Tag: Cow

Oslo

Oslo

Oslo, Norway – July 8, 2015

Around 05:00-ish, the Regal Princess smoothly glided northerly in the Outter Oslofjord, heading toward port in Oslo, Norway. It was very relaxing to sit on the balcony and watch the sights of the fjord silently slip by the ship. It was a long passage. We did not dock in Oslo until about 10:00 on this gray and rainy day. The temperature was somewhere around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and hazy with low cloud cover. The water had a blue-gray tint. The sea was very calm.

At times, in both the Outer and Inner Oslofjords, the rain was ferocious.

The previous night we slept with our balcony door wide open. I thought that was very comfortable. It was chilly, which made for good sleeping. We could hear the sound of the sea as the ship cut through the water. For me, that was very relaxing.
The scenery from our balcony was beautiful. Some areas were an utterly pristine forest, from the cloudy hilltops, ending at the rocky seashore. Some areas had houses interspersed throughout. Looking at several homes on a hillside reminded me of looking at houses on the hill in Cascade, Colorado. At one point, at the end of Oscarsborg island, there was a military gun emplacement. It is the Oscarsborg Fortress, charged with defending the seaward approach to Oslo.

Homes along the shore of the picturesque Outer Oslofjord.
Gun emplacement at the south end of Oscarsborg Fortress on Oscarsborg Island. This is in the Inner Oslofjord.
A closer view of the gun emplacement at Oscarsborg Fortress.
One of the buildings on Oscarsborg Island.
The small dock at Oscarsborg Island is visible in the lower right.
The dock area and white hotel at Oscarsborg Island.
A wider view as the cruise ship slips by Oscarsborg Island.
The rugged coast of the Inner Oslofjord.

Marinas, along with colorful buildings and homes, seemed to be everywhere. One must wonder just what life is like this far north.
From our balcony, once we had docked, we saw water taxis of various sizes and ferries continually moving to and from Oslo. We even saw a seaplane go by at one point. The weather did not seem to deter anyone on their travels.

One of the many ferries we passed on this cold and rainy morning.
I am not sure what building is at the lower left, but it reminds one of something built from Legos.
A lone seaplane flying above the fjord.
A sightseeing boat approaching the port of Oslo.
Sheets of rain plagued our arrival to Oslo.
The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art at Oslo.
A larger ferry departing Oslo.
City hall as seen from the Oslo port.
As the cruise ship was preparing to dock, Akershus Fortress and Castle came into view.

When we got off the ship, we boarded one of the Hop-On-Hop-Off buses that were right by the cruise ship dock. It was raining very hard. We ended up getting off the bus near the royal palace. It was beautiful even though we did not go inside.

The rather red interior of the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus at the port of Oslo. The windows on the right are those of the cruise ship.

We tried to keep the perpetual rain from dampening our spirits. We ended up walking around the palace area of town, seeing some magnificent architecture such as the University of Oslo and the National Theater buildings.

Det Kongelige Slott or The Royal Palace of Norway.
A closer view of the Royal Palace entry.
Wet tourists on a wet day, walking along a wet street, in front of a wet Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law.
The front of the Nationaltheatret.
A sculpture on the side of the Nationaltheatret.
An advertisement for some of the upcoming works at the Nationaltheatret.
One of the many trolleys operating in the area.
Some flowers in the park enjoying the rain.
More flowers soaking in the rain.
The rain continued as tourists took in the sights of a small park. The pond is used as an ice skating rink in the winter.

We also saw the Oslo Radhus (city hall). It has an art deco style, no doubt due to construction beginning in 1931. This building is world-famous as the home of the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that occurs every year on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Probably the most eye-catching feature of the building is the astrological clock. The twelve signs of the zodiac are interspersed on the face of the clock. I must say with all of the hands; I was a little stumped on just how to tell the time.

At the end of the street is the Oslo city hall.
The entry to the Oslo city hall.
Detail of the clock at the Oslo city hall.
The fountain at the front entrance to the Oslo city hall.

Ultimately we found a store in which to do some shopping for Norway tourist junk. It was easy to find all of the “junk” we could ever want. We found refrigerator magnets, office magnets, moose lanyards, and even moose underwear!
Leaving the shopping behind, we stopped at a street-side cafe on Karl Johans Gate, Egon. Our server, Lorena, was amiable. She was actually from Grand Canary, in the Canary Islands of Spain. She said she had been in Oslo for only one week. When we inquired what had prompted her to come to Norway, she replied she had just gotten divorced. Regardless, she was very happy and quite keen to talk to us.
After having such a large breakfast on the ship, we were not yet hungry. Instead, we shared a pitcher of Ringnes, a Norwegian beer.

The sidewalk seating area of Egon Restaurant.
Lorena, our very nice and friendly Spanish server at Egon Restaurant.
My Oslo companion!
Pedestrians passing by Egon Restaurant.

When we finished the beer, we got back on the bus and sat through numerous stops. We chose to see the sights from the bus, letting the others hop on and hop off. The bus drove through some rural areas with horses and cattle scattered in the lush green fields. It is a lovely country.

