Diane McTurk

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

I have just had the pleasure to meet Diane, who flew in from Georgetown. Sporting her new round glasses, an otter t-shirt and a waterproof wristwatch, looking way too large on her delicate wrist. Tall and thin, she spoke with a soft British accent that sounded so graceful. Eating crackers with marmalade, Dr. Lucy and Andrea talked about the future of Karanambu and the possible grant they may receive to help with the tourism development in this area. There is a need for conservation of the arapaima which could easily become overfished. However, the rules in place now seem to be working and the Amerindians want to cooperate in the management which is a good sign.

Diane is famous for her head scarves. Almost every picture or video I have seen of her, she wears one. I brought her down two, one of which is quite large but she seemed to really like it. She graciously opened her arms to hug me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Then thanked me repeatedly with a big smile on her face. She made me feel as though I was the only guest that had ever been there.

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

I was fortunate enough to join Lucy and Diane to look for giant otters this afternoon, which I would never have expected. We left around 4pm and cruised along the hot river to the same spot they were seen earlier. No such luck though. Then we went into the lake…a different one than I had seen previously. There were big lily pads here too and Diane requested the motor be shut off so we could creep through. I sat there simmering in the sun, yet Diane didn’t seem bothered by it. Of course, we all go along with whatever she wants to do. None of us would be here if it weren’t for her.

stephanie delagarza Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

She had her bird book handy and was constantly flipping through it, identifying ones she wasn’t sure of. I was surprised…I figured after living on the river most of her life she would know them by heart. I asked if she always enjoys going out on the river. “Oh yes! There is always something different here to see.” She often shared the pictures with me and told stories of the birds.

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Jerry spotted an iguana on the bank with a hawk in the tree nearby eyeing it. I snapped a picture of the iguana as we approached it and I was surprised at how close we actually were. It finally got spooked and ran. As we passed the hawk, he stared at us with the evil eye. I was stunned he didn’t swoop down on us just to get even.

Pairs of parrots flew overhead as the sun went down and we found ourselves back on the river, heading home. She once again wanted to “creep” and figured now would be a good time for some rum punch. Dr. Lucy asked her if she wanted just a little bit of juice and she replied, “Yes, just a bit thank you”, then turned to me and said, “how about you? Just a bit of juice?” I agreed and the tall metal cups were passed out amongst us as we crept.

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

The sunset was spectacular as usual and the birds wrapped up their evening. We told stories and Diane talked about the habits of otters. I asked where they live in the rainy season, since they typically build their dens on the banks. “That is what we would all like to know”, she replied. Otter cams are out of the question since they could get hung up on things and they would have to anesthetize them to implant a chip. She told me that they like to snuggle together at night so they probably don’t sleep in the trees either.

We made it back to the lodge and as we were walking back up, she told me the story about her orphan otter Rewa. Apparently Rewa left Karanambu and was harassing some fishermen so Diane went to try and get her back after a couple of other attempts. Diane brought fish to coax Rewa back. There was another otter family nearby also and when Rewa took the fish, she offered it to the family instead which they took. Rewa had been accepted into the family! There was no need to take her back home. Mission accomplished.

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Diane McTurk Karanambu Ranch

Before dinner, I went to the dining room and saw a new book on the table. It was named something like Wildlife Heroes and Diane had been written up in it, with a nice colorful spread of the otters and a story about her mission. Diane emerged from her quarters wearing the pink and black scarf I gave her on her head and a long sleeve pink blouse. She looked lovely! I took her picture as she held the new book in her lap. Salvador requested that I send in my pictures I took during my stay so they can put them on their new website, which obviously I am thrilled to do. What a great way to end this trip!

Karanambu Ranch Diane McTurk

Karanambu Ranch Diane McTurk

Karanambu Ranch Diane McTurk

Karanambu Ranch Diane McTurk

Karanambu Ranch Diane McTurk

Inside the otter house

Karanambu Ranch Diane McTurk

EDIT: I’m sad to report that in December 2016, Diane passed away peacefully in Guyana. She was an asset to Guyana and lived a fantastic, full life. I’m even more touched to have had the chance to meet this wonderful woman and spend time with her.

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Karanambu Ranch

karanambu ranch guyana dianne mcturk

I have arrived at Karanambu where the breeze is noticeably greater than at Caiman House. However, I have been driven inside of my screenless room by the biting flies outside. I would much rather be in the hammock but the biting…I can take no more. I have only been here a few hours. There is a constant buzzing in the air that sounds like a swarm of bees about to attack. I feel like Brando in Apocalypse Now where he is fanning himself constantly, knowing he will never actually cool off.

karanambu ranch guyana dianne mcturk

A young boy of about seven years old works outside, humming to himself while picking up the piles of leaves the ladies raked up earlier this morning. He puts them into a big blue tarp then walks in the hot sun to empty them into the bush. Life here is hard. I can’t help but get choked up observing the people and animals here. It is very hard to find work around Yupukari and people must try to grow their own food and fish in the river to simply survive. Yet as I walk by the small houses, people still smile and greet me. The dogs are bony and seem miserable. The cats seem to sleep all day, trying not to move. Who can blame them? I wouldn’t want to have fur in this kind of weather.

karanambu ranch guyana diane mcturk

I’m not sure if it’s the sheer exhaustion I have been going through or the empathy I am feeling for the people here. I have cried more in the past ten days than I have all year. Maybe I’m amazed at the tenacity of their will or their ability to cope. They know no different. This little boy works harder than I do yet I’m spending $200 a day to ‘vacation’ here. Believe me, this does not feel like a vacation. This has been a real eye opener for me and although I will probably never come back, I’m glad that I did travel here. I haven’t had a good nights sleep yet and the heat and humidity are unbearable. Even those that live here have told me they have difficulty with it. So much for getting acclimated. I’m at the point where I can’t even think straight anymore. I can’t remember the names of people I’ve spent days with. I look forward to hearing the roosters in the morning because I’m that much closer to the end of this trip.

There are no luxuries in Guyana, it seems. I was actually excited to see that they use ice here in the drinks! I haven’t had ice since I left Texas. I asked if there was something cold to drink at Caiman the other day and was surprised to actually get it. The watered down lime juice was always at room temperature and naturally, the coffee burned my tongue every time. When I saw that they had a small freezer, I asked jokingly if I could sleep in it. Last night, there were flannel sheets on the bed. A few nights prior to that, we had piping hot soup for dinner. I have yet to ride in a car that has air conditioning. When the clock hits around 7am, I am already drenched in sweat. I must wear long sleeves and pants regardless. The packing of two pairs of shorts was a waste of time in hindsight.

The days here seem to go on forever. I feel like I’ve been gone for months. I have two more nights in Guyana then fly out to Trinidad for the night then make my way back home. The bug bites on my body will slowly heal over time, but the impression will last a lifetime.