Saturday, March 20, 2010

Waterfalls and Rivers

The day started at 5:30 AM. Boo, hiss.

We drove out to the tour office, and my sister started throwing up - luckily, it was temporary, probably from waking up so damn early; she was fine for the important parts of the day. After we signed a bunch of forms, the tour people drove us out to the airport, where we got in the smallest plane I have ever flown in. It was an 8-person plane, so my youngest sister actually got to sit in the co-pilot's seat on the way there. I was kind of jealous. D:

After a flight of about an hour, we landed at this little airstrip out in the middle of nowhere. (Why did we fly? There are no roads anywhere near there.) We grabbed icy water bottles, took a quick nature hike through the rainforest, and after admiring a few random plants and miscellaneous buildings (and also some rainforest fauna [1]), we started to hear a roar off in the distance and we knew we were getting close. Then the source of the roar was right in front of us (that amount of vegetation muffles sounds like crazy) and we were standing on a tiny lip of rock jutting out over Kaieteur Falls [2].

I have seen Niagara Falls up close, so trust me when I say that Kaieteur Falls is freaking unbelievably huge.

Surveyors agree with me; at 741 feet straight down, it's the worlds tallest waterfall. The water is the color of iced tea, which is an effect that I'll touch on more later. The bottom half of the fall is completely covered by mist half the time, but the other half of the time, it's just completely breathtaking. One thing that you can't help but notice is the complete lack of guardrails or other safety features - this isn't some coddled first-world natural wonder, where you go out on a little boat wearing a custom-made poncho, and stop by the gift shop on the way back. [3] The only thing to stop you from crawling right up to the edge and sticking your head over is the tour guide, who became increasingly agitated with my mom when she did exactly that. It was kind of scary, actually - he was trying to tell her that the rocks were slippery, and that she shouldn't do that, and she was completely oblivious that he was saying anything, or that the rest of us were trying to get her attention. "Mom! The tour guide has been yelling at you for the past two minutes to come back from there, and so have the rest of us." "Whaa?"

On the way back I actually managed to stay awake for most of the plane ride (Dramamine knocks me right out, apparently), and got some nice videos. One thing most people don't realize about the rainforest: there are a hell of a lot of trees in there. I seriously would estimate that I saw a few million trees today. Horizon to horizon, nothing to see but the tops of trees.

The next leg of the trip was to a smallish riverfront resort, which was a nice change from hiking through the woods. We got there via a small boat, because - surprise, surprise - there are no roads going there. The first thing that strikes you is the water. In the Demerara river, the water is the color of chocolate milk, because of all the silt it picks up. In the tributary we spent most of our time in, on the other hand, the water was the color of iced tea, because of all the dead leaves that are in the water. (Probably the same reason that Kaieteur Falls is that color.) [4] (Looking back at the analogies we came up with, it's possible that we were a little bit thirsty after sitting on a boat for two hours during the hottest part of the day.)

The resort was really really nice - beach volleyball (that we lost horribly at, but still) and kayaking. They also had rice, dal, and assorted other foods. (I don't think that a day has gone by on this trip that we haven't eaten rice and dal. It's kind of the quintessential Guyanese food.) They even had hammocks, which are amazing under pretty much any circumstances, but especially so in the tropics. Not a lot to say about the resort, really. It was very nice, but not a lot happened.

Te tributary we used to get to it has an interesting property - the flow changes direction based on the tide, every six hours. I'm not completely certain, but I'm pretty sure that we went upstream both ways, going and coming. We got back just before it got completely dark out, which was kind of a relief. We were going down the river without any lights, and it was kind of dicey toward the end. Still, we made it. (I could swear I saw a completely black butterfly on the way back, but I may have imagined it. Still, the two people that read my blog and have seen Bleach may appreciate the reference.)

The day ended with a lot of Chinese food. Best day of the vacation so far? I think so.

[1] Rainforest ants = holy fucking insanely huge. I was just walking along when I saw an ant carrying something, the damn thing must have been an inch long.

[2] "Kaieteur Falls" is actually a misnomer, according to our tour guide. "Kaieteur" means "Kai Falls" in whichever language it came from, so the name everybody uses is redundant. And, for the curious, it's pronounced "kai-choor."

[3] On a somewhat more sobering note, there was a suicide there last year. Both our tour guide and our driver remembered it; the latter mentioned that he knew because there was one fewer seat filled in his van on the next leg of the trip. :(

[4] I know it's ridiculous, but given Guyana's history, I can't help but imagine a mad Englishman at the head of the river, dancing around a machine he's built which can prepare enough tea to fill a river with it.


Æther said...

That must have been a truly awe inspiring experience. I kind of want to travel to Guyana just to see the rainforest now. Living in south Texas, I tend to forget that if you go far enough south you'll eventually hit non-desert country again.

On a side note, I don't remember much of a black butterfly from Bleach since it's been so long since I've watched it. Orihime perhaps? Or is it on the opening credits?

Frank Church said...

I want to see that waterfall. I looked it up on Wikipedia and your descriptions seem accurate - that sucker is big. LOL @ its lack of safety features. If I get rich enough I am totally traveling to Guyana just to see it.

Kiriska said...


Also, black butterflies are kind of not that rare out there. Just sayin'.

niftynei said...

hm. interesting. i could have sworn i saw a waterfall that was "1000 ft" deep. then again this was in brazil and we were tourists. things tend to get misrepresented from guide to guidee. even if language isn't a barrier.

We threw an apple down. I think it took about 12 - 15 seconds to reach bottom. Physics tells me I should be able to figure out how deep the waterfall is from this, but I'm too lazy to the cursory Google search that would require. At any rate, here's a pic: It's called Cachoeirão (Big Waterfall).

at any rate your trip sounds like fun. and far more dangerous.