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Second mosquito report and an authentic, Rupununi, Rodeo

The last couple of weeks have flown by and we just came to the realization that, when we post this blog, we have already been in Guyana for over seven weeks. As reported earlier, we are settling in nicely and we have now come to the point, where most basic necessities have been organized and we can start exploring the region in all seriousness.

On the work side, we have been engaged in all sorts of meetings and seminars, which seem to be hard to avoid here. Although deemed necessary, we feel our work and expertise is more needed “in the field” so we are happy that we managed to create a travel plan for the next three weeks (April 25-May 15 roughly) which will bring us into the real Rupununi, its unspoiled nature, rivers, forests and wild savannahs, which are the main attraction of the region.
The rains also have started arriving, although the locals are reluctant to announce the official start of the rainy season. According to them, the season only starts May first and  not a day earlier so what we have had yet so far (on and off heavy half day long rainstorms) is definitely not the start of the dreadful rainy season but only kind Easter rains (at least according to local folklore).

It reminds us of our Tajik days; when we would ask the locals when the snows would arrive they would always  mention a specific date to look forward to.

Heavy snowfall? January fourth they would predict without hesitation. When the snow would not arrive on the announced date, there would be a lengthy explanation of why, this year, things were different (mostly something with the lunar calendar and planets colliding with Mars..). I am sure if we would ask them again, they would announce January fourth with absolute certainty. 

So, rainy season or not, with the rains arrive the dreaded mosquitoes. We have managed to fill any nook and cranny in the house (we think) with a variety of miraculous and very inventive stop gaps but we are not yet mosquito free, although we make progress. Especially after heavy rains, out of nowhere, all kinds of bugs start appearing . We have identified large and small ants, wasps, flies, flying termites, mosquitoes in all kinds of seizes, moths and cockroaches but, yet so far, we have managed to keep them at bay with a wide array of sprays, crabtree oil and national and international anti mosquito devices. For future visitors; take long sleeved shirts, long trousers and socks. Although flip flops might sound good, the bugs seem to have a tendency to attack from the bottom up and relentlessly hit your toes and ankles.

All in all, yet so far, we seem to be on the winning hand. And we start learning and understanding certain things, which did not make sense to us at first but definitely do now. We dread the local custom to chop down all greens around the houses and fill the place with concrete but we now know that’s to keep snakes out of your house. Grass or brush attracts snakes so you don’t want that growing too close to your entry doors (unfortunately). Also, don’t take showers around 4 PM if the sun has been shining during  the day; the water out of the black water tanks is then so hot that you are in danger of burning  and scolding yourself.

So, as Anne remarked (thanks to all contributors btw for the insightful comments, keep them coming) we live a very simple, yet satisfying live. Get up early, chop down some coconuts (we acquired a machete especially for this goal) for delicious coconut water for breakfast. Then work on papayas, pine apples, oranges or other fruits for a healthy salad with Brazilian coffee, a super breakfast ! In addition to this, Christine has managed to find a “Dutch oven” to bake great bread if we need some carbs. She has also found a way to make yoghurt so there is no complaining around breakfast. After quick showers, it’s then off to work on the motor bike, manufactured in China which, yet so far, has served us well. Lunch between noon and one at home (there are some restaurants around but their food is not really super), a quick shower and then back to work. After work, we typically have to hunt around for food. Long trips on the bike to find good ingredients       (the place is pretty stretched out and there is no real center). Some days, the Lethem stores are better stocked than other days and the lack of supplies sometimes forces us across the border to Brazil, where they also (!) accept credit cards (Lethem is still largely a cash economy). Border closes at 7 PM so you need to be back in time but Bon Fim in Brazil is not far and the stores are always open.

Back home, prepare dinner which is a slow process since the burners of the stove are not powerful (it takes ages to heat or fry something). So;dinner around 8 PM, after that, clean up, read something or work on some project and then, typically at 10 PM, it’s lights out.

Another shower and climb under the mosquito net into bed. Repeat the next day. 

Of course, we have met a large number of new people here and so there is no lack of opportunities to hang out with new friend or colleagues. There is a very high number of help organizations active in Guyana and this area specifically attracts the international NGO crowd so there is always somebody new to meet or to get to know. US Aid, the Peace Corps, European Union volunteers, WWF, Project Trust, you name it, everybody seems to have descended on this area. It’s a great way to meet new people and the encounters are almost always interesting and stimulating from our point of view. We wonder, however, how the local population deals with this international consultancy crowd, who all come with the best intentions but with slightly different messages and philosophies. Must be utterly confusing; but,  more about that later … 

A great way to meet a large number of people in a short time span was the Rupununi Rodeo, which ran from Good Friday through Easter Monday. The event attracts people from all around Guyana and beyond but feels like a large ranch family pick nick/ party.
Three nights of loud music and heavy partying (they are very good at that) and two full days of  bull and horse back/bronco riding (bare and saddled), melon eating competitions and (for the children) sheep and chicken catching contests. We had never witnessed a Rodeo live but the Rupununi Rodeo certainly is an event to visit and witness, if you ever have the chance.

It’s very authentic, nothing pretentious about it; there are still a number of active cattle ranches in this area and the vaqueros (cowboys) are mostly Amerindians, well known and respected by all in the community. Everybody knows their families and for whom they are working, often for generations long. Incredibly skilled, excellent horse men who ride wild bulls and bucking broncos barefeet without noticeable troubles.

Apart from partaking, they also organize the event so at first, you see them herding the cattle or wild horses into the pens and, then, later, ride them in the contest. Ten minutes later, you seem them hanging out in one of the many bars around the arena with their wives and children.

We really had a great time witnessing the event and meeting all the people, who are involved with the event. Many of the ranches have an interest in tourism and host volunteers and tourists as a side business.
 So, that’s what we are going to do next; visit some of the ranches and communities to see, what’s REALLY going on. This post is published in haste but we wanted to give our followers a quick update. Pictures and more info to follow; we are now off to Yupukari and Caiman House (Google it). More to follow, we promise. Off again………….. 


  1. I still don't think I could handle all the bugs


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