Sunday, January 22, 2017

Off The Charts In Guyana - Mr Sloth

Mr Sloth


I was determined to see a sloth before leaving Guyana.  There had been several people that reported seeing one on Baganara Island.  So I got up this morning at 5:30AM, grabbed the binoculars and my camera and headed out in the dinghy.  Tom stayed behind in bed “Happy slothing.” he said sleepily.

I took the dinghy north to the cut between Baganara island and the small, uninhabited island just to the northwest.  The tide was against me so I kept the outboard in lowest speed possible, moving slowly forward.  This gave me a chance to really look on both sides as I went.  I saw dozens of green parrots and at least a dozen toucans – old news by now!  When I reached the end of the cut, I turned around, shut the outboard off and floated back up river. 

Half way I grabbed a branch sticking out into the river and tied the dinghy off to it and shut down the outboard.  I settled in to just watch and listen.  Soon all the birds forgot I was there and went about their morning rituals, eating in this tree and that, grooming, and chatting in all manner of bird chatter.  It was quite noisy.  I was able to observe one green parrot couple, they were so cute sitting high in a tree, close together, they took turns grooming one and other and then loudly chattering away as other bird couples flew by “Morning Harold and Maud.”  “Good morning to you Bob and Gerdie.  How are you two?”  “We’re good, although Maud’s beak is a tad tender from a bad tree nut but nothing serious.”  “Awe, right.  Anyway, good to see you both.”  Or some like that I imagine.
Alas, no sloth.  I didn’t hear or see howler monkeys either.  Previously, we had heard and seen a howler monkey in this area.  After 30-45 mins, I finally untied my line and started drifting up river with the tide, back towards the boat.  I used a dinghy paddle occasionally to keep myself in the middle of the cut.  I had nearly exited the cut when I turned and looked back downstream and there he was!  Mr Sloth!  He was high up in a tree.  I couldn’t believe it.   However I was quickly being swept away from him.  I started to paddle like mad to get back towards him to get a better look.  In all my mad paddling, I was rather loud and Mr Sloth took notice of me.  He decided to climb up higher and hide in the leaves.  NO!  I grabbed my camera and took one shot, knowing that it would probably be out of focus or at the very least nothing more than a blob in a tree.  I kept paddling back towards him until I could grab onto a branch and tie off.  I settled down with the binoculars to watch.  I couldn’t really see him other that some brown in the leaves.  Darn!  I waited.  Perhaps he would forget I am here and come back down a bit.  No luck.  I paddled up closer but got no better view.  Finally, I made careful note of the location of his tree, turned on the noisy outboard and headed back to get Tom.
See him?

“I found the sloth.  Do you want to come see?”  Tom said sure and hopped in the dingy.  When we got back to Mr Sloth he was still high up in the tree.  “Are you sure there is a sloth up there?”  Tom asked.  Just wait.  We maneuvered around this way and that and finally found a spot or two where we could see most of Mr Sloth.  A breeze kicked up, blowing the top of the tree around pretty good.  I hoped this would bring Mr Sloth down a few branches but he stayed aloft.  We could clearly make out his arms and hands with the long claws gripping the tree branch.  At one point we could see his head moving around a bit.  It was kewl and so worth the early morning effort.

Finally, we left Mr Sloth alone and headed back to the boat for morning coffee and breakfast filled with sloth talk.

Special note – I call him Mr Sloth because to say “it” or just “sloth” seems….inappropriate somehow for such an unusual and elusive creature (at least to us).  However, I do not know if it was a male or female.  If you, sloth are in fact a female, I do apologize for calling you Mr Sloth.  I meant no disrespect.    

Off The Charts In Guyana - Kaieteur Falls

We finally made it to the famous Kaieteur Falls.  This is probably one of Guyana's most famous tourist attractions. 
Lat and long at Kaieteur Falls

The money shot

Stats –  I am just going to let you read them for yourself.

