Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Hanging out in Guyana


A brief note to say we are still in Antigua. There isn't much to say as it's a little 'same old, same old' though we do like being here.  Familiar is good too. In a nut shell - We're anchored in Falmouth Harbour, I worked a charter, Tim scraped and varnished, and the Christmas winds have kicked in.  We've had strong winds and squally showers over the weekend and the general trend is for more moderate winds and squally showers for the foreseeable future.  It will be great for when we start heading West to the British Virgin Islands in the next week or so to help some friends move their boat. Then it will be onward to the US Virgin Islands to await the arrival of my sister in January.

Time and Wi-Fi are critical to blog updating and if you don't hear from us for a while, it could be one or the other, but right now we have both, so back we go to Guyana.

Hanging out in Guyana

Life slows down dramatically at anchor but there was still lots to do.

Provisioning was still an adventure as the nearest town, Bartica, was 4 miles down river.  Bartica can be seen from the anchorage on to the left of the photo.  Between the distance and the current, it wasn't feasible to use our dinghy with its little 5hp outboard, and we'd either hitch a ride with one of the more powerful ribs or for a change of scene and to get our provisioning into our fridge or freezer more quickly, we'd up anchor and re-anchor off Bartica.

Anchoring in a tidal river is an interesting experience. The Essequibo River was quite fast flowing with the affect of the tide with a current of around 2 knots.  The fresh river water and the salty sea water don't readily mix and at the turn of tide eddies would swirl around us as Larus changed direction to face up or down stream depending on the state of the tide.

With the prevailing winds were from the East, we were given an experience you don't often get at anchor. Normally anchorages have calm areas of water and its the wind rather than the current that chooses your direction.  It was so refreshing to have the wind blowing directly into the main hatch and the hatch over our berth. 

We found it quite impressive that although we were 20 miles inland, we were still experiencing more than a metre of tide.  Rocks and boulders would reappear and disappear with every turn of the tide.  Those who work in boats here learn the river as apprentices over a period of years. 

    

We often went in convoy because for a quick trip the boats need to be kept light. Because of the shallow draft of the ribs we were able to take a different route to Bartica, which took us between islands and closer to the rainforest.  Howler Monkeys and parrots were spotted in the canopy but unfortunately not by us.

  

Travelling with others also gets both Tim and I in the same photo for a change.  Here we are outside and then inside the Bartica Market.  Apples and carrots the were some of our most expensive purchases.  Local fruit like pineapples were much cheaper, but because the tropical fruit and veg are more seasonal, there can be less choice so apples and carrots are appreciated. 

In the markets we find fruits and veg that we're not familiar with or aren't what we expect.  For example we've been brought up with great big sweet juicy citrus fruits, which have had a lot of money thrown at their development.  In countries with less resources to combat the drought/heat/pests, you will get different varieties that sometimes can't match up to what we're used to.  We were sold or given a citrus fruit called Portugals and we've had them in Trinidad and tried them again here in Guyana.  'Sweet, sweet,' the vendor says, but to us they were  a little dry, seedy and not very sweet.  I was disappointed, but not with the fruit, more in my inability to enjoy it for what it was.

 

The local water taxi depot; a glimpse of the problem of rubbish disposal in Guyana; A General Hardware Store with a wild west twist; backyards and front yards.

It really is nice to be somewhere new and experiencing it for the first time.

One thing I like here is that the take-away food containers are compressed paper with a thin coating of plastic on the inside.  Most places in the Caribbean use Styrofoam containers and you see them everywhere - on the beaches, road side, and floating past at when anchor. On our way north, there had been torrential rain and after the water was full of floating rubbish that had been washed out to sea.  It is disappointing to see, but recycling programs are expensive and these are small and often not very affluent countries.

Back on Larus there were all sorts of ways to keep busy.




We could watch the very occasional plane land at the Baganara Island Resort

We could (and did) do lots of chores, but not many are worth mentioning.

