The only English-speaking country in South America, Guyana is as much part of the Caribbean as it is of the South American continent. Beyond the coast, the country is mostly covered by pristine rainforest, and exploring the difficult-to-reach interior is a big challenge… but a highly rewarding one for the adventurous traveller.
Host Matt Young starts his journey in the capital Georgetown, during Mashramani, the annual Guyana carnival. The biggest celebration of the year, it's a hugely enjoyable spectacle, with singers and dancers boogeying away to Caribbean-style music, dressed up in fantastically colourful and often extremely skimpy costumes – so, not surprisingly, Matt has a great time!
Next day, Matt heads to Parika, at the mouth of the Essequibo River, South America's third largest river and the gateway to the interior. Travelling by boat upriver, Matt passes Fort Zeelandia, a historic Dutch fort on an island in the river, a reminder of the earliest colonial days, when many European powers ran highly profitable plantations in the region, all based on despicable slavery.
Travelling up the Essequibo deep into the rainforest, Matt follows a trail blazed by the earliest European explorers, such as Sir Walter Raleigh, who sailed this way in search of the legendary golden city of El Dorado. Although all the explorers returned empty-handed, none of them ever finding the mythical city, ironically the Guyanese interior is in fact very rich with gold. Today small settlements along the river teem with small-time gold-miners trying to make their fortune. Few of the miners become rich, of course, and their sporadic income mostly finds its way to the bars and brothels of small towns like Mahdia, as Matt discovers when he joins 3 gold-diggers for a day.
Beyond Mahdia, Matt travels further into the interior, meeting up with local Amerindian Tony Melville, who guides him by boat and on foot on a two day trek to the jewel in the crown of Guyana's rainforests, Kaieteur National Park. Tony is the perfect trek companion, relating local legends, pointing out edible fruit and medicinal plants, and warning of poisonous snakes and dangerous animals en route.
After camping in the forest overnight, Matt and Tony are joined by the park's Senior Warden, Laurence Gibson, before climbing up the steep cliff nicknamed 'Mount Oh My God',seemingly both for the toughness of the climb, but also for the feeling that travellers get when finally reaching the top…
Matt is no exception. The spectacular Kaieteur Falls at 741 feet - said to be the highest single-drop waterfall anywhere in the world - is a magnificent climax to his arduous but highly rewarding journey through the beautiful land of Guyana.