Tag Archives: Shulinab

Adventures in Transportation

8 Jun

Apparently you can have adventures in transportation.
Oh, you thought that going from point A to point B is an easy and straightforward thing?
Not in the Rupununi.
If you’re still confused, please refer to my previous post for some enlightenment.

This short story is about the trip back to Shulinab from Aishalton.
Problem: No available vehicles in Aishalton to pick the team up to transport them to the Rupununi River crossing.
Solution: Motorcycles – they’re always the next best thing. 12 people, 6 motorcycles.

Adventures in Rupununi Transportation

And the following events:

  1. 2 bike falls because of mud (a major hazard on the Rupununi roads)
  2. sunburnt faces (and peeling foreheads as a result)
  3. wet feet/socks from riding through puddles and creeks
  4. countless mosquito and kaboura fly bites from waiting at the Rupununi River crossing
  5. two row-boat crossings with motorcycles and all (since the bridge has been out for 1+ years)
  6. physical exertion from pulling the boat through shallow banks of sand
  7. a water whirlwind on the Rupununi River…and near heart-attacks

It’s kind of hard to capture a water whirlwind on camera when you’re panicking but I got one while the boat was swaying from side-to-side.

Water Whirlwind

I swear it whispered “I’m coming for you”.

In-the-moment thoughts went like this:
“That’s a nice breeze”
“Oh, it’s getting really windy”
“Cool…a small water tornado over there”
“Holy sh…it’s a big water whirlwind”
“Oh my god! It’s heading toward us!”
Men in the boat: “PADDLE!!! PADDLE!!! PADDLE!!”
(When the men in charge begin to panic, it is time to start panicking along with them)
*unbuckles heavy backpack* in case we capsize and I have to swim
*screams along with the other girls* as we realize that we are also about to run into a tree
Water whirlwind makes a sharp turn away from us. Capsizing avoided.
*collective sighs of relief*

So I call this phenomenon a water whirlwind, but the Amerindians say that it was a Potari (giant stingray). A Potari is supposed to be H U G E and it’s also a water spirit. Some Amerindians at the same crossing (a couple days after us) swear that they saw ab Potari in the water.
A Potari has a blow hole (kind of like a whale’s). This can explain the water shooting up in the air to an insanely high height. It can also explain why the whirlwind moved so quickly towards us (giant stingrays move fast!).

Whatever it was, it was scary. And I never want to see/experience a water whirlwind/Potari ever again…especially if I’m in a aluminium boat powered by men with oars.

Shulinab to Shulinab to Aishalton

2 May

On Sunday April 29, 2012 at around 10am, I left Shulinab (South Central Rupununi) to go to Aishalton (Deep South Rupununi) for a 10 day workshop.
On Sunday April 29, 2012 at around 7pm, I arrived back in Shulinab.

I have never travelled for so long and so far just to go nowhere.

We started off in Shulinab, went across a creek to Shiriri, back across the creek to the main road, went on to Katoonarib, and then Sawariwau to pick up other workshop attendees. Then we went to the river crossing with hopes that we’d be able to drive across the Rupununi River to reach our destination. Unfortunately, it started to rain hard on Sunday morning so the river started to rise and we couldn’t cross with the vehicle. If we attempted, we probably would’ve gotten washed away. And I’m not sure I wanted to drown that day…nor did anyone else.
So we turned around and went back to where we came from. le sigh.

The next day, Monday April 30, 2012, we attempted to go to Aishalton again. This time with a different plan. And it was a success.
Rupununi River CrossingMost people took the vehicle, which had to go to Sawariwau and Katoonarib to pick people up, but I really didn’t want to sit in a vehicle all day again, so I hopped on the back of a motorcycle and went to Dadanawa Ranch to wait for everyone else. The road was slippery and muddy which can be dangerous for driving/riding…but I chose a great rider so I was safe (don’t worry, mom!)
Dadanawa is the only place where you can cross the Rupununi when it’s high. They’ve got boats and a pontoon…but if the Rupununi River is TOO high, well you’re just shit out of luck and stuck on whichever side of the river you happen to be on.
So how do you get motorcycles across a river?