An ornate metal door.
A quaint looking coffee shop in Oslo.
A view of our cruise ship across from some construction.
The Auster Salon and Academy in Oslo.
A view into an office while stopped at a red light in Oslo.
A portion of the Frognerkilen Marina.
Horses in a paddock in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
A beautiful home in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
People getting off the bus near a telephone booth in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
One of the typical buildings we rode by in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
Some dairy cows in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
A new complex of offices and apartments.
People were out and about despite the weather.
A typical side street in Oslo.

We got off the bus at the cruise ship dock. Directly across the street from the ship is Akershus Fortress and Castle. It cost about $7 for both of us to enter.  It was still raining hard, so it was nice to be inside, dry and relatively warm.

The path to the entry point of the Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo.
The welcome sign to the fortress. The cruise ship is in the background.
A lonely canon overlooking the harbor.
The ancient canons seem to be trained on the cruise ship.

The castle, built in 1300, offered a self-guided tour with headphones. Surprisingly, there was a lot of the palace open to visitors. I found it to be the “coziest” castle we have ever toured. I imagine that is due to the much smaller scale of this castle. For example, compared to the Palacio Real in Madrid, the Akershus Castle is more like a country retreat.
There is a royal guard at the main entrance to the castle. There is an active military base still on the grounds. The guard stands stoically, neither speaking or moving…until a tourist tried to pose for a photograph on his right side, his weapon side. He immediately motioned that she must stand on his left. Once that happened, he allowed several pictures.

A couple exiting Akershus Fortress near the royal guard.
A royal guard at one of the entries to the Akershus Fortress.
A portion of the fortress viewed from inside the perimeter wall.
A lonely soul walking in the rain at the fortress.
Our cruise ship awaits.
Looking out of a gun-port at the Akershus Fortress.
A courtyard area within the Akershus Fortress.
The royal coat of arms inside the Akershus Fortress.
A painting and a piece of furniture inside the Akershus Castle.
Detail of some clothing on display in the Akershus Castle.

The castle still houses the royal chapel. In the chapel, one can see the royal box or balcony. That is obviously where the royals sit when they attend services.  The seating toward the front were individual chairs.  Farther back were some traditional pews.

View of the Akershus Castle Church from the rear of the church.
Detail of the altar in the Akershus Castle church.
The Royal Crest on the altar in the Akershus Castle church.
The Royal seating area in the Akershus Castle church.
The organ at the rear of the Akershus Castle church.
Detail of the end of a pew in the Akershus Castle church.  The monogram denotes King Haakon VII, the great grandfather of the current monarch, King Harald V.
A bible on display in the Akershus Castle church.
Looking through the rolled-glass windows from the Akershus Castle church toward the cruise ship.

The royal mausoleum, as one might imagine, is directly below the chapel. Our visit to the crypt reminded me of our trip to El Escorial in Spain.

Detail of the gate to the Royal Mausoleum crypt of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud as well as King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha.
The white sarcophagus contains the remains of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud. The years of death were 1957 and 1938. The green sarcophagus contains the remains of King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha. The years of death were 1991 and 1954 respectively.

One of the oddest things I saw were two small pieces of stained glass in the Hall of Olav V. Most of the scenes were religious; however, two stood out. They each looked like characters from the Ghostbusters movie. That was a little strange for something dating from 1300.

Ghostbusters stained glass.
Ghostbusters stained glass II.
A more traditional stained glass.
The entire stained glass rosette.
The upper hall in Akershus Castle.
The opposite end of the upper hall in Akershus Castle. This puts the stained glass rosette in perspective.
A room in the Akershus Castle.
A suit of armor on display in the Akershus Castle.
Additional tapestries in the Akershus Castle.
A tapestry in the Akershus Castle.
A sword on the wall in the Akershus Castle.
Several flags on display in the Akershus Castle.
Detail of a royal flag in the Akershus Castle.
Detail of a royal flag in Akershus Castle.
One of the larger reception rooms in Akershus Castle.
A room in Akershus Castle with period furniture.
Another room and fireplace in Akershus Castle.
Detail of a tapestry in the castle.
Louise (1724-1751) of Great Britain, Queen Consort of Denmark and Norway. Married to King Frederick V of Denmark.
Seating for 70 in this dining room in Akershus Castle.
Coat of arms of King Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway (1699 to 1730).
Tapestry detail in Akershus Castle.
A fireplace in Akershus Castle.
The bow of the Regal Princess.
A little bit of civilization by the fjord.
“Illegal Immigration Started with Columbus.” I shall notify the Consul General…
Detail of the handles on the canons near the Akershus Fortress.
The canon seems to be holding the cruise ship at bay.
A boat heading to the dock.
A view of the port of Oslo. Near the top of the hill, one can see the Olympic ski jump installation.
Boats and ships everywhere.
Flowers for my bride to begin our cruise.
A cloudy, rainy day.
A motor yacht going by the cruise ship.
A ferry departing the port of Oslo.
A seagull checking out the photographer.

When we left the castle, we boarded the ship to prepare for dinner.

