This article was first published on the 19th of October, 2019 by Patrick Carpen.Last updated: January 23, 2020 at 15:34 pm
On the 18th of October, 2018, I made another trip to the Kumu Waterfall in the Rupununi Savannahs of Guyana, South America. I say “another” trip because I can’t remember exactly how many trips I had made to this falls before – whether it was 5, 6, 7….
This time, I was taking a Canadian tourist on motorcycle to visit the Kumu Waterfall. This tourist’s name was Christian Rodrigues. The next day, we were to go to Manaus for a tour of the “meeting of the waters” – where two rivers run side by side with different colors of water but do not mix with each other.
Christian’s first name was really Enoch, and his last name something so outlandish, I can’t recall exactly what it was. Nevertheless, he had made up the name “Christian Rodrigues” as a call name for himself.
After checking Christian into the Eco Hotel in Lethem, I said to him, as I was about to leave, “So, Enoch is the only man who went up to heaven alive, correct?”
“And Elijah,” he shot back quickly.
So, it turned out that I was dealing with a true Christian here – a follower of Christ with a biblical first name whose call name was “Christian” and who was a true biblical scholar. I just had to smile.
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All went well and I picked up Christian from the hotel at around 2 pm that same day – 18th of October, 2018, after he had had a hearty lunch. I brought a hefty helmet for him to put on his head and we set off for the trails of the Rupununi Savannahs.
After passing through St. Ignatius Village, we picked the trail to Kumu Falls and we were soon on our way. The view of the sunlit, cloud-covered Kanuku Mountains was magnificent – a depiction of the splendor and tranquility of nature in the fullness of its glory.
But this awesome view was cut short. Out of nowhere, angry rain clouds swirled overhead. A drizzle here, a drizzle there and then the rain started pouring. I signaled to Christian that I was not expecting this on a day that had started out so bright and sunny. The rain intensified and we had to stop the bike and seek shelter under a tree.
“So,” Christian said, as we stood behind the tree half drenched, hoping the rain would soon go away. “Are there snakes around here?”
“Well of course,” I replied. This is the jungle bro – the rain forest itself. What do you expect?
In fact, that answer I had just given to Christian was one that was given to me on several occasions by veteran tour guide and nature enthusiast “Wayne Augusto Mann.”
Christian’s face betrayed a feeling of fear and apprehension. “So,” he continued. “You mean, a snake could be here right in this tree or in the grass near to our feet?”
“Yes,” I smiled. “But I’ll tell you a secret. Snakes don’t really want to attack humans. They’re afraid of humans. I’ve been here in the Rupununi for about five years and this is my experience: snakes run away from humans. They know how to use camouflage to hide themselves when humans are around, curl into ribbons against a similar background etc. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
And then I told Christian the story of my closest encounter with a deadly snake. That was during the time when I was working as receptionist at the Takutu Hotel in Lethem – about four years back. There was heavy construction going on around the hotel. They were putting up an a second floor in one of the eastern wings. Lots of things were misplaced and the snake’s habitat was probably disturbed. It crawled down from the broken ceiling, down a post – a huge, fat snake about eight feet long – and hissed at me with its tongue – less than one foot away from my face. But when I backed away quickly, the snake turned and fled to the right.
“It didn’t attempt to chase you down?” Christian asked quickly.
“No,” I laughed. “As I told you, snakes are afraid of humans – they don’t want to be around humans – much less attack them. In fact, I think 99% of the time, when a snake bites a human, it’s because the human had accidentally stepped on the creature, and the bite was a reflex action.”
Then I asked Christian “Are you afraid of snakes?”
“Well, they can kill you.” he said bluntly.
I laughed. Enough of this conversation. The rain was intensifying. We were getting more and more soaked. We were quite a few miles away from civilization. Just when it couldn’t get any worse, an angry fork of lightning pierced through the cloudy air and hit the ground a good distance in front of us. Then its thunder tore the atmosphere with its rippling roar.
Christian and I looked at each other. “We’d better head home as soon as there’s a lull in this rain.” I said to him. He agreed.
“But,” I said. “That lightning…. It’s dangerous….”
“Yes.” he agreed.
Just then, another one flashed not too far away, and we covered our ears. The thunder rocked the air once more.
“You know, Christian, what are the two things that lightnings “look for” when they head for earth?”
He thought for a while. “Metal?” he ventured.
“Right.” I said. “And that motorcycle is made of metal. And do you know what else it looks for?”
Christian hesitated for a while. So I interrupted the silence and said, “The highest point. And while we’re riding this trail, we’re exactly those two things: the highest point and metal.”
I guess that’s enough to intimidate anyone. The rain intensified while I prayed for it to stop so that we could turn back in our tracks and go home. The lightning struck again.
I said to Christian, “So, what do you think, when the rain lulls a little bit, what should we do? Continue our journey or go back in our tracks?”
He seemed to be thinking when another bolt of lightning flashed by about half a mile away. I knew it was this close because of the immediacy and intensity of the thunder which followed. “I guess that answers our question!” I laughed. “We’re going home!”
About twenty minutes later, the rain fell slower. “We can go home now.” I said to Christian, as I walked towards the bike. He followed. I got on the bike and started it with one press of the ignition switch. This Japanese-made 250 cc Shineray dirtbike gave no “hard start” even after its engine had been cooled by the drenching rain.
But, as I was about to turn the bike around, Christian said, “Look, the skies are clearing.”
“What?” I asked.
“The skies are clearing, let’s continue our journey.” he said as he pointed upwards. I looked at the skies. The rain clouds were indeed disappearing. The mountains were once more appearing in clear view.
“But this is indeed a fearless guy.” I thought to myself. “An adventurous person or a true lover of nature” -as he himself had said.
So we continued our journey. Thanks to God, the weather held good, and we were able to make it through the trail towards the mountains and finally to the Kumu Falls.
At the gate of the entrance to the Kumu Falls, we could spot Mr. Peter Joseph standing there. His wife came to greet us and open the gate. We paid the usual entrance fee of 5 US dollars per person to enter into the falls area.
Christian just wanted to see the falls and take some pictures, and I just wanted to make some videos. After a short walk, we were ready to make our return trip home.
We said goodbye to Peter Joseph and the other folks at the falls. Then we headed back. It was great experience, and Christian evidently enjoyed it.
One thing that Christian said as he took photos along the way struck my mind, and I quote:
“The pictures will never be as good as the experience itself.” – Christian Rodrigues – Canandian tourist visiting the Rupununi.