Published: 3rd of March, 2023
Brian and Patricia Cameron, two Canadian visitors to Guyana, traveled to the Rupununi in January 2023 to do some research for an upcoming book. While there, they met many interesting people and visited many beautiful places. In this story, Brian describes their trip from Lethem to Iwokrama.
Ivan Johnson picks us up at 7am at the Takatu Hotel in Lethem, in his air-conditioned Toyota Landcruiser with a front winch, a full tank of gas and a spare tire. The day is clear and dry and we should make the 216km to Iwokrama River Lodge in 4 hours barring any unexpected stops.
The red laterite Rupununi road leads north across open savannah, with the Pakaraima Mountains visible in the northwest. On our left is the Ireng River and the border with Brazil. The road was graded recently, but there are still potholes and washboard bumps, with some areas bare of gravel. We’re thankful for the comfortable suspension and seats. Driving this road in a minibus would be a challenge to our aging bodies.
We pass a few small ranches, some horses, and a small herd of cattle. There is an occasional small pool of water with a few wading birds: great blue heron, egrets, and several Jabiru. Black vultures soar overhead. We travel at 60-80 km/h and slow down to cross several wooden board bridges over small creeks. There’s not much traffic. An occasional minibus and motorcycle passes us heading south to Lethem.
After 2 hours, we pause at the clean and well supplied Oasis shop in Annai for a bathroom break, cold drink, and snack. There, we meet and pick up a guide and a Medex who are also heading for Iwokrama. Twenty minutes later, we are into the rainforest. There are at least a dozen new concrete bridges under construction over creeks between Annai and the Kurupukari crossing. We slow down to bypass construction on the original single-lane wooden board bridges. The larger creeks are being diverted to the new underpasses with major earth moving equipment, but not much work is underway today. Someday this will be a major highway from Georgetown to Brazil.
Now over 3 hours into our trip and just past the turnoff to Surama village, we stop at the gate entrance to the Iwokrama forest reserve. The only armed guard we have seen presides, presumably to deter poachers. We drive another 40 minutes to reach the Iwokrama River Lodge perched on the Essequibo River, passing a sunning giant green anaconda in a ditch beside the road.
Arriving at Iwokrama on time at 11:00am, we stretch and are welcomed with a delicious lunch. Our cabin is ready.