Rain Forest and River

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South America » Guyana
January 5th 2014
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: 4.16667, -59.0833

We started before 6am this morning, during the brief twilight. We had a quick cup of coffee, then we began our hike into the rainforest. Actually, we began with a drive, past the village, so that we could focus on the walk up the hills. The first part of the walk crossed the savannah, with the grass stroking our ankles as we walked. Because of overcast, it was quite pleasant. The edge of the rainforest was like a wall … there are no half-way gestures or growing density of trees. Suddenly, we moved from the grasslands to the jungle. Just like entering Mirkwood.

The hike in the rainforest was very interesting. We learned about a lot of different plants, including a vine that used to be used for fishing. The vine would be cut and the juice distributed into a pond by whipping the cut vine against the water. The fish would get "drunk" and float to the surface, still alive, making them easy to catch. The practice is now illegal, as the substance from the vine kills some of the other creatures living in the water. Gary teaches it to the survivalists, though, just in case. For wildlife spotting, we saw some macaws and a small deer (at least, we heard the small deer crash through the trees and maybe caught a glimpse of a flash of brown).

The trail starts with a oblique, steady grade, then turns very steep and slippery. Fortunately, the locals have carved steps into the soil, making the climb slightly easier. After about an hour and a half of walking, we emerged onto a rock ledge, with a great view of the savannah, the village, and the mountains beyond.

During our breakfast, we heard the unmistakable sound of howler monkeys across the valley. We were able to spot them, sitting on a tree branch in the distance. We could only see three, but it sounded like there was a thousand. They moved on, then started howling again about 10 minutes later. Mostly, we just sat and enjoyed the view.

Around 9am, we started back down. It was very slippery going through the steep parts, but we made it without grave injury. Once, Kyla had a low, and we paused to let her eat glucose tablets and a carb bar. We also saw the howler monkeys again, this time a little closer up.

We were met at 10:30am back at the road and returned to the lodge for a rest. I went up to the hammocks upstairs and almost instantly fell asleep. The breeze and the lulling of the hammock were too much for my alertness. Lunch was had a noon, then we rested some more.

At 3pm, we piled in the truck and were driven to the river. There, we boarded a small row boat, and Gary and another guide, Alex, paddled us up river. It was lovely to be on the river, and we saw some beautiful birds, including black hawk, toucan, and a large one that looked a bit like a peacock. After an hour or so of paddling, we turned around and drifted downriver. At one point, it began to pour, but we pulled under and overhang (which will definitely not last the next rainy season) and waited it out. Drifting downriver, we spotted some capuchin monkeys and watched them for a long while. We saw them jump between branches, onto palm fronds, and climb up and down the tree, plucking the fruit. One sat for a long time watching us as it ate the fruit, then we heard the fruit hit the water. This happened a couple of more times, and we began to wonder if this monkey was lobbing fruits at us.

Eventually, we returned to the river landing. It was twilight, but we had torches, and we walked back through the rain forest. It was fun to hear the forest at night – so loud, especially with large drops still falling from the trees after the earlier rain – but, after a while, it began to be a bit of a slog. We were rewarded with a bright yellow bird, sleeping on a branch, and a scarlet snake (harmless). The savannah felt so cool and clean, and stars so brilliant, when we emerged from the forest.

At dinner, we talked to the manager, Sydney, while he told us some stories about developing the eco-lodge. He has traveled throughout the world, which may be one reason why he has such a great vision for how tourism can and should help his community, and what pitfalls they may encounter. He also provided a little more detail about the uprising (and told a great story about his role, as a 12 year old boy, in it). We learned that the rebels (mostly wealthy cattle ranching families like the Melvilles and the Hartes) were seeking support from Venezuela, because Venezuela at the time still claimed the Rupununi, and that his family had to leave at the end of the uprising because they felt that they were being treated as rebels. So they came to Surama to start a new village.

But then it was time to shower and go to sleep.

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