Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Rupununi & Rewa Lodge

From Yupukari, we continued our journey by boat along the Rupununi River, watching the world and its wildlife pass us by as a seemingly endless procession of Wood Storks, Cocoi Herons, Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, Ringed, Green and Amazon Kingfishers, Drab Water-tyrants (yes, there really is a bird called that!) and parties of Black Skimmers and Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns entertained us. Eventually we arrived at Ginep Landing, from where we transfered to a very different form of transport - an ex-British Army Bedford truck! We bounced along a dirt track which is actually Guyana's only road that runs from the coast right into the interior as far as Lethem on the Brazilian border - some road! We rattled and shook, but still managed nice views of a range of good birds, a few monkeys and some fabulous scenery as we passed a range of low hills along the edge of the savanna. Eventually we made it to Annai, had a refreshing glass of home-made lemonade (well, a couple of Banks's Beer for some of us!) at Rock View Lodge then soon headed back to the river to resume our journey.

Another 50 miles on the river lay ahead of us and a little over two hours later we arrived at Rewa village. The villagers here had heard about these people called 'tourists' who would be interested in their rainforest and the wildlife that they lived amongst. So they took advice on building a 'lodge' (though they knew not what that was when they started!) and - so they told us - they waited for the tourists to arrive. For a year! No-one told them about advertising, they just were told that tourists would come. Luckily for them, we did come and the word about Rewa is getting out. It was a spectacular place to be. With breakfasts served overlooking the river, boat trips to look for Arapaima and Black Caiman and a whole host of great birds to be found, we certainly had as great time here. Highlights included more macaws than we could ever have hoped for, a Great Potoo found by our own Jim Danzenbaker at a daytime roost, masses of toucans, great flocks of antbirds and much more. We were sad to leave Rewa, but all itching to return and spend even more time here on a return visit.

From Rewa, it was back to something resembling civilization as we went by river back to Rockview Lodge for lunch, then by road into the truly wonderful Iwokrama Forest. Picture time now....

Typical river view on the boat trip from Yupukari to Ginpe Landing.

Guyana's major trunk road! The dusty trail that heads into the foothills from the Rupununi savanna is the only road to reach from the coast to the far interior. It may seem primitive, but it keeps everything in perspective and helps protect this wonderful land. One day, a surfaced road will replace it...

Savanna view with some low-key cattle ranching.

Getting ready to depart from Kwatamang Landing on the Rupununi River.

The World Wildlife Fund is helping to protect threatened populations of Arapaima. This is a spectacular fish - the largest species of scaled fish in the world - and (of course) its very size has been its downfall as so-called 'sportsmen' began to flood in and pose with a dead one. Fortunately this is now properly controlled with a government licensing system and Arapaima numbers are beginning to recover. We actually came surprisingly close to one on one of the many ox-bow lakes in the area and just managed to see a flash of fins as a monster rose from the depths right beside our canoe!

Every day should start like this! Breakfast beside the Rewa River - with parrots, toucans, and genuinely wild Muscovy Ducks for company!
At Rewa, one of the treats was going out to a nearby Ox-bow lake to see the football-sized flowers and six-foot across leaves of the superb Amazon Water-lily. The flowers open in the evening and are pollinated at night by beetles. On the first night, the flowers are white (like this one) to attract the beetles. As dawn creeps on, the petals close up and trap the beetles inside for the day, thus ensuring pollination. On the second night, the flowers turn pink and re-open, releasing the beetles, who fly off to find another white flower and ensure cross-pollination. (You'll have to wait until the end to see pink ones!)
Yellow-rumped Cacique with its amazing sky-blue eye.

Blue-and-yellow Macaws as they should be seen - paired for life, calling raucously and enjoying the freedom of their homeland...

If there's one thing I could really do without in the rainforests of Guyana, it's those Red Howler Monkeys sounding off at first light every morning - this male looks particularly guilty!

A special highlight of Rewa was being invited to the local primary school where I'm not sure that the kids knew what to make of us - but they all seemed to be having a good time!

"I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be...."

Written by Michael Masser & Linda Creed and originally sung by the great George Benson, the lyrics to The Greatest Love Of All are probably best known to most as sung by Whitney Houston. Whatever your take on it, the words are approriate more than ever today and it was wonderful to see the children of Rewa village being taught about their natural heritage so that they may respect and look after it and pass it on to their own children. In the picture here, some of them are up on the stage and singing a song that had been written especially for our visit. The song invited us to come to their village and see the Arapaima, Giant Otter and Harpy Eagle, which they had drawn for us.

When you're walking trails that are visited by so few people, you never quite know what you are going to find. This male Little Tinamou was sitting on eggs right beside the trail up Awarmie Mountain and sat nervously as we all took a peak then went on our way.

Awarmie Mountain is more a pimple really, but the surrounding land is so flat that you don't need to go very high before you get spectacular views of the rainforest and the Rupununi River.

Another great view to distant horizons.

The extrusions of rock in southern Guyana create some fascinating places to explore - and great places for bats and all manner of other beasties to hide.

As we came back down Awarmie Mountain, this Ludovica Tigerwing was nectaring beside the trail. This is one of an interesting group of butterflies in the Monarch family which resemble poisonous Heliconiid butterflies - but are, in fact, themselves poisonous too. This form of mimicry is known as Mullerian Mimicry, where potentially poisonous/dangerous species resemble each other so that all benefit from the same predator protection.

As the sun got ever lower in the sky, our visit to Awarmie Mountain took an unexpected turn as we watched parties of Red-and-green Macaws fly right past us and settle in nearby Cecropia trees for the most terrible conversational din, before heading off to roost. A fantastic bonus to the tour. Scarlet and Blue-and-yellow Macaws came with them too. The sight of such awesome birds living free is an increasingly rare thing these days, but hope springs eternal in this magical land.

More Red-and-greens pass by on their way to roost. Every macaw we saw was flying in tandem with its soul mate.

After the thrill of the macaw roost, the day could only finish with a spectacular sunset over the river - you can just see the moon to the right there too.

Back in the boats, back on the Rupununi and back to Rock View! Time for some photos of Black Skimmers and Large-billed Terns on the way though.

More Black Skimmers, settling on a sand-bar.

Christina, Jeff and Megan hurtle back along the Rupununi...

The view from Rock View Lodge, across the savanna to Mt. Makarapan. The dirt in the foreground is the local airstrip!

And finally for this post, one of the Rock View locals - a Tropidurus hispidus. This is one of the collared lizards which has so many different English names that I almost lost the will to live trying to decide which one to use. Time for another Banks's!!

Next Post - Iwokrama and beyond.