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Beyond the Rupununi

Today is a day of celebration for us;  exactly a year ago we landed in Georgetown.  We can still remember the excitement in the pits of our stomachs when we saw the advertisement, inviting interested applicants to respond to an invitation to work with local Amerindian communities in the south of Guyana.... one of the three Guianas  - the other two being French Guyana (still a part of France, so no visa necessary for Europeans, and Suriname, which the Dutch (like the British did to Guyana) happily returned to their rightful owners.  So, here we are and apart from the fact that one is not tripping over wildlife and primary forest at every step, we have certainly not been disappointed. 

Waiting for the boat to Rewa Eco Lodge
John Gimlette's book 'Wild Coast' brings this part of the world to vivid  and at times, shocking, life.  Since our arrival in March last year, we have visited Suriname (Paramaribo), where one can live the life of the Dutch knowing that summer really does last longer than just one day in the year; Boa Vista in Brazil - our 'escape' to 'normalcy' every few months or so and reluctant visits to Georgetown for meetings and to stock up on staples like fat-free yoghurt, precious cartons of tofu and kilos of basmati rice.  We are still planning our trip to Manaus, apparently the 'wildest' city in the world, where the Amazon jungle really does encroach on one's doorstep, Venezuela - which still claims that two-thirds of Guyana actually belongs to them, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and French Guyana.  So much to see and do, and so little time!! 

Pink flamingoes in flight in the wetlands off Fathers Beach, Shell Beach

Hiking the forests at Maipaima Lodge

Although our work with the Amerindian communities concentrates on the Rupununi (Guyana's Region 9), last month we actually stepped beyond our work boundaries.  We were privileged to be invited to join a group of other professionals on a charrette organized by the Protected Areas Commission (part of the Guyanese Government) and facilitated by the WWF.  We first came across this term a year ago.  In as few words as possible "a charrette is an intensive exercise to complete a project by a deadline'.   There must have been a total of twenty-five to thirty of us all collected in Georgetown for the start.  Architects, civil engineers, tourism consultants, systems designers, community planners, park concessioners; were all part of the mix.  We were asked to inspect four different and distinct areas within the parks of the PAC with a view to advising on possible sites for ranger stations, offices and monitoring posts as well as provide an assessment of their potential for sustainable eco tourism development.  From Georgetown, the four groups split to visit Kaiteur (Guyana's iconic falls, and actually the deepest, uninterrupted drop in the world), the Rupununi (two groups), about which we have rabbited on incessantly,  and Shell Beach - where four  of the eight endangered species of sea turtles return every year to nest: Hawksbills, Green, Olive Ridley and Leatherback.   Jelte was assigned to the Kaiteur group and I (oh!  woe is me!) to the Shell Beach group. 

Kaiteur, where the charrette groups congregated after our visits
These were truly 'once-in-a-lifetime' experiences, which included activities that probably, we would never have had the ware-with-all to organize ourselves.  Hiking and overnighting in primary rain-forest, getting up close and personal with Kaiteur, turtle patrols and turtle tagging, hair-raising landings on ocean-battered beaches, aerial inspection  of erosion points and wet-lands and so much more.  All four groups returned to Georgetown to two intensive days of discussion and presentation planning.  The third day, we delivered our findings to the entire charrette as well as other interested parties.  A report will follow, which will include in-depth analyses and recommendations for the Protected Areas Commission to consider and hopefully, implement. 

Regular morning visit of the giant river otters at Rewa Eco Lodge

Roosting scarlet ibis off Waini Point

Almond Beach where we based ourselves for two nights

We are now back in Lethem, having also been to  Rewa for further training sessions, where Christine taught vegetarian cooking and Jelte continued working with management and back-office staff.  Maipaima Eco-Lodge was also on our visiting schedule and for those of you who do make it to this part of the world, it too is well-worth a trip.   

Resting after a long hike up Black Rock, Moco Moco, at sunrise
The finale to our celebration will be a long week-end in Boa Vista where, no doubt, we will end up at one of the three sushi restaurants, swim in the hotel pool and - BLISS - take long, hot showers and wash the red Rupununi soil out of our hair and pores. 

Boa Vista, where we wash the red dust out of our pores 

Saddle Mountain Ranch, just a short three  hour ride from Lethem

Riding the water pipe, on the way down from the Black Rock, Moco Moco

Lethem is way, in the distance 

Iwokrama grounds 

Yellow spotted river turtle hatchlings at Caiman House 

Yes!  We made it out! 

More adventures to follow; we promise.


  1. Hi Christine & Jelte.....Glad to see that you are alive & well. Sorry to hear of the sad death of your friend young! Sandi & I off to Europe at end of April.....Bad snow season this year only 25% of the typical annual snowfall! We are heading to South of France for 3 weeks & 3 weeks visiting family & friends in the UK.
    We were wondering if Mady ( ex BTA) still lives in Cannes? If you have an email address for her, we were hoping to pick her Brian's on things to see & do & places to say in the hill towns around Cannes/ Nice.
    Stay safe out there in the rainforest & avoid those nasty Chiggers!
    Love to you both,
    Tim & Sandi

    1. Hello Tim and Sandi

      Great to hear from you; we thought you had gone off to build an igloo in some remote part of Northern Canada!

      Shame about the snow, particularly as it appears to be a big freeze elsewhere in North America. We drove down to the South of France when we were in Europe in August/September and spent a few days there catching up with Mady and Pat. Here’s Mady’s email address:
      We did not want to bother with Cannes and its constant traffic issues when we visited, so stayed at a pretty good b n b in Mougins. Most of the b n b’s there have great outlooks, good swimming pools and off street parking, if you decide to stay there. The (super) tourist information office is where we got all our information from. But I’m sure Mady will have some ideas and suggestions too.

      All good here; we’re currently negotiating for an extension of our contract, which will take us through to June 2016.

      Big hug to you both and do keep in touch.

      Christine and Jelte


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