Departing Georgetown

Departing Georgetown

Georgetown, Guyana – July 1, 2014

My birthday began at 01:30 when we woke up to make our last-minute preparations to depart Georgetown on the 05:35 Caribbean Airlines flight. Much to our chagrin, the previous afternoon the motor pool supervisor told us our pick-up was scheduled for 02:30 because the motor pool driver had to pick up another passenger at 02:45 for the same flight. It seems that every time we have shared a ride to the airport, we are always on the verge of being late. Today was absolutely no exception. Our driver arrived at 02:20. We loaded our baggage in the Suburban, locked the door on our home for the final time, and took our seats in the vehicle. By 02:35, we parked in front of the Pegasus Hotel to collect the other person. The additional passenger was due to depart the hotel at 02:45. She did not emerge from the hotel until 03:05. As people that like to be on time, that drove us nuts.
We arrived at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport right at 04:00. We approached the check-in counter and handed our documents to the agent. She immediately told us of the cancellation of our 05:35 flight to Miami, Florida. However, she said the good news is our departure at 05:35 was on time to our new destination of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. As it happened, there was a tropical depression off the coast of Florida, near Miami. I assumed that was the reason for our flight cancellation. We continued with our check-in. We were lucky enough to be able to upgrade to first-class to Ft. Lauderdale.
After checking-in, we went to the diplomatic line at immigration control. Standing there, I suddenly realized I had not paid for the first-class upgrade. I dashed back to pay. At the counter, I paid in U. S. currency, all $20s. The agent refused to take three bills because they were slightly torn or nicked. Luckily, I had some additional bills to replace those rejected.
I made it back to the immigration line just as we were motioned forward to the next window. On the other side, we made it to the lounge, where we finally had our first cup of coffee for the day.
We finally boarded our flight, but the door of the plane did not close until 05:48, 13 minutes late. The aircraft pushed back at 05:52 and we were “wheels-up” by 06:00.
Touching down in Port of Spain at 06:55, we taxied to our gate. While taxiing, we decided we should go to the American Airlines ticket counter. American Airlines had all of our connecting flights to Grand Junction, Colorado. Since we would not make our connecting flight in Miami, we did not want the remainder of our tickets canceled.
Disembarking the plane, we wound our way through immigration and customs. We made it to the American Airlines ticket counter at about 07:30 only to find it was vacant. I inquired at the information booth and found out the American employees would arrive at 09:00, so we waited. Shortly after 09:00, there were still no agents. I went back to the information booth. They told me the new arrival time was 10:00. We stood by, hopeful. Nearing 11:00, with no American employees in sight, we decided to go to the Caribbean Airlines lounge. However, before leaving the ticket counter area, we started hearing rumblings that there was a pilot strike brewing at Caribbean Airlines. It seems numerous pilots had called in “sick,” resulting in multiple flight cancellations.
In the Caribbean Airlines lounge, we finally made contact with an American Airlines employee. That employee assured us our reservations were intact. We found some comfort in that information. As we continued our wait, we saw numerous Caribbean Airlines flights canceled or delayed. Because of that, we began to look into whether or not we should abandon our Caribbean ticket and get a flight out of Port of Spain on American. Every time we were close to opting for American, Caribbean told us they were nearly ready to board our plane. We decided to take our chances and ultimately boarded our Caribbean flight to Ft. Lauderdale at 12:15. By 13:02, we were in the air again.
I did not take any photographs of the flights and the airports. However, shortly before we departed Guyana, we did have several occasions to take some pictures.

Leslie and I received an award from Ambassador Brent Hardt.
A group of my co-workers and I received an award from Ambassador Brent Hardt.
Participating in the Fathers Day nailing relay.
Our view of free-ranging cows and the highway from our terrace.
A beautiful evening spent with a toddy on our terrace.
The cow herder with one of the cows.
One man is working on the highway while another is fishing from the bank.
People walking to their home behind our compound.
Walking home.
The beautifully painted and hand-carved plate Leslie and I received as a going away gift.
Saying our heartfelt thank-yous and goodbyes.
The wonderful going away cake for Leslie and me, as well as one of our co-workers, Denise.

Bartica – Gateway to Gold Country

Bartica – Gateway to Gold Country

Bartica, Guyana – March 22, 2014

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 started the journey to the harbor bridge. That is where we were to meet two of my colleagues from work, Elroy Gibson and Worren Lewis. 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 toll booth at the Demerara Harbour Bridge.

The charge to cross the bridge was $200GD, about $1 U.S. We drove onto the deck, not entirely sure what to expect since it is a pontoon bridge. One of the people at work said it could 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.

Driving across the Demerara River on the way to Parika.

At about 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles), the Demarara Harbor Bridge is relatively long. 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 (23 miles) 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.

Concentrating on the drive.
Minibus 32 just ahead.

Once in Parika, we drove directly to the pier. There is a police station right at the dock. Elroy asked if we could park there. Usually, the answer would have been yes; however, that morning, they declined because the Police Commissioner was coming through on tour. So, we unloaded our bags from the 4Runner. Elroy and I got back into the 4Runner to find a place to park. The others stayed behind with our bags.

The main road in Parika, Guyana.

About two blocks away, we found a parking garage. It was tight quarters, but the attendant was able to direct me into a space. We locked the vehicle and began our walk back. The block just before the pier contained various vendor booths selling everything from toothpaste to flip flops.
Approaching the pier, I could see numerous wooden boats tied to the dock. 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 larger ferry.
To get onto the pier, one must walk through a covered bridge of sorts. As we walked through, I noticed a bicyclist coming toward us. I am not exactly sure how he could 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 dicier when they have to use their foot rubbing against a wheel as their brake.

