Surama and Rock View
South Pakaraima District
January 25, 2018
My Scandinavian friend Oscar is a Certified Bushmaster.
As a young soldier, Oscar served two tours in Afghanistan. He still serves in the military and yet decided to test his skills in Jungle Survival here in Guyana with Bushmasters, a “survival” tour operator based in England.
There are two phases to the “Jungle Survival Experience” – Training and then Isolation.
In the Isolation phase, after Training, participants are deposited alone in the jungle without any modern equipment or gadgets. For two days and nights, individual men or women build a shelter, start a fire, and hunt or fish. I was told that one of the men became so frustrated while fishing, he ate the bait fish. Another guy survived on insects he found crawling on the jungle floor. (And for this “experience” they pay $2500 for the week.)
Along with the other men I met at the Surama Eco-lodge, Oscar survived.
For some reason Oscar and I started a conversation and it lasted for more than two hours. He is now a mature man and we shared many thoughts and experiences. (Regarding survival, the best I could contribute were my wonderful days camping and cooking and hiking when I was a Boy Scout. Unlike the requirements of the Bushmasters in Surama, we did carry matches and flashlights to survive on the lakes and in the mountains of Ten Mile River in New York, and Alpine in New Jersey, and Lake Wallenpaupack in Pennsylvania.
Back to my Itinerary in Guyana and the Tour Description provided by Wilderness Explorers:
The Amerindian community of Surama is located in the heart of Guyana. The village is set in five square miles of savannah which is ringed by the forest covered Pakaraima Mountains.
Surama’s inhabitants are mainly from the Macushi tribe and still observe many of the traditional practices of their forebears.
This isolated and idyllic location offers an escape from the concrete jungle to a serene and peaceful existence with nature. The guides have lived their entire lives in the rainforest, and have a thorough understanding of nature and how to utilize its resources.
On arrival in Surama you will receive a warm welcome from local staff and settle into your accommodation at the Surama Eco-lodge. A local guide will escort you for a short walk on trails to observe the forest and bird life.
I did take a walk towards the local village and school. But the road tilted uphill and combined with the cloudless savannah sunshine, I turn back to the lodge. Clearly, I would not have survived the afternoon heat.
Now, “down the road a piece,” I ride to Rock View Lodge, located where the savannah meets the forest-covered foothills of the Pakaraima Mountains.
Rock View Lodge
North Rupununi District
January 27, 2018
From the Rock View Lodge website:
In 1992, Colin Edwards, a gregarious Englishman with a vision, bought Rock View in order to fulfil a dream of building an environmentally friendly lodge and working farm that also benefits surrounding communities.
Colin started with arid and rundown ranching lands and has created an oasis in the savanna. Gardens flourish, cattle graze freely, flowering and fruit trees abound, and numerous jobs have been created for local community members.
Eight comfortable rooms have ensuites and feature a patio and hammock for relaxing. Meals are served in the dining room under the mango trees and most of the produce is grown on the property. The pool has a lovely setting in the gardens and is a welcome respite on a hot day.
You can see how cashews are roasted and maybe even try your hand at them yourself. The labor-intensive method of cracking open the roasted nuts along with the self-ignition of the nuts as the acid content burns off are a spectacular sight. You can then taste the freshly roasted nuts,
.“In a nutshell” so to speak, during my stay at Rock View Lodge, I watch as the lodge staff extract fish from the AquaCulture Fish Pond, partake in a hearty lunch of the fresh catch, wander the shady grounds, hike among the enormous boulders that give the lodge its name, assist in preparation of roasted cashews and enjoy a delightful dinner with Colin and his friend from Georgetown.
I am truly in the “middle of nowhere.” But given the botanical surroundings, the flavorsome food, the devoted staff, a well-stocked library, and an Internet connection, one can easily feel envious of Colin and the life he has built here on the savannah.
The “middle of nowhere” is certainly “somewhere” very special.
And one man’s dream fulfilled.