BLAM, POW, ZAP!!!

Last night a huge storm swept in. I had finally gotten to sleep (which is becoming a rare commodity around here) when I heard the wind kick up. It had been eerily still which is usually a sign of rain to come. I have been very lucky lately as far as the weather goes. When it has rained here, it is not that big of a deal. Little did I know that it could have been deadly. Here, I have been worried about the creatures with teeth, the blood sucking parasites and what lurks beneath the waters. Never did I think that I could be killed by lightning.

The wind was howling and the rain started up and beat ferociously against the thatched roof. I am upstairs in this house and a few backpackers came in last night but were sleeping outside. A couple of my wooden shutters slammed closed, making me jump. The lightning was loud and seemed very close. I counted the seconds between the lightning and the thunder. It went from three seconds to two and then that’s when it happened. A loud crack, a super bright light then a sizzling and a POW about five feet away from me in the corner of my room where the electrical outlet was. I screamed and jumped, fully awake now but glad to be alive. My heart was beating fast and I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t sure if I should get up and go downstairs or remain horizontal and not stand up. I moved my metal flashlight away from me and took off my pants that had metal zippers on it, not knowing if either of those would work against me.

I remained in bed, too frightened to stand up and hoped the storm would pass soon. Finally the lightning tapered off but the rain continued to fall. Once things had subsided, I thanked my lucky stars and slept in til 7.

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I’ve Got Your Piranha 3D Right Here!

piranha guyana rupununi river

One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was to see some piranha up close and personal. They arranged a fishing trip for me and a night spotting adventure on the way back to look for caiman, snakes and whatever else might be out there. The trip a couple of nights ago was great so I was looking forward to doing it again.

We were going to another lagoon section that had the lily pads and piranha so I could knock out two things at once. Fernando also said that was where they caught their biggest caiman yet. It took about twenty minutes to get out there and we only saw one other boat on the way. Once again, we navigated through the submerged trees to get into the lagoon. This one was bigger than the last one, with the giant lily pads spread out far and wide. We pulled in under a tree and my guides, Howard and Felix started rigging up the line. For some reason I was under the impression we would be using rods, but it was just a spool of fishing line with a hook on the end. Easy enough.

Now mind you, I haven’t fished in about thirty years. I don’t care to fish but this was going to be the exception. Heck, I don’t even like to EAT fish. Howard cut up a fish, put it on the hook then threw it out into the water. “When you feel it tug, pull hard”, he said. Almost immediately I felt a tug and I pulled hard. But not knowing exactly what to do with the line, it became a tangled mess in my lap. He had also warned me that when the fish gets close to the boat, hold it over the water. Good suggestion. It felt pretty heavy as I pulled it in and when it got close to the boat, I handed the line to Howard. He pulled it out out of the water and sure enough, I had caught my first piranha!! It was a red one, about six inches long. He grabbed it carefully under the gills and I took some pictures of it. Knowing nothing about fish, I was surprised to see that even inside it’s body where the gills are, THAT even had teeth…or something resembling teeth. The fish snapped its jaws open and closed making a terrifying chomping sound. He carefully removed the hook and threw it in the front of the boat. I just caught his dinner!

Felix wasn’t having the best of luck, getting nibbles then finding out the fish had stolen his bait. He would utter words of annoyance under his breath. Howard rigged me up another line and threw it out. Within a minute or two, another tug. I yanked the line and pulled it in but the fish had gotten away. I wasn’t exactly sure if it had or not and when I pulled the end of the hook up in front of the boat, the little bit of bait on the end scared me. The guys laughed at my girlishness.

