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21 October

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Woke ~10am=5am, and dozed. Turned on the TV, eventually showered and dressed, found a TV news show at 6. Made it to reception by 6:54, and cancelled the 7:15 alarm call I'd asked for in order to meet Wilderness Explorer's driver for the airport.

Breakfast was a buffet, from which I took a dome of Guava - crosscut and everted so it looked like a cubist hedgehog, a slice of pineapple, then some poorly fried eggs, a chicken hotdog they called a sausage, hash browns.

I repacked, then went downstairs to await WE. Chatted with a timber merchant from the UK about sustainable logging and mentioned RFID tags. Then met the two ladies from the UK Forestry Commission with whom he was visiting and chatted with them about the same sort of things; happened to mention I was going to Karanambu, and Kathryn enthused about it, then asked whether I would take a note to Dianne. She also mentioned about the anteater she'd seen there, larger than 'that' coffee table (4'x2'). Mentioned that I'd forgotten to bring a notepad, so the other Forestry Commission lady kindly gave me hers.

Met by WE, given a pack with info and the internal flight tickets. Driven to Ogle via 'Cambio' to change some money ($70->GUY$lots - it's about 193 exchange rate, so everythings in the 1000s or up here).

At the airport (which was a tiny affair, all individual huts and only one air-conditioned room), I and my baggage were weighed - I had to pay for an additional 6lbs. I also needed to pass immigration. Sadly, WE hadn't copied the entry stamp from my passport they took to put in their safe, just the photograph page, so it turned out I'd actually handed it over to the Surinam embassy for a visa, and couldn't get it back for a day. They let me fly anyway.

Thirsty, waiting for the flight. Bugs' Bunny and Pepe le Phew playing on the TV. Worried about not hearing the call for the Karanambu plane.

I needn't have worried - they checked the passenger list - but I should have gone to the loo when I had the chance. 1hr15 to Karanambu, stopping at Annai en route. Now I'm worrying about leaving my wallet with the credit cards in the safe, in case they went walkabout, but... I can't do anything about it now.

Tiny plane - 4x2+2 seats, including for pilot. Wings have PORT and STBD written on their struts! 1 propeller at the front. Everyone else just reading or sleeping, so we're probably not going to crash. We are, though, up close and personal with the clouds.

Seems a shame there's no cream or pill to make our skin produce melanin - much better than smearing on sun-tan lotion. Also a shame garlic doesn't ward off mosquitos - Simon says Marmite (Vitamin B) wards off mosquitos..?

Karanambu Ranch, 4pm.

Met off the plane by Edward and Ashley, and one of the men. Took a picture of the plane taking off, then a brief but impressively bumpy Jeep/LandRover ride to the ranch. They'd even kindly removed the front left windscreen to make it easier to take clear pictures! (not really - it was to reduce dust and inprove ventilation). We drove back through some forest which gets to be as deep as the jeep is high, during the rainy season. At the ranch, I also met Mellony.

The cabin where I'm staying is very breezy. It's about 12'x18', a 12'x12' bedroom and a 6'x12' behind for toilet, basin, and shower. The roof is thatched with palms or rushes. There are two single beds pushed together, electric lights, a wardrobe and dresser, and towel, flannel, soap, and even a toothbrush and toothpaste. The roof is built over the brick, on a frame. They recommended sleeping with the shutters all open, to maximise the breeze. Oh, and there are books, in case your 20lbs baggage allowance at Ogle caused you to forego your personal library. Bring books; swap new for old! They've read all their books, and now they want yours. They like Sci Fi.

Back to the main house for some tasty savoury mince on bread with ketchup, and I give them the note from the Forestry Commission lady. It turns out that Dianne is away until Saturday, but Melanie opens the letter anyway, to find out who the lady is - she left her card inside, and a PS on the back for her.

I briefly outline what I do, and Melanie agrees that specifying software's hard - apparently she worked for a group that needed a system, and drove their consultant mad with incremental changes. Move on to discuss forestry, and efforts to sustainable exploitation; it seems the Guyanese government gave over a large area of land to explore sustainability, but it didn't break even - there was a problem with trying to work wholly top-down, but even the small groups at the bottom competed instead of co-operating, so bottom-up doesn't necessarily work either.

Went back to the hut and found a frog in the toilet. By the time I'd taken the camera out, he'd disappeared up under the rim. I'll try to get him later.

Changed to shorts and sandals, added sun-tan lotion, then went back to the house. Melanie was sorting out the medical supplies with ????. Then lay on the hammocks with Edward and Melanie. Apparently, one lays diagonally across hammocks, not all along them.

We then discussed the otters. They had two - Sapho and Sergei her brother, but Sergei was killed while they were playing with a caiman. Apparently otter families only have one breeding pair, and if one of that pair dies, they won't breed in-family even if they're only 'related' by adoption. Once giant otters are sexually mature at two years, they'll go off to find mates (females may stay a little longer). Giant otters live 8 years in the wild, 10 years in good conditions.

Sapho started down to the river, so we walked with her. She was chuckling and purring, and her tail kept threatening to get underfood because she'd walk diagonally into your path. She nosed my leg a couple of times. Edward got her into the water by throwing some fish down the steps, and we watched her for a while. Melanie came and swam with her. It seems otters really do crave play, and Sapho missed not having another otter to chase, tackle, and bite.

Left with Melanie, discussing the little black flies that bite then defecate, so scratching the itches and breaking the skin is a really bad idea because it turns septic. Nice. Return to my hut to write up.

1630 out to look for otter holts, back after dark; looking at the stars and for animals by their eye-shine (that's why you take torches to Karanambu; not just to find your way back to the huts, but to shine focused beams tens of yards to the riverbank at animals' open eyes). We found some otter activity - scratches in the mud, and a slide.

Back to dinner, discussed the difference between plantain and bananas; we decided plantain was more starchy and less sugary than bananas. We tried to remember the names of the otters - Peter the great and Attilla the hun (Attilla was neotropical, not a giant otter); Attilla used to beat Peter up. They weren't at all sure who 'Alex, Peter's evil alter ego' referred to, a phrase I found on one of the web-sites I'd found mentioning Karanambo.

Cubs are cute, so folks sometimes catch them as pets, but during the wet season, fish are dispersed over a wide area, and fishing becomes very hard, so feeding your family becomes hard, and you really don't want an otter to feed too. Also, as they become mature, they become more aggressive in play, and sometimes jump onto kids' heads.

Dinner was beef medallions with mash, salad, and plantain.

Generator goes off at 10pm, so bed by 9. Up at 4.45 for 5.15 start!

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This page last changed Sat Dec 25 00:35:43 2004