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Published: August 6th 2007
'This road is called Abortion Road'
, Chico said. Chico was our guide. He was a funny man in the humorous sense of the word. We laughed. We had just come from the city, up the East Bank road and were now, fifteen of us, on the bumpy, red-sand road which circumnavigated the Timehri airport. A boy in army fatigues with a gun half his height flung the gate open and, just like that, without any security check or verification we entered the headquarters of the Guyana Army Air Corp. It was Robert's 33rd birthday and so the 'fossil' and his wife, Petra, came along. Shanni wouldn't miss it for all the gold in Fort Knox.
On the tarmac in front the army hangar and in the pouring rain sat our airplane - a turbo prop Harbin Y II of Chinese stock. You could feel the tension. We were about to visit the mighty Kaieteur and the sprawling Orinduik Falls. Plus, we would be flying in a relatively small plane in bad weather. But no sweat! Army pilots were the best around and we had Chico - our knowledge, funny guide. And then, in a cruel twist of fate, we boarded
the plane we found two other passengers who were not factored in and the strange and troubling decision was made to leave Chico behind . A hole opened in the dark clouds and the pilots gunned the engines and we flew right thru. As the ground fell away, the grandeur of the country became evident. The Demerara river cut a dark winding path thru a sea of green and the treetops formed a never-ending emerald carpet. Tiny housing settlements and logging or mining camps appeared from time to time before we sailed over the Essequibo river which is touted as having 365 islands. We can't completely attest to that but we did see many, many tiny islands in one particular spot.
We flew into the first rain storm soon after. It sounded like rain on a tin roof as the pellets hammered the Harbin's metal shell. Our hands gripped each other and we uttered silent prayers as the plane bounced around in the turbulence. We could see straight into the cockpit and the pilots were busy adjusting knobs seemingly oblivious of the fact that they could not see more than a few feet in front. They didn't even bother
putting on the windshield wipers or maybe the wipers didn't work. The Harbin was surprisingly sturdy and soon we punched thru the clouds and were rewarded with a picturesque view of the meandering Potaro river which feeds the Kaieteur. We followed the river and then ... oooohs and aaaaahs escaped our lips. Below us was the spectacularly awesome Kaieteur Falls plunging straight down with such force that tall, white geysers hurdled skyward. The plane's wheel skidded and bounced on the wet landing strip and then rolled to a stop. We emerged shaken but not from fear of the past 50-minute flight. Waves of excitement hit us and everyone chattered like kindergarten children on their first field trip before another rain shower forced us under the covered waiting area. Fortunately for us, the Kaieteur National Park had a guide and we followed him into the trail as soon as the rain let up. We walked for 10 minutes and as we passed the Kaieteur Guest House we thought that it would be lovely to overnight.
We heard it before we saw it. It was the fulfillment of a dream. We saw it. We couldn't speak. Time froze. We felt little
and happy and humbled and fortunate. We saw it and it saw us. It was full, powerful, majestic, unstoppable, captivating, mesmerizing, mystical, inspiring and yet totally indescribable. It thundered straight down - 741 feet straight down. It holds the title of the world's highest single-drop waterfall. We wanted to cry, scream, laugh, and run, headlong into it. IT WAS KAIETEUR!!
35,000 gallons of water per second plummeted into the gorge below crushing anything in its wake. Amerindian legend has it that the falls were named after 'Kai' - who was the leader of his tribe. Hard times had befallen his people and Kai believed that the gods were angry. In order to appease the gods and the save his people, Kai made the ultimate sacrifice. In a small, dugout canoe he rowed straight over the falls and into the arms of his gods. The legend has it that his people we never in want again. Today, we saw, like so many before, a rock bearing a somewhat striking image of an Amerindian face high above the falls. It was so positioned that it is not likely man-made. People say it is the face of Kai and that the
sprays we felt on our faces are his tears.
We flirted with danger by hanging over the ledge very close to the falls. We could see what appeared to be a cave behind the murderous curtain of white. We stayed for a while watching the water flow thru the gorge and away into the endless mountain ranges. The vegetation around the falls and particularly the ones being sprayed were the healthiest, liveliest green ever. Just before we left to view from another angle, Shanna ran back and scooped up a handful of water only a few feet from the drop off.
Rain drizzled lightly as we walked about 10 minutes to Boy Scouts View. From there we could see the whole length of Kaieteur. We headed next to Rainbow view and true to its name, there appeared a rainbow as light danced on the sprays. It was hard to leave. We were the last of the bunch to finally shake off Kaieteur's hold and we trekked behind the rest back to the waiting area. The food was good but we wouldn't notice. We were still awestruck.
The plane departed for Orinduik Falls at 2:00 pm. Unlike Kaieteur,
which was a purely visual experience, we could and would interact with Orinduik. 25 minutes and three rain storms later, we found ourselves gazing at a large, flat but green plateau thru which ran the most amazing river. The Ireng River is one of just a few of the many rivers which flow south. The others flow north. As it winds further south it becomes the Takatu River at Lethem and the border between Guyana and Brazil until it finally empties itself into Brazil's Rio Branco. The landing was rough. We saw why when we deplaned. A tiny landing strip was roughly cut out of the red soil making a smooth landing impossible. We looked around and saw an immense, attractive savannah all around. Off to the right of the plane was a broad, fast-flowing river and across the river was Brazil. Right there!
We raced past the guest lodge - a white two-storied house with an excellent view. The caretaker told us that for G$2,000, we could spend a night. We told him 'next time' and continued down the slope. In 7-10 minutes tops from leaving the plane, we stood facing Orinduik. It flowed over reddish, semi-precious jasper
cliffs and tumbled in stages into inviting pools of churning water. The width was staggering. It seemed like a few falls had decided to meet at this magical place and show off for us. And show off they did. We craned our necks; our eyes soaking up the panorama all the while trying to wrap our minds around the scene. Were we really here? Was this some sort of illusion? Was it even possible for something to be so beautiful, powerful, gentle, pure and deadly all at the same time?
The lower level was way too powerful and so we relocated one flight up. It was that kind of falls; the accommodating type . Hurriedly, we donned our swimwear and scampered over slippery jasper for our first interactive session. The water thumped our backs as we stood under a ledge for a massage. The stress and anxieties of the day were washed away down the Ireng. All that remained was bliss. With our muscles relaxed, we slipped behind the water curtain into a cavern so small we had to crouch. It was totally unique to watch the falls from behind.
Somehow the rain storms en route back to
Timehri didn't seem to matter anymore. We were on a natural high. Kaieteur and Orinduik would become the standard by which all falls would be judged. And as unfair as it seems, there is simply no way to erase the images and memories. They will forever stay with us as reminders of one special day in our lives when dreams came true.
Special thanks to:
😊 Joanie, Chico and Wonderland Tours. Call Joanie if you want to visit Kaieteur and tell her
Vibert and Shanna recommended her.
😊 The army pilots for a splendid job
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