As a tiny town in southern Guyana bordering Brazil, Lethem’s claim to fame is the annual Easter rodeo. With everyone in Georgetown talking only about the rodeo in the weeks leading up to Easter, I was left with little choice but to board a bus to Lethem.
500kms separates Georgetown from Lethem – 400 of which is mud. It doesn’t end there. Once you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that your vehicle will periodically get stuck in wet mud, you then have the bridges to contend with. Please note that these are no ordinary bridges. Made entirely from wood, they have a tendency to crumble under the weight of passing trucks. Bet the engineer didn’t see that one coming. Even after making allowances for these distractions, 30 hours to cover 500kms is shocking and a backbreaking experience.
Putting the horrible roads aside, the constantly changing landscape is breathtaking. Coastal vegetation slowly gives way to wet, untarnished and dense rainforest – the jaguar’s playground. Driving into southern Guyana, the forest seamlessly makes way for the savannah. And what a sight that is! Grass all around extending until the horizon, dotted with anthills and without a tree in sight. An anteater’s paradise.
The annual Easter rodeo features a blend of Guyanese and Brazilian cultures with some Jamaican music thrown in for good measure. Entertainment for the weekend includes wild horse riding, wild bull riding, wild cow milking, greasy pig catching and greasy pole climbing among other attractions. All this under the scorching sun. Something about watching grown men foolishly attempt to ride wild animals and then fail miserably makes for a great afternoon. Nightfall sees the music being cranked up to keep pace with the drunken celebrations.
Moca Moca waterfalls fall into the rocky stream rather than gigantic waterfall category. Huge pools of water and large rocks encourage cannonballs. Picture this for a lazy Sunday afternoon – sitting by the edge of a creak bathing in sunlight diffusing through tall trees and your legs immersed in cold stream water. Perfection would require a cold beer. Maybe next time. Not so sure why anyone would leave all this behind to climb 1000 stairs to the top of a mountain, braving the sun and risking drowning in your own sweat. The ‘peak’ (for lack of a better word) offers a spectacular view of the savannah and a few green hills. However, the intense heat makes the waterfall preferable.
A trip to Lethem should be on the cards of any tourist in Guyana. While the rodeo may not be around the rest of the year – a stop at the Iwokrama forest for a canopy walk or a dash across the border into the Brazilian towns of Bom Fin and Boa Vista seem like reasonable alternatives. Caiperinjas anyone?