We were happy to leave the fleas behind with passports in hand, containing visas for Brazil. After discovering that due to bad roads, all of the large buses run by Interserv from Georgetown to the interior of Guyana have been cancelled – indefinitely, we hopped a domestic flight to Lethem. It was either that or a 30+ hours dodging potholes on an ass-bruising minibus . On what seemed to be the identical plane, run by a different airline that we took to Kaieteur Falls, we flew over the jungle and watched out the window as the bright green dense jungle transformed into rolling green mountains and met the desert-like Savanna approaching the Guyanese border town of Lethem.
A small cowboy town that does not yet have a map was a welcomed change from the dirt and over-your-shoulder watching of GT. On the recommendation of some other travelers, we found our way from the airstrip to Mrs. Foo’s house. A sweet lady, Mrs Foo rents out spaces in her guesthouse to people she feels comfortable with. She doesn’t have a sign or any other advertising, you have to know who you are looking for and just ask around town to find out where she lives. We were pointed in the right direction by the locals. This was the perfect place for us; a comfortable retreat to get through the first blast of diarrhea, a familiar experience for any traveler. Though pretty routine for two weeks into travel, this may have been provoked by the spicy fried curry from the night before.
Mornings were pretty laid-back as we formulated a sort of routing – Dale working on school – Arielle practicing, followed by our staple make-shift morning breakfast of oats, fruit and yogurt bought from a local store. Wanting to explore the area a bit more, Mrs Foo was nice to organize bike rentals for us from a neighbour. At what was the equivalent of $12 each (way overpriced) we mounted piece-meal cruisers with one gear, bent cranks, iffy brakes and a steel seat. Our plan was to ride to the local waterfalls and visit Indigenous villages along the way.
We set out in the direction we were pointed, but really had no idea where we were going. Venturing towards the mountainous jungle in the distance, passing clay huts, never-finished brick foundations and children swimming in tiny clear rivers –we pedaled for more than two hours. At home, a two-hour bike ride, even in a rolling landscape like Vancouver is no big deal. But at home, we have a road, and a bike built for that road as well as a seat built for a butt. In Lethem, you have a mixture of bumpy rock and deep sand trails, bug bits and a steel seat that chafes your skin at every pedal stroke. Certainly a situation that calls for a mantra, “Enjoy the journey”. We did find the waterfall, parched, dripping with sweat, and hungry. Besides the chilly swim, our packed peanut butter sandwiches may very well have been the best idea every. So good. A different, more direct but not shorter route home proved more challenging. Getting back on that metal seat which was responsible for creating the blisters in the deep wet between your legs, and a bruised ass was a sort of self-torture. Running low on water and heading into the sun it was a struggle for both of us. Damn shitty bikes. Again, the chaffing. An hour and a half later, we creaked slowly into the driveway at Mrs. Foo’s. Take an already undernourished body, add sun stroke, 5 hours terrible cycling posture, plus blisters in areas we can’t write about here, equals one totally bagged shower-seeking human being,
We were grateful we went, but even more grateful we had set up a home-cooked dinner invite with Mrs Foo and her family. The best food we’ve had so far, and not just because it was free!
After nearly a week in cowboy country, we were ready for Brazil. A new country, different culture and a language we don’t speak were waiting for us. Mrs Foo’s son Jason was nice enough to drive us to the border, where we could walk into Brazil. Nice to get the ride, crappy that the border was closed for two hour lunch break. Time was tight when the border re-opened for us to catch the bus to our next stop. Our first blast of Portuguese didn’t help the already slow border control, nor did it help us catch the bus. We missed it. And we were so happy we’d spent all that time and effort in Georgetown getting our visas for Brazil – the immigration officer didn’t even look them.
High Five – we are in Brazil. Taxi from the border at Bonfirm to Boa Vista where we managed to fumble our way through enough Portuguese to catch the overnight bus past the equator to Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon.