After leaving Suriname without our trusty truck (Spongebob), we arrived to Guyana on the ferry and were quickly stamped in. From here on out (until Spongebob manages to catch up to us), we will be using public transportation. Our first stop in Guyana was the village of Adventure – what a fabulous name! Then onward to Georgetown, our home for the next 5 nights. Our hotel was the comfortable Oriental Suites, located a bit on the outskirts of Georgetown, but super comfortable with two king sized beds, kitchenette, fridge, stove, en-suite bathroom, AC and strong WiFi. The internet is rife with stories about how dangerous Georgetown can be and the locals did nothing to assuage our minds, warning us repeatedly to never carry more money than we needed, and to leave all valuables locked up in the safe. We were a bit paranoid walking the streets of Georgetown but encountered no problems at all. Highlights of our time here included the semi-captive manatees in local ponds and canals who are responsible for keeping the canals and dams clear of vegetation. We got to feed them handfuls of grass which was such a cool experience! The other major highlight was Mashramani (Guyanese Republic Day). Dancers dressed in the best costumes danced their asses off for our entertainment, and it was great fun to go down to the main street and cheer them on. From Georgetown, we took a minivan down south, stopping a night to visit Rewa Eco Lodge which is nestled deep in the heart of Guyana on the Rupununi River. To reach the lodge, we had to take a 3 hour boat ride which was pretty cool as there were river otters and birds galore. The lodge itself is magnificent, a little oasis in the middle of the jungle. Food here was excellent, and our hammocks were surprisingly comfortable (with their own custom fitted mosquito nets). From Rewa Lodge, we hopped back in the boats for a return 3 hour journey back to Kwatamang. Then into another van as we zipped towards the border town of Lethem. Here we had one overnight before crossing the border out of Guyana and into Brazil. These past 8 days have been a bit challenging as we are missing the truck and realizing that traveling via public transport isn’t always as comfortable as Spongebob. But the adventure continues and we are looking forward to our last few days in Brazil before heading into Colombia!
20 Feb South Drain (border) – Moleson Creek, Guyana – Georgetown
It was a rude awakening at 6:30 am when we were told to take down our tents because the border was about to get busy. Poor Alison was not having a good morning…her sandals were nowhere to be found but I asked around and found out they were on the truck near her seat. After tearing down our tent, we had breakfast of french toast, fairy bread (white bread spread with butter and sprinkles), and scrambled eggs. Alli, Jeremy and Leo did a great job for their last ever cook group. There were 3 puppies to play with after breakfast and once dishes were washed up and put away, we were told to clear immigration and get stamped out of Suriname. All was going smoothly until the official wouldn’t accept a photo of Futoshi’s yellow fever card. So we all went from the front of the line to the end because Danny wanted us to travel as a group. We had to wait for a supervisor to call over to Guyana and see if they would allow him entry into the country without a yellow fever card in hand. Futoshi was very lucky that they said it would be OK, because he would have been left at the border to figure it out on his own otherwise. After getting stamped out, we all went on a duty free shopping frenzy. There were two duty free shops and alcohol was reasonably priced at both so we stocked up on our duty free allowance. Somehow, the two stores weren’t cross referencing what was being bought where so we actually doubled our allowance! Plus one of the stores was giving away free nuts and cashews for every purchase and we ended up getting about 3 KG of free snacks. Then came the moment of truth…would Spongebob be able to fit on the ferry. The guy in charge thought we were too tall but other workers thought it would be OK. So Will took the drive down to the ferry and we all watched with bated breath. And Spongebob was just 2 inches too tall! So Will had to reverse all the way back to the waiting area and we given time to offload all the luggage we could anticipate needing from now until Cartagena, Colombia. Then we join the throng of foot passengers waiting for the ferry. Once the gates opened, it was a mad dash to grab a seat and fill out Guyana’s entry form. The ferry ride took 20 minutes and then we were in English speaking Guyana. Getting stamped in didn’t take too long and Danny had coordinated a bus driver through our hotel (Oriental Suites in Georgetown). Our driver, Satesh, was already waiting for us when we finally cleared immigration. We had to wait for Leo to get a visa for Guyana which set us back another 20 minutes. While we waited, Danny offered up boiled eggs, fruit and bread for lunch. The ride from Molsen Creek to Georgetown took 3 hours, and it was an impromptu van party because Satesh was super cool and stopped to get beer for us. Plus a few bottles from Duty Free made an appearance, and “local” songs made the time fly by. Before we knew it, we were in Georgetown at the Oriental Suites. Everyone was given a private single or double room and they were really nice! AC, private en-suite bathroom, balcony, kitchenette, fridge and two king sized beds. Life is good! We took showers and relaxed before linking up with Jeremy and Rebeca for dinner. Unbeknownst to us, Georgetown isn’t the safest place to be at night. Even though we had to walk only 600 meters to dinner at the Aagman Indian Restaurant, the staff recommended not doing it when Keith tried and called him a taxi. We were blissfully unaware when we set out as a group and thankfully had no issues. Dinner was good with the garlic mushrooms being the tastiest meal, accompanied by lamb and chicken curry and lamb biryani. It was almost 11 pm by the time we got back to the hotel. Should be fun to explore Georgetown tomorrow!
