Lonely Planet criss-crosses Guyana’s most remote stretches
Lonely planet contributor Celeste Brash is in the Rupununi and has this dispatch…
Hilda, my oxcart driver, was drunk. It was Amerindian Heritage weekend in Nappi Village, Guyana and everyone had been drinking parakari, the local fermented beverage, for two days straight. It was now Sunday afternoon but Hilda was showing no signs of wilting. She was wearing a glittery dress that had been cut haphazardly to hit just above her caramel-colored knees. Our legs and bare feet were dangling off the edge of the cart as we bumped and jostled along the dirt track. In front of us were two muddy cow butts and never-ending rainforest.
‘Do you like my cows or loooove them?’ she asked as she whipped an ox with one arm and gave me a side hug with the other.
‘I love them!’ I said enthusiastically. And I did. Maipaimanu and Bole were doing a commendable job of pulling the cart over a trail so pot-holed and deep with mud that not even a 4WD could get through it.
Only a few days before my ride with Hilda I had thought the only way to get around Guyana’s interior was by minibus (which run along one main road) or by expensive chartered 4WD. Most visitors to Guyana are on tours and the jungle lodges are happy to arrange jeep transfers (the quickest and most convenient way to get around); the expense is easily incorporated into a high-cost itinerary. But what about the rest of us? My goal for updating the Guiana section of South America on a Shoestring was to find an affordable alternative for independent travelers on a limited budget.
We were on our way to Maipaima Lodge, eight kilometers from the remote Guyanese village of Nappi at the base of the Kanuku Mountains. This oxcart trip was going to take three hours and cost me US$30. In the dry season 4WDs and motorbikes ply the road at US$60 and US$10 respectively but I was happy to have ended up in the expert, over-jolly hands of Hilda. On the way she told me animated stories of her much younger husband who sat silently smiling in the back, and of her two little granddaughters who giggled or slept the whole way. By the end of the trip we were all friends – not something that could have happened on a half hour 4WD trip.