This is a favourite hat given to me by Patrick on Foxfire, one of the first people Tim and I met on our arrival in the Caribbean back in 2013.

It's a great hat - wide brimmed and light, and the straw lets the wind through so its slow to blow off your head and cool wear.  It had begun to show its age and with a little of old cockpit fabric given to us by David and Donna on Merlin, I fixed it up like new. 

As a beginner seamstress, I was quite chuffed with the solution and the result, and Patrick's hat will see many more years of happy use.


And come sunset, its quite nice to sit and watch others at work.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Visiting Bernard

A few days after our arrival at the anchorage, a short dinghy ride up river brought us to the home of Bernard, a German ex-pat who with his Guyanese wife made a home in the jungle on the banks of the Essequibo River. Again, those who had been before, Mark and Willi on LiaHona, arranged the visit and provided transport in their 30hp rib.  It would have been a long slow journey in with our little 5hp dinghy, so we were very grateful.

            

Veranda, jetty and dinghy dock; Unique Property for Sale Advertisement; Guard dogs not included.

FYI: You can look at any of the photos in their original size by clicking on them, in case you are interested in purchasing a unique property on the banks of the Essequibo River.

                               

The first and third photos are of orchids that grow wild in the rainforest canopy.  Sometimes they are dislodged by wind or rain and drop to the ground.  Bernard has collected some of these and attached to a tree trunk down low where you can see them.  He has added little handwritten notes with the genus and species of each plant.  The middle photo with the flipflop nailed to the tree is something Bernard's wife did that was meant to protect the tree, and maybe the whole garden - I can't remember now!  Wah!

            

Bernard had a large bed devoted to ginger and turmeric.  The pinky orange Ginger flowers are often used in tropical bouquets and you can see the ginger roots at their base.  Turmeric is called saffron by the locals down in the southern Caribbean.  Even the supermarket packets will called powdered turmeric saffron but will have turmeric in parentheses below it.  Both Debbie and I went away with a handful of the fresh ginger and a turmeric plant each that Bernard potted up for us.


This was Bernard's potting area.  He makes his own compost from household waste and mixes it with stone powder that he gets from the quarries nearby.  The jungle soil isn't suitable for many of the plants he grows so he makes his own.

       

From the garden we have papaya or pawpaw; soursop which is a fruit with a spiky green skin, white flesh and beautiful black seeds that is used for making a fruit drink of the same name. Next comes Bernard and Willi with an okra pod.  (Okra grows on trees!  Who knew?  Certainly not me.  I had pictured them dangling from short bean-like plants.).  Lastly is an okra flower with a bunch of okra just behind it.

      

Another surprise for me was that aubergines or egg plants also grow on trees! You can see them in the first photo.  Bernard grows, dries, roasts and grinds his own coffee beans.  He also grows peppers - these are called 'seasoning peppers' and you find them in every shop and market in the south Caribbean.  They are not especially hot but give a nice flavour. Lastly, these bananas aren't quite a green as the look because they are Red Bananas.  Those of us from more temperate climates will probably only see one or a couple of varieties of fruits like bananas, avocados, and mangos when there are many of varieties of each.

     

Our group listening to Bernard; the view across the river from the dock; a last look at Bernard's remarkable home; our fast trip back to the anchorage with my fellow Canadians Dick and Debbie.

It really was a interesting visit and the property has rainforest that we didn't get a chance to explore.  Its always good to have a reason to visit again. :D

Monday, 21 November 2016

Guyana and the Essequibo River, Bartica and the Baganara Resort Anchorage


We started out 20 mile journey up river on the 14 of October.  Although Tim had fixed our engine over heating problem, we'd never feel it was truly fixed until we replaced the damaged oil cooler, so we started out under sail. 



There are no bridges across the Essequibo River and it is the main thoroughfare from the coast to the interior.  The roads on either side use ferries to transport people, vehicles and goods from one side to the other, and ferries, taxi's, goods and supplies.  Homes along the river have boats and docks rather than cars and garages.