Watching the many boats at the Parika pier.
Some small shops on the way to the Parika pier entry.
The covered pier at Parika.

Emerging from the covered bridge, we came face to face with our transport to Bartica, the O-BAMA.
Standing on the pier, looking down at the seemingly wildly bobbing bow of the cherry red O-BAMA was the first time the thought went through my mind; “Just exactly what am I about to do?” The only visible means of support with which to make the “leap” from the pier to the bow was the outstretched hand of the captain. He was standing on the bow looking up at me. He was not a large man, but his mere presence made the bow look just that much smaller. I gathered my courage, held onto my Nikon, and took that first step of faith. Simultaneously, the captain grabbed my arm and helped me to place two feet firmly on the unsteady boat.
Now on the bow, I grabbed for the side of the opening that led down into the seating area and its relative safety. As my head cleared the opening, I could see 28 other humans looking at me. As it so happens, Elroy and I were the last two to board. I saw Leslie sitting to the side of the second bench seat. I climbed over the first bench and took my seat in the middle, next to her. As soon as I went over the first bench, someone put the seatback in place, so Elroy had a place to sit on that front bench.
That gave me a few moments to compose myself and prepare for this next leg of the trip. Leslie leaned over and informed me that getting onto this boat was the scariest thing she had done in quite some time. I reassured her even though I had just completed my run-in with that terror.
The captain jumped down into the boat and addressed all of the passengers. There were six benches, each one seating five people for a total of 30 passengers. He asked that each of us put on the life preserver that was near each seat. Of course, Leslie and I gladly complied. After that, he told everyone the fare from Parika to Bartica was $2,500GD, about $12.50 U.S. He began collecting money from everyone and providing change as necessary. It struck me as a little odd that he did not receive the funds before everyone crawled to their seat. Instead, money was passed, person-to-person, until it reached the captain. Regardless, the finances being taken care of, he went back onto the bow, climbed onto the roof, and went to the stern of the some 30-foot boat. The captain started the motors, an assistant untied the bow, and we were underway.

The O-BAMA boat captain providing our safety briefing before departing from the Parika pier.
Passengers on the Parika pier waiting for another boat.

Parika is only four or five miles up the Essequibo River from the Atlantic Ocean. That means it is susceptible to the tides. As we left the pier, the tide was beginning to go out. I don’t know if the flow was the culprit, but the water was very rough. The captain tried several times to get the boat planing to no avail. He stopped the boat in the middle of the river. We could hear footsteps on the roof. Suddenly the captain appeared in the front of the boat again. He grabbed a large cardboard box from the front that one of the passengers had brought along. One could tell it was heavy as the captain tried to heft it up onto the roof. He finally got it on the roof, walked to the stern again, I assume with the box, and we were soon underway.
As the boat gathered speed, it did start to plane; however, that was while we were actually in contact with the water. The bottom of the craft would slap a wave hard, sending us into the air. Gravity quickly pulled us back down and hit the boat into the next wave. None of the jarring seemed to give the captain any pause. I do not believe he slowed down for anything. The ride was so intense I found myself wishing I had brought along my mouthpiece. It may have been a mini-training vessel for space exploration as I felt weightless several times.
The farther up the river we went, the calmer the water, until it finally felt like boat rides I have had in the past. The cover to the front opening remained in the up position, so the wind was whipping through the boat. Leslie and I had to both talk fairly loudly directly into the other’s ear to be heard above the wind and the din of the motors. Regardless, we both remarked how lucky we are to be on a boat on the Essequibo River heading into the jungles of Guyana, South America.
The river is vast, some 12 plus miles at its mouth. The Essequibo River is the largest river in Guyana. For the majority of our journey, the captain kept our boat fairly close to the east bank of the river. Zipping along, we saw home after home, each one with one or more boats tied up at the water’s edge. Some of the houses looked quite nice and comfortable. Some other homes looked like they were only the most rudimentary shelters. I saw several structures; I am not sure if they were homes, that had thatched roofs.

A logging operation along the Essequibo River.
A very nice home between the jungle and the Essequibo River.
Some of our fellow passengers.

In between the houses and other structures was nothing but a dense jungle. There was no beach. It was just foliage and trees right up to the water’s edge. I cannot imagine trying to trek through the jungle, blazing a new trail with a machete.
Now and then we would pass a more massive ship making its way downriver. Of course, ships and other boats create wakes. Much like the waves noted earlier, the captain did not see much of a need to slow to cross the wakes.
I am not one that can comfortably sleep while traveling. I was surprised by Leslie’s seat-mate on the other side. He had his eyes closed for much of the trip. I would have thought it was fear except he looked rather calm. He was sleeping or at least dozing.

Leslie watching the banks of the Essequibo River go by while her neighbor sleeps.About an hour and ten minutes later, completing our 58 kilometers (36 miles) river journey, we arrived at the pier in Bartica. As the boat slowly made its way to the dock, we all removed our life jackets. Leslie and I were both a little nervous about getting off, hoping it would not be like boarding. It was not. The pier at Bartica slopes down to the river which made it almost effortless to step off of the bow onto the dock.