21 Feb – Georgetown
It was a comfortable night’s sleep with the AC on and a duvet to snuggle under. We joined Jeremy and Rebeca for breakfast downstairs and chatted about what their plans were for today. Rebeca had a job interview this morning and Jeremy just wanted to chill. Allison was keen on joining us on a walking tour of Georgetown today and we told her we’d let her know when we were ready. However, while researching the highlights of the city, we found out that Georgetown has quite the reputation for being dangerous. Especially with muggings (daytime and nighttime) and tourists are often targeted. There were quite a few recent posts online that suggested it would be foolish to walk around Georgetown in a small group, so we reconsidered our original plan and decided to ask Jeremy and Rebeca to join us after her interview. Luckily, they were on board so just before 10 am, we set out on a marathon day to explore Georgetown by foot. Our hotel was not in the most central location, so it was a bit of a hike to get anywhere in town. First stop was the Botanical Garden at the zoo as we had read it was a good place to spot manatees. However, despite looking for them for over half an hour, there were none to be found. So we continued on and visited the Castellani House, which houses Guyana’s National Art Gallery. Entrance was free and the artwork was worth a quick stop. Then onward to the 1763 Cuffy Monument located in the square of the revolution. Cuffy became famous because back in 1763, he led a revolt of over 2500 slaves against the Dutch colony. One of the security guards warned us that safety in Georgetown was something to be aware of as the younger generation has started a new (and disturbing) trend targeting tourists to rob. She warned us not to resist because they often use knives or guns and it is not worth risking your life over and not to carry any valuables. If we weren’t paranoid before, this set us over the edge! From here, we walked over to the Bourda Market where meat, fish, fruit and veg were for sale. The people here were very friendly and welcoming. Next up was St George’s Cathedral (under construction), and the handsome houses on the Avenue of the Republic (City Hall, City Engineer’s Building and the High Court). Then a quick wander around Stabroek Market where we quenched our thirst with water and soda. The friendly vendor gave us a bottle of peanut punch to try after I asked if it was soya milk (it looked the same but tasted different). He refused any payment for it and was very kind to us. From here, Jeremy developed a case of the poopy pants as the heat was getting to him. But we convinced him to stick it out with a cold beer at the Starbroek Sports Bar (6 GT beers for 1000 Guyanese Dollars), followed by lunch at KFC. Then he was willing to accompany us to the Guyana National Museum (free) where the highlight was a giant ground sloth that weighed up to 6 tons and was 6 meters tall. Our final stop of the day was the National Park where we searched for the elusive manatee. And we found over a dozen of them, super hungry and eager to devour freshly picked grass. We fed them grass for over 30 minutes before finally calling it a day. Allison’s tracker showed that we walked over 8 miles today and we were all pooped by 4:30 pm. An afternoon siesta until 7 when Robby disturbed Rebeca and Jeremy with the Baby Shark song. They joined us in our room for some beers before we finally decided to grab dinner at the nearby Fireside Grill and Chill. We all had high hopes for this place but the food was mediocre. The mac and cheese was served cold and the meals were just meh. Back at the Oriental Suites by 9:30 pm and it looks like beer pong won’t happen tonight which is fine by us! Tomorrow will be the kick off of this year’s carnival (Mashramani) with the official flag raising ceremony so we are looking forward to that.
