The first leg of our venture to Bartica, the drive to Parika, began at 06:45. We picked up our friend and neighbor, Pat, and began the drive to the harbor bridge. That is where we were to meet two of my colleagues from work, Elroy and Worren. Elroy is from Bartica. He is the one that helped arrange the entire trip.
We arrived at the Demarara Harbor Bridge at about 07:15. The sign above the toll both indicated the next retraction was to be at 08:30. That means the bridge would be closed at that time to allow ships on the Demarara River to pass. Those closures usually happen a couple of times a day. The signs above each of the three toll both lanes were a little confusing; each said both open and closed. When Elroy and Worren joined us, we just followed a car through one of the lanes.
The charge to cross the bridge was $200GD, about $1 U.S. We drove onto the bridge, not quite certain what to expect since it is a pontoon bridge. One of the people at work said it can be a little nerve wracking when large trucks pass by. Regardless, as we drove across the bridge we did not find it uncomfortable at all.
The Georgetown side of the bridge is a very urban area. Conversely, the west side of the bridge takes one into a mostly rural area. On the west side of the bridge there was a sign indicating Parika was 37 kilometers to the west. Both Elroy and Worren said the trip would take about an hour.
We had to drive to Parika because that is where the boats depart for Bartica. The roads on the west side of the Demerara were in much better condition than those on our side of the river. Regardless, because of being just two lanes, the traffic, and passing through several villages, the trip most definitely took an hour.
Once in Parika we drove directly to the pier. There is a police station right at the pier. Elroy asked if we could park there. Normally the answer would have been yes; however, that morning they declined because the Police Commissioner was coming through on a tour. So, we unloaded our bags from the 4Runner. Elroy and I got back into the 4Runner to go find a place to park. The others stayed behind with our bags.
About two blocks away we found a parking garage. It was really tight quarters, but the attendant was able to direct me into an empty space. We locked the vehicle and began our walk back. The block just prior to the pier was lined with various vendor booths selling everything from toothpaste to flip flops.
Approaching the pier I could see numerous wooden boats tied to the pier. Each one was waiting for enough passengers to board so they could begin the trip to Bartica. Also at the pier was a car ferry. According to Elroy, it is one of two that were refurbished by the Chinese and given to the Guyanese. We had opted for the smaller wooden boats. They can make the trip to Bartica in just over an hour compared with over four hours for the ferry.
To get onto the pier, one must walk on a covered bridge of sorts. As we walked through I noticed a bicyclist coming toward us. I am not exactly sure how he could possibly maintain his balance. He was laden with three large water bottles under his arm and a propane tank between his legs. I don’t know how they do it, but that is not an uncommon site in Guyana. It gets even more dicey when they have to use their foot rubbing against a wheel as their brake.
Emerging from the covered bridge we came face to face with our transport to Bartica, the O-BAMA. Our journey continues in the next blog posting.