The New Modern Hotel and Bar at the pier at Bartica.
Passengers disembarking the O-BAMA and waiting for luggage.

I was disappointed that the water was muddy; I had been hoping for black water. I explain that concept in more detail below. Elroy said the rivers at Bartica used to be black; however, the dredging upriver for gold has changed all of that. As vast and deep as the rivers are at Bartica, I can only imagine what the dredging is doing to the environment of Guyana. I say rivers because Bartica is on the point of land with the Essequibo River along one side of the area and the Mazaruni River on the other. At this point, it is about six kilometers (3.8 miles), shore to shore, across both rivers.
There was another covered bridge-type structure we walked through to get from the pier to the street. On the road, several taxis were waiting for fares. Exiting the structure, we only had to walk about one half of a block to Front Street. We turned right and walked about two blocks to our hotel.
The ‘D’ Factor Interior Guest House was a lovely yellow, two-story structure, with both the property and the construction in excellent repair. The owners are Bhagwandas Balkarran and his wife. They live on the first floor and rent out the eight rooms on the second floor. As soon as we arrived, Mrs. Balkarran grabbed four sets of keys and escorted us upstairs.

The ‘D’ Factor Interior Guest House.

View of the street from the guest house.
The Jerusalem boat passes our hotel. The front seat saying is “Blessings & Honor.”
A small boat passes by the northbound Capt. Danny.
The Capt. Danny on the Essequibo River.

Leslie and I ended up in room 8, at what I would describe as the northeast corner of the building. The room faced the river. Exiting the room into the hallway, we walked toward the rear of the building. We ended up on the rear terrace. This was when we got an opportunity to understand where the hotel is situated. It is smack dab on the edge of the Essequibo River. It was very relaxing to sit on the terrace and listen to the waves gently slap up against the wall of the yard.

The home next door to the guest house.

With luggage stowed, we all headed out to explore Bartica a little. Elroy told us Bartica is an Amerindian word that means red earth. The red dusty residue on many of the vehicles in town testified to that fact.
We generally walked south along Front Street. As we passed the pier loading area, we saw a dozen or so police officers beginning to stand in formation. As we had heard in Parika, the Police Commissioner was to pay a visit today. I can only imagine he was soon to arrive at the pier.

Police in Bartica preparing for a review.
The Bartica police standing in front of the New Modern Hotel and Bar.

Most of the shops were open. There was a surprising amount of traffic for such a small town. The population cannot be much over 15,000, which means it is about the size of Fruita, Colorado, but there was a hectic pace such as I have never seen in Fruita. Visually, it was interesting to see the power lines seeming to reach out in every direction from the power poles. Speaking of power, Guyana Power and Light provide power to the community via diesel-powered generators. The power generation plant was very noisy as we passed.

Indrani’s Fashion store entry.
A typical shop along Front Street in Bartica. The blue sign reads, “Ice for sale bucket and bowl check upstairs.”
Front Street is crowded and busy.
The traffic on Front Street.
The Welcome to Bartica sign. It reads, Your Community…Your Home… No Place for Drugs. Size: 1 sq. mile. Population: 15,000.
The Front Street vendors sold nearly everything imaginable.

Continuing south, we came upon the Bartica Market. The market is comprised of multiple private stalls all under one gigantic roof. The market was reasonably crowded since Saturday is a significant shopping day throughout the country. It appeared one could get just about anything under this roof. Toward the back of the market is the fish market. That end of the marketplace is right on the river. There were not many boats there while we were there, but that is where the fish make their way into the market.
The fish market was by far the most significant area under the roof. There were multiple men behind the counter scaling, cutting, and cleaning the various type of fish. Leslie had wanted to get a piranha. Elroy checked but found there were none there that day. He thought that was a good thing since he does not think it is a delicious fish.

The fish area of the Front Street Market.
An employee waiting to provide service at the fish counter.
A wider view of the fish counter and the market.
Walking through the fruit and vegetable section of the market.

Back on Front Street, we started walking back toward the hotel. About halfway along the journey, we found Auntie Chan’s Massive Upper-Level Restaurant. That is where we decided to have lunch. Leslie got a fish dish while I opted for curry chicken and fried rice. I thought it was terrific.

Pedestrians and vehicles on Front Street.
Aunty Chan’s Massive Restaurant on Front Street.
The shop across the street from Aunty Chan’s.
Vashie’s Night Club.

After such a large lunch, it was nice to be able to walk a few blocks back to the hotel. Balkarran was prepared to take us for a tour on the way to Marshall Falls.
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 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 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 one 200 horsepower and one 150 horsepower outboard motors.

A line of posts along the south side of Dress Island. I am not sure of their purpose. They may be for boats to tie up.
A large boat docked on the Mazaruni River.

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 the shore while others were plying the river, both up and down.

A couple of barges moored along the bank of the Mazaruni River.

Steering a barge downstream on the Mazaruni.
The captain of Sir Junior waves.

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. Allied 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 ancient-looking vessels there. I am not sure if they were all seaworthy or not.