Howard was reeling in his line and it came up empty, except his metal hook was seriously bent! Yow!! My line jerked and I pulled hard and as it got closer to the boat, the line was almost cutting my hand so I knew it was a big one. I gave the line to Howard again and he pulled in my fish. It was really big…a black one this time! It was probably ten inches long or more. I was so excited and so were they, since they were going to eat it! It had a beautiful silver speckled body and an almostĀ iridescent patch under its eye. I wanted to touch it and it was very slimy. He threw it at the front of the boat to join the rest.

piranha guyana rupununi river

I caught about three more and finally said that I just wanted to feed the little fish some bits of beef jerky in front of the boat. The guys caught a couple of fish and then decided to move on to another location. We hit two other spots and didn’t have much luck. They chalked up my experience to beginners luck. Yeah, right!!

Night was falling so we went near a white lily flower to watch it open and they tried to fish some more. A few beetles flew into the flower as it slowly opened and tiny frogs chirped on the pads near us. We stayed for a while until the mozzies became too much then headed back home.

rupununi river guyana

rupununi river guyana

rupununi river guyana

As it became dark and they had the spotlights on searching for critters the amount of bugs flying around was indescribable. I guess they were thicker than the other night because the moon wasn’t out now. It was like bug soup out there. One flew into my eye, many hit my face and body and got tangled up in my hair. I buttoned up my shirt to my neck and around my wrists in an attempt to keep them away from my skin. I squinted my eyes and lowered my head so they could bounce off my hat. At one point, something very large ran right into my lips and kind of hung on until I jerked my head to the side and let the wind take it away. Eeeeww this was getting bad. They were all in the boat and I didn’t even want to look to see how many there were.

They caught an eye shine near the bank and we came up on a small cute croc just holding onto some branches as the current tried to drag it away. It was darling. I didn’t want them to try and catch it so I just took some pictures and we carried on. Sitting in one place for too long became too much since the bugs weren’t going anywhere but on us.

We saw a few more eye shines, saw two tree boas and a larger croc that was probably about eight feet long then a few others that submerged before we could get too close. As much as I enjoyed the spotting, the bugs were hindering my evening in a big way. We came up to shore and as they unloaded the boat, the insects were relentless. Luckily the walk back to the house was uneventful.

piranha teeth guyana

piranha teeth guyana

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The Sandfleas Almost Won

Sept. 3

Last night was just about the final straw. Over dinner we discussed just what kind of things I was afraid of. Seeing that I’m ok with snakes, crocs, spiders, etc., they were surprised to find that crickets, grasshoppers and roaches were at the top of my list. So naturally as I opened the door to my room after dinner was over, a huge roach was sitting on my boot. “Oh, this is just GREAT!” I yelled at it. So I tried to kick my boot out of the door into the hallway. Of course that didn’t work out and instead it made a beeline toward my bathroom. I attempted to stop it with the boot and partially squished it but it was still alive and well enough to keep running. Three kicks later I got it out of the room, with my boot flying out into the hall with it and I slammed my door closed. Phew. Better now. Then I see another one, just as large on the other bed. Then one on the wall. Ok…ignore them. I will not win.

Large beetle in my room in addition to the roaches

It was still hot, like that’s a huge surprise. It only gets slightly cooler in the dead of night and that doesn’t even last for long. So I take my iPad, climb under the mozzie net and attempt to settle in. I turn my flashlight off and work only by the light of the iPad. Naturally this is starting to attract the sand fleas. Squish. Easy enough to kill on my screen. Leaves a little smudge mark but I’d rather kill them than be eaten alive. Another one. Splat. Two more. One more, many more…now my screen is getting filthy and hindering my surfing ability. They won’t stop. Ok…turn it off. Maybe they will go away.

I try to sleep and eventually get there. Then around maybe 2:30am or so I feel them. I scratch my leg, I scratch my neck, my face. Then I just try to wrap myself up like a pupa waiting to become a butterfly. Helps slightly but now I’m sweating. Good god, I can’t win. I start thinking about trying to cut my whole trip short just because of these little blood sucking bastards. I think about what it will take and how many emails back and forth before I get answers about flight changes. I can split the cost of the boat ride with Rob since he was going to Karanambu this morning and that will help with the extra fees I’ll have to pay. So at 4:30 I try to get on the Internet. Nothing. I try and try. I wait until almost 6 before heading down so I don’t wake up Rob, whose room is beneath me.

