Today, last night really, Sammy introduces me to Fever/Lemon grass. My god but it is delicious!!! It is a grass with all the blades originating from a rounded clump at the base which cascades outwards. Breaking the blades releases a delicious lemony aroma. You can take 5-6 stalks boil them in a pot for 15 minutes, add milk and sugar and you are drinking ambrosia! Now I don’t drink tea, not for any philosophical reasons I just don’t usually like it. But I told Sammy, “despite my 60 pound pack, we…actually you, will carry another 10 pounds of fever grass”. We didn’t wind up carrying that much but we still had enough to last us several days.
Morning comes and King tells us that the motor has crapped out and he won’t be able to take us further upstream. “Guess we’re walking from here”, Sammy says. I can’t help but feel a little joyful. We pack up, say goodbye to our new friends and head off. Sammy has a fragile birdcage strapped to his bags that jumps to and fro with every step he takes. A macaw is worth about 6 months worth of wages but he claims that he only wishes to buy a little songbird. Interestingly a lot of Guyanese own songbirds and they will actually make them compete one against the other, the one that sings more notes in a certain time being the winner.
Assuming that he knows the route, not to mention that he’s quite a bit faster with his pack that weighs about half as much as mine, he leads. The route for the first 20 minutes is quick and easy to follow. “Well this isn’t so hard”, I boast and walk right into Sammy’s back. “Is there a problem?” “Now we start the real journey”, he says and parts a thick curtain of palm fronds with the machete, revealing more green beyond that. “Um, so the trail…”, and my words trail off much like our path has, as Sammy disappears and I struggle to follow, the sharp metallic ring and snap of plant stalks accompanying the chorus of insects and frogs. The route in theory is simple, follow the Potaro river. But things aren’t quite so easy in practice. Creek after creek cut across our path. At times we hike an hour upstream, away from our guiding river, deep into the bush, simply to find a suitable crossing for the creek. We aren’t picky, we’re not the Goldilocks’s of the Amazon- “oh this bridge is too large, this one is too small” …no, we’ll take a half rotten stump and ford up to our necks in mud, we just want a damned crossing that won’t soak all my electronics and Sammy his supplies. So often the logs are dangerously thin, necessitating me to straddle the log and inch my way along like a maggot, muttering “Damn Tolstoy, God I hate him…glad he got an icepick in the brain in Mexico…no wait that was Trotsky…damn Tolstoy”. Sometimes a creek was so wide and we had to travel so far up that we had to cross 2 or 3 little streams just to get to a proper crossing for the original creek we wanted to cross. And then begins the lengthy hike back to our reference point of the river. On a particularly lengthy traverse I joked to Sammy, “at least we don’t have to carry along a paddle”, “are you sure you don’t have one in there?” he retorts, eyeing my shoulders slumped under the burden of my pack. I grimace and think that maybe I could make use of War and Peace after all and bludgeon Sammy with it. I have my GPS and so I track our route, and mark a waypoint at every creek. Our trail at times zigzags back and forth so many times as we look for a suitable crossing, that on the GPS, it is so concentrated a scribble that if it were paper it would surely have worn have through already. 17 creeks we pass this first day. It is exhausting and more than once I nearly fall off a log. My balance severely impaired by the weight of my bag, Sammy practically runs across the logs even the thin and slippery ones whereas I feel myself slowly tilting to one side then the other and ask Sammy to cut me a couple sticks which I use for support on either side. Other times, 10M up with a chasm below us there is no support, no backup plan just a solemn promise to God to build several churches in his honour should I make it across. We have only hiked for 4 hours, from 12 to 4:30, but I am utterly spent. I crave rest! Sammy agrees that we should probably set up camp before it gets too dark, so we put up a silicone impregnated tarp and tie it above my tent and his hammock. A cool piece of kit. It is extremely light and pretty water proof. I head down to the river and dunk my head in and drink like one of those wildebeest you see on the discovery channel. My head is down, my face submerged in the water as I take giant gulps of cool, tannin tinted waters. Oblivious to the caiman lurking in the water, no doubt approaching, but I don’t care, I need to cool down and drink that delicious water! I clean my clothes and we make dinner and of course fever grass. We are both so ravenously hungry that we make 2 dinners. I make Mac and cheese which Sammy has never had before, and he makes floats. I never thought I would be so glad to eat Kraft dinner, it was like an artificial taste explosion, I thanked all those chemists toiling away those long hours to bring me such a sweet complement of chemistry! Night falls early in the jungle and I walk about hoping to spot some more critters.
- Intricately patterned these harvestmen were quite common where we camped
Harvestmen, Opiliones or Daddy long legs are arachnids that are omnivorous. I’ve seen them dining on fungi, and plant matter, detritus as well as being cannibalistic. This diversity of diet has no doubt contributed at least in part to their widespread radiation in the tropics.
- Another Arachnid, this close up shows to good effect the spines on the forearms an escape from whose embrace is not likely.
Whip spiders are cricket specialists, though they will take other prey as well. They have long, gossamer thin feelers that probe the surroundings for prey. Upon finding a suitable delectable, they will tickle behind it, causing the prey to leap forward into its waiting jaws. The spiny claws will grasp the prey and the barbed hooks crush through the exoskeleton into the soft flesh. There is very little hope of escape from this point on. These predators are really quite formidable! Their flat bodies help them wedge into tight crevices, where they can be found in abundance. They enjoy caves and hollowed tree trunks. Their small eyes aren’t particularly sensitive but their flash-like reflexes ensure equally a successful pounce or retreat.