Panorama of the Mazaruni Prison complex.
The Mazaruni Prison is on the bank of the river.
Several old boats, including the Barima, tied up at the dry dock on the Mazaruni River.
This boat may have seen better days…
Very large home on Buck Island in the Mazaruni River.
Our captain, tour guide, and hotel owner, Bhagwandas Balkarran.
Some small homes on the edge of the jungle and the Mazaruni.

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 pier at Kykoveral Island.
One of the only remnants of Fort Kyk Over Al on Kykoveral Island.
One of my work colleagues, Mr. Lewis.
Mr. Lewis at the fort archway.
It was hard to believe the archway dated from the 17th Century.
Red flowers near the fort archway.
The pier down to the Mazaruni River.
One had to walk under this large mango tree to get onto Kykoveral Island.

The other very fascinating 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 in person. They were amazing. Each of them was carrying a piece of a leaf up to the size of a dime. Some were taking a small dark-colored berry. They were all marching in a line. I estimate the track 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.

Leafcutter ants on Kykoveral Island.
Leafcutter ants II.
Leafcutter ants III.
Leafcutter ants IV.
Leafcutter ants V.
Leafcutter ants VI.

Back on the boat, continuing upriver, 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. The Italians purchase and resell some of the granite for countertops. The “chunks and hunks” that remain are placed on barges and transported to the Guyana coast to fortify the sea wall defenses.

The Briony.T moored at the bank of the Mazaruni River.
A barge full of granite boulders preparing to depart the bank.
A barge moored on the Mazaruni River.
A particularly calm stretch of the Mazaruni River.

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 350 horsepower.

Captain Balkarran providing information about the area.
Approaching a fast-flowing area of the Mazaruni River.
The jungle appears impenetrable.

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 is 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 trailhead for Marshall Falls.
The slightly worn trail led directly into the jungle. Looking at the path heading into the forest, disappearing into the trees, it reminded me of a route one may see in the Secret Garden. Neither Leslie nor I had ever been in a jungle setting. It was awe-inspiring. I am confident 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.

The start of the trail to Marshall Falls.
A plant with some sort of berries.
A termite nest along the trail. It is about twice the size of a softball.
Our companions on the trail.
Posing during our jungle trek.
A plant with an odd-looking red flower.

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 path from the riverbank 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 route 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 waterfall. 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 deck, 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 unique. That is apparently how the Essequibo and Mazaruni Rivers used to appear. The coloration is caused by tannin in the water from the many plants in the jungle.

The black water passing under the bridge to Marshal Falls.

The brave, first venture across the bridge. Marshall Falls is visible in the background.
The rather precarious bridge.
The black water leaving Marshall Falls.

Marshall Falls has a total drop of about 20 or 25 feet (6 – 7.6 meters), not huge, but spectacular in its own right. Elroy and Balkarran 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 started back up the steep portion of the trail toward the boat, Balkarran was kind enough to use his machete to cut a walking stick for Leslie from one of the many jungle saplings. She commented on 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 very dense and heavy wood.

Marshall Falls.
Mr. Lewis at Marshall Falls.
Mr. Gibson, another work colleague, at Marshall Falls.
Mr. Gibson and Mr. Balkarran standing in Marshall Falls.
Leslie and I at Marshall Falls.
Mr. Gibson under a portion of Marshall Falls.
The bridge as seen from the Marshall Falls side. The skinny and steep trail awaited our departure.
A final view of Marshall Falls.

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 prickly 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 above, 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.

Back at the banks of the Mazaruni River.
Through those trees was the trailhead for Marshall Falls.

Back at the hotel, we sat on the terrace, sipped some 15 year XM Supreme rum, and watched all of the boat traffic on the river. The conversation was great. We relaxed for the remainder of the evening.

Relaxing beside the Essequibo River with some XM Supreme Rum.

From one corner of the terrace, I could see the car ferry docked at the Bartica pier. I could also see two young boys that were fishing from the river wall. I never saw them catch anything, but they were trying and having fun.

The Malali ferry at the pier at Bartica.
Two boys fishing at the bank of the Essequibo River.
The relaxing vista of the Essequibo River.

The Essequibo and Mazaruni Rivers were active. It was apparent these were the interstate highways of the interior. Boat after boat went by; each was carrying either numerous people or cargo. We asked what happens when it gets dark. Elroy said the boats are supposed to stop running at night. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Most of the fatal boat accidents on the rivers occur at night.

A man and woman piloting the Honor on the Essequibo River.
A man and boy on the Essequibo.
The Lady V Only quickly departs Bartica, heading to Parika.
The Miss Tracy. The first two benches have Bible verses. The bench in front of the captain reads, “God’ Gift.”
The captain of the Bush Man stays low in the boat.
The P-Ann-C moves quickly toward Bartica.
The Jerusalem departs Bartica.
The Wyatt speeding toward Bartica with nine passengers.
The Commando out for an early evening run.
The Rock approaching Bartica.
A woman heading toward Bartica.
The Bush Man returning from whence it came with passengers.
A small boat departing Bartica.
The Unique 4 departing Bartica. The bench in front of the fuel tank reads, “Who Vex Loose.”
A captain shuttling two to Bartica.
The Commando returns to Bartica.

