A Little Jesus in the Jungle

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Oct 23, 2009

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Flag of Guyana  , Potaro-Siparuni,
Thursday, January 14, 2010

After another mostly sleepless night due to the thump thump thump of bass from the bar downstairs that travels really easily through decrepit wood floorboards, we made our way two blocks to the tour company that sold us our Kaieteur trip.  As a sidenote, when a place brags that it has the largest all night dancefloor in Georgetown, translate that as you won't sleep until your body gets tired enough to ignore the noise!  But hey, for the price we paid per night I am not going to complain too loudly since the room was clean enough and centrally located.

After several confirmation calls the previous two days we finally were told to arrive at the office no later than 8am sharp.  We arrived at 7:45 and were told to go get breakfast since 8:30 was the new time.  Across the street there was an open air type shop on the ground floor of a crumbling wood structure that had some food.  Indian women in nurselike uniforms and hairnets scurried around the dirty joint, and my better judgment began to have reservations.  But the place was packed with locals and that right there is what you look for when choosing a joint. These crustless white bread halves with a yellow filling looking like margarine were going like hotcakes so I decided to try out the hottest ticket in town.  The cashier told me it was a cheese sandwich and I said a few prayers that the heat hadn't made it a petri dish of God knows what.

I can honestly say I have found a local food somewhere that I didn't like.  Who would have though cheese on bread would repulse my tastebuds but oh was this crap foul.  Foul, foul, foul.  It was like a tart, tangy smear on crumbly bread that couldn't hold up to the humidity. I ate half and fed the other half to a mountain of trash growing around the already full trash can.  I can still taste that mess hours later. Just nasty.  Just the consistency alone makes me shudder still...like baby poop in a diaper.

8:30 came and went and the clock soon blew through 9am and the girl at the office said we were waiting for the bus to arrive with a few other people.  Now I had called three times to confirm the departure time and this was all for nothing.  Three times!!!  The original driver never showed up and they had to scramble to find an alternate.  I later learned that delays are built into everything here so hours can pass without hurting the final product.  It's kind of like an airline back home padding the schedules with 30 minutes of fluff so a flight still arrives on time even if it left late.  This place truly is in its own time zone, too.

By 10am we were on our way to the airport and an hour later we arrived at the terminal.  Instead of turning right into the parking lot, the bus and all 17 of us turned left down a muddy, bumpy dirt road.  Ten minutes down this side street, a tiny prison loomed large, and I began wondering where in the hell are we going.  This loop "road" hugged the perimeter of the airport and another ten minutes later we were waived into the Guyana Defence Force's hangar area.  WTF?  A military base?  The plane was scheduled for noon and I was wondering why we were waiting with the Air Force.  At about 11:30 a tired looking old plane called a Shorts Skyvan taxied up and I am thinking what a cool ugly plane...I want to ride on it. 

I was more than ready to go since I had to overhear some old man from Berkeley talk about the bible to his travel companion 30 years his junior from Australia.  All I got out of it is that some people went to Egypt and had trouble and some dude named Ishmael had something bad happen to him.  Have you ever just wanted to tell someone to shut the f**$k up???!!!  The conversation continued into the waiting area for the plane where some guy from Canada who was originally from Guyana tried chatting us up.  I am all for meeting new people but some people just get too nosy right off if you know what I mean.  Plus he was one of those dudes whose voices carries and his demeanor is abrasive.  Just get me to the damn falls!!!!!  and preferably on that Skyvan.

Some cargo was offloaded and then some guys in fatigues rolled a cart with ancient battered seats up to the back of the Skyvan.  Out came a wood floor and in went torn carpet and all these tchairs.  Turns out my wish came true and the plane was being converted to civilian use.  Yep, The Guyana Air Force was our ride to the national park and indeed the Skyvan was ours!  A little after noon we climbed in through the back of the plane which just opens wide.  I sat down on a chair that was more like one of those cheap folding beach chairs found at WalMart.  Basically it was a metal frame covered with thin fabric and the crowning touch was just one half of a seatbelt.

Not that anyone cared anyway since no safety briefing was given nor was anybody told to be seated.  the back hatch was pulled up and away we went on an hour flight that reeked of exhaust.  I was in heaven.  Others clutched barf bags with white knuckles.  Coming in the pilots circled the Skyvan three times over the falls to lose altitude and the view was just amazing.  After a quick lunch of pasta salad and bbq chicken that was transported with us from Georgetown in coolers (how I didn't get sick I will never know) we set off on foot.

