Going into this trip I really had no idea what to expect. The South American country of Guyana is not very well known in Ireland and most people thought I was talking about the African nation of Ghana when I mentioned it!
To make matters more interesting, our packing list was completely insane. They recommended we bring all sorts of oddly specific things ranging from a sewing kit to parachute chord. I did bring the parachute chord and I was laughed at by the gang, but it did actually come in really handy and saved the entire trip. Ok, it didn’t really but we made a nifty clothes line with it one day.
The list also said that we would be provided with our very own machetes. Me with a machete? That’s absolute madness but incredibly exciting!
We touched down in the inland town of Lethem after a regional flight from the capital city of Georgetown. Lethem is the last bit of civilization before you really head into the jungle. That’s why a lot of the TV crews use Lethem as their launching point. Here you can refill gas, get supplies and hire people to guide you in the jungle.
Our guide for the duration of the trip was Ian who owns the company Bushmasters. Ian is a former member of the British Special Forces and at one stage was the boss of famous survivalist Bear Grylls himself. We were in good hands with Ian and he was always a fantastic source of stories from his past that would inspire wanderlust.
He absolutely loves Guyana and is constantly trying to put it on the map as the place for adventure tourism.
Preparing for the savannah
That evening we headed over to Ian’s house where he meticulously went through the items in our pack that we would need during our stay out in the savannah.
Here’s what was in each of our packs:
-A bladder for drinking water while on the go
-Iodine for purifying water
– A tarp to go above the hammock in case of rain
-An extra water canteen which is housed in a mess tin
-A spoon, Ian was adamant that the spoon was one of the most important items in our bags!
-A seat for sitting around the campfire
-Rations for each individual day we were out
– My beloved machete which comes in a handmade leather pouch
-A sharpener for the machete which is almost as essential as the machete itself
– Two sets of clothes, one for the dirty, dusty driving, then one for the evenings around the campfire.
There’s probably more but these are the ones I remember most. Ian went through every item and then we made sure to pack each thing into our bags.
We already knew that this wasn’t going to be a regular blogging trip but getting our own kit together really made us excited for the days ahead.
The Adventure Begins
The next morning we got to Ian’s and loaded the 4×4’s with all our gear. There were six of us: Conor, Jules, Chris, Margherita, Giulia and myself. As we as that Ian was bringing his right-hand man Lionel and then the mechanics Frankie and Terry.
The 4×4’s are designed to be fixed out in the bush if any problem arises. There is no mechanic out here and no one who can help if we get into difficulty. The things look fantastic, they are beaten up but all the parts that are needed in the bush were in perfect working order and the ATVs were damn near bomb proof.
Initially we were tentative, we kept asking Ian ‘can we do this, how do we do that’. We soon realised that this wasn’t going to be one of those trips. You look after yourself in the savannah and don’t expect to be hand-fed along the way. When Jules went off the trail on his ATV and smacked a log, sending him soaring through the air, Ian exclaimed “What the f**k was he doing over there”.
One the first day we clocked in about 100km and had a few river crossings to contend with. Conor didn’t quite survive the first crossing, or rather his ATV didn’t and he flooded the engine of the ATV. Within a few minutes the issue was resolved and we were off again.
The landscape of the savannah is fascinating. Once we left the ‘main’ roads which were red dusty roads we were driving allow narrow trails that would very rarely see vehicles like our on them. We would see a handful of people and villages along the way as we drove but never another vehicle.
Sleeping Out Under the Stars
We eventually found a spot beside a river to camp for the night and Ian explained that it was very likely very few people have ever been to this exact spot before, maybe less than 11. Once we got off our vehicles we were sent off to find the perfect spot to pitch out hammocks. I found a completely useless spot to pitch mine over a ditch and decided to go with that and once we had that done we jumped into the river to give our dusty clothes and body a good wash.
In the jungle any small scratch can lead to a lot of complications so it is important to look after your body while out on these multi-day trips so giving everything a good scrub at the end of the day is perfect. A very fixable injury back home could be a lot worse here as there aren’t exactly any emergency services around to swing by and save the day. Ian keeps a private helicopter company on call if there’s ever a very serious accident.
We settled in, had some of our rations and a hot chocolate before heading off to sleep in the hammocks. They were incredibly comfortable and I slept like a baby, though I vowed to find a better location for the following night.
Getting comfortable driving in the bush
We woke up early, packed up our gear and had breakfast before hitting the road. We were a lot more confident today and spread out across the savannah. When I got the drone up in the air the footage looked like something out of a Mad Max movie… it was awesome!
Today was a more relaxed day today and we had a lot of fun in the vehicles. We stopped at one of the river crossings for a photo op and got some fantastic shots ploughing through the water. One of the 4 x 4’s was starting to overheat so we had to make plenty of stops every time we found a water source to keep cooling it down.
After another 100km in the bag we came to our next camping spot which was an absolute gem. It was on the Takatu river, which acts as the border between brazil and Guyana.
Frankie and Terry disappeared for a while as we were eating dinner and came back with about 20 medium sized fish. Margherita asked them how they caught them and they simply replied with ‘chop’… They had zero fishing equipment but used their headlamps to attract the fish to them and then when the fish were near they would stun them with their machetes.
This time I got an absolutely beautiful spot to pitch my hammock. As I was lying in it, I could see the stars clearer than I’ve ever seen them before and you would see a shooting star every few minutes. It was stunning. I’m really surprised how comfortable the hammocks were to sleep in. But there is a trick that’s important to know:
How to sleep in a Hammock:
Sleeping in a hammock is not exactly what you think. You do not sleep in a straight line from tree to tree, that will cause your body to dip and will mean you are pretty stiff the next day. Instead you sleep at an angle to the hammock. So if the hammock is in a straight line you position your head and body a bit to the left and your feet a bit to the right. It straightens out the hammock and means there will be less of a body dip. Who knew!
We hit the road the next day towards Saddle Mountain ranch for our next adventure but the savannah was to throw one more curveball our way in the form of a giant anteater.
- Image by Conor Phelan. Check out conorphelanphoto.com to see more
Out of nowhere this absolutely gorgeous creature popped up in the savannah. They usually sleep during the day and hunt at night so it was extremely lucky to have seen one. We watched it for a few minutes before it ran off and disappeared. We soon arrived at Saddle Mountain Ranch and that was where the next part of our adventure was to begin. Click here to read about it.