For me, one of the more interesting boats was the “prison” boat. We had actually seen that moored at the Mazaruni Prison dock earlier in the day. The boat was passing by the hotel, loaded with cement building blocks. The blocks are made by prisoners.  The prison boat was en-route to the Bartica pier to offload the cargo.

The Lady V Only zips away as the prison boat nears Bartica.
The boat from the Mazaruni Prison.
View of the Bartica pier through the rooftops.
Neighboring houses near our guest house.
Tin roofs of varying ages.
A red-capped cardinal at the bird feeder.
The dog at the guest house.
The vastness of the Essequibo River.
View from the guest house terrace.

After the sunset, we decided it was time to venture into town for dinner. We opted for a Brazilian restaurant. We were expecting a restaurant where they continuously came by with different grilled meats, cutting them onto the dinner plate. That was only part of the story. The restaurant was open-air. The buffet portion was woefully understocked when we arrived. One of the trays had some meat in it. We all took a small piece. That was much to Leslie’s chagrin; it was liver. That is one meat that she detests. It did not go over well.
The wait staff did stop by with a little meat, but not very much. There was not anymore being grilled, so we ate what we could, and we headed back to the hotel. It was the only “clinker” of an incident during our trip, so I guess it was worth it.

Sunset at the guest house.
Sunset over Bartica.
On the terrace of the guest house.
The terrace after sunset.
A typical home in Bartica.
Evening traffic in Bartica.

We had more conversation and a drink on the terrace of the hotel. When we went to bed, I noticed there were mosquito nets for each bed. My lesson learned on this trip was that if nets are offered, nets should be used. I ended up with dozens of mosquito bites on my lower legs and ankles. In the future, I vow to use the nets! I should have known that sleeping under the net would have only added to the beautiful ambiance of the river water gently lapping against the river wall. Other than being drained of some blood, I slept well.
The next morning I saw the car ferry depart, heading downriver for their four-hour journey. I was happy to know we would be back home within that same amount of time.

The Malali departs Bartica early in the morning.
An early morning run on the Essequibo River.
Sunrise over the Essequibo.

Leslie and I were fortunate enough to go with Elroy that morning to meet his brother. We also met the lady and man (aunty and uncle) that had raised him. They were wonderful people. We felt fortunate to have been able to meet them.

Mr. Gibson and his brother.
Mr. Gibson with his uncle and aunty.

The taxi that picked us up from aunty’s home took us to Aunty Chan’s Massive restaurant, the same place we had eaten lunch the day before. We were able to get a cup of coffee to take back to the hotel. We took an extra one for Pat.

Bob Marley in Aunty Chan’s.

We were dropped off at the hotel. We spent time on the terrace, drinking our coffee, and waiting for everyone to get ready to depart.

Flowers near the guest house.

Leaving the hotel to go to the Parika-bound boat, we stumbled across the “bird races.” I have heard of bird races since I first arrived in Georgetown, but I had never gotten to talk to any of the participants. The “race” is not a race in the NASCAR-sense of the word. Instead, some judges determine which bird has the best warble. I must say their songs are lovely.
The race we happened onto had six bird cages, each with one bird. Leslie and I stopped to talk to one of the racers. When we inquired where he had gotten his bird, he said it came from the jungle. They use many methods to catch the birds; bubblegum (yes, bubblegum verified by several sources), peanut butter in traps, and netting. Once obtained, the birds are trained for different calls. The birds are precious in racing circles. They can sell for tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, Guyanese dollars. For example, a $400,000GD bird is the equivalent of $2,000US.
One of the attractions of a bird race is betting. One stands to win good money if one bets correctly.

A cow in the street draws little attention.
A bird waiting for the bird races.
Two birds in cages side by side.

We did not stay to watch the race. Instead, we continued our walk to the Bartica pier to catch our speed boat to Parika.

Arriving at the pier, I saw our captain from the day before on the O-BAMA. I thought he was going to take us on his boat again. He said he was not leaving until later in the day. Instead, we were ushered onto the Sariah.

“Stick No Bills” did not seem to deter the Quick Fix General Spares store. This is at the Bartica pier.
The Raven waiting at the Bartica pier.

As soon as we boarded, I could see this boat was not quite as comfortable as the O-BAMA. The seats were padded, but they were just bench seats. There were no over-sized seatbacks.
When we boarded the boat, we brought it to the half-way point. So, unlike the day before when we boarded and were reasonably quickly underway, this morning we had to sit on the boat, waiting for other passengers to fill the seats. We sat there for close to 30 minutes. At one point, when there were three or four seats remaining, the captain ducked his head in the boat and asked if there was anyone on board that wanted to pay for the remaining seats. I almost did. At $2,500GD per seat, it would have been about $50. I opted to wait.
Not too long after the captain’s inquiry, the remaining seats were filled, and we were all on our way to Parika. The Essequibo River was reasonably calm at the early hour. For the first 30 minutes of our journey, it was rather smooth going. However, as we got closer to Parika, the water became much choppier.
At one point, we could all hear the motor of the boat rev loudly, then there was silence, and the boat settled to a stop in the water. At first, I thought maybe someone had fallen overboard. Elroy told us it sounded like the motor had hit something and came up out of the water. The captain had immediately shut off the engine to keep it from blowing the motor. Within a minute or two, we were heading downriver again.
Luckily, as the water began to get rough, we found ourselves at the pier in Parika. We got off the boat and started our walk to our car.
At one of the street intersections, we stopped at the market to buy some fruit. Leslie had been looking for potatoes for our dinner that evening. Not one of the vendors we checked with had potatoes.

