How many people can say that they have spent two weeks away from everything in a village in South America? Well that is just the opportunity I was given when I was a high school senior.
Located just outside of the Amazon, Guyana is a country covered in what seems like a never ending rainforest and winding muddy rivers.
We left the capitol city of Georgetown for what would be a two week trip spent out in the bush with none of the luxuries most don't even think about on a daily basis. We would sleep in a building that had no air conditioning, no running water and no real electricity. We would use the bathroom in an outhouse behind our building, filter our own water daily and either shower under the rainwater that was caught in the huge barrels or bathe in a creek.
Our plane landed on a hill that stuck up outside of the jungle surrounded by a small city, Mabarumba. We landed on a very short runway that almost didn't seem big enough. For a moment I thought we weren't going to stop in time before we went off the edge of the mountain. The airport was nothing but about a 10' x 10' tin building with a wooden counter inside of it.
From there we were picked up by a van that would take us about 2 hours down the road to the village we would be staying in.
Our days were primarily spent teaching in the public schools in the area. In our off time we spent time with the locals and adventuring around the surrounding area. We brought along a volleyball net, which created quite the competition at times among the locals. Every day was an adventure as we walked from school to school. I never seemed to get used to the thought that I was in South America.
Unfortunately, one of my favorite adventures, I have almost no photos of. But I'll never forget trekking through a very small narrow creek, with about waste deep muddy water under what was a tunnel of low lying trees. Even though I was so awestruck by where I was and what I was doing, all I could think about was all the dangers around me. I kept my head on a swivel as I was sure this was anaconda territory or at minimum some other obscure spider or reptile had to living in or around the creek. It's a wonder with all the adventures we had like this none of us ever got really sick or injured.
One day I skipped school to accompany one of the local villagers out to his farm. After a 2-3 hour hike, we finally made it to the farm.
We ran through what didn't appear to be anything but a small opening in the trees. The trees kept getting more dense as the trail seemed to disappear. Then almost out of nowhere, it opened up into what had to be about 10 acres of crops surrounded by banana, mango and coffee trees.
We went through the farm picking the very fresh and sweet fruit. About as quick as we could pick it, we were eating it. As we crept through the farm we crossed a few snakes resting under the dense brush. The man would casually pick a snake up and move it as if that was totally normal.
Market Day Tuesday! Ah, Market Day. Tuesday quickly became my favorite day of the week. The entire village takes a trip a little over an hour down the road to the market to get their groceries for the week.
We would hop in the van in the morning with our list of items for the week and cash in hand. Before we got our groceries, we would get ourselves a hot meal of grilled chicken and Guyanese rice from the local food stand. The best part about it was that our entire meals costed only about $4 US. I call that a steal.
From there we would go from farm stand to farm stand looking for the best deals on groceries. Once we figured out where the best deals were, we would go back and pick up exactly what we wanted and then close market day off with some of the local mango ice cream. Quite the delicacy when you haven't had anything cold all week.
Towards the end of the trip the locals wanted to go on a hike with us to the top of a mountain with an area to hang out area at the top. The hike would take all day, but would turn out to be well worth it.
We had a solid group of people making the climb with us that day, including a bunch of the local kids. The kids being barefoot were running around in circles the entire hike while we were honestly struggling. The hike took us past several other local villages and an endless amount of different of scenery and beauty.
The last leg of the hike was a stretch that required you to get on all fours and use your upper body strength to pull yourself up an over a series of rocks, but you could see the shelter at the top from this point. The papaya tress surrounding the shelter made my mouth begin to water.
Eventually we would all make it up the climb. From the top the view is that of an endless jungle. Deep green for as far as you can see.
We were so close to the Venezuelan border that locals were even pointing out where it was. We were even offered to be taken to the border. As much as I would have loved to, we had previously been warned by others of the dangers of going there as an American.
We continued exploring and ended up in a very tiny village that had next to nothing. This was a village where people still lived in what was essentially huts.
I would encourage anyone if ever given an opportunity such as this, to step out of your comfort zone and do it. The lessons I learned about myself and the world have continued to shape who I am today, even over 4 years later.
The people that I met and built relationships with are the ones that I still think about on a regular basis. While I may never be able to return again to this place and to the people, I still left there with another family and a Prime Adventure second to none.