22 Feb – Georgetown
Lazy day today. We got up and were the first ones to breakfast (yummy fried dough balls), and then retreated to our room for the rest of the day. Even though the lady security guard told us to be at D’Urban Park at 7 am for the festivities, everyone else we talked to advised us to go in the late afternoon/early evening. Even Danny’s contact said it would be at 10 pm or midnight before the festivities kicked off so armed with the majority, we decided to take it easy today. By 5 pm, Jeremy and Rebeca were getting restless. Jeremy was running low on cash and he had walked all around town looking for a restaurant that would accept credit card. No luck and he was now starving since they both skipped lunch. So we agreed to an early dinner at OMG, which was just down the street. First a couple of beers though. Then a goodbye hug with Bert and Alli who are leaving tonight for the flight to Europe via NYC. Poor Bert still isn’t feeling 100% as he has been down and out these last two days. He will be spending his layover in NYC in a hotel room while Alli explores on her own. After hugging it out, we all walked over to OMG which did accept credit card. Jeremy got the buffet but the rest of us opted a la carte (pork chops and chips for Robby, alfredo pasta for Rebeca and buffalo wings for me). The food was dismal at best. Jeremy was happy but the rest of us were not. Buffalo sauce was slimy BBQ sauce and the wings were slimy and gross. Rebeca’s alfredo pasta was pasta with hardly any sauce. Georgetown has solidified itself as our least favorite town culinary wise…horrible food here! And super expensive too. We are not loving it. On the walk back, Rebeca opted out of joining the rest of us at the Red Bar. Lisa and Rob were having the time of their lives there, having drunk two bottles of El Dorado, “the world’s best rum”. In fact, Lisa was already planning their wedding and Rob was happily agreeing. We all promised to go to their wedding, which would be a destination wedding in Hawaii. Not sure they are going to remember this conversation tomorrow but we’ve never seen Lisa and Rob look so happy together! Around 10 pm, we walked over to D’Urban Park and to our dismay, discovered that the flag raising ceremony had been this morning! Boo, we missed it. So we were back in bed before midnight.
23 Feb – Georgetown
Happy Mashramani! Today is the 50th anniversary of Guyana’s Republic Day and it was promised to be a huge celebration. But first we wanted to see more manatees! Yesterday’s group got the juvenile manatees to climb halfway out of the pond to reach the grass they were feeding them and we wanted to see if we could do the same. Danny joined us after breakfast and we took a cab to National Park. A bit pricey at 700 Guyanese Dollars for the 2.5 km drive, but hey, it was a holiday. Local youths were already in the parking lot of the park practicing their dance moves. The manatees had already been fed grass clippings so none of them were too eager to go chasing after our grass offerings so we took a few more pics and then headed back to town by foot since many of the roads were already blocked off to traffic. A heavy downpour hit us just a few seconds before we actually got to the hotel but at least we escaped a massive drenching, unlike Jeremy who was trying to get coffee at a local cafe (closed) and came back soaked. So we waited the rain out with an impromptu picolo drinking game in our room. Rebeca had woken with a massive migrane but she was feeling better by the time we decided to head out and see what the party was about. We packed our drinks into plastic bottles and I discovered that my huge Smirnoff Ice had exploded in the freezer so I ended up with a smirnoff ice slushy instead. Pretty tasted until I realized there were some glass shards in my drink! Danny and Leo were at the Red Bar so we joined them for some more drinking games while we waited for Mash to kick off. It was supposed to be at either 10 am, noon or 1 pm and no one knew exactly what time the parade would start. But we killed some time playing games until Gary, Lisa and Rob joined us. Around 12:30 pm, the first float rolled by and after that, we were on our feet cheering the dancers and floats as they passed by. Danny issued a “selfie challenge” to see how many selfies we could take with the dancers and how many floats we could hop on which ended up being a great idea because we threw all caution to the wind and would rush up to random strangers and ask to take photos with them, resulting in a gorgeous collection of funny, impromptu memories. Almost everyone was delighted to pose for pics, and it was a great celebration. By 5:30 pm, we had walked up and down the strip and seen all the dancers and floats so we finally decided to call it quits. The only food we had eaten all day was fish and chips from a local hole in the wall and one large meal filled us both up for lunch and dinner. Back at the hotel, Jeremy was keen on partying some more but poor Rebeca had caught the viral infection that had been ailing Bert and Cat. She was under the duvet with chills and feeling quite sick. We were quite content to staying in our room watching some TV for the rest of the night. What a fun day today!!
