Saturday, 15 March 2014

Iatuk

The huntman steps swiftly and silently through the trees. Over his shoulder he carries a gun, at his belt he has his knife, and that is all he walks with. Picking his path carefully up the mountain, he breaks a small branch every few paces to mark out the way he came.

To the two white boys panting and stumbling along behind, every patch of forest looks the same, every tree is just another tree. But the huntman sees everything. He sees every plant, what you can make out of it, what ailment it can cure. He sees every species of tree and knows which are good for burning or building, how to cut them and what kind of birds you could find in their canopies. He sees every pawprint, he sees what kind of animal was going where and when. And of course his eyes are constantly alert, ready to pick out a snake, lurking in the branches ahead. The snake is the huntman's only enemy in this forest.

The forest floor is damp and gloomy, only the odd ray of light from above making it down to the soft, thick bed of fallen leaves underfoot. During the day it is quieter, in the heat the bird calls and insect noises don't penetrate so far, and many of the jungle creatures are hidden away, waiting for nightfall.

Without map or compass, he navigates by the contours of the slope, the angle of the sun, the faint sound of the river. All of a sudden he stops. "Let's take a look down here". We descend a little past some huge boulders, and the sound of rushing water grows louder. After hacking away some thick vegetation, we climb carefully into the sunlight. We have reached the edge of the river. But it is not only the edge of a river, it is the edge of a waterfall. First time, after hours of walking, our guide has taken us straight to the exact spot where the Potaro river plunges over a huge clifface, turning to white spray before it hits the rocks below, on its way down towards Chenapou village. I am reminded of Fantastic Mr Fox, tunnelling underground and coming up directly underneath Boggis' farmhouse first time.

The most spectacular thing, is the way this wonder of nature is hidden away, deep in a jungle, with not even a trail to it, no spot to land a helicopter, no passage to it by boat. There is no viewing platform, no barrier, not the slightest clearing away of the rainforest. This is a place very few people in the world have been, a place left beautifully undisturbed.

I laugh out loud with joy, applauding, stripping off to take a shower in one of the small stages that come before the main drop. Perhaps the most scenic shower of my life. The dark clouds above begin to open, the air becomes thick with heavy tropical rain. I realise now that I really am surrounded by water in every direction. This is the Land of Many Waters alright.

Later attempting to look up the waterfall on the internet proved to be fruitless. It is marked as Iatuk Falls on my map, but the only information on it that I could find was on a list of waterfalls in Guyana, that vaguely stated that its height is "over 60m". Clearly nothing in comparison to Kaiteur, but pretty big all the same.

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