So, a double-whammy on Traveller’s Guide items this weekend, which itself has been pretty eventful.
(Sorry, but there are no photos to go with this post – as you’ll see below I had to travel light, and that meant leaving my camera behind.)
Harry and I travelled to Lethem on Friday afternoon to do a little shopping, use the internet to plan more of “The Adventure” and talk to our families. We managed to catch a lift out with the Ambassador to the Head of Delegation of the European Union – I know, check us out! – and we planned to travel back to Sand Creek via minibus and boat on the Saturday afternoon.
Saturday afternoon came around, and we found out the minibus driver had decided not to go to Sand Creek because there were too few passengers. Great. We’re quite accustomed to getting stranded in Lethem, so we immediately headed to Shirley’s shop to stop every passing 4×4 and try to hitch a ride to Sand Creek, or even to Shulinab (a village on the way there). No luck. We found ourselves sleeping in Lethem Saturday night, rising very early and managing to catch a lift to Shulinab on Sunday morning with a vehicle from an outreach group heading to Aishalton.
Once we arrived in Shulinab we were assured there was a vehicle heading to Sand Creek that evening that we could hitch a lift with – result! Sadly, it wasn’t to be: the vehicle decided it would wait until Monday/Tuesday to travel. It got later and later and still there were no lifts for us, so eventually we decided there was only one thing for it: if we were to get back in time for school, we’d have to walk home.
We set off at about 6:30pm, when the sun was starting to go down. I was travelling light: a bottle of water, a pocket full of biscuits, my hammock, my mosquito net and my penknife – I left everything else in Shulinab. (Update: the belongings we left behind were dropped in Sand Creek on Monday evening, barely 12 hours after we arrived!) We walled at a steady pace, covering the 14-and-a-bit miles to the river in (I think) about 4 hours.
When we reached the first of three* rivers that need to be crossed to reach Sand Creek Village, we found the water level to be higher than we’d ever seen it before. We waded in, and found it was several feet deeper than we were tall. Solution: swim across. We strapped our bags tight, and cautiously made our way across. (Interesting fact: a bag stuffed with a hammock actually works like a floatation aid! For about 30 seconds. Then it starts soaking up water. Then it starts trying to drown you.)
* Some people might have heard me speak about two rivers between Sand Creek and Lethem, not three. The “extra” river appears during the rainy season, and is a dry riverbed for the rest of the year.
Once we’d crossed the first river we continued walking until we reached the second – the Rupununi River – which would have been almost certain suicide to attempt crossing. Seeing this, we were forced to rest there for a night, meaning I can now also tick off that I have slept in a tree. Novelty aside, it was far from my best night’s sleep: my clothes, hammock and netting were all still soaked from the swim, leading to an absolutely freezing night, and although my net did a respectable job of keeping the mosquitoes out, I was eaten alive whilst looking for a suitable tree and setting up my hammock (during the rainy season the mosquitoes near the rivers grow so big that getting caught by one is like being pricked with a pin).
In the morning we were picked up by the village boat and taken across the river, after which we got a lift by motorbike to the third and final river, which we crossed in Uncle Eugene’s dugout canoe. We walked the final mile and made it to school (almost) on time!
So, it’s now Monday afternoon and I’m absolutely exhausted. Out of last 4 nights, I’ve had one good night of sleep; the other three nights included a dreadful night caused by Lariam Nightmares, a cold night in a wet hammock, and an all-nighter I pulled in order to keep chatting to loved ones on the Internet. Add to that the fact that I have recently walked nearly 16 miles wearing slippers, and that I had to bike to the health centre** and back this afternoon, and I think I’ve earned an early night!
** Just to speak to Medex about something at school – don’t worry, I’m fine!
It feels good to tick off two Traveller’s Guide items that I thought I’d struggle with. Whilst in Lethem I also bought a pineapple (for #32) and some potatoes (for #6), so expect to see a few more being ticked off soon!
PS. Yes, yes, I know the Traveller’s Guide says I have to walk to another project and Sand Creek is my project, but I’m counting this anyway – I was in Shulinab when we made the decision, so at that point Sand Creek was another project.