Enter the Kanuku mountains

The road to N. village looked more at home on the war front, as though it had seen heavy shelling.  Rolling over the pockmarked face we held onto the seats, handles, anything that would stabilize us from jumping a foot in the air and smashing our heads with every bump. At several sections the 4×4 climbed sections where I was tempted to get my protractor out to measure our angle as the wheels spun for purchase (perhaps I should have taken a mountain goat). Around 2pm we arrived at a rundown house where we waited for the lodge owner. The man arrived a few minutes later squeezing his bulk onto a motorbike. His screwed up face assumed a much more relaxed expression as soon as he lifted himself off the bike. His stomach settled like an innertube around him. He wiped the sweat off his brow and then offered me his hand (I may have pretended not to notice so that he could shake the hands (wipe the sweat) of my companions first). So you want to go to the lodge? We all bobbed our heads. “Who is in charge here?”. We all kind of looked at each other and then before I knew it I found the lodge owner addressing me. I looked for the others and found that they had retreated several steps. “That’s just grand” I thought, feeling like I had been thrown to the wolves. I looked him over, ‘oh well, looks like the wolf is well fed at least’. “Well, the going rate is $70/night”, he said. I gulped. A sound I heard echoed amongst my companions. I quickly interjected, “We have all of our own supplies, food, fuel, sleeping supplies, can’t we work out some kind of reduced price?”. The guy looked from me, bedraggled and on the south side of odorous to my friends in only slightly better repair. “I will need to talk it over with the village council”. This sounded slightly ominous and I had visions of being chased off with bows and arrows. “I’ll be back shortly” he said with a grimace as he slid himself back onto the motorbike and sped off.

About an hour later he returned. “Come with me” he said, taking my elbow in one of his sweaty hands. We rounded the corner of the house and entered a living room where two other people were sitting, waiting. “These people are also in charge of the lodge”. I felt ambushed, like they were using their numbers to intimidate me. “We can offer a discount to $40″. This was an improvement, but as I fingered the rapidly thinning sheaf of notes in my pocket I pressed them further. “Look we are all really on a tight budget, that couple you see over there, they just got married (this was actually true), and we’re not looking to live in luxury, we don’t even really need a guide”. They chatted amongst themselves, possibly disconcerted that their superior numbers and scare tactics hadn’t been as efficacious as they had thought. “Alright” they finally conceded, “you can stay for $25 a night”. Now to most people this seems like a good deal, but remember that this is really just glorified hammock space. We were cooking all our own meals, we had our own tents/hammocks and didn’t want for anything. However they insisted on providing us with a guide. So we agreed and made ready to leave. Packing up our stuff we turned to the lodge owner, “so when do we leave”. He hemmed and hawed but was reluctant to let us leave that very day despite their being no apparent reason why we couldn’t. We later learned that it was because an older British couple were making the trip and for whatever reason they didn’t want us mingling (Probably so we wouldn’t discuss prices). So we found ourselves the first night out on the Rupununi savanna. Although giant anteaters are relatively common in these open grasslands which are spotted with termite mounds a stones throw from each other, we didn’t spot any. The regular fires during the dry season tend to keep the slower insects from establishing themselves. The only insect of note was a beautiful caterpillar.

Jeweled caterpillar. Rupununi savanna, foothills of the Kanuku mountains, Guyana.

The following day we made the 3hr hike to the lodge. The first half of the trail we baked under a shadeless sky until finally we made it to the canopy. The oxcart which followed behind us took our heavy belongings for which I was especially grateful while wading through calf deep muck. The lodge itself was pretty rundown, simply a few huts attached by a boardwalk, one also had to be attentive to where one set up shelter since the roof leaked. Upon arriving at the lodge I simply ditched my stuff and jumped straight into a creek that runs behind at the back of the property. This is really its the redeeming feature. Clean and cool water for bathing and drinking, I probably spent half of all my time hanging around this creek. Trails radiated out from the lodge, some several kilometers long. It was actually a great location. Resting up, that night we headed off to see what the Kanukus had to offer.

Leaf mimicking katydid. Kanuku mountains, Guyana.
Orange crab backed orbweaver. Kanuku mountains, Guyana.

Anoles and other lizards often have a colourful flap of skin on the neck called a dewlap. This skin can be held apart from the rest of the body in various displays. The dewlaps can be used to convey aggression towards other males or can be used to attract females. Here the dewlap is extended to ward off predators. An open mouth which threatens to bite is also a common warning sign.

Anole with orange dewlap. Kanuku mountains, Guyana.

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