they suddenly dive down at a fast pace as if arrows being darted into the abyss, they disappear behind the curtain of water. The rest were out, went to the village to buy booze. They came back and we had a few drinks then dinner and played cards with 2 other guests in the guesthouse, a slightly older British couple. I went to bed after a few rounds of BlackJack, Soldier our boatman is dead drunk and making all these funny remarks, they made him buy more rum, I went to bed soon after that, they proceeded to the Ranger house, when they came back Soldier was a nuisance, talking loudly to the annoyance of the Brits. This was the time the tipping issue came about, Fred asked me to give him the tip now and he promised to equally distribute it among them, then
Soldier later in his drunken stage asked me the same, i told him i gave it to Fred, he got upset, he said Fred will keep it to himself, i got caught between a rock and a hard place, each one of them including Ruth trying to get the tips to themselves.I told the rest of the guys and they said they will sort it out later. The next morning Ashley gave them their individual tips,I did not contribute as i gave mine to Fred already, I felt bad but i have no more cash.
Tips of course is not mandatory but these guys worked so hard carrying suplies and cooked for us and showed us around, they really deserve it, good folks, hard workers, there was a gripe Soldier made us know that night, on how he does not get paid well, I hope Frank gives them a fair share of money, as they do the hard work of looking after tourists, and mind you this trip is $795 per person! Not cheap but if you have the money, well worth it to see the Guyanese jungle. Last walk to the viewpoints before the plane
our camp at Amtuk
picked us up, I walked through the path in the forest to get back to Johnsons view, all of a sudden these dogs from the ranger house came from nowhere and startled me, my heart jumped i thought of jaguars! silly buggers, they stayed with me the whole time, which was good for added security from the wild animals! Ruth showed us the cock of the rock bird, we followed her in the jungle near the GH, i saw it flew! caught a glimpse at least.
Last swim then went back to the GH and fell asleep in the hammock, last night was uncomfortable, had stiff neck from sleeping in the hammock and it was cold, did not sleep well. Around nooish we got told to hurry up and go to the airstrip as the plane has arrived. There were about 10 passengers in the small plane, and we got a good view of the falls when we were up in the air. 15 minutes later we stopped at Mahdia for 15 minutes loading supplies and what nots and picked up a few more passengers then we went off again in the rain. The jungle below is so lush
cassava bread and Amerindian woman
it looks like brocolli heads from above, its so dense the tops of tree competes for the space, so beautiful! Also the landscape reminds me of the tepuis in Venezuela. We saw some area where they are mining for gold and diamonds, striking colors, white sand, blue and brown water etc. The flight from thereon took a good hour, halfway through i fell asleep. Woke up only because my ears were popping and its quite painful, as we ready to land in Georgetown, its dark and cloudy and apparently we've flown through a thunderstorm, the guys were terrified but good thing I was asleep. We landed safely and the threatening cloud suddenly dropped its content, a complete downpour, I got wet even if I got dropped off right at the Sleepin Hotel. We dropped off Emily and Tad, they live near the US Ambasaador's house and it was really fancy, the condo complex housing the embassy staff is equally impressive, Ashley said they let the volunteers use the pool in the summer when it's oppressively hot.
After doing errands, I met up with the guys at 6:30pm at OMG on Sherriff St. Met the other Peace Corps volunteers, we
sunset, Amtuk camp
had a few drinks at the bar then dinner, there is a number of Americans here mostly volunteers, good vibe everyone is nice and friendly. Last night in G'town for me.
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