Monday, July 19, 2004

July 19, 2004

What a beautiful and true statement it is to say that
Guyana is truely the land of many waters. Many of those I
was able to traverse in the last couple of weeks from the
Suriname border in the northeast at Skeldon/Corriverton
where I was visiting in New Amsterdam to the Venezuelan
boarder in the northwest in Mabaruma. However, one thing
that remains certain is that travel here is a process that
takes a lot of time and patience. Let me just tell you
about my latest trip to Shell Beach up the northwestern
coast of
Guyana where I went in search of sea turtles.
1.Head from Linden north to
Georgetown via big bus
roughly 2 1/2 hours
2. Walk to the starbroek market stelling for passenger boat
going across Demarara River right at mouth of ocean 30 min.
3. Mini bus from Vreed-N-Hoop stelling to Parika stelling 1
1/2 hours
4. Boat from Parika stelling to Supernamn 1.25 hours in
rough waters across the Essequibo river.
5. Hired car from supernamn to Charity 1.5 hours (with
overnight hammock sling under house for sleep at a friends
in Anna Regina)
6. Boat from Charity down the Pomeroon River to the
Atlantic ocean, across the ocean and to the Shell beach
camp 4.5 hours of very choppy waters

So, yes, we made it there through the wind, rain, sun and
water, and after finally pulling the boat up the shore
using logs to get it over the surf to solid ground, we were
truely in the middle of nowhere! Shell Beach is a place
where a local extended family has works for 6 months out of
every year tracking and protecting the sea turtles. The
men, women and children live in tents situated under
thatched covering where there is also a cooking hut, 2
showers and pit latrine (ie. thatch situated in a square
where you bucket bathe in one and poo in the other). But,
you know, it works and is a very relaxing place all the
same. We slung travel hammocks under another thatched
shelter and just soaked in the scenery in anticipation of
that nights first outing looking for turtles. I had another
hammock up on the ocean between two old trees catching the
breeze, enjoying the sun turning down and reading when all
of a sudden it hit at many thousands of huge
swarming mosquitos invaded. I have to admit that these must
have been mutated, resistant little buggers as they came in
the thousands. Just as an example, when I squated to, well,
urinate, what I thought was mud on my leg was rather about
75 to a 100 mosquitos that were out for blood. Needless to
say, there were a few choice areas exposed that I'd rather
not mention! ;) I have honestly never even come close to
this amount in my life!
So, we went into lockdown where we waited, killing
mosquitos that got into the nets, for word to head out when
the tide was right to sweep the length of the beach. The
time came and we headed out and started our night at about
9:45pm. Our first sighting was so incredible. We came upon
a group of babies struggling to get out of the nest and
down the beach to the ocean. It turned out to be quite the
blessing, as these were the first and only we saw in the
two nights. We even got to help the "lost" ones carrying
them out to the tide. Then, we saw our first mom. I didn't
expect them to be so big. Over the course of the next 3
hours we proceeded to sweep over about 4 miles of beach and
saw about 5 mothers digging or covering up eggs, heading
back out the surf or just simply resting their 1600-2000
lb., 55-72 inch bodies. Simply, seeing the leatherback
turtles was one of the most amazing things I've ever
witnessed in my lifetime. The next day was relaxing and we
even got really lucky that the bugs held off with a stiff
breeze the following evening and our wait for the turtle
search was fun as me and a few others made a campfire on
the beach and we laid on the sand under the stars. That
night not only did we see about 5 other leatherback
turtles, we got to see an Atlantic hawksbill (smaller,
about 3 feetish), while she was laying her leathery eggs.
We were sad to see the place go as we continued our
travels, but all the same it is something I will never
forget. We proceeded up the coast via the ocean and another
river (so many I can't remember) to Mabaruma, which is on
the boarder of Venezeula. We only explored a little bit
before we were back in the boat and though the rivers,
jungles and marshy waters to Maruca. This area of
Guyana is
so different in terms of topograpy, but again, unbelievably
beautiful with small rivering channels in marshy areas,
heavily wooded bush and rolling, thick rainforest. We saw
many things like the scarlet ibis as well as many other
beautiful, colorful birds. At the end of the day, we
finally made it back to the stelling at charity and were
exhausted. Even in a hammock under the house (we rig it
with mosquito netting), I had a long hard nights sleep. The
final night before heading home we went to a Peace Corps
friends wedding to a guyanese man. It was interesting as
they incorporated christian, hindu and muslim faiths in the
ceremony. It was a night filled with lots of dancing to
local music, eating, drinking and having a great time under
the stars. When the early morning sunrise woke me from
sleep, I got together my travel partners and we heading for
home (in reverse order as above, of course). Though the
travel is rough and laborious, it is all worth it in my
search for more of the beauty of this wonderful land. And
it's only just begun........
Love to all and hug a turtle!