It seems as if every week I write about how low the river has got, and yet it continues to decline. For a few weeks now, guest transfers have had to have been done by land, but even the river excursions are becoming more problematic.
Three retired British couples have arrived, and Brits being Brits, they want to drink beer. Although we sent Primchan to buy 24 cans from Yupukari recently, those have all now gone as well. Everyone will have to be satisfied with the complementary rum punch. Our present guests aren’t the first, nor will they be the last, to comment on how much I eat and ask in wonder “where does it all go!?”
Another mega 16-hour shift was pulled recently, writing up comprehensive job descriptions with roles and duties allocated to Elvie and Maya, and making copies for various people for future reference. I highly doubt they will be used when I am gone, but it made me feel better knowing I was doing everything I can to secure a good handover.
This last week has seen me interact a lot more with the guests, maybe because they are each retired couples and appreciate someone to chat with, maybe it is also because they are British, maybe mentally I am retreating from my stuck-in-business-mode mentality and sliding back into random member of the public.
One of the guests in particular has been keen to talk with me at every opportunity. An elderly gentleman who used to run a business renting out boats, I immediately took a liking to him because he seemed familiar, he reminded me of an older version of someone that is but a fraction of a memory buried somewhere at the back of my mind.
He warned me about how I was talking, “watch it”, he said, “you’re beginning to sound a lot like a manager”. As well as the wonderful experiences and memories, I think this job has changed my mentality, Guyana as a whole has certainly opened my eyes to the world of business and its potential. With my Renewable World hat off, perhaps I was looking at more than just suffering, perhaps now I was looking at potential as well.
My new-found friend told me that he thinks that I could run my own business, and I think he is right. As well as having the opportunity to be your own boss, I am also strangely attracted to the detailed micromanagement, the figures, the KPI tracking, and the paperwork and recording.
I have been hugely impressed with Elvie this week. She could certainly become a guide here if that side of the job interested her. The fact that she would be our only female guide makes the idea even more attractive in my mind. It seems that all Amerindians are born with the eyes of an eagle.
One final caiman tagging excursion descended into a long drawn out affair that was more a lesson in being patient than it was spotting and tagging caiman. For 5-hours we were out on the river that night, and the majority of that time was spent attempting to find and tag the unusually elusive reptiles. The experts from Caiman House said that the moonlight was making them shy.
The largest caiman that they had ever caught weighed a monstrous 240+kg and it took four men to lift it. Ours was a dwarf in comparison, weighing only 17kg, but our guest seemed pleased enough. Caiman eat pretty much anything I am told, past stomach pumps/flushes have revealed not only fish, but lizards and fruit, and in the larger ones even deer and horses.
Whilst the Caiman House boys were giving their lecture and taking the key measurements, Manny started laughing hysterically behind me, “Paddy, our boat”, I turned to see that it had disappeared from its resting place on the sandbank and was now floating away downriver.
My continued electrical problems have hit a new low, with my phone being the victim once again. An attempt to transfer over files from my phone to my laptop failed miserably with my laptop not recognising any files as even being present. Online support from Sony suggested only that I reset my phone. Following their instructions, I then proceeded to back up my files, do a reset, and subsequently lose everything on it. Unsurprisingly, a laptop cannot backup a file that it does not recognise as even existing.
Two-months of photos and videos were gone, including my snake encounter, my wonderful otter experience, and everything from my trek in Venezuela. To say that I was angry would be an understatement. The experience taught me a valuable lesson though; invest in cloud storage.
We had a minor panic one morning this week when a vehicle didn’t show to pick up guests for a transfer to the airport, but we found a compromise that suited all parties. Luckily, the other guests were very understanding of the situation and those that needed to made it to the airport in time. No harm done.
During the drive back to Karanambu, one of the Caiman House crew, Anthony, was telling me that five-minutes after we had gone our separate ways following the caiman tagging, they all saw a jaguar on a sandbank. I am forever missing the elusive big cat. What a sign off that would have been.
Whilst we were chatting, Anthony also mentioned that quite recently an organisation in Lethem had two vehicles bought for them as a donation. Unfortunately, the vehicles were so new and advanced (on-board computers, motherboards, etc) that when they had a problem, nobody knew how to fix them. They are now sitting abandoned, unused and largely useless. This highlights a major problem for Guyana, not just that the country is in danger of falling behind, but that it may also get left behind.
The bell soon rang on my final dinner at the Lodge. One last roti supper. I feel immensely sad about leaving and have already shed numerous tears. For 4-months I have been happy here. For 4-months this has been home.
Before I left, I said goodbye to all the staff, did a final handover of money, keys and responsibilities to the girls, wrote letters to some people at the Lodge, bought gifts from the giftshop, and then packed away my belongings. I made one final trip down to the river, a Tiger Heron watched me as I wandered around the sandbank taking in the sights, smells, and sounds, for the last time.
The universe has a strange habit of throwing up happy coincidences, less than 24-hours before I was scheduled to leave, Manny came back from Yupukari clutching a letter that was addressed to me. It was what I had been hunting for in Lethem. Almost three-months after she had sent it, Lauren’s letter had reached me.
Elvie’s hilarity continues to entertain me. Depending on her mood, she refers to herself as “a soldier of God”, “a little pussycat”, and “a shy mouse”, barely able to suppress her laughter as she does this. She also told me that she wanted to name her kids Crabby and Spoonhead. Crazy, crazy girl.
As I packed my remaining items into my bag the night before I left, I caught Anita watching me from the doorway. She wont vocalise it, but I know that she has liked having me around and will miss me when I am gone. It takes a while to break through that hard, outer shell of hers, but she does care. I smiled at her and wished her goodnight for the final time.
A poor night’s sleep was followed by a teary breakfast. I fed my four furry comrades and wished them well in Guyanese Cat Paradise, pinned a thank you note to the staff noticeboard, forced a hug on Anita, and then left with the guests, Manny, and Maya.
And that is how it ended. Anti-climactic and uncelebrated. A day that came and went just like any other. I am delighted to have experienced what I did, hugely grateful for the opportunities, and thankful for the friends and memories that I made. A part of my heart will always be in the Rupununi.
My Life at the Lodge was complete.
105 down and out.
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