Supposedly mosquitos and other bugs don't prosper in the park due to the abundance of carnivorous plants.   We viewed a few and I was impressed with their efficacy until I got bitten by a mosquito.  The guide said that was impossible and I pointed to the latest bump added to my growing collection.  Mosquitos down here seem to thrive on 100% DEET formula.  Same thing happened to me in SE Asia last year.  Strange.  

So this Kaietuer National Park sits in what is known as the Guyana Shield, which is supposedly the Earth's oldest surface at two billion years old.  The old Berkely Jesus Freak began arguing with the ranger that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and impossible it is for this area to be older than that.  Good God man, just shut up and listen!!!  This rain forest area covers a large chunk of NE South America between the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers.  This plateau is made of sandstone and we walked to a flat area that overlooks the 700' high falls.  Ever been just blown away by something?   It takes a lot to get me to just burst out with a "wow" but that is exactly what I did as we came out of the rainforst and saw the falls.  This not being the US with its fear of lawsuits, I was able to walk right up the edge of the 700' dropoff and look straight down.  Now that was a thrill. 

The second and third viewing areas were even more impressive and enroute we saw the poisonous yellow frog that lives in the large bromoliads related to pineapples and also saw some red cock of the rock birds that are rare.  More wows!!  At the third viewing area the Potaro River takes it plunge over the sandstone cliffs and I hopped from boulder to boulder to stand in the middle of the river to watch up close as the water spilled over the edge, all the while hoping I didn't go with it.  Probably not the smartest thing to do, but hey, when in Rome...

Even as we progressed on foot around the park, the Jesus Freak who wouldn't shut about religion started grating on my nerves now about waterfalls.  In a voice loud enough for all 17 of us to hear he kept talking about how he has seen every waterfall of note in the world now with Kaieteur added to his collection.  He further added he knows more about them than anyone.  To needle him I told him we have the tallest one east of the Mississippi in Georgia.   I don't even know if Amacalola Falls is or not but he told me he had never heard of it so therefore it is of no importance to him.

What he asked next blew my mind.  "Is this falls you you have wasted my time with in the Georgia in Asia or that one in the south?"  First of all, East of the Mississippi should have been a tipoff had he listened and next, do I look or sound like I am from the former Soviet one?  I liked his snide reference to Georgia as "that one"  Next up was the all important question to him if this was a single drop or a cascade of falls.  When I reported I did not know nor care his answer was, "Son, don't waste my time with your blathering nonsense.  You took two minutes of my time that could have been better spent processing something other than your lack of knowledge."  He then added, "What is Georgia?  Is that part of the US?  You are actually from there? Morons there I take it."

I just smiled because I had gotten under his skin and only because he had been spouting verse upon verse, I told him he wasn't very Christianlike.  You want to see a "Christian" come unglued...  He then went off on my friend to which my friend responded by calling him a "libtard" to his face.  Oh that went over so beautifully.  If you ever watch Iron Chef, this old dude looked and sounded like that pompous old judge who seems negative all the time.   And for those of you wondering what a libtard is, it is a contraction for liberal retard which this Jesus Freak totally was.

A group of Guyanese people thanked us for "putting that horrible man in his place" so I know we did my public service for the day.  See?  America doesn't just export avarice, bombs and greed as everyone around the world unfortunately thinks.  Individual citizens such as us are always standing by to help whenever and wherever called upon, even in the middle of a jungle.   Luckily Jesus Freak and the Australian dude were spending the night in the park and didn't return via the Skyvan.  Actually the old man told the guide he wanted to hike to the bottom and the guide told him no, it was too dangerous and too late in the day.  They must have argued for 20 minutes and I will just leave it at things went downhill from there.  I hope the rescue helicopters are standing by for the Jesus Freak.

The trusty Skyvan took us back to Georgetown and then an hour later the bus had us back in the city right around sunset.  Darkness is another word for stay home and katybar the door as Georgetown transforms itself into a tropical version of the wild wild west with high crime.  I don't exactly blend in with the natives so I don't take my chances.  It is safe enough by day but I do know how far to push the envelope by night.

Tomorrow we will see if four phone calls to Brian were enough to confirm the shared taxi ride to Suriname.  The final verdict was to be ready at 4:30am and to wait in the room.  The driver will come collect us from our room since the neighborhood is too dangerous for us to wait outside.  What a transformation this street makes from daylight to dark.
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