I lean backward, balancing my body on my tailbone, holding my hands under my 45-degree-bent knees. With my feet just reaching the surface I can perfectly balance myself in the river, sitting on the laterite road.
According to our GPS the river should run 1.8 kilometers from here!
However, it is the rainy season and the river has flooded vast stretches of the countryside, including the road.
Where there isn’t laterite there is mud, we learned this afternoon when trying to reach the Rupununi River to go rough camping. The GPS it would be 9 kilometers from the main road.
The Land Cruiser got stuck in sticky gray mud in which its left side sank away. There are no cars in the nearest Amerindian Mapuchi village but luckily there was a tractor. It pulled the Land Cruiser out in a trice.
With new directions we reached the riverbank. We undressed. That is, Coen changed into swimming trunks and I, to conform with the Amerindian female swimming suit, into shorts and a shirt. Slowly we walked in, checking the soil. It was all hard laterite; the water clear enough to see the bottom, 40 centimeters deep.
No wind, no ripples on the water surface. Silence all around. White, soft gray clouds lit by the late afternoon sun reflect in the water. The air is warm but not suffocating. We wash our hair and scrub our bodies. No hurry, just the two of us and a vastness of savannah where the silence is overwhelming.
Luxurious Travel versus Our Way of Life
This is what we do. This is what we like. This is what our travel is about. Forget the Iwokrama Reserve (which we crossed this afternoon). Stunning as the forest is, we were put off by its outrageously expensive tourist packages. 20 US dollars to walk an 800-meter-long trail? What kind of price is that?
We see how these expensive attractions may work for visitors who have little time and enough money. We realize that if you have never been to the Amazon you’ll probably feel you got value for money, and so all parties are happy. This type of tourism provides a source of income for the local Amerindian population that is less damaging to the environment than logging or mining. We see that. However, it’s just not for us.
We want to go beyond hospitality that is bought, and which comes with the comfort of a bed and somebody who cooks for you. This is not about there being one best way; it’s just a matter of personal preference.
No package deal can buy this: this feeling of wealth of being here, all by ourselves in a wilderness so vast it rings in our ears. A wandering dog, a couple of Amerindian houses in the distance, the first sounds of frogs and nocturnal insects.
The moon climbing the heavens even though it’s only five o’clock and the sun partly hidden behind the clouds still warms us with its rays. This is where we belong and want to be.
The day was long and rough; our bath in the river is all the more rewarding.
Additional Information on the Rupununi
The Rupununi is the name of the savanna that covers the southern part of Guyana, a small and one of the least developed countries in South America. Guyana borders the Atlantic Ocean on the north, Suriname on the east, Venezuela on the west and Brazil to the south.
Around 1900 the world’s largest cattle ranches were in the Rupununi. From here weeks’ or months’ long cattle drives traversed the country to take the cows to Guyana’s capital of Georgetown. Cattle farming still is an important source of income for the region, as are mining and tourism.