I had a poor sleep on the night of the 27th-28th. My mind was structuring a blog in my head, and I felt compelled to get the thoughts out and onto paper (screen), but I think subconsciously, I was also quite excited to be reunited with Cassie.
After our water pump struggled to supply all our tanks – a sign that the river was getting low and we would need to move the pump further downstream at some point, we hopped in to our 4×4 to go and meet Mel, Ed, Cassie and co. Despite the shallow river, recent rains had made some of the local roads tricky to navigate, so we chose to go the long way around, for fear of getting stuck.
A 16-hour drive had left them all very tired, and though we got briefly stuck in mud when coming back on the shorter route, everyone was soon back at the Lodge.
In our sleep-deprived, affectionate state, Cassie and I spoke of “the future” and admitted how we felt about one another, even uttering the dreaded “L-Word” for the first time.
In Med’s (Mel and Ed’s) absence, preparations had been made for the Karanambu Staff Party – an open house event where locals, current, and former staff can drop in for a gaff (chat) and lime (drinks). The Lodge was busy again, with a decent turnout of people, a buffet spread available, and the rum flowing.
Cassie and I put up hammocks around the Lodge before being set upon by the kids and having our faces painted as colourful rainbow “witches”. Owing to a message I left in the dirt on one of the vehicles a few weeks previously, the kids had committed to calling me “President Paddy” and were insistent that I should conduct all my presidential tasks.
One such task was going for an afternoon swim in our caiman-infested river. With a gaggle of kids for company, I jumped into the fast-flowing brown waters. With that, it seems as if I was adopted by the group, and as the rest of the adults drank, chatted, and played dominoes, Cassie and I were talked into playing night-time hide and seek.
Never one to be outsmarted by a group of primary schoolers, I made sure I packed a heavy-duty torch to help find my prey.
The gaffing went long into the night, and just as I thought it was coming to an end, more guests turned up. Another poor night’s sleep followed as my room was next to party HQ. The open WiFi provided me with a brief escape, and after five days of no access, I had 66 messages to respond to.
The bugs were out in force again, and despite my European blood, it was Cassie who was getting the worst of it this time around. A few days into her trip and her soft, smooth back had been transformed into an inflamed, mountainous landscape. A trip out on to the river with some people she knew from Georgetown was probably the leading cause of such damage.
As I gave Cassie a tour of the Lodge and riverside, she enlightened me on wider events in Guyana. The pride with which some people post photos of dead jaguars on their social media, and the inability for any prosecutions to follow. As well as the leaked news that $18m USD had been deposited by ExxonMobil into a private bank account that only a handful of the Guyanese government had access to and were aware of. Corruption at its most nonchalant.
To celebrate New Year’s everyone went to the village of Yupukari. Infamous in the area for their parties which can last anything upto, and including, a week. A truck full of people, overnight gear, and food and drink rumbled down the road, under the intense afternoon sunshine, and through the vast, open savannah.
It was totally different to any New Year’s preparation I had been through before.
Yupukari had a wedding to celebrate and after some dismounted to attend the service, the rest of us carried on to a friend’s house. In the front garden, I found a small bird that had been caught in one of those repulsive glue “mouse-traps”. Its feathers were stuck tightly together, and it was very distressed. Cassie and I cleaned it up as best we could and found a tree in the back garden where we hoped it would recover. (A back garden incidentally, that was also home to a baby black caiman in a pond full of turtles.)
Up the road a little, the party was already underway at 2pm. In a small clearing, on a rise overlooking the savannah, was set up a bar, benches, a BBQ, a water tank, and some awning to provide cover. Hammocks were strung up between nearby trees and fairylights provided some illuminated decoration. The nearby cars supplied the music.
Despite the British-esque downpours that were a near constant that night, everyone seemed to have fun. Flip-flops and sandals had miraculously become platform heels as inches of mud built up underfoot. Some fellow Brits were also in attendance having made the 5-hour journey with their Guyanese colleagues from the south Rupununi to be there on the night.
Thankfully, the rain ceased shortly before midnight. A large bonfire was lit, and despite being illegal in the country, fireworks exploded into the night sky. Cassie and I welcomed 2018 in one another’s company. As if kissing under an endless starry sky as fireworks exploded in the background wasn’t romantic enough, we then bid farewell to the party and set-up a hammock in Caiman House which we shared for the night.
A solid four-hour sleep followed, before we were awoken by the sunrise and the sound of music starting up again. (or perhaps it never stopped). We spent the day lounging around and eating the food that was very kindly offered to us, awaiting Med’s promise that they “will send someone to pick you up sometime.”
Our lift arrived in the afternoon, and despite the grime and sleep deprivation, I was immensely happy to be laying on a mattress in the back of truck in the company of Cassie. An early-night was had by all, and final preparations were made for our guests that were arriving tomorrow. Back to work already.
The almost inevitable job contract extension was offered to me by Med. They were delighted to have me here at the Lodge, the staff were comfortable with me – something which I am told is quite rare, and we were set to have a busy February-March period. Ideally, Med would like me to stick around for a further two months and leave at the end of April.
It is a decision that will require a lot of thought.
An Indian-American family of four stayed at the Lodge for one night, and though our giant anteater trip was unsuccessful, our boat ride the night before was very productive. Dozens of bird species were on show, caiman were abundant, an 8-ft brown Amazon tree boa was spotted in the branches, and we got a half-second sighting of a giant otter as it slipped back under the surface of the river.
It was my first giant otter sighting since arriving here, but I hope that it is not my last.
56 down. 28 to go. Maybe.
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