Fernando is now up and he tries on his laptop and gets on. Stupid, STUPID IPAD I HATE YOU!!! So I start the process of looking for different flights and realize this will be a nightmare. Just grin and bear it and forge on with the plan. Don’t let those little bastards drive you out of Guyana. I eat breakfast and calm down.

I decide to take a walk in the woods behind the house that Fernando mentioned and asked Jose to show me the path. Anyone who knows me realizes I get lost going around the block but I have faith in myself and feel confident I can do this. How hard could it be? I ask him, “It’s just one trail right, I can’t get lost?”
“Right, just one trail it leads out to the savannah…you can’t get lost. If you do, just yell and I will come find you.”
So I walk. I break some branches along the way just in case. Then I come to a clearing where I make a little pile of rocks. Just in case. I forge on into the hot sun and tall grass and come to a road. I look around, see some houses and make a mental note. I turn right and start walking down the road. No problem. I am now at the top of a hill and the breeze feels great and I can see the river! Awesome, I’ll walk down to the river. I get to a landing and see a few dugout canoes and can hear music coming from somewhere but nobody is around. I shoot some pictures and then hear something big in the woods. Can’t see anything. Don’t know if it’s a person or animal. Gut feeling tells me to go back so I do.

passion flower caiman house

I walk back, looking for the trail that led me to the road and I’m pretty sure I find it. You know where this is headed don’t you? I don’t see my broken branches, I don’t see my rock pile but I do come up on the creek that I crossed but it doesn’t look familiar. I walk along the path to the right some more and realize I’m running into cobwebs. Nope, that wasn’t the way I came. I turn back and cross the creek anyway. I follow a path up a hill and come to a clearing and see a house and some men hanging out. One yells, “Are you lost?” Well, yes and no but I don’t admit to it and instead say “I don’t know.” He proceeds to introduce himself and all of his buddies. One older guy nicknamed Snake has a cup in his hand and offers me a drink, saying this is their local brew. I don’t want to insult him so I take a sip of this cassava based concoction and it actually doesn’t taste too bad. I hand it back and thank him. I ask where caiman house is and he points to a path and says, the women up there will show me the way. I follow the path and see the soccer field and know where I am now. I sure hope I never get dropped in the jungle someday. I would never make it out alive!!

I Don’t Really Want to Talk About It…

 

 

So I’ll start off on a lighter note and save it for last.

Late yesterday afternoon we took a walk to see where the Essequibo and Rupununi rivers meet. However they were not currently joined, I assume due to the start of the dry season. We walked further up into the savannah and watched the sunset which was insanely beautiful. The walk up was longer than I expected and it was quite hot. The view of the savannah and the setting sun was well worth the trip though. Jose also gave me a little lesson about medicinal plants along the way.

The trip back graced us with stars as far as the eye could see and a very clear view of the Milky Way. We saw a few night jars bedding down for the evening right on the trail. Jose said that they sometimes get hit by bikes or motorcycles due to their poor lack of planning. I felt badly for them, but what ya gonna do? We also saw a calf grazing not sure where mom was. Jose also heard one or two Pygmy owls but we didn’t see them.

So we got back to the house and started eating dinner when Jose announced, in a hurried tone, that there was a giant anteater in the village. We ran out of the house following behind him. Apparently he had seen this juvenile in the village before. It had caused quite a commotion among the people and it was foraging in the tall grass. We got a better look at it and saw its face was bloody. It appeared to have quite a big gash. Jose assumed it was probably from the kids either beating on it with a stick or using a slingshot. It was quite heartbreaking and actually difficult for me to relive even writing about. How could anyone hurt such a harmless and beautiful animal like that? He had said that the kids had done something like that before to it as well. We can only hope that it heals up ok and that nothing else happens again. I asked if it was tame enough to at least clean the wound but I also forgot about the large claws so it was decided that we shouldn’t. I would hope that some kind of education would result from that incident, but again, who knows.