...Lying flat on your front, sprawled out over an overhaning rock with your head cautiously peering over the edge, you can watch the waterfall from top to bottom, at a distance of perhaps 10m from the water. It is impossible to retain any sense of scale or distance, gazing down to the rumbling chaos below. The water, that so innocently curves over the lip of the cliff, calming accepting its fate, gradually, as if in slow motion, stretches out and cascades into the nothingness of thin air. Jets of water seem to race each other past half-way, before finally shattering into a million shards of white and entering the stormy pool below, where waves crash into boulders, and swirling winds sweep spray into the the sky.
A strange world exists around the plunge pool, of rocks that are vivid green, and plants that look tiny but are perhaps as tall as trees. And then, beyond the mighty, overhanging cavern, past the cliffs, a rainbow in the spray hangs in front of the valley. The valley stretches far into the distance, the Potaro snaking its way through the bottom, recovered from it's rough journey down the mountain. Everything else is solid green, up to the horizon, trees, trees, trees.
In order to spend as little time as possible at Menzie's Landing, and as much time as possible at one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world, I made the half hour walk to Kaieteur, and then back, no less than 7 times over the course of the weekend. By the airstrip (a magnificent piece of engineering twice as wide as Chenapou's, and smoother than Paramakatoi's) there was an arrival centre for the tourists, that came in small batches for a couple of hours each day.
The centre was a good place to visit because a) you could buy snacks there, b) there was a telephone to call home from and c) there was a toilet, and toilet paper. On top of this, it gave us a chance to ogle at tourists; strange creatures with American accents, fancy clothes, watches and cameras. They sprayed each other with insect repellent and drank bottled water. With our long boots on and a cutlass strapped to my bag, we felt magnificently un-touristy, especially when we chatted to the guides like friends, as they were mostly from Chenapou.
Then the tourists would grab their new Kaiteur National Park caps and t-shirts and mugs, climb back into their planes, and a few minutes later peace and quiet and emptiness would return to the jungle. That was what made Kaieteur so special. For the remaining 22 hours of the day, one of the largest waterfalls in the world was entirely ours.
I thought it couldn't get any better, sitting in this untouched piece of paradise in the evening, with nothing to do but contemplate life, waterfalls, and how marvellous nature is. Then the swifts arrived, in their thousands. They flocked high in the sky, soaring gracefully and swerving around and flowing like water, then, as the reached the lip of the falls, they too dropped and cascaded down into the gorge, diving with terrific speed. But then they would turn, and duck through the spray, behing the wall of water, into the cavern that had been hollowed out of the mountain for them. No wonder, I thought, that the Patamona people once regarded this as the home of the 'Great Spirit'. I know where I would choose to live if I were 'Makanaima'.