03.07.2012 - 03.07.2012
After an hour of being totally mesmerized by the waterfall and snapping more pictures than we'll ever know what to do with, it was time to unpack and set up camp at the Kaieteur guesthouse. If there's anything worth booking in advance in Guyana, the guesthouse is definitely it. First off, space is limited. Refurbished 10 years ago and still in great shape, it has two bedrooms, a large common area, a kitchen and bathroom and it's first come first serve with whomever else is making camp that night. Our group was the last to arrive so we ended up pitching our tent right in the living room. There are about 4 spots for ropes to tie up your hammocks and each bedroom is equipped with two twin size beds. We shared the guesthouse with one other group who was taking a guided tour with Rainforest Tours. Surprisingly enough it was a group of 4 guys also from the U.S. - and the only other Americans we saw the entire time in Guyana. They were the ones who stayed at Amatuk island the night before us and told stories of the large caiman they saw and how fun it was fishing for piranha in great abundance (nervous disbelieving laughter ensued from our group). Their guides were spot on, cooking an amazing meal that even had leftovers for us (no shame in eating their scraps, we were THAT famished) and it was really good too.
If there was anything I dreaded about going to Guyana, it was definitely the lack of hot water showers. However, having just hiked for hours to the top of a mountain in the middle of the Guyana Shield - mud, leaves, sweat and grime covering the parts of my body not hiding in soaked dri-fit clothes, a cold shower sounded just about perfect. The guesthouse has a rainwater tank that is used for all water-related house activities. The toilet, shower and kitchen all use the same tank.
After a refreshing shower, clean clothes and full bellies, obviously the only thing left to do was drink. One small problem: we ran out of RUM. Between both groups, we were completely dry. Luckily, the guides knew of a village that was a short half hour hike away and had the goods that could soothe our parching souls.
We started out on a night hike with one guide leading the way and the other anchoring our group. In pitch darkness and a cloudy sky (barely any visibility from the full moon) we set out in misty weather with our headlamps and a machete. The road was a rocky gravel path and at times flooded with ankle deep water. We were all casually distracted chatting away when there was a sudden motion to stop by our guide at the front. He told us to back up, but instead we all crowded behind him to see what was going on. A small brown and tan snake shot out from under a bush and stopped half way in our path. Before we could blink, the guide made two swift attacks with his machete and chopped its head off. He explained it was a Labaria, also known as a Lancehead – a common venomous pit viper responsible for many deaths in Guyana. It’s nocturanl and territorial, meaning we were prime targets and even a trained eye would have a hard time recognizing its camouflage. Since medical attention is only available with a flight to the capital, being bitten by this snake could have one fighting for their life. I'm still amazed at the thought that he recognized it and immediately acted. This is why I'd trust Rainforest tours.
I kept my eyes glued to the path in front of me and thankfully the rest of the hike was uneventful. We made it to the village, an irregular assortment of a half dozen wooden shacks and old car parts. We got our loot at the small town store – consisting of 2 picnic tables and a small tube TV playing pirated movies.
Back at the guesthouse we consumed our libations with a sense of victory, followed by the best sleep I’ve had in ages.