The good, the bad and the narco-trafficking Sammy

Okay so this is actually a sunset, but if I had been able to get up early enough, it probably would have looked something like this.

Morning dawns, a glorious day begins, we have finally made it to our destination, now we can go and see the falls! We walk the 1/2 hour or so in the stifling heat to see the falls. There are 4 viewpoints from which one can see the falls, boyscout’s view (intermediate point), Johnson’s view (Furthest), Rainbow view (close with view of rainbow) and falls view, directly overtop of the falls. We go to each of these in turn, each with their own distinct merits.

Kaieteur falls in HDR, 3 photos taken at different exposures and merged using, you guessed it, photomatix (I am not a distributor or affiliated with photomatix in any way, I am simply too cheap to pay for their software to enable me to remove the watermarking)

Here is another view from the top of Kaieteur falls which shows a minor falls and the brilliant rainbow arising from the permanent mist created by the falls.

Rainbows, beautiful scenery, adventure at every turn…it’s all very dull really.

Sammy had initially intended to stay only the one night, however he winds up staying for several as there are no planes going to the village of Paramakatoi where he is selling bikes to some Amerindians (Don’t ask me). We walk around, deliberate and finally decide that in a weeks time we will leave together to go to Georgetown, that should give me enough time at the falls and him enough time to conclude his dealings with the Amerindians. So with that end in mind, we go to the ‘flight agent’ a woman in a booth with a radio who really can’t tell us much and book our tickets for the following wednesday. In the end he decides to take a boat to the village, but gets into a heated debate with the boat driver. He asks me for money to tip the boatman, “Paul, just a 1000$”, he gives me a nod and the come here hand gesture like “Just let  me get that money within my grasp and I’ll do the rest”. However at this point I’m a ‘little’ frustrated and so I tell him that I have very strictly budgeted my money and so can’t pay his way. He nods and I am immediately forgotten as he goes to Trisha to ask for money who also seems weary. “Can’t you do me a favour?”, he asks of the boatman, a baldheaded angry faced man who speaks kindly one moment and is piping mad like Samiti Sam the next. Apparently not. So he talks with the boatman some more, while I go off to collect some water for Trisha and do some errands. Sammy finds me several minutes later with a pleading look in his eye. “Can you give me 2000$, please”. Well at least he said please this time. But…hey wait a minute, wasn’t it 1000$ before? Anyways, I refuse him again and he makes the rounds once again, goes to Trisha who finally relents. Well sort of. She doesn’t have the money on her, while I do, and so I pay his fare with the promise extracted from Trisha from Sammy that Trisha would pay me back. To cut through the convolution, I paid Sammy’s fare. The boatman who was going to accept 2000$ 5 minutes ago, now wants 3000$ for some reason, he hands back the money to Sammy angrily. Calling him a “fucker” and getting ready to cast off the boat. We’re all annoyed and I give Sammy another $1000, what’s $1000 after all? “Trisha will cover this, right?” “…Yeah, no problem”. I’m not getting that money back I concede as it slips through my fingers. And Sammy is gone. So, I’m left with a pig, a broken bird cage (The birdcage was trashed by hiking through the jungle and so Sammy decided to leave it behind) and my sense of moral outrage.

I spend several days at the falls, and I find the beautiful Kaieteur golden rocket frog. This frog is a beautiful golden colour. Despite it’s aposematic colouration it is non-poisonous, relying instead on Batesian mimicry (Mimicry in which a non-toxic species mimics a toxic one in colours or behaviours). It inhabits the axils of bromeliads, hardly ever leaving the safety of their watery confines. It calls, breeds and feeds in this microcosm. They are endemic to this area of Guyana and though relatively common they are difficult to see and photograph due to their skittish nature, and their propensity to jump deep into the leaves of the bromeliads at the slightest disturbance. The mornings one can hear their trilling calls all around the falls with nary a frog to be seen.

A juvenile golden rocket frog found in the axils of a bromeliad, the colouration will darken upon maturity.

The days pass blissfully as I go out to the falls by day, read Tolstoy (after all that effort, you got to!), and by night hunt for bugs.

Juvenile ant mimicking mantid

This mantid nymph is mimicking an ant for several reasons. 1) Passing unnoticed amongst ants it can more easily evade predators while it is small and relatively defenceless. 2) Since ants constitute the majority of its diet, the ants themselves don’t notice the mantid until they fall prey to it. As the mantid grows older, and can fend for itself, it will moult out of its ant-like appearance and assume either an aposematic or cryptic form, usually the latter.

Compound eye of the owlfly, picture taken at 5X magnification

Owlflies are of the Neuropteran insect family, most closely related to ant lions. They are predatory throughout their lifecycles, as larvae having huge jaws they trap small prey and as adults they are able flyers catching smaller winged insects.  They may look similar to dragonflies but are quite distinct, and the horizontal division in their compound eyes can be used as a marker.

Leaf mimicking katydid (Pseudophyllinae)

A dead leaf mimicking katydid. A fantastic example of camouflage! These katydids often replicate even the smallest of imperfections in the leaf, such as holes, curls or lichens and rot. During the day they will sit amongst the foliage on the ground, unseen. However at night, when predators use senses other than vision, and their camouflage no longer affords them the same level of protection, they come out and feed on the tender plant stalks.

“]”]Orange footed tarantula (Ephebopus cyanognathus) [thanks to Techuser on flickr for the ID]

This small mygalomorph (tarantula family) is very shy and usually resides within a curled up leaf that it sews shut with silk from its spinnerets. However, I pried it loose and as it ran for cover was able to get a couple of shots. Usually only their distinctive orange legs with small yellow anklets are visible, however when it emerged, I was amazed to find iridescent patches on the abdomen, legs and pedipalps. These are probably another form of aposematism though may also indicate desirability in mate selection, with brighter, showier males garnering more affection.

Finally the day approaches when it’s time to leave. I approach the radio-woman and ask her if my flight has been confirmed for the following day. “Umm…it appears that you have been dropped from the booking list”. “Excuse me”, I ask her, a little confused at how that could happen. “Do you know why?”. “No, there’s just a flag by your name”. My head falls and rather than make a big deal about it I simply ask her to rebook me for the next flight out, and skulk off. I return to Mendie’s landing and relate my woes to Trisha who fidgets her hands and looks at me biting her lip. She starts hesitatingly unsure of whether to go on. “Do, do you know why Sammy went to Paramakatoi?” She asks. “He told me it was to sell some bikes”. She nods like only a naive Canadian would be gullible enough to believe that. “You know that Sammy was arrested before, right? He has a record with the police for dealing drugs. THAT’s why he went to Paramakatoi, and that’s probably why you were red flagged on the passenger list. You did book together right?”

“Say what now?”

Take me to- how you got those amazing photos?!!!!-


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