Portaro River valley we flew up
Our only giant otter sighting
We departed Baganara Resort at 13:30 aboard a 12 seater, single engine plane.  The flight was approx. 45 mins and took us SW over the “interior” or “bush”.  We flew over several HUGE mining camps.  We had seen the big, mud covered trucks in Bartica loading up with supplies for these camps but we had no idea the camps were this massive.  These camps are mining gold and diamonds out of the ground. 
View as we approached the falls

As we flew south, the elevation changed and soon we could see cliffs and mountains.  We flew straight up the Portaro River valley to the falls.  It is a feeder river to the Essequibo River.
Feeling the "toilet paper plant"

Soft like expensive toilet paper -that is what the guide said

Hiking toward the falls

Jamal was our guide.  He took us to the three lookout points, stopping along the way to point out various floral and fauna.

Tank bromeliads - world's largest

The falls were spectacular.  We went to three different vantage points to view the falls.

"She fell to her death taking a selfie on the edge of the cliff" - NOT

We were also able to spot the tiny golden dart frog, only found near these falls.   
Can you see it?

Poisonous tiny golden dart frong

We saw a few white collared swifts flying around.  They live behind the the falls.

Sadly, we did not see the famous Cock Of The Rock bird.

Off The Charts In Guyana - WAY up the Creek Again

Up the creek
Yesterday morning Tom and I went up the side creek again.  We timed it so that we went in towards the end of the rising tide.  With a 7.8 foot tide, this allowed us to get way up in there.  Finally, we were blocked by a submerged log.  We shut off the outboard and just settled in to watch and listen. 
We were surrounded by the rainforest.  Plants, insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, you name it.  Did we see all of those?  NO.  This is not a zoo.  It’s the real living and breathing rainforest where things come and go.  But more than that, we are newbies.  We are not used to seeing and hearing.  Our senses are not trained.  I would venture to guess that we missed 3x as much as we saw, if not more.  Example – We sat for probably 20 mins wedged on that partially submerged log.  The water continued to rise with the tide so that eventually we were able to float past it.  As we did, only then did we take notice of a particularly BIG (as big as my open hand) and scary looking spider that was sharing the un-submerged part of the log with us….right next to us as in “hey maybe I will jump on their dinghy and go for a ride” close!  It was of course camouflaged in its appearance but more than that, we just aren’t “trained” to see it.  But we are getting better at spotting things the longer we are here.
Bird watching
Anyway, the rising water floated us past the log and we continued up stream.  We were able to get quite far.  Perhaps 2-3 miles to where the stream narrowed some and the immediate rainforest gave way to jungle with a wide variety of green foliage with giant, fat leaves.  At this point we had the outboard tilted up and we were simply paddling here and there as we floated along. 
Even without the outboard sound, the rainforest/jungle knew we were there.  Birds sounded the warning.  One particular type of bird (unknown to us) had an extremely loud call that echoed through.  Others of the same bird could be heard further off answering back.  Not being a birder, I can’t tell you what type of bird or describe the sound they make.  It was really loud.  However, I imagine in bird talk it was probably something along these lines...... Bird One (named Bert)= “Hey everybody, crazy white people in a weird looking boat over here.”  Bird two =“Ok, thanks Bert.  Keep tabs on them and let me know if they head my way.”  Bird three = “Yeah, same for me.”  Bird four = “Yeah, thanks and ditto.”  Bert = “Will do.”  Or something close to that.
New way to bird watch -easier on the neck
The tide slowed to slack and we decided that we should probably turn around and head back.  Soon the current was flowing out so we simply drifted along with an occasional paddle to keep us straight.  Bright red/black and blue/black dragon flies lead the way.  The numerous butterflies continued to dance along as we drifted, including the spectacular electric blue Morpho butterfly that I have mentioned before.  Stunning!  Suddenly there was a movement in the water near our dinghy.  A small eel came up and captured whatever had attracted its attention.  Any thoughts of dangling my feet in the water as we floated along were dashed after that! 

The ride back out somehow looked different.  Eventually we exited the creek and returned back to sv Honey Ryder for a late lunch.  It was a magical morning. 