A ferry at the pier at Parika.
Many little shops line the road from the pier.
Looking for bargains at the Sunday market in Parika.
The Wealthy Powerful Chinese Restaurant.
Many colors at the Parika Sunday market.

I believe we were all relieved to get into the relatively plush comfort of the 4Runner after our bout with the river waves. I wound us through the streets of Parika and pointed back to the Harbour Bridge.
Approaching the bridge, I reached into my pocket to get money for the toll. I was surprised that heading east, there was no charge.
On the other side of the bridge, I dropped off Elroy and Worren. Leslie, Pat and I continued our uneventful drive back to our homes.
Not long after we got home, another of my work colleagues, Brian, brought a gift for Leslie. Leslie had often mentioned how she wanted to eat some iguana. Brian had obliged. He had a small Styrofoam container holding a curried iguana and rice. One could still easily make out the green skin of the iguana. We both tried some. It was a little bony. Surprisingly, instead of chicken, it tasted like pork. It was good, but we both decided we did not need to go out of our way to have any in the future.

Curried iguana. It actually tasted like pork.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

Orlando, Florida – December 24, 2013

We chose to go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom today. My pass had a picture of Goofy. That probably was not a coincidence!
We had several memories flood back to us as a result of our visit there ten years earlier.

Guests in the queue to enter Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The sign above the entry point.
Just after entering the park, we saw Mother Nature. I liked the blurring due to the slow shutter speed in this shot.
Mother Nature II.
Mother Nature III.
A small deer of some sort.
A beautiful parrot.
An iconic parrot.
Some colorful boats.
Posing on a dragon sculpture.
Bells in the trees.
Tyler pulling his weight…
People milling about the Tree of Life.

We began our adventure inside the Tree of Life at the presentation of “It’s Tough to be a Bug.” It was just as enjoyable as last time.
The next stop was the Birds of Prey show, something we had not previously seen. It was an outstanding show. The two people on stage interjected some humor as they displayed the skills of several different birds of prey. I must say the bald eagle was impressive.

One of the performers at the bird show.
The man was very humorous.
One of the performers with a colorful bird.
This owl quickly emerged on queue from the area behind the stage.
The owl enjoying a morsel of food while on a perch in the audience.
The owl receiving another morsel.
One of the performers with a vulture.
This white-tailed bird flew up into the audience to greet a performer.
The white-tailed bird returning to the stage.
A beautiful bald eagle. Its size is staggering.
The bald eagle has an eye-piercing stare.
Directional signs in the park.
A large iguana.
An ominous warning sign.
Some very large fruit bats.
A very resting tiger.
Another resting tiger.
Two deer in the shade of a tree.
A red-headed bird.
Yet another resting tiger.
A very ornate birdhouse.

The next stop was something the kids and I had been looking forward to since our last visit, Expedition Everest. When we were at the park the last time, they were still in the process of building the ride. Only Tyler, Hillary, and I opted to ride it. We had to stand in line for about 45 minutes. Regardless, it was a great ride! In my opinion, it beat the Hulk-coaster hands down.

A view of “Everest.”
A boat tied up at the water’s edge.
Posing in “Nepal.”
A very colorful food truck.
Hanging pieces of cloth at the Expedition Everest ride.
Our expedition begins…
The peak above the trees.
Photo memories sign.
Yeti cloth.
An actual Yeti.

We stopped for lunch in the Africa section of the park. We had some delicious chicken curry that was about as expensive as what we had eaten at Universal Orlando.
After lunch, we went to the safari ride. Unfortunately, it was another 45-minute wait in line until we finally made it to our safari vehicle. However, once we did make it, the ride was terrific. It is enjoyable to ride through the wildlife habitat rather than just looking at the animals over a railing or through some glass.

Waiting in the line for the Safari ride.
A large-billed bird.
Some hippopotami relaxing in the water.
Conversely, some crocodiles relaxing on land.
Some giraffes were curious about the passing bus with tourists.
A type of cow with some massive horns.
A duck resting by the side of a pond.
A very large elephant.
Some flamingos and other white birds.
Several white birds perched on a rock.
White rhinoceroses out grazing.
A white rhinoceros with zebras in the background.
A lone ostrich.
An empty tourist safari bus.
Returning to the station so another group of tourists may board.
Looking down the stream toward Everest.
The Tree of Life.

Our last ride of the day was Dinosaur. The four of us remembered it from our previous trip. Once again…45 minutes. It was fun despite the wait.  As soon as we were off the ride, three of us decided they wanted to get face paintings.

A panorama of a roller coaster ride.
Hillary with her completed face painting.
Tyler’s face painting in process while Hillary watches.
Brother and sister as handsome and beautiful as ever!
Leslie’s face painting in process.
She seems happy with the result!
A somewhat scary family indeed!
A white bird roosting in a tree on the way out of the park.
The trees were full of these white birds.
A pair of spoonbills.

After our day of walking, we were all beat by the time we got back to the condo.

…and of course, life is all about choices…