Mud, Blood and Crunching Gears

Another late night rocking around in a boat bathed in the golden glow of an oil lamp looking for a satellite signal, we sent yesterday’s daily diary entry with heavy hearts... Where do we find an army of people to help us around the raging waters of the Wonotobo Falls? Our first and most formidable obstacle can't be turning us back! Is the 'Foot of God' (as a local called it) kicking us out?

The restless night's sleep was over quickly, as in the early hours the skeleton crew of three fishermen were murmuring excitedly amongst themselves. Their muffled tones soon turned to heated discussion, and we all rose to investigate. Just one word repeatedly shone out of the broken English of their Guyanese tongue... "TRACTOR". Such a mundane word has never sounded so sweet. The last tractor we saw was three days down river at an illegal logging site, and we had all scorned its presence, knowing what damage they can do to the forest. Ironically we were now pinning our hopes on this one word. It seemed highly unlikely that a tractor could be here, hundreds of miles from any road. Thankfully we were proved wrong. The owner had brought the tractor up-stream to drag lumber from the forest to build his eco-lodge. And again the lines are blurred as we also discovered he owns a sawmill.

Ramming the boat onto dry land this afternoon, we thought it a shame to be compromising the adventure element of our trip, by using an easier (even if the only!) option. We couldn't have been further from the truth. Shortly after landing the rains came. As we set about rigging the boat to the tractor and, after some running repairs on the engine to drain a waterlogged carburettor, we made our first attempt to pull the boat. Revving like a drag-car on the starting-grid, the wheels spun, kicking up sand as the strain was taken. The same sinking feeling of yesterday's manual efforts came back to us and the boat stayed still. Finally, after a number of tries, all drenched and envisaging a slow depressing ride back to Nieuw Nickerie, we all cheered wildly as the wheels found traction and our beast of a canoe was well and truly 'high and dry'.

A short lived euphoria though ... as charging up the first hill the soft earth soon began swallowing the huge tractor wheels, and for every few feet gained, the same few were lost. With legs bleeding from blood-sucking flies we threw every stray piece of wood we could find under its path... to no avail! Just when our morale was really beginning to waver, Moses appeared - a Reggae-loving, rum-sipping hardy soul - the kind of man you can only find in this environment. Steaming into the job at hand he hacked up whole trees to lay under the wheels. And after three hours of minimal progress his 'hard-man of the jungle' focus had us moving again in no time, and we finally topped the first ridge.

Yesterday I had joked with him: "Will you part the waters for us?"

"No problem" he said. So for the next three kilometres of jungle hacking action we'll be strapping him to the front of the tractor with a chain saw in his hand. ........


Crunching Gears

Stuck in the Mud

Raging Waters