Like this:

How to cross the Rupununi River with a motorcycle

The point of this whole story is that we successfully made it into Aishalton after crossing the water at Dadanawa Ranch and hiring another vehicle (which so happened to be already on the Aishalton side of the river since we didn’t want to load up a truck on the pontoon).
We stuffed about 8 people, including the driver, into a jeep. One person sat in the trunk/back with all the load, 4 in the back seat, and 3 in front (driver included). It was uncomfortable, needless to say, and we got stuck in a swamp as soon as we set out from the ranch… but we made it!

Stuck in a swamp

Let's drive up a rock...why not?

Rupununi Savannah

P.S. Aishalton has internet (whee!) and interneting from a hammock is one of the better things in this world.

My New Home: Shulinab

19 Mar

Shulinab (Shoo-lin-ab)– this is my home for the next year (and maybe more). I live in what used to be the women’s centre. It’s pretty big for one person, so feel free to visit me :). To answer some of your questions, no I don’t have running electricity or consistently running water. I have a battery charged by solar power which lights my home.

As you may have determined, I have no access to the internet or cellular service so you won’t be able to reach me very often unless I go to Lethem to catch up on emails/calls. There is a village landline from where I can make calls, but it’s not all that reliable. Option 2 is to go to a satellite community called Quiko (Kwy-ko). There is a little mound I can stand on top of to get cellular reception – all I have to do is point my cell phone towards Lethem. It sounds ghetto, but it works! I get enough signal to receive some text and bbm messages and maybe a couple of emails. It’s not sufficient, but it’ll have to do won’t it?

The water only runs intermittently – so far, I find that it runs in the daytime when everyone is at work/school/farm, and later at night (post-dinner). In the mornings, I go to the water tank which they kindly built next to me, to fetch buckets of water that I’ll need for the day.

My bathroom is an outhouse, also known as a long-drop toilet. Cockroaches live in my toilet. They are the size of my thumb! I’ve gotten used to them and I usually make a lot of noise and bang my way into the bathroom with a stick to give them a chance to scurry away. FYI, they’re pretty damn hard to kill. Those suckers are resilient.

My shower is outdoors as well. There is a pipe that resembles a showerhead but as noted above, water only runs some of the time. Don’t worry, I have a big bucket that I fill with water required for bathing and laundry. Bucket showers actually aren’t bad at all. Bathing outside is kind of nice too – I get to watch the sun rise and/or see the stars at night.

I have a gas stove/oven so I’m eating okay. I could be eating well if I wasn’t lazy haha. Fresh fruit and vegetables aren’t all that easy to find if they’re not in season, so I’ve bought a lot of tinned or powdered things (tuna, veggies, soup mix, etc.). My line manager Faye has also given me bananas and tomatoes, which I consumed fairly quickly! She also feeds me sometimes (phew!). Okay, I gotta give some credit to Tessa, who cleaned and set up my home – she has been so awesome. She taught me how to make bread and how to prepare farine so that I could save money and have quick meals when I want. By the way, my bread’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Okay, enough about my place – more about the village. Shulinab is full of friendly intelligent people. Everyone says good morning, good afternoon, good night – this is what community is. Everyone’s willing to help each other out and they’re always asking how I am and if I’m alright. They’re genuinely concerned about my transition into the village which I adore them for.

I spend a lot of time with SCPDA (South Central People’s Development Association) staff. They’re bright, enthusiastic, hilarious, and fun to be around. SCPDA is involved with a lot of projects and organizations, so it means I will get to meet tons of people in the region. I am certain I will have to travel to different communities to get to know everyone and establish where I can be of assistance so that’s another thing to look forward to.

So far, I love this experience. I don’t know when/if culture shock and homesickness are going to hit me, but I don’ think it’ll be anytime soon. That being said, I still miss you all and wish you were here. Xo.

P.S. My Scorpion sighting count is 6….that’s probably not a good thing. And I already got stung by a spider and bitten/stung by a zillion ants. ouch.