Life at the Lodge: 2) Walden

The week’s events began like a flood, but soon dried into nothing more than a trickle. I have decided that it is not the isolation that will kill you, but the boredom – and the bug bites, but we will get to that later.

The stereotypes about Brits abroad are true by the way. No sooner had our most recent British group arrived than the men’s tops were off, and the exposed skin began to redden. In one night, a handful of these guests consumed more alcohol than the Lodge had sold for the 18 previous days of November combined.

After dropping them off at Lethem airport on Saturday, Melanie and I conducted our weekly shop. Owing to the ludicrous time that we had to be awake that morning, none of the Chinese-owned warehouse-esque outlets had opened, so instead we popped over the border to Brazil to drive around.

Stepping off Guyana’s reddened soil, we crossed on to smooth, tarmacked roads and pavements. Multiple football pitches could be spotted (including a 2,000-seater stand), satellite dishes were common, and rows of houses lined the streets which were themselves signposted and provided with streetlights.

The disparity between the two border towns was immediately obvious. Exasperating this frustration is the fact that the Guyanese government turned down Brazil’s offer to properly build and surface their own roads in the region, and continue to do so despite the obvious need.

This is just one of several instances of self-sabotage that the Guyanese political class conducts on a regular basis.

Lethem can bring a sense of civilisation, a brush of the outside world. But no sooner had I arrived than I was reminded of just how barbaric and unjust modern society is here. Two newspapers showcased multiple separate stories of sexual abuse against children, political and police corruption and the lack of accountability, and horrific violence against women.

Regardless of Guyana’s infrastructure woes, its social problems are a far more important problem to correct.

By Monday, we had said goodbye to our last guest and a mini-exodus was underway as staff returned to their villages. It would be eight days before our next booking arrived, and if you think that a week is a long time in politics, try being at Karanambu when there are no guests.

Melanie had developed a violent cough and flu-like illness so was placed in quarantine at the far end of the Lodge, and once she left to return to see her family in Georgetown, peace descended.

The hugely expensive internet package that we have at the Lodge ran out of data, and a subsequent top-up lasted little more than 24-hours. The romantic notion that a lack of connectivity will set you free is a myth. I have no doubt that improved communications and greater access to modern technology would benefit this region and its people tremendously, but unfortunately the supply does not come close to matching the demand.

With emails, blogging, fundraising, news, social media, and communication with the outside world, all out of the question, I have been trying to keep busy using more solitary and traditional methods.

My iPod is slowly being populated with songs from my hardrive, my room is clean, a video of my time in Nepal has been produced, and I am coming to the end of my fourth book in 10 days. This evening, I am going to treat myself by purchasing a few beers from our fridge and then watching an episode or two of Narcos.

What limited work there is has mostly consisted of bits of paperwork, general cleaning, and tidying. For the entirety of the morning yesterday, for example, I was sweeping up bat shit. Left alone, a mop in hand and music in my ears, I was transported back a decade to the (not-so) glorious years of being a potwasher at the Glamorgan Arms.

For hours on end, the cats are my only company here, and perhaps later than is appropriate, I am starting to give them names. One of the ginger cats is currently AWOL, and the white and tabby is yet to get a title, but the remaining three have been christened: Tracker – as she always keeps one ear close to the ground (I suspect because she has an infection), Wispa – as it reminds me of my Mum’s cat back in the UK, and Ed Sheeran – as it is a very vocal ginger.

Giving names to the cats, tracking a nest of ants whilst its workers are sent on suicide missions into hummingbird feeders, noticing the personalities of the roosters, and knowing where the bats sleep and at what times they wake, it all feels a little Henry David Thoreau. My own 21st century Guyanese Walden.

Mosquitoes have now been overtaken at the top of my list of Animals Worthy of Extinction. Kabowra flies are the worst things here and perhaps the worst bug I have had the displeasure of encountering. Both small and quiet, there is no warning when they bite you, and when the lumps develop, you begin to itch relentlessly. It’s chicken-pox on steroids and over a week since I first got them, they are showing no signs of diminishing.

I am looking forward to having some company at the Lodge. Cassie is in my thoughts often.

In other news, I see Liverpool are continuing their erratic ways.

14 down. 70 to go.


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