|Mud, Blood and Crunching
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. ........
Stuck in the Mud