24 Feb – Georgetown
On the 5th day in Georgetown we stayed in the hotel all day. The original plan was to leave today towards Rewa Lodge, an oasis in the jungle about 400 km south of here. But that was assuming we had Spongebob as our transport. Will had been trying his best to get the truck to Guyana. He found a barge and a digger to create a makeshift ramp down to the waterfront so he could drive Spongebob onto the barge. Then he floated across the Courantyne River and was waiting for the Guyana Customs office to open up. Once he talked to an official, he was given two choices – turn the barge around and head back to Suriname. Or dock in Guyana, drive Spongebob off the barge at which point Guyana would confiscate the truck! Needless to say, Will turned around and ended up back in Suriname. We can only imagine how frustrated he must feel right now, poor thing. We stayed in the room all day working on taxes, photos and relaxing. At lunch time, Rebeca was feeling good enough to eat so we joined her and Jeremy at the Hilton Restaurant (right next door to Oriental Suites). Why we never ventured in here for lunch or dinner is beyond us, the food (Chinese) was delicious, cheap and plentiful. Easily the best value and best tasting in Guyana thus far – the food in other restaurants has been such crap. The four of us realized we made a huge mistake discounting the hotel’s restaurant! In the afternoon, Jeremy started getting symptoms of being sick too. Perhaps being around Rebeca and seeing her suffer has rubbed off on him. And it didn’t help when Bert and Alli sent a message that Bert was in hospital and had been diagnosed with dengue fever! Now Brad has come down with something too and fingers crossed, it is not a mosquito borne virus but something else. We have been getting bit by mosquitoes and are now feeling a bit paranoid too. Jeremy and Rebeca had to leave at 10 pm for a taxi to the airport. We had a sad goodbye and were the recipients of all their unwanted stuff (leftover sunscreen, bug repellent, plastic bags and booze). Those two will be missed and we are hoping to do a SCUBA reunion in Egypt someday. We finally did a Yellowstone marathon and finished up season 2. It was very good and we can’t wait for season 3. Tomorrow we will find out the plan on how we are getting out of here. Hopefully the journey south via public transport isn’t too arduous!
25 Feb – Georgetown – Kurupukari
Up early because of the window curtains not being able to block out the light. Definitely a design flaw! We still weren’t sure what time departure was today but Danny promised to put it out once he got everything confirmed. After breakfast, we packed our stuff and waited until Danny came by to tell us that pickup would be at 5 pm and check out was supposed to be noon but the hotel agreed to let us have late checkout until 4. Oh, and would we mind if Allison joined us for a few hours? Once she moved in, the hotel lost power so rather than wait for them to turn on the generator in the room, we went next door for lunch at the Hilton restaurant. Why we didn’t have every meal here is beyond us because our meal was delicious and cheap. Definitely the winner here in Georgetown! At 4, we checked out and waited in the lobby along with Keith, Allison, Lisa, Rob and Danny. To our surprise, the vans (Cindy’s bus service) showed up early and we loaded up on the first one. Only 12 of us were traveling today because poor Brad was feeling really sick and had to go to hospital. Izzy wasn’t sure where they would catch up with us (perhaps Cartagena) because it was ridiculous and pricey to fly to Manaus (all flights via Belem). Danny ordered 2 vans and we loaded up with Gary, Cat, Allison and Amanda. Our van came with 2 drivers and we ended up in the very uncomfortable second row. There was a gap between the seats and they were reclined so far back that it was impossible to sit up straight without cranking your neck. We had to keep swapping seats with each other as one of them was marginally better than the other. Our driver drove fast – no wonder we can cover as much ground in less than 12 hours than Spongebob could do in 2 bush camps. At one of the rest stops, we ate the takeaway meal that Danny had given us – fruit and vegetable salad topped with a boiled egg…very bizarre! There were a couple of police checkpoints along the way and we had to get our passports inspected. This was our first overnight van sleepover and none of us were looking forward to it.
26 Feb – Kurupukari – Rewa Lodge
We finally pulled over to get some rest just after midnight in the town of Kurupukari. Total distance driven in 6 hours was 335 km. Now we had to wait for the 6 am ferry to take us across the Essequibo River. Our drivers slept in a nearby hut and all of us settled in for a crammed, hot, sticky night’s sleep inside the minivan! It was super uncomfortable and Amanda got a bit claustrophobic. I ended up sleeping on the ground outside which was way more comfortable than the van! At 5 am, howler monkeys woke us up and our driver came by to tell us to get ready. They wanted to be the first ones on the ferry. We drove to the locked gate and once it was unlocked at 6, our driver made a mad dash to the ferry. After crossing the river, we still had another 106 km to drive so our driver didn’t make any stops. At 8 am, we arrived to Kwatamang landing where we had to wait for the boat transfer to Rewa Lodge. 4 boats showed up, 1 to carry all our gear and 3 for transport. We hopped in with Keith and Allison and it was a journey of under 3 hours. A river otter munching on a fish was spotted and then a second otter but our boat driver just zoomed on by, resulting in us getting angry. What is commonplace for them is special for us and we would have liked to take some photos. We spotted some caimans and birds but no other otters (even though the guide said we’d see more) and we pulled into Rewa Lodge just after 11 am. My flip flop had a massive blow out and as I was digging out a spare pair, Futoshi grabbed the hammock I was planning on sleeping in. So we ended up sleeping in a hut with 3 hammocks with Keith as our roommate. Lunch at noon was delicious – chicken and fish, mashed potatoes, coconut flavored rice, salad and an assortment of 4 different types of juices. Danny gave us 3 tour options – village visit ($10) , 45 minute jungle hike up a mountain ($35), or visit massive lily pads ($20). We weren’t keen on any of them and the magic number of 8 was reached (4 per boat for lilies and jungle hike) as Allison and Futoshi opted out too. Keith wanted to talk stocks so Robby entertained him while I napped. In the afternoon, we had lovely cold showers and did laundry. A little bit of bird watching during sunset as the staff came by and hung up mosquito nets over our hammocks. The 2 groups returned after 6 pm and dinner was an hour later. The chef here is amazing as dinner was even more delicious than lunch. Soup starter, fried chicken, yucca chips, couscous, green beans and salad were all prepared to perfection. And banana pudding for dessert too! After dinner, we retreated to our hammocks and hid from the mosquitoes under the custom fitted hammock protected mossie net…ingenious! It was hard to keep our eyes open for long as the hammocks lulled us to sleep quickly.
