Friday, January 20, 2017

Off The Charts In Guyana - Trip into the Interior - The Beginning

The "Circus" for this excursion
Tom and I were interested in seeing some of the true "interior" or "bush" of Guyana that locals kept referring to.  We mentioned it to the others in the group and soon we had enough for a proper "circus".  Ha!  Seven total.  Plus Baganara owner Stuart, manager Paul and their friend Ian from Canada would join us in their own vehicle.
Planning session
I think I have mentioned before that Guyana hasn't really developed their tourism trade to the extent that other countries have.  While there are a few tour operators, their excursion offerings were too pricey for budget conscious circus, so we set about planning the trip ourselves.  NOT an easy task as there were many components - various segments of transportation, lodging, excursions, food/beverage, etc...many phone calls
Iwokrama main building

Fancy cabins

Our destination was Iwokrama Interational Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, a 1 million acre research project set in the pristine Iwokrama Forest.  "It's a living laboratory bubbling with a staggering number of flora and fauna" according to the Brandt guidebook.  It is 320 kilometers from Georgetown.  "Iwokrama's main business initiatives - tourism, timber, training and intellectual property and services".....Weird as this is going to sound, 50% of the land is designated as the Sustainable Utilisation Area, or money-generating pursuits, and the other 50% is the Wilderness Preserve.  Yes, timber (logging) and conservation side by side.  Guyana's tourism and especially eco-tourism does not bring in enough money alone to support Iwokrama.  "Reduced Impact Logging" is paying the bills.  They hope to "show that timber can be harvested in a protected area while demonstrating enviromental sustainability and social sensitivity."  The old guide book I had mentioned hammock camping. Bingo - we already had hammocks and are of course experts (NOT) from our camping trip to Rockstone Fishing Camp.  However, after a few calls, we learned the hammock camping has given way to cabins.  The first lodging options were too expensive.  But, I discovered from Iwokrama directly that they also have student and research housing.  Bingo!  Perfect for our budgets. hammocks needed.  We did take them just in case we didn't make the K Crossing - but more later on that.
Student, research and staff housing - "Circus" housing

Our first task was to get from Baganara Resort to Georgetown.  Despite the fact that the MAIN road to Iwokram was only 50 or so kilometers southeast of our anchorage, we were forced to travel north into the capital of Georgetown.  I tried and tried but there was simply (or otherwise) no way for us to get over to the MAIN road.  This meant we were looking at a river pirogue into Bartica, a river pirogue down to Parika and a maxi taxi from Parika to Georgetown and probably a hotel stay.  Instead, we opted to take one of the tri-weekly commuter flights from Baganara Resort to Georgetown - 35 mins flying time beats hours.  FYI -   We looked at flying into the interior directly but the cost was too high.
Gate agent on the left
SIDESTORY - When we boarded the plane, I had the unique opportunity of sitting next to a local guy from Bartica that happened to also be the only passenger that day to check his gun with the pilot as required by law!  The gate agent - by gate agent I mean one of the resort guys in shorts and flip flops who ask all of us waiting in the gate area - by gate area I mean a concrete lean-to at the end of a runway- "Does anyone have any weapons?  Knives, cutlasses and such?"  Most of our circus had small knives/leathermans.  "You cannot have them on you or in your carryon."  Although we ended up packed into the plane like sardines to the extent we could barely move our arms enough to pull a leatherman as a weapon and how on earth would we charge hunched over or crawling up the 24" aisle to the pilot for a takeover of some sort but.....okay, rules are rules.  "Can we just put them in our checked luggage (backpacks) now?"  "Sure".  So that is what we did.  I didn't see it but apparently my soon to be seatmate lifted his shirt to show the pistol at his waist.  When we went to board, he took it out of his waistband, removed the ammunition cartridge and gave the pistol to the pilot, who simply put it into the side pocket in his door on the airplane.....much like the side pocket in the door of an automobile.  This is a small commuter plane so you can imagine that the noise level from the engine is quite a bit higher than a big commercial jet.  This made talking hard.  However, I was DYING to ask my seatmate about the gun.  Come knew I would, right?  Instead we talked a little bit about the terrain we were flying over and other nicies.  "Yes, the rain forest does look like broccoli when you are flying over it."  "Yes, those are rice fields.  Guyana grows quite a bit of rice"  "Yes, I am from Guyana."  and so on.  He said he was on a weekly "shopping trip" from Bartica to Georgetown.  Hum?  I noticed in the gate area/concrete lean to, that he didn't have any luggage.  His only carry on was a laptop bag that was too light and floppy to have a laptop in it and a small lunch size soft cooler.  I offered to hold one or both as he was getting into his seat but he quickly declined, guarding them both closely.  "Weekly shopping trip."  Hum?  He said he was flying back on the afternoon flight.  Hum?  After we landed and headed for our transportation, the other members of our circus wanted to know what was up with my gun carrying seatmate.  We all decided that he must have been transporting gold and/or diamonds down to Georgetown and perhaps then order supplies and equipment for a mining camp as the "shopping" part.
Gate area

Anyway, we arrived in Georgetown, grabbed our backpacks and headed out to find our driver Mark.
Rain forest looks like broccoli from a plane
Up next - The Red Road

No comments:

Post a Comment