Friday, October 09, 2009


Into the Heart of Darkness.
Actually, that was the Congo. But the Guianas aren’t too far behind in the imagination. Hot, swampy, and flat. Only a few scattered deranged inhabitants. No roads connecting them to the rest of the world.
Actually, Brazil is in the middle of constructing one. But if there are still any ends of the earth, these geographical entities would fit the bill. And after all these years contemplating the possibility, here I finally was flying into one of them.
Island hopping was pretty much over. When we stopped to transfer planes in Barbados, that had been the 17th one I had been on since the trip began. Now we were approaching a continent. A long unbroken and flat line of green vegetation approached on the horizon. Soon below me were wide brown rivers and endless bush. And then we were on the ground. In a few minutes I was through Immigration and delighted to see that my bag had made it, too. Yay! All those Liat flights and not a single screw up! (Although Winair had been two for two.)
Minibus 42 was circling around, and soon I was squashed in it along with about 10 others and we were bouncing our way the 20 miles or so into Georgetown. All along the road were small wooden slat houses on stilts, some of them poor but honest, others looking like rundown 1945 beach houses that had been left to rot for another twenty years. Tiny little businesses and hole in the wall Chinese restaurants. On the other side of them the wide brown Demarara River. Traffic and more standing water.
At some point everything got slightly more urban, and then we were at a junction of several large, almost immense, certainly distinctive, rundown baroque slatted wooden buildings that was basically the center of Guyana’s capital city. The driver didn’t want to go any further due to ‘traffic’. On the other hand, it had only been $3 for me and my baggage. So I started walking in the direction of my reserved guesthouse. After a few directional errors in the hot, humid sun, and a little more than a half an hour later, I had found it.
The Rima Guesthouse advertised itself as ‘The Cleanest Guesthouse In Georgetown’. Well, it wasn’t a total dump. And from what I had seen so far on my6 walk through town, they may well have been correct. Anyway, for $28 I got a bed and a fan. And a common room with lacy doilies on the 1920s furniture.
I walked around a bit to reconnoiteur. Found something to eat. Then the sun was down and I retreated to the guesthouse.
Guyana has a reputation as one of the most dangerous countries in the world. And although such reputations are often overblown, and although everybody and everything was peaceable enough in the sunlight, I definitely didn’t want to test it after dark. Instead I lay on my bed and let the strong breeze--a pleasant surprise in these parts--come through the open window and waft over me.
Next morning I was at a little place having some awful Guyanese pastries, and then on my quest to find a camera store. Amazingly enough I found one that repaired Canons. I showed the guy my problem and he told me to come back in a couple of hours.
Okay, what to do in downtown Georgetown, a place where no building was more than two stories high, no business sold anything but the most tawdry of junk, and the whole infrastructure looked like it was being held together by dirt and dampness? I looked on my handy map and saw that at the end of Regent St. was the zoo. I started off in that direction.
It was well over a mile in the hot sun before I got there. Again, it didn’t feel dangerous in the sunlight, but I wouldn’t want to be strolling around with a big wad of bills at night. At least the walk was flat. Nobody was selling tickets to the zoo so I just strolled in.
A few cages of parrots, macaws, toucans, and a really large and exhausted looking harpy eagle. Then some tapirs and the first truly unhappy otter I had ever seen. I mean, I have been to some bad zoos in my life, but…
Ah, up ahead were the monkeys. That would cheer me up. But when I got there only one cage held any, and holding on to the bars were three insane spider monkeys.
What do I mean by that? Well, spider monkeys are pretty strange looking to begin with. They are over five feet tall standing up. They have long black hair. And tiny little naked faces with beady little eyes. And these guys’ eyes were both vacant and intense, staring both at me and past me. Totally silent, they had been trapped in steel and concrete and stripped of all meaningful society. And besides jerky random gestures the two males at least were constantly vibrating. After a while I realized that what they were doing was frantically masturbating.
Wow, what a great metaphor for post modern life! Here in a place that was post Apocalyptic before Apocalyptic was post!
Suitably disturbed, I retraced my steps back to Georgetown’s main drag and back to the camera store. The guy told me that the display screen was busted. If I had had a 560 he could have replaced it, but as it was with a 540 I was out of luck. On the other hand, theoretically if I used the little old visual finder it would still take pictures. Just no visual token of what I had taken and no reassuring click to let me know that anything had actually happened.
Well, at least I probably still had all the shots from the first three weeks.
Anyway, my useful labors in Georgetown finished, I slowly made it back to the guesthouse. Went across the street for vegetable burger and fries and wifi. Then back for an early beddy bye at 8.
Up at 4. At 5:15 the Fatman came by and honked his horn. Then he took me and his other pre-booked passengers back to the minibus staging area and tried to pick up some more. At 6:15 we were on the road.
Pretty much more of the same scene as from the ride from the airport. Although now we were heading east towards Surinam. A few areas of sugar cane cultivation, more of a constant stream of small stilt houses, some okay, some terrible. That’s pretty much of what Guyana is.
We made it to the ferry crossing just before 10. I bought my ticket, checked myself out of the country. Waited with about fifteen vehicles and fifty other passengers until 11 or so, when the ferry boarded. The river was just as brown as the rest of all the water had been, but a lot wider than it had appeared. Total endless flatness everywhere. What with going upstream a little it took over a half an hour to reach the other side.


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