Rodeo in Lethem and Back to School for Final Term
Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
16Trip End Jul 14, 2007
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To get to Lethem you have a few options: you can fly (takes about 1.5 hours, and costs about $200US, or $40,000 Guyanese dollars - yes, the exchange rate is about 200 to 1), you can take the Big IntraServ Bus (this takes about 18 hours, and costs about $16,000-$18,000 Guyanese), or you can take a minibus (which takes about 14 hours, and costs about $16,000 Guyanese....important to note that the Guyanese drive these minibuses like maniacs, and they are much more uncomfortable on a really long trip than on the big bus. Also, the dirt road to Lethem is pretty bumpy, so sitting in a minibus that's driving 80 mph down a uneven and pothole-filled jungle road for 14 hours is pretty rough). My friends and I opted for the big IntraServ Bus, since it wasn't too expensive and also because we wanted to see the interior of Guyana on the drive down. We left from Georgetown at about 9:30pm on Wednesday night, and finally arrived in Lethem at about 3:30pm on Thursday afternoon. The ride was not too bad, (those of you who've been on road trips with me would've been so proud! There wasn't a bathroom on the bus, and I didn't have to make them stop even once!) and I drifted in and out of sleep pretty much the whole way. Looking at the landscape on the way down was absolutely amazing. It seemed as though every time I fell asleep and then woke back up I was in a different environment-Costal Plains, to medium size rainforest, to thick, dense jungle, to Savannah, to mountains, etc.
We also passed through the Iwokrama National Forest, which is one of the four last pristine tropical forests in the world (the others being Congo, New Guinea, and Amazonia) and is nearly 3710 square kilometers. Most of the area is covered with lowland tropical forest, and is dominated by tall tropical trees with a dense canopy 20 to 30 metres (70 to 100 ft) high. Since the forest's ecosystem is at the overlap of Amazonian and Guianan flora and fauna, it has an extremely high amount of biodiversity, and several species of animals that are threatened or extinct across most of their former geographic ranges, such the Giant Anteater - which is awesome because we actually SAW a giant anteater while we were driving through! And just a little more about how great this place is - the forest has the highest species richness for fish (over 420 described so far) and bats (90) for any area its size in the world. It also has extraordinarily high bird diversity (over 500). Iwokrama has been identified as a global hotspot for several plant families, including Lecythidaceae and Chrysobalanaceae. As you can imagine, I really wanted to stop in and explore, but we really couldn't do that much. I'm definitely going to make another trip back down there though--they have a deal where you can string up a hammock at the Field Station and go on hikes and tours during the day. Another really neat thing is that Guyana has established a non-profit institution, The Iwokrama International Centre for Rain Forest Conservation and Development, to make sure that the forest is not exploited and that the priceless biodiveristy is conserved and managed in a sustainable way.
We finally got to Lethem on Thursday afternoon, and after getting off the bus we realized we had to walk about 30 minutes with all our stuff to get to the place we were staying-which was at the boys' and girls' dorms (hostels) at the Secondary School in Lethem, St. Ignasius. Three of the other WorldTeach volunteers teach at this school in Lethem, and they live right on the compound as well. We finally got to the place after a walk through what seemed like completely random paths in the Savannah. After setting our stuff down and catching up with the other volunteers for a while, we all crashed early so that we could be awake for Rodeo, which was held for the next two days.
The actual Rodeo was a lot of fun-during the day there were lots of events, bull-riding, lassoing, horse-racing, etc., and at night there was music (Brazilian and Guyanese), dancing, fair rides (ferris wheel, spinny-things, etc.), and lots of different types of foods and drinks. Most of the goods and events in Lethem have a lot of Brazilian influence, so it was really cool to experience that as well.
One afternoon a bunch of us went swimming in a small river that was located right down the hill from the volunteers' house at the school in Lethem. The walk down to the river was just awesome-a windy trail through jungle brush, twirling vines, and crazy-looking trees. The river was very refreshing, and there was actually a rope swing hanging right near to where we were swimming! There was a moment when I just looked around and soaked it all in - swinging from ropes and swimming in a jungle river near the Amazon. Definitely a moment I'll cherish forever.