Travelling in Third World Countries - Part Four

Today, nine years into the twenty-first century, there are still countries run by dictators, one single individual who holds the power of life and death over every citizen. When I trained the UNDP staff in the eighties, Burnham, Guyana’s dictator was still in power. Weakened, but abetted by Castro and Russia, (these were the days before the Berlin Wall fall), he held sway over nine hundred plus citizens.

Okay, getting back to my trip, the day my parents, husband, brother and wife, arrived, I changed hotels. Can you call what we were staying in a hotel? Not in the good old USA. Motel from hell might be the term. But, the food was edible.

You have no idea what that simple term means. At the Pegasus, THE hotel for anyone visiting Guyana, breakfast was served buffet style. Powdered scrambled eggs, (we have them at our monthly FRW meeting at the Sheraton), toast, and something that resembled bacon, and an item I couldn’t figure out. Black and undulating, it looked like ham. It was ham, with a zillion black flies eating it. Gagged is not the term I would use to describe my response - simply too mild.

My father, a plant pathologist, had warned me not to eat anything without a skin as they still used DDT in Guyana to eradicate plant parasites. I couldn’t eat the cooked food, not without thinking about those flies, so I decided I would survive on the ration of crackers I had brought with me.

So many horrible experiences, but the next day I saw the beauty of the land. A North American cannot imagine it, not in a lifetime. My dad hired a private pilot with a twin engine aircraft to take us to the highlights of the country, the land of his birth and his pride. I imagine there are more beautiful places on the face of the earth, but the Guyana I saw that day will stay with me forever.

It is said that Guyana holds every geographical climate on the planet. Ibeni is the grasslands of Africa. Teeming with wildlife, plains, and savannahs as far the eye could see. Rivers, smooth and undulating, brooks soothing the travails of life. Spreading trees enormous, graceful, like a ballerina embracing her hero, I fell in love with the land.

Then we flew to the borders where Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana met. Rapids, three rives crashing into each other, each fighting for supremacy. Not a border you’d want to cross in the rainy season.

Onto Amerindian territory, where we landed aside a circular hut - the residence for most of the villagers. Goat dung, chicken droppings punctuated the path to the entrance. And what amazing people greeted us, generous to a fault, tripping over themselves to make us comfortable. They took us to the river and invited us to swim. Stunning fish drifted by, canary yellow with blue stripes. Amazed, I asked what type of fish they were? The answer, Piranha…..yes we swam with the piranhas…

We landed at Kaiteur Falls as dusk stained the sky gold. The pilot did a slow circle around the churning falls. The last rays of the sun tangoed with the rippling waters making the swirling surface iridescent. The second highest falls on the South American Continent fed by a river loaded literally with gold, a source of water that had made my grandfather a millionaire in the thirties. We landed on a runway The smell of pine, the temperature perfect, high sixties, the plateau breath taking with pine trees, lichens, wild cats, even a languid cheetah who rolled his eyes as we leaped past.

National Geographic photographers and journalists hung from the death-defying cliff face leading past the falls. They were doing an episode on the rarest bat species on the planet. I crawled to the edge of the cliffs to observe them, but I became so dizzy the others had to drag me back to safety.

We landed in Georgetown around seven and headed straight to the hotel’s restaurant. My father encountered an acquaintance and he introduced the man to us. The most perfect specimen of manhood shook my hand. Tall, mid-thirties, educated, intelligent, he joined us for dinner and proved to be the most charming, charismatic individual I had met to date. After he bid us adieu, I turned to my father and said, “What an amazing man!”

My father stated, “A man who murdered over seventy people just charmed the pants off you, daughter. Remember the old adage about a book and its cover, and learn from this experience.”

7 comments

  1. Mona Risk // April 6, 2009 at 1:57 PM  

    Jianne, Some countries are so beautiful but spoiled by men. I wish I could visit that natural paradise but wouldn't step there after what you wrote.

  2. Scarlet Pumpernickel // April 6, 2009 at 2:12 PM  

    Jianne,
    You paint such a vivid picture of the beauty and the danger of the place. We have such a narrow view of our world, it is good to learn of how things are in the "other" reality we never see. Thanks for sharing.

    Scarlet

  3. Mary Ricksen // April 6, 2009 at 3:47 PM  

    The beauty of our world is wasted on ugly men. How sad
    Didn't get bit?
    You know how I love the imagery. Wonderful J.
    What did your husband think of it?
    What an interesting life you have had.

  4. Judy // April 6, 2009 at 5:26 PM  

    Very interesting! Loved your father's comment about judging a book by its cover. There might be a lesson there! LOL! Thanks...

  5. Edie // April 6, 2009 at 5:27 PM  

    What a great experience. I'm in awe. I hope you put all this in a book someday. You are a natural storyteller.

  6. Mary Marvella // April 6, 2009 at 10:27 PM  

    Jianne,
    What amazing experiences and an equally amazing way to recount them. I so love our modern conveniences, though. Thanks for sharing with us since I'll never be there!

  7. Arkansas Cyndi // April 7, 2009 at 1:04 AM  

    Sorry I'm late with my post but what an incredible tale. Like Mona, I wish I too could visit and see such incredible sights, but no, I won't be going there. I (like Mary) love my modern conveniences.

    Your descriptions are lovely and breath taking.

    I find it so sad that man cannot live without killing other men for supremacy.

    thank you for all four of your thought provoking posts