The passengers are gazing at the sky, “It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s…” “No, I’m pretty sure it’s a plane”, I cut short any jokes, as I am in too great a state of agitation to enjoy their rejoicing humour with the arrival of the plane. All the passengers have lined up, babies astride shoulders, bags of goods, animals, you name it, Guyana’s got it.
The plane flies around the falls and lands on the rugged airstrip cut into the jungle. It bounces to a halt. It’s a small thing, room enough for about 8 people. I look around and see twice that number surrounding me. The Guyanese have made a professional art of budging in front of people. You don’t even know how it has happened but suddenly you find yourself losing ground until your at the back of the line. The doors open and the pilot comes out. He looks at the flight manifest and starts letting people board. Trisha and Tony are the first to board. The moment of truth…
The pilot looks at me…”name”. “Paul”. “mmmm…sorry”. Dejectedly I step back and as the plane fills with people. It appears that there is one spot leftover though. My hopes rise! “Can I…”, my words are cut short by one of those professional budgers that has worked his way past me and into the last remaining seat. Crestfallen, I return to Mendie’s landing. I speak with Willow, a friend of Trisha’s with whom I chatted on and off during my time there. He hears me out and invites me to stay at his place while I’m awaiting another flight. I take him up on his gracious offer spend my time working my way through war and peace and taking some more photos.
- Ant seen here protecting an extra-floral nectary. These are structures on plants that exude sugar. They are spaced at regular intervals around the plant and are particularly concentrated amongst newly emerging leaves and flowers, the most sensitive parts of the plant. The distribution of these nectaries, which are of great interest to all manner of species of ants encourages them to patrol the entire length and breadth of the plant and in so doing, to protect it from any potential pests, such as sap sucking hemipterans, caterpillars or whatever else may cause damage to the plant. Ants will often guard these nectaries quite aggressively against predators and insects many times their size.
- A weevil, one of the rare shots where I use natural light and thus get a non-black background. A short duration fill-flash was used to get some more detail out of the weevil.
- A lovely crab spider, hiding under a leaf ready and waiting to ambush any insect passing by.
- Leafhopper (Amahuaka sp.). Thanks to Marco Gaiani of flickr for the ID.
Night comes and rather than wear my blanket (I use an emergency blanket, it folds up very nice and compactly, keeps me pretty warm and is very light) I go without one because the crinkling foil-like material makes too much noise and I’m afraid of waking my host. So I freeze during the night. I am also ravaged by little black insects which in the light of day I recognize as fleas. But Willow doesn’t have any animals. I’ve never been to a person’s place who has fleas and has no animals. So, I was able to check off another biting insect that has had its way with me. The following day I arrive early in the morning like I had been directed to. “Yes your flight is coming today, just wait”. “I’ve been waiting for nearly a week”, I grind out. “Looks like the flight is delayed until the afternoon”. “Oh come on!” I blurt out, I know where this is leading after all!
So I sit and wait…All this time waiting, I’m actually making some very good progress on War and Peace I have to say though. Around 2pm a flight comes in. It is a chartered flight of business men who were working in the interior and decided to stop in Kaieteur before going back to Georgetown. One of the park warden’s who has seen me waiting and who I suspect has grown tired of my presence has a word with this group and informs me that they may be willing to take me aboard if I give them a ‘tip’. So I approach them and ask and they say, “yeah, we’ll see what we can do”. This is promising since it avoids the red tape of manifests and drug-dealer associations common when dealing with commercial carriers. The warden occupied with dealing with Ogle airport over the radio (what the actual radio attendant does I have no idea) assigns me his job, to be the tour guide to these tourists. “Don’t worry, he knows the way”, the warden tells the business men. So we walk down to the falls, 3 overweight business men in tow who pant “how much further?” every 5 minutes. I feel uncomfortable as a tour guide, but I try and spout off any relevant information about the area and try and chat with these guys because after all, need to get a ride from them. We make it down to the falls, which amazingly doesn’t appear to particularly impress them. They nod, like they’ve seen it all before in that supercilious businessman like way, and give the sign that they are ready to go back, having spent no more than 5 minutes at the falls.
- How can one be failed to be impressed by this, I don’t know?!!! Kaieteur falls, Johnson’s view.
On the way back I hear another aircraft come in. “That’s MY flight”, the thought flashes through my mind and I double time the fat business men back to the airstrip who arrive hands on their knees, wheezing. We arrive just in time to see the TransGuyana plane taking off. “Come on, this isn’t funny anymore!” “That was…” “Yes”, the park warden answers, foreseeing my question, “TransGuyana”. So I look at the plane on the airstrip, last refuge of a destitute man. “God”, I pray, “You know that dice comment in my last blog entry was just a joke right?” So we approach and I go and get my bag and start carrying towards the plane. “Whoa, whoa…” the business man says, “that backpack looks pretty heavy it might interfere with the balance of the plane, let me check with the pilot if it’s okay”. Scowling, my eyes follow him to where he begins chatting with the pilot, nodding every once in a while in my direction. I roll the pack over, prominently displaying the machete in what I hope is taken as the hint of a threat. He comes back. Alright, it looks like it’s alright. Thank you, thank God , thank everyone…I’m filled with that joyous love of everything that one feels when one has endured hardships and when one finally has a piece of luck. So, I get on the 6 seater plane, throw my pack into the tail section and after the usual preliminaries we take off. “Yes, yes YES!!!” I mutter gleefully when I’m suddenly cut short by a quiet hissing sound escaping from my bag. “What the…”. No one else has noticed over the sound of the wind and the motor, but I turn around and listen more carefully. There is the unmistakable hiss. The movie title “snakes on a plane” comes to mind and how ridiculous the premise was, suddenly seems very real. “Oh shit, here we go again”, I say to myself. But then I realize it is something else but rather than feel relieved I become even more disturbed…