A couple of weeks ago, myself and 6 other volunteers from GUY 24 and GUY 25 embarked on a 4 day trip overland to Kaieteur Falls. We knew a little about what to expect, as some of the other GUY 24 members had done the same trip before. I knew I was immensely excited and that it would be an awesome trip, but I really didn’t know how flipping cool this experience would end up being…
Day 1: A couple of the volunteers traveled from Georgetown on the Georgetown-Mahdia bus, saving seats for the rest of us to get picked up in Linden. From Linden we made our way to Mahdia, a hard core mining town in the interior, in about 5-6 hours. The road to Mahdia was something else, and all of us were a little worse for the wear after bouncing all over the pothole-ridden road for so long. What awaited us in Mahdia, however, was a most pleasant surprise: a hotel. A REAL hotel. With a huge pool. We never expected such a place in the dusty ole mining town, and immediately jumped into the pool. We were entirely too excited about this, but that’s the beauty of being in the Peace Corps sometimes, the little things become HUGE things. We ate cold Pork’n’Beans out of a can (we’re on a budget people!), and all went to bed eager for the next day.
Day 2: We woke up and piled into our ride to Pamela Landing, where we waited around an hour for our ride to Amatuk Island. We met our boat captain, Dick, and had about an hour boat ride on the Potaro River; arrived at the island by 10am. This was great since it gave us all day to explore the jungle, swim in the river, and climb around on all the boulders surrounding the island. Amatuk is mostly uninhabited except for the 15 or so people that live there in order to facilitate visitors like us that come through on this particular trip. They showed us to the house, which was mostly unfurnished except for a table and a kitchen complete with a stove for us to cook on, although a later event would inspire us to make a fire outside and cook there instead…We all decided we would be sleeping outside, under the hammock shelter, and everybody got to work stringing up their hammocks. We explored all day, with only a few minor mishaps (quicksand, falling through rotted logs, or a tumble down a pile of rocks anyone??), bathed in the river, cooked on the fireside, played Old Maid, bundled up (it was “cold”), and settled into our hammocks for the night. There was a full moon that night, and I don’t think anyone got a ton of sleep, but it was worth it for the amazing day we got to have 🙂
Day 3: We woke up, had breakfast (including coffee!), and waited for Dick to come pick us up to go visit the gold dredge we had passed the day before on the river. The Brazilians working the dredge showed us how the whole process worked, and even gave us a bag of Brazilian coffee! The lady on the dredge seemed very happy to have some visitors and we even took some group pictures with her before departing. Dick then took us back to Amatuk to grab our stuff and we were off on another boat ride. After about an hour, we landed the boat, got out, CARRIED the boat down a path through the jungle, got back in and kept heading down the river. Apparently this was to go around some rapids that the boats cannot get through. At last we arrived at Kaieteur National Park and the bottom of “Oh My God Mountain” (they actually call it that) and met our guide for the hike, Rudolph. After a quick snack (peanut butter and crackers for me) we started the hike. About 5 minutes in, Rudolph showed us the viper (labaria) that he took care of on his way down earlier that day to get us. Ten minutes later, he showed us a second one, and explained that these snakes strike quickly and if left untreated, you’d be dead within an hour…ok good, let’s keep hiking! The hike was through some pretty wild jungle and was breathtaking (literally and figuratively) once we started going uphill. Rudolph basically ran up the hill and I did my best to keep up without perishing from the face of the planet. “20 more minutes” turned into “45 more minutes” and so on and so forth until we reached the first lookout point–and boy, was it worth it! Kaieteur Falls is one of the world’s tallest single-drop waterfalls at 741 feet; four times the height of Niagara Falls and twice the height of Victoria Falls, so you can imagine that first sighting was pretty darn exciting for us! We went around to a couple more lookout points, took tons of pictures, and just took it all in. Pictures and words cannot even come close to doing it justice, but it was one of the most beautiful natural sights I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some pretty good stuff 🙂 The rest of the night included bathing at the top of the falls, watching the millions of birds (they’re either swifts or swallows, can’t remember) DIVE from high in the sky, shoot through the falls, and to their nesting places in the rocks behind the falls, getting free chow mein from the folks at the guest house, and collapsing into hammocks/beds for the night.
Day 4: We woke up before dawn, made some of our Brazilian coffee and took it to go sit at the edge of the falls and watch the sunrise. Which didn’t really end up happening because of all the cool fog/mist created by the waterfall, but that was magical in it’s own right, so we weren’t too disappointed. Rudolph came and picked us up and we hiked to yet another viewpoint so we could take another look at the gloriousness that is Kaieteur before heading to the airstrip to catch our flight back to Georgetown. At the airstrip, we met some people that were taking a much more luxurious, and no doubt expensive trip to the falls and they offered us their leftover food. REAL food. We proceeded to humiliate ourselves, piling food into whatever receptacle we could find and even (sigh of shame) eating with our hands like barbarians…but I have no regrets because it was so delicious, and I think it provided these people with a good story, about the time they fed the poor starving volunteer hikers they met at the jungle airstrip. Our 8-seater plane arrived, and we piled ourselves and our stuff aboard; little did we know that one of the COOLEST THINGS EVER was about to happen to us, thanks to our daredevil (but highly skilled and impeccably safe) pilot. He took off, circled back around, flew low over the river, and flew right over the cliff with the falls with no warning–it was like the best, most scenic rollercoaster ride in the world!!! It was seriously just about the coolest damn thing I’ve ever gotten to do. From there we flew to Mahdia, waited in an airplane hangar for a couple of hours, and then proceeded onto Georgetown where us 25ers were to meet up with the rest of our group for our Reconnect Conference. My camera died first thing in the morning this day, so I don’t have pictures, but I plan on uploading a short video of our plane ride over Kaieteur when I get it from a friend!
This post is way too long, but I really wanted to provide some detail and try to get across to y’all how much fun and adventure was had on this trip–this is the kind of stuff I live for, and I feel really grateful to live in a hidden gem of a country where sights like this are just a hop, skip, and a jump (or in this case a bus ride, a boat ride, another boat ride, another boat ride, a hike, and two plane rides) away. More to come in the next few days, keep checkin’ back!