Above is video.  The pic part isn't so exciting but if you give it a listen, you should hear Bert the Bird calling his other bird friends.   

Off The Charts In Guyana - Bernard and Sharmilla's Place

Bernard and Sharmilla's place

From our anchorage at Baganara Resort a little further up the Essequibo River is the home of Bernard and Sharmilla.  They are ex-cruisers who swallowed the hook – that is to say they stopped cruising and moved on land.  They receive cruisers when any wander along.  By wander along, I mean dinghy up near but not too near their dock on the river.  Why?  Their guard dogs are proper guard dogs so any visitors need to stay far enough off the dock until one of them comes down, retrieves the dogs and puts them on their leashes.

Sharmilla and Bernard

The first group of cruisers had already visit Bernard and Sharmilla prior to our arrival so we waited.  When sv Giraff arrived, they were interested and rowed over.  Finding them both home and getting invited ashore, Peter radioed us on the handheld VHF and we joined them.
The house

Their place is beautiful.  They have 40 acres total.  Of that, probably 10% is maintained.  The rest is rainforest with trails that Bernard keeps up with his cutlass for walking.  Maintained isn’t the right word to describe what they have accomplished.  The grounds are fabulously manicured so that it looks like a resort.  The river side is layers and layers of colorful tropical flowering bushes.  The back is edible things.  Yummy edible things -  Coconut trees, pineapples, passion fruit, golden apple, bananas, breadfruit, breadnut, pomel, papaya, starfruit, soursop, avocado, wax apple, cocoa, lemons, limes, tamarind, and of course mangoes.  Whew!  It was truly impressive.  And I probably forgot a few.  
Wax apple


Okra or ochro ( in the Caribbean)

The other focus was their orchids.  They had many different types growing on various trees, delicate little blossoms.  Some were local.  Others came from far away.  It seems they picked many up as they circumnavigated the globe.  Bernard told a funny story of when they arrived in New Zealand and wanted to spend time traveling around the country.  However, what to do with their orchids on the boat?  So he took them ashore, climbed a tree and secured them high up in the tree.  Then they took two months to travel around and see the country.  New Zealand being in the tropical latitudes, when they returned, the orchids were not only alive and well but thriving.  Now before you wig out…..Bernard is a biologist and knows the danger of foreign, invasive species.  “But orchids are not aggressive and grow very slowly.  There was NO danger of introducing anything bad.”  However, this is not recommend by the writers and editors of this blog.  


Apparently Bernard, originally from Germany, sailed into Guyana and met Sharmilla.  They fell in love and he convinced her to sail around the world with him.  I think that was in 2000 or so.  They returned and secured the land 2008 and built in 2009.  I said to Sharmilla “So are you first Guyanese woman to circumnavigate the globe?”  She smiled, giggled and then shrugged her shoulders “Oh, I don’t know.”    
Peter swinging on vines in Bernard's rainforest

Anna's turn
The house is hexagon shaped surrounded by porch all the way around.  The roof is of course set up for water collection.  Solar panels give them the power they need.  We noticed an SSB/ham radio tuner and antenna as well as a small dish of some sort.  They have email somehow because she gave me their old boat card with their email on it.  They sold their cruising sailboat in January of this year.  They have a river pirogue.  The big outboard motor fell in the river so they only have a small outboard to get them to and from Bartica.  The property can only be accessed by water.  There are no roads.  This means a trip into Baritca or other when they need or want anything outside what they have.

As much as they love it here, they are selling.  Bernard is 82 and just doesn’t have the energy to keep up the place as it is now.  They plan to move into Georgetown. 
Beautiful grounds

They are an interesting couple and it was fun meeting them.  
So lovely

Their view of the Essequibo River

Another interesting character in Guyana is Joyce. She is an expat jazz singer from the USA.  Part of our circus went to visit her one day.  Tom was along, I missed it.  He thoroughly enjoyed visiting with her.  

