If you want to always remember your wedding anniversary – just forget it once. Last year I had the audacity to forget my wedding anniversary and as luck would have it, no one reminded me either. The wrath that followed thereafter can be understood only by a married man.
Being a banker, I had to come up with a plan with assured returns. It had to convey two things, one that the fiasco will never be repeated again (even the anniversary of her parents or her relatives will be remembered) and that I can plan an exotic, memorable and special celebration. With the help of a few well meaning friends, trusted travel agent, exhaustive net browsing and the fact that my wedding anniversary coincided with the independence day of Guyana i.e 26 May, I homed on to GUYANA .
I was aware that Guyana is a multi religion country with the motto
One People: One Nation: One Destiny”
is known for its natural beauty, dense rainforests and exotic wildlife but the moment we started to plan the specifics, we were astonished to see the numerous options and variables. The country is known for jaguars, giant otter, tapir, over 800 bird species and the list goes on. Though Guyana is not the most visited tourist destination and the tourism industry is still in its nascent stage, but the fact that English is the first language and cricket is the national sport, was enough to close the deal for my wife.
My wife also wanted to look up Huchuy Yachaq community project, UK registered charity Amantani and conservation efforts by Diane McTurk to satiate her philanthropical desires. Since the trip was to appease my wife and not to forget, mend my mistake, I mostly had to agree to the places my wife wanted us to visit in our 15 days long trip.
Though many options were given by our travel agency, we planned our itinerary balancing out both our interests (mostly my wife’s), keeping the trip simple, meaningful and at a pace which we could modulate.
We landed at George Town, the mesmerising capital of Guyana, also called City of the Caribbean by the locals. It was the perfect beginning to an amazing experience ahead and we decided to spend a considerable time there and soak in its unique flavors .We visited St. George’s Cathedral, a tall free-standing wooden building, Bourda Cricket Club ground, Starbroek market, a local museum Castellani House art gallery .We walked holding hands like a young couple, rapt in the magic of George Town and traversed through beautiful colonial buildings and old wooden houses.
Our travel agent had teamed us up with two more couples. The next day was dedicated to Kaieteur Falls which is one of the highlights of Guyana and also the highest single-drop waterfall in the world. Either our enthusiasm was contagious or the pairing up with like minded people, but believe me, we were an ecstatic lot. The view at every step was not just breathtaking but also refreshing. The clarity of colors and the freshness of flora and fauna was unparallel to any other experience. Every turn was a surprise, every corner was a splurge of colors. One could never imagine that nature could spill so much beauty, life and brilliance at one place. The grins on our faces and the exchange of eye contact well conveyed the joy which the words would fail to describe.
Next morning we undertook a boat trip on Essequibo River and trekked Turtle Mountain which was rejuvenating and treat for the eyes and therapy for the mind. We visited Kureupukari Falls the same afternoon followed by visit to Surama. We spent two days plus in and around the Amerindian village of Surama which is primarily inhabited by Makushi Amerindians. The people are extremely helpful, friendly and warm.
As a community initiative an Eco-Lodge has been devised with a twin goal to boost tourism through involvement of locals and to benefit the locals in terms of a vocation. The villagers are engaged at various levels including managing it and being a guide. The keen visitors are taught about the customs, traditions of the indigenous people of Guyana. The employment generation has reduced the exodus of the young generation. Besides financial and social benefits to the village, the visitors too get a chance to experience life in this traditional village, explore the most amazing wildlife in the surrounding forest.
Iwokrama was our next destination and as we treaded through the rainforest to enter into a spectacular world of colors, it was a treat for the senses and made us feel refreshed, rejuvenated and exuberant. The desire for spotting exotic fauna like jaguars, giant otters, tapirs and spider monkeys made the trip even more thrilling and interesting as we kept teasing each other as to who spots more. Luckily my wife and I were able to spot many rare animals including a jaguar. Our guide took us through the forest to be on a look out for Guianan cock-of-the-rock which is known for its vibrant colors and as luck would have it, we watched this exotic bird thanking our stars for the opportune moment.
This day which also happened to be our wedding anniversary culminated in an overnight stay at a famous lodge. At dawn we decided to take a hike in the foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains in quest of birds.
We also explored the adventure activities offered by Guyana. Four major rivers sustain the country, which not only provide the much required ingress into the rain forests and the wildernesses but also exciting destinations for the multifarious adventure activities. These activities will ensure you fall in love with water and your inner child all over again. If you like to live on the edge, Coasteering is the activity which will not only test your physical stamina but also your agility but my personal favorite was Fun Yakking .We left the activities for the next visit.
One more exciting thing we witnessed was energy conservation measures and recycling practiced by groups in Guyana. Needless to say that such endeavor not only reduces the waste produced but also impacts the environment. My wife got inspired to bring awareness about the same back home.
However at the end I must say that catching a fleeting glimpse of ever elusive jaguar by me and my wife (thank god for that or else I would have again been the bad one) made us feel like winners. Other than that I was able to spot a number of wild animals, exotic flora and was able to make my wife forget the debacle of last year’s marriage anniversary. This trip was more amazing than what I expected.
In the final analysis one can easily see that not many places in the world can compete with what Guyana has to offer. Describing the place with adjectives like scenic beauty appear to be gross understatements and inappropriate. The place makes you a poet of sorts and you tend to use expressions like myriad of colors, splash of joy etc in your daily life. You are transported to a different time zone completely. By the time the trip got over, we had both realised that
not coming back was not an option and the following quote by Nigel Tisdall, Journalist (Daily and Sunday Telegraph) aptly sums up my bliss.