Today is our last day in Guyana, the Westernmost of those three small countries in the northwest of the contenent that no one really seems to know about. Guyana is English-speaking and feels decidedly more Caribbean than South American, with a lot of goods available that we haven't seen since Trinidad. Culturally, it is a mix of people African and Indian (East Indian, as in from the country of India) descent with some Amerindian (what we would call Native American in the US) villages in the interior.
Though I am blogging from the capital city of Georgetown, on the Atlantic coast in the north, we started our adventure here far south, in the small town of Lethem, on the border with Brazil. It was a dusty town with no paved roads (here is our guesthouse)...
But, peanut butter!!!
Locally made by a women's collective, to boot.
The next day we took a bumpy bus ride north a couple of hours to the Oasis, a "rest area" along the side of the main road where we got a cabin and were able to hike to see a panorama of the surrounding rainforest and savannah.
(Interestingly, when our book said that the "newly completed" road connecting Lethem and Georgetown was "now all-weather," I took that to mean it was paved. Wrong-o!)
The next day, the real adventure began. We really wanted to go to Surama, an Amerindian village 25KM north that was known for its affordable eco-lodge and beautiful rainforest and savannah surroundings. But when the Oasis told us it would cost us $80 US to hire a car to drive this short distance, we balked...and (moms, don't read this!) hitched a ride with a guy we met at the rest area who was heading that way anyway.
OK, that sounds a lot worse than it was--he was a tour operator with a company jeep and also had two other passengers with him, so it really wasn't that sketchy. But, it gave us a taste for how easy hitchhiking was in this country, which was to come in handy a few days later...
But first, we needed to walk to Surama, which was actually 5.8KM (almost 4 miles) from the junction with the main road where we were dropped off. We knew this in advance and had accepted that it would be a long slog into town carrying our 30-lb bags, but we geared up and did it. We even spotted this pair of scarlet macaws en route, which seemed like a good sign for wildlife to come.
The thing is, no one had told us that once we reached Surama proper, it was ANOTHER 3miles walk to the Eco Lodge, which was well on the outskirts of the small cluster of buildings on the savannah known as "town." So we walked and walked and walked in the direction the woman in town had pointed, and finally we got there.
(When we told the people at the lodge that we had walked in from Surama junction, they looked at us like we were completely insane. They were probably right, but we also thought that paying $80 for a taxi was insane!)
Anyway, we stayed two nights in Surama, and it was one of the highlights of our trip so far for me. We saw lots of birds and a few monkeys in the beautiful, untouched rainforest and out on the savannah that surrounded the eco-lodge.
On our boat trip up the Burro Burro river, we saw loads kingfishers, herons, swallows, macaws, and some capuchin monkeys. Here is a great shot Andy got of a kingfisher.
And here are the bees that decided to attack my bag on the boat. Notice how well they match my bag!
The rainforest was also chock-full of these millipedes, and on our hike up Mount Surama, Andy and the guide convinced me to let one crawl on my arm. Yes, I've officially lost my mind.
Aaand, remember how I said I'd come back to hitchiking? Well, when it was time to leave Surama, we were told it would be $25 US to be driven the 6 miles to the junction, where we could wait for a minibus running the 12-hour route to Georgetown. Now that we knew how long the shlep was and could mentally prepare, we turned down the taxi offer and, once again, strapped on our packs for a long, long slog by foot to the main road.
Two hours and over 500 choruses of "999 bottles of beer/guava-pineapple juice/milkshake etc." later (we switched beverages every 10 choruses and got pretty creative), we arrived at the shop at the junction. It was 12 noon. And we were told that there would not be a minibus arriving until 10PM, and that it wouldn't actually leave the junction until 4AM. Crap.
But then, literally 30 seconds later, this truck pulls up...
I mean, it's like the gods of hitchhiking had sent us this ride. It was clearly meant to be!
So we road 12 hours in the back of an open supply truck over an unpaved road to Georgetown. This was my position for approximately the first 5 hours of it.
My view wasn't bad at all. Note the rainbow!
Of course, when we picked up three more people in Mabura, and it started to get dark, and then it started to rain and we all had to get under this dirty tarp, well, it was a bit less pleasant then. And three days later, Andy's and my butts and lower backs are still a little sore from our adventure.
But, hey, we made it, and saved somewhere between $50 and $100 on bus fare. Solid.
We'll have to do another post recapping all of the fantastic and cheap street food we have enjoyed in Georgetown--we took a lot of pictures. Tomorrow we are off to another country, Suriname and will try to check in from there if we can figure out how to surf the Web in Dutch.