The motorboat diesel engine’s mechanical whirring fades away into the distance as Soldier and his wife return to Amatuk , after dropping me off at Tukeit and wishing me luck. He kindly lets me know that if he doesn’t hear from me in a weeks time, he’ll let the rangers and British embassy know of my last known location here. I’ll be fine I say to myself.
Finally, after having flown from London into multiple cities in the US, spending a night in Guyana’s capital and then two villages, each time getting farther away from civilisation and people, I was finally truly alone and in the wild now.
Staring at me ahead was a trail into the dense jungle, the only navigation I had was to always make sure I was going up, and never to trail off left and downwards. This would ensure I would end up at the old cabin at the top of the gorge that I would be using as my base.
The only things I could hear now were a multitude of strange insect noises, the odd rustling in the trees and the faint sound of thundering water. The clock had started ticking for me, as I had to find my way before the sun set, as dangerous animals such as pythons big enough to strangle a man, come out at dusk.
So off I went into the jungle….
The path begins quite straight forward, but as its rarely used, starts to get more narrow, less defined and nature seems to have reclaimed a lot of it. One could easily lose themselves and get disorientated if not careful! A machete is your best friend here, apart from being able to cut down any obstacles, the cut it leaves in the stems can be used as a marker to act as a trail.
Now I don’t put any videos into my blog just due to the size it takes up and web load times. However in this one case I feel I need for you to understand where I’m coming from in regards to this one particular insect and the sound it makes. I have never heard anything like it before, it’s so loud that it sends vibrations into you, and sounds like a dentist’s sonic drill. Actually a little unsettling when you’re in a jungle by yourself and have no idea what or where it exactly is! See/hear for yourself!
I’d be very interested to know what that exactly is! Leave a comment if you have any idea.
Surviving that follows a couple of more hours of uphill trekking and navigating through some boulders and tight squeezes! Watch out for snakes and spiders though! Use your hiking poles to poke around and hit the ground giving a chance for any animal to be aware of your presence, thus not startling it.
As I climbed up and got higher in altitude, I did notice less insects bothering me. Initially I was giving credit to my repellent, but a ranger I would meet later on actually pointed out these carnivorous plants that only grow in the higher altitudes here, and they eat the insects in abundance by luring them in and devouring them.
A few more hours of walking and climbing, eventually I can hear the roar of Kaieteur falls, and follow it through the bushes to an open clearing, which has been paved by powerful streams of waters that become small rivers during the torrential rains of the wet season.
Don’t get too excited and start running. As this is not a fully tourist developed area, there are no safety railings or anything like that. It’s up to you to keep yourself alive here, and that vertigo really hits you when you realise how high you’ve come!
You can even spot a rainbow created from the water vapours of Kaieteur falls.
There’s about three viewpoints that you can walk around to get some really amazing shots of the area, and if like me you went during the dry season, you can get right close to the falls, as the river is receded quite far back.
Even at 20% its size, you can feel its force.
At this point I’m getting more and more curious about the bottom and what’s there.
And then finally, stand right where the falls flow from…..
Incredible that during the rainy season this would all be apart of the falls, just makes you realise how massive these falls are. Also terrifying to think if a flash flood came I would get swept off ………
My attention now started to be drawn to the gorge at the bottom. I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it would be to get down there, and have a chance to walk right to the bottom of the falls.
Due to a particularly dry season, the river had receded farther than it had ever done so before. Creating a path to get very close to the bottom and start of the waterfall. Initially the rangers told me it would be too difficult and dangerous to try this trek. As there are no paths down there, one would have to carve it out themselves with a machete, and navigate their own way across and back. Only a group of soldiers had attempted this once before, with less than half of them making it to the end.
This only made me want to do it more….and some of the rangers were starting to be convinced by my enthusiasm, and admitted it would be a great opportunity for them also to try get farther than anyone else before due to how dry it was. A picture of the back of the falls reflects how massive this river can potentially be.
They told me they would see what resources they have, and if enough rangers are up for the adventure and mission, they would let me know next morning. So I headed to my cabin.
The cabin is a very basic wooden structure with an area to hang hammocks, perfect to feel one with nature. Also incredibly terrifying when you’re the only one there and you keep hearing noises in the bushes at night….
Early in the morning, Kaietuer falls creates clouds for the region, and this makes for a very eerie and mysterious atmosphere of fog.
Every now and then a burst of clouds appear from the falls , only to disappear into the sky.
After a day of reading, writing and exploring the area, when I got back to my cabin I got news from the rangers that they were prepared to do an expedition down to the bottom of the falls! A prompt 4am start early next morning would be required, and we wouldn’t get back until 9pm! I was very excited, and have to admit I vastly underestimated it, as this would be the single hardest thing I’ve ever done….
Our expedition leader , Candice, was a local Amerindian native. An incredibly strong women, with camo jeans and a machete, she led the path forward for us, with another Amerindian girl. The other ranger , Washington, was also a biologist doing research in the area.
This expedition had us hiking up and down, cutting our way through with machetes , swimming across the river and leaving behind our boots, walking through the jungle in barefeet, rock climbing boulders the size of houses , and a little bit of swinging from vines…
Hours of hiking and jumping across gaps left behind by the river receding , we made it to the bottom of the gorge…
This was the hardest part, with no solid ground to follow, we had to jump and skip across boulders, figure out ways to get around the bends without drowning, and eventually we just had to swim a bit…
From this picture to the waterfall was still several hours just because of how difficult it was to climb around these boulders.
By this point we had left most of our gear behind, including our boots and had to swim certain sections.
We could feel we were getting so much closer, but the boulders kept getting bigger, more slippery , and the fall between the gaps even more treacherous and dangerous. From here it was still 3 hours..see the picture below to understand how massive they are.
I was getting exhausted, my forearms cramping from the climbing and exertion required to hold on to slippery bits of smooth rock. I felt pretty shit by this point, but I was still enjoying it in a crazy kind of way – and was eagerly looking forward to making it all the way.
Our expedition leader fearlessly leading the way…
With one final tremendous push, we made it to the end. We were now one of the few people to have ever made it to the bottom of Kaieteur falls. The mist spray was soothing…
We still had the entire return journey to do, but for now we just lay on the rocks letting the falls cool us down.
The return journey was the toughest thing I’ve had to do. Both my forearms were cramping, and then both my legs. Conscious of the fact that we had to get back before the sun goes down, as being out in the jungle at night is not a good idea, and finding our way would be near impossible.
Pushing through the pain of quad and hamstring cramps for the next several hours, my pace was very slow, and night did fall. However thankfully we had made enough progress that the way looked clear.
Despite the rough journey back, accidentally falling into a wasp nest and leaving Washington to fend that off (sorry about that), walking through multiple spider webs, and also having a few insects and spiders crawling around me, but being too exhausted to care – that was the most wild and adventurous thing I’ve ever done!
Thank you to the rangers! I could not have done it without them.
Thank you to Patricia for taking care of me, giving me food and giving me a place to sleep when I was stuck in the middle of a river village waiting for a boat.
Thank you to Godfrey for being helpful and sorting me out with the 4×4, boats, and organising the flight out.
Thank you to Candice for leading that expedition so well , making sure we were safe, and double checking those flights for me by phoning all day.
Thank you Washington for sending over some pictures, and keeping my mind of my cramping legs as we walked in the dead of night in the jungle trying to get back.
For this entire trip, the only thing I had pre-booked were international flights and a room in Georgetown. The rest of it was all down to trusting in the goodness of people and the spirit of adventure.
On to the next one!
Thanks for reading!