So despite what mass media tries to tell you, the Amazon isn’t the only massive cool river in South America. Okay, okay, the Essequibo is nowhere near the Amazon’s almost 6500km length but it is still the longest river in Guyana, the third longest in South America. The Essequibo essentially runs from the very south of Guyana near the Brazil-Guyana-Venezuela border and traipses its way north for 1,010 km to the Atlantic Ocean. There are many tributaries that are major rivers themselves, including the Potaro River which has Kaieteur Falls.
As much as I had dreams (and still do) about visiting a remote traditional society, sadly that wasn’t for this particular trip. My visit to the Essequibo River was rather tame. But at the same time, who doesn’t love a meandering boat trip? The part of the river I saw was from a small rustic frontier town called Parika to an even more rustic frontier town called Bartica. In between those two places, you can get a pretty good feel for what life on the river is like excluding the most remote communities, of course. If it weren’t for spiders the size of my face, I’d be tempted to live in a place like this…
A trip down the 20 km wide Essequibo includes the following:
1. Seeing many little islands, including Fort Island (an island with a fort).
2. Bathing under a waterfall or two such as Marshall Falls.
3. Bouncing along some rapids on the Mazaruni River (a tributary of the Essequibo).
There are a couple companies that offer day trips which are well worth the money as they save you the hassle of trying to hire your own boat. I hear you saying, but the Essequibo water is brown and I don’t want to do a tour! All I can say is that for me, it was a pretty amazing feeling to be out on this huge river traversing the rainforest, imagining jungle rural life, and wondering what would happen if I were to dangle my fingers in the water. The guide did say that there are no piranhas in this river but, I dunno… Oh and the Essequibo is a brown colour primarily because of vegetation. Leaves can dye the colour of water so that it looks like tea. So no, it isn’t that the water is dirty.
One of the highlights of a trip down the Essequibo is a hike through the rainforest to Marshall Falls. Once my little group reached the falls, those of us brave (or insane) enough jumped into the dark waters to stand under a short but powerful waterfall. One needs to be practically the size of the Terminator in order not to be beaten down by rushing water! Energizing is the key word of the experience.
If anyone tries to tell you that you’ll hear monkeys and parrots while out on the river, you’d have to be very lucky for it to be true. I almost combusted on the spot when I saw a toucan and a red howler monkey with a baby! (Disclaimer: I grew up playing a game called Amazon Trail so this boat trip was basically that childhood memory coming to life. I think I could be forgiven for being disproportionally happy at seeing a bird and a primate in their jungle setting).