Guyana collage

 

Guyana (Guiana) Tour

 

Guyana Cultural Tour: Essequibo River, Linden, Rockstone, Sherima, Bartica

Mile 58, Georgetown-Lethem Rd, Guyana Mile 58, Georgetown-Lethem Rd, GuyanaRoughly, halfway between Kurupukari and Linden is a placed called "Mile 58".  The name is a bit curious because it is 106km (65 miles) from Linden and 124km (77 miles) from Kurupukari.  What it is, is about 58 miles from Rockstone junction.  There is almost no commercial development between the three times, so whether out of ritual or necessity, almost everyone traveling the road stops at Mile 58.  It now has its own cell tower and sometimes Wifi.
Demerara River, Linden, Guyana Bauxite plant, Demerara River, Linden, GuyanaLinden straddles the Demerara River. Since 1916, the center of its economy has been open pit Bauxite mines and several processing plant.  When the Alumina plant operation closed, a chunk of the rest of Linden economy went with it. For decades Linden was the second largest town in Guyana, but that is probably no longer the case.  If is far from a ghost town, but more subdued
Rockstone Road, Guyana Rockstone Road, GuyanaRockstone Road, GuyanaOn the road from Georgetown, a couple of miles after you cross the Demerara River, the pavement ends -- it is either red clay or white sand..  While 100 km from the coast the area is generally less than 50m above sea level.  If you do the math and average it out, the area is pretty flat.
Bernard in front of his store, Rockstone, Guyana Fay Allicock, Rockstone, GuyanaOn my first visit to Rockstone and in need of accommodatios, I we met Bernard at his store in the late afternoon.  In short order, he arranged for us to have a place to stay and for Fay, a older local woman with boundless energy and volumes of stories, to cook for us.  As they had been all along, the meals were superb.  During the evening other local citizens came by to great the strangers in town.  It was one of the more interesting evenings I have spent in Guyana.
Fay Allicock with our group, Rockstone, Guyana A freshly caught fish, Rockstone, GuyanaEven a decade later, Fay walks miles around the community and if you need something in Rockstone, she is likely to be the "go to person."

The big event every year in Rockstone is the fishing tournament.  We missed it -- which is fine -- but we know that they left a fish in the river.

Rockstone Resort Eco-Lodge, Rockstone, Guyana It has become easier to find lodging in Rockstone with the opening of the Rockstone Resort -- fortunately it doesn't have "resort prices."  It is not build out to what you typically expect of a "resort," but that does a lot to keep it more environmentally friendly.  There is talk of expanding the facilities.  TheyRockstone Resort Eco-Lodge, Rockstone, Guyana would do well to refine what they have first: clean the yard (litter and broken glass), spruce up the showers, fix the toilets, and various minor repairs.

Despite, or because, of its simplicity it is a very relaxing and restful place to stay.  And is typical of the interior of Guyana, the people are friendly and helpful.

Essequibo River ferry, Sherima, Guyana Essequibo River ferry, Sherima, GuyanaFrom Rockstone it is another 30 km to the ferry that crosses the Essequibo River.

If your timing isn't precise -- which is hard on these roads -- when you get to the river edge you could have to wait up to an hour for the ferry -- perhaps long if there are only bicycles on the landing. The boat only make one round-trip an hour, between 6 AM and 6 PM. If there are no motor vehicles on a cycle it may not make the trip -- bicyclists seem to be invisible to the system. 

Lion's Rock Store, Guyana Lion's Rock Store, Guyana

On the east bank, place to wait is the very Caribbean Rasta Lion's Rock Variety Store and Bar.  Items for sale and their prices are clearly posted (right) -- the currency is the Guyana dollar.  The exchange rate at the time was about 200 Guyana dollar to one U.S. dollar.

Sherima, on the west bank, is the more developed of the to landings, but don't let your imagination run wild. The group of buildings near the landing consists ofSherima, Essequibo, Guyana the ferry operation center, a police post and a small shop/cafe/restaurant -- everything they need to take care of the passing motorists.  Beyond this cluster of activity, the human footprint in the area is widely spaced homestead in small clearing carved out of the forest.  A few kilometers from the river, even these disappear.

Essequibo River ferry, Sherima, Guyana Essequibo River ferry, Sherima, GuyanaThe Essequibo ferry is a motorized barge.  One visit we were feeling unlucky for an hour or two until a van come along, and then we were feeling very lucky.

On another visit we were feeling luck with the well timed arrive of a truck.  It had been raining and the roads were a mess.  No one hesitated when we arranged for the truck to take us the next leg of the journey.

Essequibo River, Sherima, Guyana Essequibo River, Sherima, GuyanaI have always made the crossing of the Essequibo River when it was very calm and picturesque.  It does not seem like it would be as nice an experience on a stormy day; the ferry doesn't offer any cover, nor does it have a lot of freeboard.
Bartica-Potaro road, Guyana Bartica-Potaro road, GuyanaThe roads on the west side of the Essequibo River, between Bartica and Potaro, are mostly used to get provisions to the mining operations in the interior.  Most of the vehicle have high clearances, large tires and are capable of all wheel drive.  Truck after truck was hauling drums or tanks of fuel inland, or returning empty.  At its best the road was dry, packed, red clay.  At its worst the red clay sealing layer disappeared and we were struggling through an inland beachBartica-Potaro road, Guyana of white sand.  Drawing its name from the geology, this section is called the "white sand belt".  At one time, tens of thousands of years ago, the coastline actually was here.

Our conclusion is these roads are not getting regular maintenance because their condition is deteriorating.

visiting family homestead, Guyana visiting family homestead, GuyanaThis family is making a homestead out of the forest.  Typical of Guyanese they provide us with food and drink.  One of the dishes was a tasty mix of rice, corn, beans and other vegetables -- all organic and grown on their farm.
       
human-like figure, Guyana human-like figure, GuyanaThis house further down the road had an conspicuous and interesting item along the road.  On a pole above a fire pit was a stuffed human-like figure, with a cover above its head, most likely to protect it from the weather.  No one was around to give us information on the specific purpose of the display.
House on the outskirts of Bartica, Guyana Obama Fish Shop, Bartica, GuyanaSomehow I keep passing through Bartica without taking many pictures.  I know have two; one on the outskirts and the Obama Fish Shop trailer. The trailer is open at night. Bartica is more photogenic than is represented here and deserves better.  While the economy of the town is primarily dependent upon the outlying mining camps, some of which are hundreds of miles away, there is no heavy industry associated mining in the town and it has nice character to it -- though fairly load in the center of town on a weekend night.
Loading Bike Friday on boat, Essequibo River, Guyana

For a bicyclist, the easier way to get to and from Bartica is by boat.

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