Marshall Falls, Guyana
While we were standing outside our hotel, we met with Mrs. Balkarran. She asked if we needed any water or juice to take with us on the tour with her husband. We did buy a few items to take with us. Thankfully, Pat had brought a cooler.
When we had all that we needed, we walked out of the hotel and down to the pier by Balkarran’s hotel to get on one of his boats. It was a wooden boat; however, it did not have a roof. This boat was a little smaller than the one we took from Parika. It had four benches. It was pretty powerful though, with two 200 horse power outboard motors.
It was the early afternoon and the wind had come up a little bit. That made for choppy waters on the Mazaruni River, not unlike what we had experienced earlier in the day.
Motoring upriver we saw many different types of barges. Some were moored at shore while others were plying the river, both up and down.
One of the things we learned is the Mazaruni River/Essequibo River area had been used in World War II as a submarine facility. Apparently the river at that point is around 260 feet deep. Submarines would come upriver from the Atlantic Ocean for repairs and then return to the oceans to engage the enemy.
Balkarran stopped at several locations and provided us with various historical facts of the area. One of the first areas we stopped at was the Mazaruni Prison. He shared with us that the prison had been around since the late 17th Century under Dutch control. The wall near the shore had been built by hand; however, the various blocks show no signs of chisel marks, yet they fit together impeccably. Back in the day there had been a tunnel connecting the Mazaruni Prison location with the Fort Kyk Over Al location. It has since been filled in because prisoners would use the tunnel to aid their escapes.
Adjoining the Mazaruni Prison is a dry-dock. It dates back many years too. There were some very old looking vessels there. I am not certain if they were all seaworthy or not.
The next stop was the island with the remains of the Fort Kyk Over Al. The roots of the fort stretch back to the Dutch settlements in 1616. Apparently Kyk Over Al translates loosely to “see over all”. The fort passed back and forth between the Dutch and the British for many years. The only visible remnant today is an arch that was probably a doorway of some sort in the past.
The other very interesting sight on that island was the leaf cutter ants. Walking toward the arched doorway we had to step over a line of leaf cutter ants. I had seen them before on television shows, but never live. They were amazing. Each of them were carrying a piece of a leaf up to the size of a dime. Some were carrying a small dark colored berry. They were all marching in a line. I estimate the line was some 30 yards long. They seemed to congregate at a small pile of “cut” leaves and then carried them away. I watched them in amazement for quite some time.
Continuing up the river we came to a granite quarry. That surprised me. I did not think there would be granite in this particular geologic location. I have always associated granite with mountainous regions. Apparently the Italians purchase and resell some of the granite for counter tops. The “chunks and hunks” that remain are placed on barges and transported to the Guyana coast to fortify the sea wall defenses.
As we continued south on the Mazaruni River we came upon some rapids. Balkarran gave us the option of going through the rapids or not. We all opted to “run” the rapids. They were not too daunting, especially for a boat with two engines of 200 horse power each.
Just beyond one of the rapids, Balkarran pointed out a beach that is part of 25 acres that he owns. He said he often brings groups there to camp and fish. Since there is no stagnate water there are no mosquitoes there. The only pest that can be a problem are horseflies.
From the camping area, Balkarran took us back downriver. At one point he turned the boat into a sort of cove and aimed for a small opening in the trees toward the river bank. We moored at a trail head for Marshall Falls.
The slightly worn trail led directly into the jungle. Looking at the path heading into the jungle, disappearing into the trees, it reminded me of a path one may see in the Secret Garden. Neither Leslie nor I had ever been in a jungle setting. It was awe inspiring. I am certain the hike to the falls would have gone much quicker if we had not been gawking at everything we saw. For example, we saw a brown ball-shaped object on the ground. It was probably twice the size of a softball. It was a termite nest.
As we walked, Balkarran shared many stories and facts with us about the jungle, plants, and wildlife. At one point he asked us to listen to the Howler Monkeys. I did not hear anything. Unfortunately, we did not see any wildlife during our entire trek; no birds, no monkeys, no snakes, nada.
The hike to the falls was “advertised” as a 30 minute walk. It took us closer to 45 minutes. I estimate the trail was around a mile in length. The trail from the river bank rose steadily in elevation; however, it was a gradual rise. The last couple of hundred meters of the trail was quite steep, heading down to the falls. It was so steep that someone had attached handrails between trees on the side of the trail at several locations.
When we began the descent we could hear the falls. Once we reached the bottom of the trail at the small valley floor, we saw a beautiful water fall. Cutting across in front of it was a wooden bridge to allow one to get to the other side of the stream and ultimately to the falls themselves. Stepping onto the bridge one immediately noted the walking surface was canted a little toward the right. There were some “railings” to help. The word is in quotes because they did not extend the full length of the bridge nor were they very sturdy. Regardless, at least they were there, or so one thought until stepping on a particularly slanted and slippery portion, reaching for the railing, and finding it did not extend that far. Luckily no one fell off the bridge into the water.
The water at this portion of the stream, unlike the rivers, is what the locals call “black water.” If the water is more than a couple of feet deep it looks black. One can see the color vary from the surface to the point that it becomes black. It is really quite unique. That is apparently what the Essequibo and Mazaruni Rivers used to look like.
Marshall Falls has a total drop of about 20 or 25 feet, not huge, but spectacular in its own right. Elroy and Balkarran actually climbed about halfway up the falls and then disappeared behind the falls. There was a small “cave” behind the falls. I understand there is an area above the falls in which one can sit and relax, almost like a hot tub.
We lounged around at the falls for maybe an hour before we began the trek back to the boat. As we began back up the steep portion of the trail toward the boat, Balkarran was kind enough to cut a walking stick for Leslie from one of the many jungle saplings. She commented how much easier the walk was because of that and also how heavy the stick was. It may have been a Green Heart sapling. The Green Heart is a very dense and heavy wood.
Once we crested the top, it was all downhill, literally. We continued our journey toward the boat. Suddenly, Leslie screamed. As we all rushed to her aid, we discovered she had been victimized by the “alligator tail” vine. This vine has small stickers. The slightest brush dislodges dozens of stickers onto whatever brushed up against the vine. As it happens, there was a vine that was hanging down near the trail. Leslie brushed up against the vine with one of her fingers. She ended up with dozens of stickers in her finger. We helped her pick them out and continued on our way. The remainder of the hike to the boat was uneventful.
Back in the boat, we turned downstream to head back to Bartica. As noted in post 130, Bartica – Gateway to Gold, the word Bartica is an Amerindian word that means red earth. At one point along the river we got a good view of what that means. One could see the red soil hills towering above the river.
During the ride back we found it was much smoother than when we initially departed Bartica.