27 Feb – Rewa Lodge – Lethem
Who knew a hammock could be so comfortable? It actually got a bit cool during the night and early morning, so we were grateful for the fleece blankets the staff had thoughtfully provided. We were up just after 6 and lounged around until breakfast at 7. Breakfast was good although sitting anywhere in the vicinity of Futoshi made us want to scream. He smacks his lips and slurps his food constantly and is such a loud, obnoxious eater. No one wants to sit next to him and I got stuck sitting right across from him…I need to start bringing earplugs to all future meals with him or I might have a very public meltdown. After breakfast, we tried to see if we could visit the village on our own and Danny went to ask. We were told no problem and Gary wanted to join us. As we headed down the path, Danny came running to tell us that we had to pay first as the guy changed his mind. Probably the biggest turn off for this place because it actually is quite nice except for the overpriced tours. We didn’t want a guided tour of the village and would have preferred just walking around on our own. At 9:30 am, we loaded onto the boats for the ride back to the landing up stream. We were in a boat with Amanda and Allison and we talked to the guide and boat driver, requesting that they stop for river otters and other wild life. Becky had left feedback in the lodge’s guest book and the staff must have taken it to heart because they were very conscientious about stopping for photo opportunities on the ride back to the landing 40 km upstream. We saw lots of birds and an elusive river otter. Two different osprey with fish caught in their talons – very cool. As well as Jabiru storks flying in the air, just marvelous! Before we knew it, we were back at the Kwatamang Landing. The Rewa Lodge cook had prepared boxed lunches for us (fried chicken, pasta and salad) which was perfect to tide us over until we reached Lethem. Danny organized one van to transport all of us plus our luggage to Lethem. We squeezed into the third row which was tight but thankfully the ride only took 2 hours. Once in Lethem, we checked into the Takutu Hotel, the only 4 star option in the border town. Danny is spending all the extra local payment on posh upgrades for us! Our room was comfortable with AC but slightly mosquito infested. Thankfully, there were mosquito nets draped over our beds, so we crawled into them to escape getting bitten as the mosquitoes weren’t deterred with DEET. For dinner, the rest of the gang wanted to eat at a churrascaria (Brazilian steakhouse) at 7 but we were hungry at 5 so we set off for some food. A local chinese restaurant, Ravi’s Restaurant and Bar, had great reviews so we went there and our only options were chicken and chicken. We tried to order two dishes (chicken fried rice and sweet and sour chicken) but the waitress told us that one dish of rice would be enough for both of us. She was right! After dinner, we stopped at a supermarket and marveled that such a large building could have such a crap selection. Hardly any snack or food options, the supermarket was quite pitiful. In fact, the entire sleepy border town of Lethem resembled a ghost town with shuttered up businesses and few people milling about. We were back in our room by 8 pm and were quite content to relax with AC and a comfortable bed. Tomorrow will be the final push to Manaus (overnight bus) where we expect to travel for over 12 hours. The latest update on Will is he was turned around for a second time due to paperwork even though Oasis has now elevated this to the British consulate and the local fixer on the ground promised all was in order. Danny said that on Sunday, the original ferry is supposed to be fixed and Spongebob will make a third attempt to enter Guyana. What a nightmare for poor Will. We are feeling so bad for him and sending him lots of virtual hugs and love! He has been caught it the twilight zone for over a week now and we can’t imagine the state of his morale!