March 2016: The mightiest rainforest and the world largest one is the Amazon, which sprawls across multiple South American countries including Guyana. After traveling much of the world, I have concluded that my favorite ecosystem to visit is the rainforest. I love the tranquility of the rainforest. Which is ironic because a rainforest is in itself the most chaotic place on earth. It is a ecosystem with the most competition between species, where everything is always killing one another and there are constant battles for survival taking place. There is no place on Earth more bio-diverse with insects, and plant life.  it’s the symphony of sounds and discovery of so many new creatures that excites me about the rainforest. As a kid I was fascinated with the forest in northern Minnesota and I would watch the insects for hours, so it is no surprise that a rainforest teeming with life in every square foot from undergrowth to the towering canopies of its soaring trees, has captured my imagination. I wanted to visit Guyana ,mainly because it is a new country and one of the least visited countries in South America, but I also wanted to travel down the Rewa River in the Amazon rainforest of the southeastern half of Guyana, The Rewa River is known for its river monsters, the giant pirarucu that can grow up to  (9.8 feet) long and weigh over (440 pounds)  and is one of the largest fresh water fish on Earth. The Rewa is also one of the last strongholds for the most endangered animals of the Amazon like the giant river otter, harpy eagle and the anaconda.  My goal of this trip was to travel down the Rew and immerse myself in the Amazon rainforest again after doing so on previous trips to Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.

This was my itinerary for my one-week solo trip to Guyana:

Day 1
Depart SAN
Arrive Trinidad, Port of Spain

Day 2
Arrive Georgetown, Guyana@0720am.
Domestic flight to letham
Bus to Annai
Sleep at Annie’s shop in Aranaputa village or red house next to main road.

Day 3
Motorbike taxi to Rewa
Hammock accommodation in Rewa Village

Day 4
Begin trip up Rewa River
Camp in hammock in jungle

Day 5
Explore Rewa River for anacondas, and other wildlife, piranha fishing
Camp in hammock in jungle

Day 6
Return to Rewa Village
Visit Rewa Village
Motorbike to Annai
Pick up bus in Annai and travel by bus overnight to Sarama Junction.
Sleep in hammock camp in Sarama Junction.

Day 7
Bus to Georgetown
Hotel Georgetown

Day 8
Fly to Kaieteur Falls for day
Hotel Georgetown

Day 9
Depart Georgetown, Guyana

My route in Guyana

Guyana was a British colony and was initially used as a prison colony because of the hostile climate and its isolation. The British introduced plantations and slavery to the colony. They initially tried enslaving the indigenous people, but this proved difficult since run away Indian slaves could easily survive and escape into the jungle. Then they turned to African slaves, and this proved to be much more effective, and thousands of slaves were imported to Guyana and descendants of these slaves still live in Guayana today. The British turned from slavery to indentured servitude and cheap labor was brought in from British colonies all over the world and Guyana has become a melting pot of cultures. The national language is English, and it is really easy to get around the country on your own but costly due to the country’s extreme remoteness.

 

 

 

Getting There

Just to get to Guyana, which wasn’t easy since there are no direct flights from the USA, I had to fly to Miami via American Airlines and from there to Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago, where I spent the night in a hotel outside of town drinking rum in my hotel pool relaxing. I tried to explore the neighborhood of my hotel at night but after a few blocks it was just too dark and shady, and a robbing seemed imminent, so I returned to the safety of the pool with a few glasses of rum.

From Trinidad and Tobago, I flew to Georgetown, the capitol of Guayana, where I immediately transferred to the domestic airport, a no-frills airport with small single engine and twin-engine bush planes flying mostly workers around the country to various gold mines or timber camps. I booked a passenger flight to Letham in the southern tropical savannah region. Once in Letham, there is public transport in mini vans that can be easily booked to go to more remote indigenous villages and eco-resorts to see wildlife.

 

 

 

Domestic flight to letham

It didn’t instill confidence in me when I was boarding my flight and saw some posters on the wall inside the boarding area in memory of two pilots that died in a plane crash.

 

Poster of two pilots that died in a plane crash

Southern Savanah

The south consists of mostly wilderness, mining camps, vast tracts of tropical forest, Indian villages and huge plots of tropical savannah of wild grass that is too unsuitable for most cattle to graze on. I found a shared van and jumped in with a group of Indians enroute to Rewa village further north of Letham. I ended up sleeping in a small modest family run guest house in Aranaputa village. The next morning, I arranged a motor taxi for to get to Rewa village an indigenous village where I planned to organize my Amazon trip. The village was a few hours away across savannah and forest. About halfway to Rewa, the tire blew in the middle of nowhere and the hot beaming tropical sun and the driver left me with the bike while he decided to try and walk back and get help. I had enough water and found a tree in the distance to seek shelter.  luckily another motorbike driver passing through picked up my driver and took him into the village to get another tire and he was back a hour later to resume our journey to Rewa. The driver couldn’t take me directly to Rewa, I had to take a boat across the river to get there because there were no bridges.

Flat tire on oiur motorbike

Rewa Village

Rewa village is a small Macushi Amerindian tribal village with only a few hundred residents that primarily live off of the land and eco-tourism. River fishing is big money for guided trips of foreigners who come to fish the giant pirarucu.  It as remote as it gets and only has basic accommodation. There is no electricity except for a few hours a day when a generator runs which also provides Wi-Fi during that time. I organized a boat trip up the Rewa River with the village and I had a small team of cooks, and guides provided by the village. I booked the boat for 3 days and my goal was to get as far up the river as possible because the further up you go the more pristine and wild things get and more chances of seeing wildlife like tapirs, jaguar and anaconda.

