Published: 25th of September, 2023 by Patrick CarpenLast updated: October 1, 2023 at 23:05 pm
On the 25th of September, 2023, I departed the city of Georgetown, Guyana, South America and headed for the town of Lethem in Region 9. It’s was a long and somewhat arduous journey of about 600 kilometers, but also a fun and enjoyable one. Since this was the first time I was driving the trail, this experience puts me in a good position to write this guide for persons who are desirous of making the Georgetown to Lethem road trip for the first time.
Theoretically, if one drives at 100 KM per hour, they are supposed to reach Lethem in about 6 hours. But that is only possible if the road is completely paved, free of safety hazards, and there are no rivers to cross along the way – none of these conditions are met: the Linden-Lethem trail is a rugged trail interrupted by the Essequibo River at Kurupukari. Further, there are four police checkpoints along the way – where you have to stop and present yourself along with your driver’s license and/or ID card or passport. In this article, I’ll share all the fun details of driving from the city of Georgetown in Region 4 to the town of Lethem in Region 9, Guyana, South America based on my personal experience and viewpoint.
Since the purpose of this article is to serve as a guide for persons who wish to drive to Lethem from the city of Georgetown, I’ll try to be as thorough and detailed as possible while keeping the article as short and enjoyable as possible – the intricate task of striking a delicate balance.
The Linden to Lethem Trail is presently under construction, and an all-weather highway built to international standards is underway, so this article may lose relevance with time. Nevertheless, I hope it empowers many motorists who are driving this trail for the first time, and I’ll strive to update it with more relevant information as the conditions along the Lethem-Linden trial changes with time.
For this first trip driving to Lethem, I drove a Toyota Premio, year 2008 model. It was a new car hot off the wharf. I had it checked and serviced by reliable and experienced Guyanese mechanic, Akbar Khan a few days before leaving. The day before leaving, I had the wheels balanced with air at a tire shop on the East Bank of Demerara. The reason I’m mentioning these details is that the kind of vehicle, and the condition it is in, influences the kind of experience you will have driving along the trail. While you don’t need to have a brand new vehicle, it is important that the vehicle you are driving is in mint condition and can stand up to a good rocking. At present, some parts of the Lethem-Linden trail are smooth sailing, but other parts are filled with potholes and “scrubbing boards.” Obviously, some vehicles, like 4-wheel drives, will handle the trail much better than a car.
When embarking to drive the Lethem-Linden trail from Georgetown, make sure your tires are good and you have a spare tire. Many parts of the trail are completely devoid of mobile phone coverage. If you suffer a blow-out or break down in an isolated area, you could find yourself in a tight spot. And yes, some parts of the trail are haunted by dangerous animals of the wild such as jaguars, snakes, and anacondas. Remember, you will be driving through the rainforest during this trip. The good news is that there are vehicles regularly plying the route, so you can have high hopes of being rescued if you experience a breakdown in an isolated area: it just might take a few hours. Nevertheless, it’s far better to be on the safe side and make sure you drive a well-serviced, sturdy vehicle. On the same note, traveling together with other vehicles is a plus.
I left Georgetown at around 9 AM on Monday, 25th of September, 2023. By 12:30 PM the same day, I was in the town of Linden. To pick the Lethem trail from Linden, you drive straight along the Linden-Soesdyke Highway until you enter Linden and see a sign that says, “road end.” At that junction, make a right turn and drive straight for several kilometers. You can slow down and ask directions for the Wismar-McKenzie bridge. Cross the Wismar-Mckenzie Bridge and drive to the last Gas Station in Linden before hitting the trail to Lethem.
Refueling is a big question when driving from Georgetown to Lethem. How often should you refuel? And do you need to store fuel in your vehicle? I’m not sure about every type of vehicle, but for the car I drove, there are enough gas station along the way to keep me fueled up. I left Georgetown with a full tank of gas. When I arrived in Linden, I topped up the tank to its max at the last gas station in Linden before the trail. Sorry I forgot the name but you can’t miss it. When I arrived at 58 Miles Village along the Lethem-to Linden trail, I topped up the tank again at the gas station there. Both times, it took about $3000 dollars to fill it back to max capacity. There is also a gas station at Annai, but I didn’t need to refuel there since I had more than enough fuel to arrive in Lethem after topping up the tank at 58 Miles Village. I estimate that the car I drove consumed about $10,000 to $12,000 GY gas from Georgetown to Lethem.
To get to Lethem from Georgetown, ignore the detours to your right all the way up to the Kurupukari Crossing. Choose the left path or go straight ahead. There are several detours along the way. Some have sign boards and some don’t. The first detour to your right is just a few miles from Linden and it takes you to Rockstone. There is another right detour before you reach 58 Miles village, and yet another one to your right after you pass 58 Miles Village and before you reach Mabura Village. At Mabura Village, there is another detour to your right, and a signboard clearly indicates that turning there takes you to the town of Mahdia in Region 8.
After you pass Kurupurari, there is a detour to your left…just after the fourth and final police checkpoint after you pass Surama Village. Ignore that detour on your left and keep driving straight until you reach Lethem.
There are many sharp turns and circular corners along the way. Be careful. Slow down near to turns. Further, gravel and bricks on some parts of the trail can cause a speeding vehicle to slide.
Some parts of the trail are very narrow and filled with turns with blind spots. Don’t drive on the wrong side of the road near to turns which create a blind spot. Many motorists seem to do this foolishness and it’s only a matter of luck or God’s grace that it doesn’t cause a collision. Another factor is that the trail is sparsely traveled. But that is changing and more vehicles are hitting the trail daily. Hold your corner, slow down, and blow your horn when going around blind turns or up hills.
You will have to stop and present yourself at Mabura Police Outpost. You will have to pay a toll of 1000 dollars at the toll gate after you leave this outpost. You then drive straight to the Kurupukari Crossing.
Car drivers will need to buy a ticket which costs 8000 dollars to cross at the Kurupurari Crossing. You can get that at the first shop on your right, called Samantha’s, just a few meters before you reach the crossing. The ferry takes vehicles across the Crossing every hour from 6 am to 6 pm.
If you arrive at the Kurupukari Crossing after 6 PM, you will have to spend the night right there. There are several facilities offering rooms or hammock spaces. Samantha offers hammocks for $1000 per person. They also sell snacks with wonderful local fruit juices there. The Track Hotel and Restaurant obliquely opposite Samantha offers rooms for $8000. They also offer spaces to tie hammocks, but unlike Samantha, they don’t have hammocks – you have to bring your own. The Track Hotel and Restaurant at Kurupukari also offers cabins by the river for a much higher price – $30,000 and $50,000 per night. Aside from these, there are two other places which offers hammocks for travelers who missed the ferry and have to spend the night at Kurupukari.
After crossing the Essequibo River at Kurupukari, you will reach a police checkpoint just a few meters away to your right. After that, you drive until you reach the end of the Iwokrama Forest Reserve. There, you will find another Police Checkpoint on your left where you will be required to present your driver’s license.
After the police checkpoint at the end of the Iwokrama Forest Reserve, drive until you pass Surama and you will encounter another police checkpoint to your left. From there, it takes about 3 to 5 hours, depending on the speed at which you drive, to reach the town of Lethem.
Along the trail from Linden to Lethem are many shops, snakettes, hotels, and restaurants for your to grab a bite, use the washroom and refresh yourself.