Although much of Guyana's rainforests are still untouched, logging does go on as we saw by the numerous saw mills and barges transporting logs down the river.


Fast water taxis travel up and down the length of the river.  Water taxi, drivers spend years apprenticing with experienced drivers learning the river.  With no visibility and a 2 metre rise and fall of tide you need to know where all the hazards, including rapids, and safe channels are.





So up the river we went, taking the opportunity to fresh wash the deck in the first of many squalls and following the waypoints between islands where you became much more aware of the strength of the  2 knots plus current.




It really looks like an interesting place to live.  Although there were lots of homes scattered along the river bank and the one ferry we passed, it will seemed very isolated. 



Sunrise across the Essequibo River while anchored off the town of Bartica, which Tim described as something out of the Wild West.  As well as logging, gold mining is one of the main industries and there were many places to sell gold.  Some establishments even had an armed security guard at the door.  And some things never change, you can always shop no matter how far out of the mainstream you get.

     

This ship container contains one of the generators that provide the power for Bartica.  It rumbles away 24/7 and once we saw a huge plume of black smoke that enveloped the market, which is under the green roof to the right.

     

This is what we saw on our first wander around the town.  There are two main streets that run parallel to the river and the buildings are a mix of well maintained and derelict.  I'm fascinated by the juxtaposition of the Hindu prayer flags outside the bar?cafe?shop, the gathering of beer bottles and the highchair.  It is such a mixed story.


A river view of Bartica.  The long green roof is that of the Market.

The next photo is of Tim getting us back to Larus after unsuccessfully checking in in Bartica.  We arrived at about 1530 on Friday afternoon.  It was a little close to the 1600 closing time and there was a Cricket Match going one behind the walked playing field, and the Immigration Official was nowhere to be found.  Saturday morning we checked a couple of times and were resigning ourselves to listening to the Bartica generator until Monday, when a water taxi approached with the Immigration Official on board.  He was most helpful and said that we could go in on Sunday, as he'd be in the office or go to the anchorage and come back on Monday.  He was very accommodating and the only person on the Essequibo river whom we saw wearing a lifejacket.  What a job and what a country to live where the primary means of transportation is water taxi and to be afraid of water!  We decided to wait till Monday as another boat soon to arrive, Honey Ryder, would be checking in then as well.

      

The last leg of the journey from Bartica to the anchorage is literally off the chart.  The river hasn't been surveyed past Bartica, but thanks to the waypoints we'd been provided with, it was very straight forward.  I must say that the we were not 100% sure that it was necessary to take us so close to a very large rock before making quite a sharp turn and we had the feeling that might have been a tease from the first explorers.

At the anchorage our first visitor was a dragon fly.  We'd been visited by one before at anchor off Georgetown.  It was an early morning visit where I was making coffee and Tim was still in bed.  The main hatch screens hadn't been out long when this huge black and red dragonfly shot into the boat and carried on at speed into the forepeak where Tim was sleeping.  I heard the rattling of wings against the wood panelling (or the blades of the fan!) and rushed forward to remove the hatch net to give it a clear path out, but it went quiet and I have no idea what happened to it, and Tim missed it completely.

We were also greeted by a good strong burst of rain, (we had just anchored in time),  which was most welcome as were looking forward to catching our  water rather than making it. Irritatingly, we ended up making water anyway because though squalls would roll through, they would nearly always miss us or only catch us a glancing blow.
 


Our first sunrise at the anchorage.  It gets quite cool at night (which is marvellous and I am in no way complaining) but it is often very hot in the day .  The combination of cool air on a hot deck makes a some condensation inside the boat and lots on the deck come morning.  We also had an early morning mist, which made a very nice setting for SV Persephone.

     

This was our backyard for the next few weeks with four to five neighbours and the Baganara Resort as our local watering hole.  In the far distance you can just make out Bartica behind SV Sinbad and SV LiaHona.