 

 

Village life in Rewa

Village life in Rewa

Rewa River

Traveling up the river was amazing and there absolutely no one else on the river once we were an hour upriver from Rewa village. The wilderness of the Rewa River has never been logged and is not a national park. it is protected by the Indians that live there and thrive off of its eco-tourism potential. They have resisted the timber companies eager to harvest its valuable trees. The Rewa to this date is one of the best places I have visited for wildlife, and it is proof that local people who are connected to their land by heritage, are the best stewards especially if there is economic incentive to protect the land.

 

 

 

Rewa River

Fishing for Piranhas

I didn’t fish for the pirarucu because a separate permit to do so is needed in the village and it costs a few hundred dollars, but I did fish for the black piranha, the largest of the piranha species and the Rewa River is full of them. They are big and nasty and easy to get catch with a piece of any meat. Then you can use the meat from the piranha to catch other more savory fish like river trout. The piranha is dangerous, and every precaution is necessary to avoid losing a fingertip from their sharp teeth once on the boat from them thrashing about. Usually when we fished for piranha, the action would attract the caiman crocodiles which soon started to swim around our boat looking for an easy meal.

 

 

Me with a black piranha I caght with nothing but a fishing string,hook with some meat attached to it.it literally only takes a minute to catch one because they are so abundant but the meat is not the best and they are very boney. 

Piranha teeth

My guide catching a river fish. We ate fresh river fish for every meal in the forest

Wildlife

I hoped to get all the way to the waterfalls where anaconda is commonly seen on the rocks sunning themselves on the top of the falls, but I never made it that far because the water level of the Rewa was too high and the current too strong for us to get that far given that I only had 3 days. The water level and strength of the current are all factors that make or break any trip. But we did make it to some oxbow lakes formed when the river changed direction and the forest and sediment left eventually cut off a bend of a river forming a lake with trapped fish and other river creatures. This was also a prime habitat for anaconda and my guide had recently seen some in them. We looked and looked but unfortunately, we didn’t find any, but I did find lots of other interesting wildlife. macaws and other boisterous flocks of birds commonly flew overhead. I didn’t see any harpy eagles, but my guide knew where we could find a nest, but I didn’t have enough time to make the multiple day hike to get there.

 

 

Caiman crocodile common in the river and always waiting patiently nearby for prey to stumble into the river

Caiman crocodile

Giant river otter big enough to fight off caimans

Hawk

Stork

Looking for Anaconda in an Oxbow Lake

We hiked to a few different oxbow lakes cut off from the river because these were the best places to see wildlife and the water was the murkiest and most likely place to contain an anaconda and anacondas here can easily grow to 20′ long and are massive. We usually hiked at night or early in the morning with flashlight and we would paddle into the lake with a dugout canoe that was hidden in the forest. After paddling into one of the lakes at night it became apparent something large was chasing the fish and they decided it would be safer for them to jump into our boat than to face whatever it was lurking beneath, and dozens of fish kept whacking us as we paddled falling into our boat and jumping around. We kept them for dinner. Aside from numerous caiman crocodiles, there was also piranha that would make themselves known from the bubbling of the water when they swarmed and other nasty creatures such as freshwater sting rays that can sting when the barb is touched, electric eels that release enough electricity to kill a person. My guide had been electrocuted before and according to him a villager killed by one. Then there was a huge prehistoric looking snapping turtle that my guide lifted carefully out of the water for me to photograph.

 

 

Fish jumping into our boat to evade a predator of some sort

A large spider in our boat hiding in the tarp

Looking for wildlife in the oxbow lake

Snapping turtle

Large rainforest tree

At night we would camp in the forest near the river and listen to sounds of the forest and tell stories of the jungle over the bonfire while drinking warm beer and eating fresh fish.

 

 

One of our forest camps

One of our forest camps

Giant lilypads big enough to walk on in one of the oxbow lakes we hiked to

Travel Overland to Georgetown

From Rewa village I traveled overland via motor taxi, and shared taxi along a long and rough dirt road to Georgetown that involved sleeping one night in a hammock camp, and a long car ferry.

 

 

Shared taxi to georgetown fueling up

Indigenous passengers next to me that had baby parrots inside a cardboard box

Kaieteur Falls

I decided to splurge and visit Kaieteur Falls, claimed to be the largest single drop waterfall in the world at 741′. I was lucky and that I found a seat lastminute because someone else dropped out and from Georgetown, I flew with a few other passengers in the single prop plane on a hair-raising multi-hour flight over the Amazon rainforest to the Kaieteur Falls national park. The only way to reach this remote place is by plane in a dirt landing strip. From the landing strip you can hike an hour to the falls, where there is no fence along the sheer cliffs overlooking the falls. Along the way, the forest is a great place to see the rare and beautiful bright red Cock on the Rock bird and pitcher plants with bright poison dart frogs that live inside them and nowhere else on Earth.

 

 

Flight to Kaieteur Falls

Kaieteur Falls

Me at Kaieteur Falls

Cock on the Rock Bird

Tiny finger sized poison dart frog that only lives inside this carniverous pitcher plant

Georgetown

Receipt

I stayed one night in Georgetown, the capitol of Guyana, a rough and tumble impoverished town with a high crime rate. I stayed in a hotel with a pool and bar where I passed the day drinking rum and coke. On the most part I kept my travels in the city to a minimum to avoid being a victim of the crime.  I got a real kick out of one of the receipts I received from a cafe I ate at. it is obvious to me that tourists are not too common to Georgetown by the special phrase reserved for me on the receipt. From Georgetown, I flew home back to San Diego via Port of Spain again, “Come back again soon white man.”

15 + 8 =

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