Life at the Lodge: 12) Otters

Our British volunteer couple left, and the Lodge is less lively because of it. It was good having them around, as even with the influx of guests, rarely are they of a similar age to me or share similar interests. Even Anita has said that she will miss them, and all the friction from the first few days has been long forgotten. Hugs were shared and photos taken before they were bundled off to Yupukari.

Later in the week, I asked the staff to give feedback on the experience of having the volunteers living and working here alongside them. I don’t think anyone quite understood what they were supposed to do as the forms I got back all said pretty much the same thing, at times word-for-word what someone else had written. Most of the answers were variations on the example answers that I gave them to begin with. Maybe they saw the exercise as some kind of test. Either way, everyone was generally positive about the volunteers being here.

We continue to face delays and issues with our Walkie Talkies. It turns out that we had to make an application in order to get the imported into the country and okayed by customs. The absolute faff of all this is typical of the barriers you encounter with any attempt to do something positive in this country.

A young couple from Toronto arrived to spend their honeymoon in Guyana. They had spent an entire day travelling down from Canada to Georgetown, from Georgetown to Lethem, and then from Lethem to Karanambu and were understandably tired by the end of it. The guy is an avid birdwatcher, and is himself a guide back in Toronto, his fiancée is more interested in mammals. It became a habit of this couple to spot animals before even our guides had, both had tremendous eyes and a great knowledge to support their keen spotting.

On an evening river trip to see some giant water lillies we spotted an iguana twice, an agouti scampering through the undergrowth in the woodland, and FINALLY I got my first proper sighting of a giant river otter. Perhaps 50ft from the boat, there it was, totally unconcerned at our appearance, nonchalantly chewing away on some fish. We spent two-minutes sat watching it before we had to leave to go to the pond. It was two-minutes that I had been waiting on for months. Absolutely delighted.

Everyone at the Lodge has worked some mega shifts lately and are really earning their keep. I am very proud of them and what we have accomplished. In a few days’ time I am going to reward them all with an afternoon off and a well-deserved break. The workload is getting to me and I am feeling very tired at the moment. Manny has developed a bit of illness.

There was one day this week where I was up at 4:30 and worked through until 10:00 that night. Calculating my work, I realised that I had not had a day off-site since New Years and have easily clocked 100+ in the last seven days. At the salary I am on, this works out at a princely sum of roughly £1 per hour.

Liverpool continue to be Liverpool, losing to West Brom in the FA Cup and thus surely ending our chances of winning any silverware this season. The league isn’t looking too bad though, with the big teams dropping points recently and us recovering from our woeful cup display to beat Huddersfield.

Our bizarre Scandinavian guest left us this week as well. We presented him with a surprise birthday cake last night, which he seemed happy about. Initially I had a feeling that he has deliberately booked a holiday on his birthday so that he could spend time alone and get away from people/society, and as it turns out, I was right, he told me that he has been doing it for years. Before leaving us, he left a comment in our guestbook: “my soul rested here.” He had not showered or changed his clothes during his entire three day stay.

A morning on the river is always a wonderful way to start the work. It eases you into things and soothes whatever troubles may be playing on your mind. The otter den at a nearby pond now seems to be abandoned, with the family presumably moving on to quieter lodgings. We sat in the boat for half-an-hour, slowly rotating in the current, immersed in the calmness of the morning. The only sounds were the ever-present calling of birds, the flapping of their wings as they flew overhead, and the routine splash of an aropaima as it broke the surface of the water whilst hunting.

Macushi may be more like beardless-dwarves in their stature, but they certainly have the eyes of elves. After months of barely a sighting, I was once again treated to a giant river otter. As we motored back to the landing, Roland spotted one hiding in among the reeds on the riverbank. “There is a water dog right there”, he said, as he cut the engine and we all turned to where he was pointing. Sure enough, 20ft away from us, was an otter’s head bobbing in the water, its pink mouth wide open. Almost perfectly hidden on the waters edge, the boat could have passed him easily without anyone even noticing. It was my second otter in 14-hours.

I am noticing a huge increase in tips from guests these days. Quite obviously the slips I have been putting in the guest welcome packs are having an immediate effect, and I am delighted for the staff because of it.

I am counting down the days until I go to Venezuela to climb Mt Roraima, and until I get to see Cassie again. I know the latter is at least a month away, but I need something to look forward to. I miss the feel of her skin, I miss her company. Despite being almost constantly surrounded by people, it is lonely work at the Lodge. It still feels strange to admit that Cassie is my girlfriend, or to call her by that title, but it does make me smile when I do it.

I have also started to make plans for my post-Guyana travels. Three friends from the UK have arranged trips to Belize to meet me, and I am looking into the possibility of dragging Jeff out to Costa Rica after that.

For the first time since coming to the Lodge, we had roti for dinner. I wasn’t even aware that it was on the menu, but now that I am, I will certainly be encouraging the kitchen staff to cook it more often. I gorged myself until I could eat no more and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. With the ease it can be made, and the abundance of fresh vegetables that we grow, I don’t know why people aren’t eating more of this out here. The diets of the Macushi are pretty awful and there is a complete lack of diversity in what they eat. Boiled fish, farine, meat, and rice, and pretty much nothing else. They have this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and seem to never even contemplate throwing any vegetables into the equation.

My electrical woes continue with my laptop’s keyboard being the latest victim. The full stop key has decided to stop working and I am now copying and pasting to finish a sentence.

Manny came to me with a question about buildings this week, specifically tall buildings in the UK and the USA. “How do people get up a building with 10 or 15 floors? Do they walk up the stairs?” I then explained to him what an elevator was (small room, automatic doors, moves vertically) and that in big buildings, they have these installed to improve accessibility. After nodding, he then asked: “but you have to walk down right?” It reminded me of something Manny had mentioned about Roland, that he didn’t believe what was happening in Syria, he didn’t think it was possible. He had no concept of jet planes, tanks, and bombs. Whenever a single engine plane flies overhead at the Lodge, everybody looks up in wonder. It’s a completely different world here.

We FINALLY got around to having a screening of Up, but after only an hour, it was abandoned as people were falling asleep. It will have to be finished at a later date.

Some members of a Dutch film crew turned up one afternoon for lunch and to do some reconnaissance of the Lodge and the surrounding area. The full entourage should be turning up in a few days’ time to do some filming for a series for Warner Brothers. Mel wants to impress them, so she is sending Ed down from Georgetown to be on-site whilst they are here. I have doubts that they are going to see much at all, especially considering they are only staying one night, arriving late and leaving early the next day. We shall see.

I noticed that Primchan has the same “bad boy” tattoo on his arm as Manny. He tells me that he did them both with a needle when he was 17.

One evening as I strolled over to the office, I discovered a rattlesnake right outside the office door. Luckily, Manny had walked straight past it as it lurked in the darkness. I found a long stick and pushed it off towards the back of the building, careful not to get too close. It was only after I did some Googling that I realised how dangerous this creature was. According to Wikipedia, the South American Rattlensake is a venomous pit viper that contains neurotoxins that cause progressive paralysis of organs and blindess. Good job Manny didn’t disturb him.

The river is now at such a point that we need to move the water pump to ensure we maintain an adequate supply.

If we were to go by my original plan/contract, today would have been the day I left the Lodge. My 3-month contract would have been over. As it is, there is still some life in this beast yet.

84 down…

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