Sunday, 11 January 2015

Lost in Guyana

We liked Guyana. Despite the consistent warnings of Guyana being a bad and dangerous place, we never once felt threatened or had a bad experience. However, our maps and information weren't good, and we were consistently lost or confused. 

Of course, being lost can lead to some wonderfully serendipitous experiences, and that's how our final day in Guyana was. 

Our first confusion was in Guyanas capital: Georgetown. We arrived on a Sunday. Our GPS didn't have a specific Guyana map, and the Garmin South America map seemed to have nothing to do with reality. Pegasus Hotel is recommended as a place for overlanders to 'pamp', but we couldn't find it until I asked a young boy (about 10yrs). "There" he said, pointing. We were so close, it was almost embarrassing!

The next day, Monday, we walked into the city centre. It was dead, nothing was open. Apparently it was a public holiday, for a Muslim celebration. Guyana is a country of multiple faiths and they have holidays for all of these religions, which makes for a lot of holidays. 

With everything closed it only took us about an hour to explore the centre on foot. We thought the old timber buildings were quiet charming and there was a scenic mix of renovated buildings and buildings needing repair. (Honestly, I think they should be fixing a few of of major buildings before its too late). 

With nothing else to do in Georgetown, we left. Or, we tried too. We couldn't t find the road out. We needed to first drive to Linden, but our GPS didn't have a clue and we never saw a single sign pointing us in the right way. Eventually a taxi lead us to the right path. (Free, he was going that way). 

From Linden onwards there were signs to Lethem (the next major destination), but ironically, there was also only one road to take. Lethem is the border town, next stop Brazil. 

Along the way to Lethem I thought it'd be nice to visit a place famous for River Otters. But, once again, there were no signs. We never found the turn off. 

Finally we saw a turn off for a list of places (nothing we'd heard of) and a picture of a river otter on that same sign. So, we turned off. This is a part of the world  called the 'Rupununi', and it's quiet spectacular. Mostly its open country but we reached a path though forest impossible for our vehicle height. We turned back. But, there were dirt tracks everywhere and at one point H accidentally took a different path to that on which we'd come. 

It was late in the day when we reached an Amerindian village called Nappi. We decided to stop for the night and we pulled up beside a shelter at the sports field. 

After a few hours a man came to see us, he was the village 'captain', and he informed us that to drive through an Amerindian village we should first get permission, and to stay we also needed permission and to pay. It was all okay, he gave us permission and we paid $1000 (local dollars, or $US5). He then stayed and answered all my questions about Amerindian life. 

In the morning, trying to go from Nappi to Lethem, we got even more lost and found ourselves at another village. (These villages are very scattered with houses not very close). At the school I found some people and asked for help. A man told us to wait as he was leaving (on motorbike) soon and we could follow him. We are very lucky this happened... With simple directions we might still be wandering around Guyana's Rupununi!

Getting lost allowed us to see some beautiful countryside, and learn a bit about Amerindian life too. I'm glad we wandered off the beaten track and got lost for a day. 

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