Off The Charts In Guyana - Sex in the Interior

Okay, hot topic.  You might find it shocking and perhaps think it is not appropriate blogging fodder.  Fine.  You can skip this one.  I personally find it another interesting insight into another country and culture.   

I spotted a billboard in Georgetown that addressed HIV.  There was also a poster in one of the staff rooms at Iwokarma that addressed Sexually Transmitted Diseases.  The Brandt Guidebook mentioned prostitution in the mining camps.  Yesterday, in Itaballi we had lunch in a tiny little place on the main street.  There were three posters that comprised of the main wall d├ęcor in this place - other than a faded 1980’s pic of a married couple on their wedding day.  The posters were 1.)  Something about - HIV Doesn’t Change Who You Are.  2.)  Something like - What Do You Know About Sexually Transmitted Diseases?  3.)  My Safety Is My #1 Priority.  This last one appeared at first glance to be something about general safety, perhaps in the logging industry.  The guy in the picture had on work clothes and a hard hat and there appeared to be wood or logs in the background.  However, the woman in the picture was wearing shorts, a tube top and standing with her hand on her hip exuding attitude.  Upon closer inspection, the poster was about importance of wearing condoms for protection.  Additionally, while in Itaballi, I spotted a car with a bumper sticker saying something like "No Condom, No Sex."

Developing countries have to allocate all resources carefully.  I find it interesting and encouraging that they are using some resources and money this way.  Public health is so important.  Sexual health included.  An entire mining camp of people with sexually transmitted diseases is not good for health or the economy either.  I know that sounds harsh but it is true.    

Off The Charts In Guyana - Sunday Fun Day Down at the Crossroads - Itaballi

Larry and Randy - our river pirogue on the you see it?  Welcome Aborad.  Who is Aborad?
Still a Sunday Fun Day

I think previously mentioned this funky little ferry crossing.  I say funky but only because it’s so different from anyplace we’ve been.  It’s a crossroads really.  That is what attracted me to this place the first time we stopped by.  It was a buzz with humanity, the perfect people watching place. 
Main street

Near the end of the retail part of main street
Jim wandering around

Being Sunday, it wasn’t as busy as previous other stops.  Our crazy little circus of cruisers wondered around the main drag and a few side streets taking it all in and looking like aliens from another planet as we did it.
We eventually settled on a small spot for lunch.  There were just enough tables but not enough chairs.  Tom and Jim had to kneel at their table to eat.  Most opted for the chicken curry.  Tom and I went with the cookup (rice and peas cooked in coconut milk) and a piece of fried chicken.  Banks beer to wash it all down. 
No browsing the aisles here but we did score purpleheart rolling pins

Just before lunch Jim, Kathy (sv Inishnee) Tom and I had wondered into a nice, new hardward/general store.  The building was huge.  The downstairs was the store and upstairs was obviously the home.  However, the store was not filled with much and we couldn’t wonder around.  It was all behind a cage – floor to ceiling.  Hanging on display from the cage was the various items you could buy.  Pots, pans, flashlights, hammers, shorts, shoelaces, razors, etc….a wide assortment.  One item caught our eye – it was a small rolling pin made out of local purpleheart wood.  It was gorgeous.  $1000 Guyanese dollars or $5 US.  Kathy bought one for their boat.  Tom asked if I wanted one too.  “It’s kewl but when do I use a rolling pin?  No.”  But during lunch Kathy was showing everyone and I, along with half our group decided we did want a purpleheart rolling pin. David bought two for presents.  I was worried they would run out but they didn’t and I got my very own purpleheart rolling pin, which is now called my K-State purpleheart rolling pin.  Have I used it to roll anything out?  No.  But someday I will.       
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Just back from the interior
Bench for riders, petrol, cooking gas, spare tyre and gear box and your pet turtle...what else could you need

One of the things we like about the cruising life is that it allows us to stay longer in places.  This in turn allows us to get deeper into the local life.
At the very least, easy to access the engine

Repair shop in front of someones house
Fuel trucks