Leguan Island sits on the mouth of these mighty river and it is still standing though some people are saying one day it might sink under the water. That will be the day the world ends. This is a great story by Dave Martins
The mighty Essequibo Posted By Stabroek staff On April 19, 2010
The Essequibo River is probably my favorite place on earth. A couple places come close – the Canadian Rockies between Edmonton and Calgary; the North Rupununi; southern Utah – but I think the Essequibo beats them.
To be in the middle of it for the first time, in those miles of water, flowing through this enormous canyon in the earth, with scores of unspoiled islands, is to get a sense of the scale of creation. To look across this almost frightening display of size and power of the natural world, is to feel your insignificance in the order of things. The Essequibo slows your engine and brings you closer to basics. It turns down your wick, gently, without asking you.
Like most Guyanese, I didn‟t always know it.
All of my young life here was spent on the West Coast, partly in the Pomeroon, and after Saints I worked for a couple of years for what was then BG Airways at what was then Atkinson Field. Through the airline I saw a lot of our interior magnets – Orinduik, Kaieteur, Annai, Roraima, the Rupununi, etc – but I never got to Mabaruma, or the magical Waini, until a year ago. And in those early years I also never got to the Essequibo. Oh, I had crossed it on that agonizingly slow steamer trip from Parika to Adventure, on my way to my father‟s farm in the Pomeroon, but you don‟t find the magic of the river that way; at least, I didn‟t. Also, at 10 years of age I was more interested in the jamoon and shaddock and mangoes waiting for me two miles from Charity.
It was only after Tradewinds became popular, on one of my trips back here, that I really discovered the Essequibo. George Jardim invited me to spend some time at Wolga, his country house on the riverside. It was a powerful awakening for me – I was literally agape – later expanded on trips with Tony Vieira (the media guy), Gem and Kit Nascimento, and more recently the Correia clan.
The Essequibo is truly another world, where the scale of everything is bigger, even the storms, but where, also, everything slows, and everything is different. What looks like 3 or 4 miles is actually 10. Sound travels differently across the water, reaching your ears from the other bank way off in the distance. Breezes come in your face from one direction, then fade away and suddenly start blowing behind you. Even the daylight is different there, with the shifting clouds constantly changing patterns on the ground. And in the night there is that almost total darkness where it seems the whole world has gone to sleep and you want to follow.
The first thing that strikes you is the enormous span of it. At Parika, where your up-river journey begins, the bush, a few miles away, that you think is the western shore is actually an island, Leguan, and there are other islands beyond that; the western shore is actually 21 miles away. The size and spread of the river is such that to be in it for the first time is to think you‟re afloat in a huge lake. You could put Barbados between those two river banks; that‟s how big it is.
The other quality of the place is the sense of suspended time that envelops you there.
Shortly after you leave Parika, you are very quickly into a landscape that, apart from the occasional house you will see on the shore, is basically how it was 200 or 300 years ago. When you look through a camera lens away from any made structures, it occurs to you that are looking at what was there hundreds of years
ago; this enormous river has been sculpting and depositing and eroding and churning, and it‟s still doing that today. You‟re overtaken by an awareness of nature completely on its own, and you‟re nothing but a bystander looking on.
Also, unlike so many other famous nature spots, where there is a dormant sense of concluded events, the Essequibo is alive in your face, tumbling, turning, rising, falling. It is a place where you see the enormous power of nature at work, every day.
No dams or machines are in the way; it is the earth engine at full throttle with mankind out of the equation. Occasionally you will find yourself in the middle of the most ferocious rain storms, where the water comes in thunderous sheets and you feel for the safety of even the most formidable shelter. But again, even in the middle of that sudden deluge, there‟s a kind of uplift from the presence of these forces of nature, cleansing, recharging, and releasing, completely oblivious to the presence of man. It storms here like you would not believe.
Ultimately, it is the power of the place that grips you.
Understand that this is no gentle tributary weaving through the landscape.
This is a mighty river, tons of water in its belly that can get vicious in the late afternoon and hammer your boat as if to break it. It‟s as if the gods of the Essequibo are telling you, “Whatever you‟re up to, it‟s time to head home, and embrace the night; leave my waters be.”
It‟s a river of strong and varied moods. You‟re caught by the sunset dancing behind a distant island, or the sprinkle of lights across the way as night falls, or the calm water in the morning like black glass.
There are now a number of „country houses‟ in the landscape between Parika and Baganara, but they‟re so far apart, and the river is so wide, that they don‟t interfere with this feeling of undisturbed nature… the river itself remains vibrant, there are sandbanks in parts of it, and once you leave Parika behind, as you watch the water rush by, a feeling of repose overtakes you.
It‟s revealing, too, that the Essequibo regulars use the expression “going in the river” when they‟re spending time there; they‟re referring to the place, not the water as the term suggests; they‟re talking about an experience. It‟s also interesting that nobody has to ask them “Which river?”
The people who visit it become like a clan; they all know each other; they visit each other and swap food and supplies, and, of course, lots of drink – it‟s Guyana, after all. People take pictures of it, as I did, but just as pictures cannot convey the Rockies, or Kaieteur, they can‟t convey this river; you have to experience it.
I‟m not a formally religious person, and jumbie is nonsense to me, but, like Kaieteur and the Rupununi, this sprawling, tempestuous river phenomenon brings creation to mind every time I go there.
If God lies down in a hammock anywhere to take a five, my guess is that it‟s in the Essequibo.
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