- Shot against the fading light, a sparkle of green like a necklace of emeralds broken and falling to the ground provides the backdrop for a coreid bug on a heliconia flower spike.
- I look at an empty bag where I kept my money. This…is not good. The Aussies look at their money, ditto. It’s only my companion who appears well prepared with several hundred dollars. So now we start going through all the alternatives. My friend is leaving the following day back to Georgetown and onwards to the US. I have no idea what I’m doing since there is no bank machine accepting foreign cards in Lethem, or anywhere else in Guyana save Georgetown for that matter. And the closest place in Buonavista a couple hundred km’s past the Brazilian border. So basically no money.
- My friend being the stand up guy that he is, bails out the Aussie’s giving them enough money to make it to the next bank machine in Brazil. Then he counts the rest of his money. A little over a hundred bucks, enough that I can take the bus if needs be to get back to Georgetown. I breathe a sigh of relief that I won’t be totally screwed. But still I’d like to be able to see him off, not to mention that I don’t exactly relish a ride back by minibus! So we decide to check the airline tomorrow to see if he has enough money for an additional ticket and to see if there is enough room. So we eat, we stay all 4 of us crammed into a room meant for 2 people and siphon free wireless internet off the hotel.
- The next day we say our goodbyes and my friend and I check the airline. Between the ticket and a late fee for the last minute, it turns out he has just enough…to the nearest $5 to pay for my ticket. Not only that but mine was also the last seat on the plane. Finally some luck right?
- Back in Georgetown we relax, buy a couple knockoff DVD’s and eat well in the comfort of separate beds. I am constantly heckled and admonished until I am forced to have all my clothes laundered that very minute due to my stench. My friend leaves the next day and I’m left on my own. I drop by to see how my camera is doing. He hasn’t sold it on the black market yet, so I’m actually better off than most would be in this situation I suppose but the manager tells me that the part still hasn’t arrived, maybe in a couple of weeks. Go figure! So by this point I am beyond trying to get my tourist visa renewed so I simply get a bus back to Lethem. Each time a checkpoint security guard questions me I plead ignorance and they let me go…I’ve got the stupid foreigner routine down pat or maybe I am the stupid foreigner…hmmmm. In any case the bus arrives in Lethem I stay a night in a hotel and the following night, I take a taxi to N. village. This time I am determined to do this on my own, just walk into the Kanuku mountains and do my own thing.
- Incidentally when I mention my plan to an old bag of a woman back in Lethem she talks me down. “Son I know that you think you’re pretty tough and you think that you can do all this stuff on your own but hell…there’s bushmasters in that jungle!” She takes a long drag on her cigarette sending up puffs of smoke like little SOS signals from her lungs…PUFF…PUFF…PUFF. “You wouldn’t last long, it’s just plain stupid to go in that jungle alone”. Her companion who is more reasonable asks “so are you prepared for bushmasters?”. “I don’t have antivenin if that’s what you’re asking but I am pretty comfortable in my knowledge that a) Bushmasters are sit and wait predators and unless I actually step on one then I am relatively certain that I will be okay and b) The stories that the natives tell are grossly exaggerated and usually wildly inaccurate”. The guy seems satisfied with my response though the woman lets out a snort, followed by a wheeze. “You know I’m just like you” she says “I do things myself, don’t need help from nobody. When I first came to the Rupununi Savannah some 10 years ago I was walking by horse alone on a road to a village. The villagers were all worried and said that I shouldn’t do it but you know what I did it anyway”. And with an emphatic HA! she slapped her knee and wheezed a little more, sending ash flying from her cigarette. I don’t exactly see the similarity between camping out in the rainforest alone for 1 month and riding a horse beside the road to a village, but hey that’s just me. So skeptically I told her I would consider her advice to hire a guide and left.
- I get to N. village and despite my desire to simply walk straight into the mountains the taxi driver like some kind of conspiracy theory drives me to the lodge where I had stayed previously. Here I’m told that I MUST take a guide, bring up the issue of the village council, etc… charge will be $25/day, etc… I bargain hard saying that I am not using the lodge, I am staying in my hammock in the jungle, so why should I have to pay a lodge fee of $5/day. “Well, it’s really a forest fee”. Really the bullshit that these people come up with, it’s infuriating. My aim isn’t to take advantage of the people, to poach or deplete the rainforest in any way and yet I’m treated as a hostile. Not only that, but I am sent a directive from the Environmental Protection Agency via personnel at Iwokrama prohibiting any pictures taken within Guyana used for commercial purposes. All of Guyana…seriously? Applying for a permit to take pictures anywhere in the country? I can’t help but feel disgusted at this abuse of power and gross corruption. You would think any publicity they could get would be good but… Anyways to limit the costs I gave the lodge the rights to use my pictures in advertising their lodge (God knows I can’t use them to make any money), I will help them set up internet, whatever I can think of. They finally agree to let me go with just the guide fee of $15/day which I’m reluctant to agree to but have no choice in accepting. So that same day I hike with my guide and arrive close to the lodge where we spend our first night.
- That night I go out to look for insects and find a cockroach feeding on some flower seeds. Only there are some hitchhikers on the cockroach and one can’t help but be reminded by “The Vermin only teaze and pinch/ Their Foes superior by an Inch/So Nat’ralists observe/a Flea Hath smaller Fleas that on him prey/ And these have smaller Fleas to bite ’em, And so proceed ad infinitum“(Swift 1733).