Sunday, January 22, 2017

Off The Charts In Guyana - Into the Interior - Iwokrama

Lat and long at Iwokrama - that is 4 degrees latitude as in close to the equator

Kewl rainforest tree used to make local furniture

Jim with his new cabin mate

Iwokrama is basically like a one of our National Parks in the USA and more.   The rich biodiversity of Iwokrama makes it a nature draw for scientist, researchers and tourist.  It is considered on of the four remaining pristine forests.  The others are Amazon, Congo, Papua New Guinea.  The extent of the flora and fauna is staggering.  However, just like the rest of the globe, these populations are in trouble as well.  Thus the need for Iwokrama and the roll it plays. Plus it's a really kewl place!
Our room

Shared - 2 heads and 2 showers

As I mentioned before, the initial lodging at the Iwokrama River Lodge was quite expensive for our cruising budgets, however upon further research, we discovered that they have “student” and “researcher” housing and since they didn’t have any students or researchers at the time, we could stay in those for $25US and $50US per night.  Woo hoo.  This housing was tucked back alongside the staff housing and perfect for our little circus.  They weren’t sure of the breakdown of our group (couples or singles) so they assigned us 4 four rooms for the 7 of us to use.  There is also dorm style housing.  Mark our driver stayed in his hammock under the covered walkway of staff housing just across from us.  The rooms were simple but clean and we shared 2 showers and 2 heads in a common area. 
Activity center

Roof is built for rainwater collection

Inside the activity center

Inside the activity center

The main activity center was a beautiful hexagon structure set back from the river.  The roof was designed so the center was concave and thus collected water for the cisterns.  Three meals a day are available at the activity center.  The menu is set.  After dinner, the head guide met with us to discuss the excursion options.  All trips inside Iwokrama require a guide.  There was one other group on site, a birding group from Norway.  They were staying in the fancy River Lodge cabins.  We made our choices for trips and then spent the rest of the evening wandering around the grounds and then having an evening night cap on the walkway in front of our rooms.
Covered walkway outside our rooms
Kitchen crew - yummy meals from them

Forestry major Addit and head guide Michael

The next morning we were up at 5am and over to the activity lodge for a quick cup of coffee/tea.  Our guide met us at 5:45 am and soon we headed out on a walk through the surrounding rain forest.  Right off the bat, he spotted several bright colored macaws and toucans.  Before we even left the lawn of the River Lodge we also spotted an agutti under a wax apple tree nibbling on the fallen fruit.  Our guide was very knowledgeable, answering all of our questions.  His ability to hear and then spot various birds was amazing.  We also learned about all the various flora and fauna as well as their uses in ancient times and even now.  Bush medicine is still alive and well in the Caribbean and Guyana is no exception.  And before you discount that, please remember that most modern medicines have their roots in bush medicine.  Note - There are also trees and plants that are used for local furniture making, and in ancient times signaling others as well as tribal warfare (poison).
This tree is good for fighting diabetes

Strangler tree helps with inflammation thus I decided to crew on it directly - just kidding
I forget the name but this tree helps fight malaria

When we met with the head guide (Michael) the night before, he informed us that a special bird of some sort nicknamed the cow bird was recently spotted and that perhaps we might see.  According to him, it was one of the main birds the Norwegian birding group came to see, aka a big deal.  I am sorry but I forget the real name but the nickname was appropriate as we soon found out as it truly sounds like a cow mooing.  Our guide spotted the cow bird first the then we all waited quietly……yes, I was astonished our little circus could actually be quiet, but we were…..then we heard it……MOOOOOOoooo.  OMG just like a cow.  And before you laugh and ask me if I am sure it wasn’t just really a cow….yes, it was a bid.  We heard it several times.  In fact, as we wondered through the rainforest, I believe we heard two separate cow birds.  Note-   The poor Norwegian birding group got shut out on the cow bird, not on sighting or sound.  However, NOT our fault.  Surprisingly, our crazy little circus was able to stay pretty darn quiet during our walk.  Yeah, I know.....I had my doubts about our ability to be quiet but we pulled it off.     
Our guide for the early morning walk

"Where?  I don't see it."  "There"  "Ah ha"  "Ooo, look over there at that weird bug"  "Where?"

The walk was supposed to take 45 mins but we were in no hurry and neither was our guide so we didn’t get back to the lodge until 7:15 for breakfast.  The buffet was a plentiful offering of Guyanese food – I forget specifically but there was bake (fried bread), saltfish, plantains, stewed pumpkin and green beans I think and fruit along with local juice from fruits grown on the grounds.  YUM!  We spent the rest of the day wondering around the grounds, napping, checking out the macaws, toucans, and other birds, looking for the local caiman (alligator) named Sanka and just limin'.  A few of us walked back down to the ferry crossing.  I wanted to see if I could find the big cat paw prints I had seen in the mud the night before.  However, no luck.  The tracks had been washed away.  Stuart, Paul and Ian showed up that evening after dinner.  They had their own special tales of The Red Road.

Chow line - yummy food
Local dishes - pepper pot, pumpkin and beans, plantins and breadfruit salad - yum

We didn’t spot Sanka the first couple of times we went down to the river but one of the guides suggested we try again at sunset.  Great!   What better way to pass happy hour than looking for caiman while drinking beer……”Hold my beer and watch this” quickly comes to mind, doesn’t it?  As if on queue, Sanka showed up at the dock.  She is HUGE.  At least 12 ft and probably closer to 14ft.  She cruised around the dock area, often times very close to shore, coming in between the small river pirogues.  Eventually she snuggled up under the dock.  We were all a bit surprised to see that.  Rich said “Holy crap.  I know the sign says “No Swimming” and that is obvious but quite honestly, earlier today when it was hot I came down here and I was this close to taking my Keens off and dangling my feet in the river to cool off!  I thought, dangling feet isn’t swimming.  Good thing I didn’t.  Sanka was probably under the dock!”  Yep, our little circus always seems to be inches away from become a You Tube video of stupid things people do. 
Dick was not about to be part of a You Tube video of stupid things people do

"He's right there.  Hold my beer and watch this"  Just kidding

You Tube video waiting to happen - People vs camin

Sanka - big girl

Sanka very close to shore

The next morning we wondered around the grounds and surrounding area some more.  The head guide said we should not go out on our own without a guide.  When we asked another guide about a specific trail, she said it would be ok.  Cruiser Kathy said “How lost can we really get on that trial as it is boxed in by the resort, river and two roads!”  True enough.  However, when we came back out on the road we entered the trail from, we saw the continuation of that trail on the other side of the road…..not boxed in…… ”Let’s just go for a bit on this and see where it goes.”  It was ok for a bit but then we came to a fork in the path and then another and then another.  Rot-row……And now we are headed down the path to becoming  a You Tube video called Stupid American’s get lost in the rainforest of Guyana after being told not to go without a guide.  However, in the distance we could hear the Iwokrama River Lodge generator so we just kept moving in that direction.  Jim marked each of the forks in the path so we would know which we came from in case we had to double back.  Finally we came out in back of the River Lodge grounds.  Whew!
Tom got the point.....bahahhaah - look points on the bark

Weird.....somethings hanging down????
Curly branches

Curly branches

Note - Macaws and toucans....It is really hard to get a good pic of these bird as they hang out near the tops of the trees.  Plus we only have a little point and shoot camera (which we are very lucky to have thanks to our friend Terry)  vs a proper birding camera.  However, it wasn't too hard to find them as they are really loud.  Iwokrama has a large population of both birds.  One morning there were 8-10 toucans in one tree alone.  Very kewl!  There are tons of other birds as well.  I know, I know, tons probably isn't a proper birding term but there are!
Macaw -click and zoom in for a better look

Macaw - click and zoom in for a better look

Below are some additional random pics from Iwokrama including information posters.  Read if you want, skip if you don't want to.

View of Essequibo River from Iwokrama activity center

Beauty in hiding - Tom wanted to take her out SO badly

Poster about the bats of Iwokrama - yay bats

Poster about Guyana / EU timber agreement

Poster about Guyana / Norway Carbon Credits

Poster on impact of timber harvesting

1 comment:

  1. What a cool place! Your room reminds me so much of a place we stayed in Belize (inland as well) called Crooked Tree. It was a big birding area. So jealous that you saw Macaws! Were they blue ones? Couldn't tell from your photo. We got up in the wee hours to go with a Maya guide to see Scarlet Macaws in Belize but did not get to see any. So disappointing. We did see toucans and parrots, but never a macaw. They are really magnificent creatures.