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Trucked on the Letham Road, Guyana

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

From the Get Real Dictionary: “field conservation (n): an approach to the preservation of species and ecosystems primarily by attending to nonfunctional trucks. See also ‘mother-trucker,’ ‘we’re trucked,’ and ‘truck it, not again!" ( definition supplied by Meredith Garmon)

My conservation life in the field does indeed seem to center around nonfunctional trucks, so it was with some trepidation that we planned to return to Georgetown, Guyana on the Letham Road. We were in Iwokrama, conducting parrot counts and spreading the word of parrot conservation, where our driver and owner of our rented truck had borrowed a tire inflator for the leaky tires and a portable battery charger for our weak battery, and had made sure to have with him large truck jacks to get us out of the mud. This was not overly reassuring, give that just a week ago we had hit a bad spot in the road (okay, several bad spots) from Karasabai to Rewa, that necessitated picking up an extra person to help us get out of the mud. He indeed was a great help and we made it just fine.

We lost our spare tire on the Rewa Road, and nearly our teeth from the sudden jolt

By the time we left Saturday morning from Iwokrama, we had a new battery. But before we had even gone 5 minutes, while waiting at the Kurupukari Ferry Landing, we had to ask the driver of another waiting, and much bigger truck, to use his air compressor to inflate our flat tire (photo below). Then we had to wait in the rain for the ferry to come pick us up to take us across the Essequibo River.

From there, we had only gone another 5 minutes before we found a minibus broken down on the road that asked for us to haul them back to the ferry, which we did (photo above). Finding ourselves back at the ferry landing (photo below) with mud already covering us and the truck, one of my traveling companions refused to cower, exclaiming, "We are going to dominate the sh_t out of this road!"

I'm not sure we dominated it, but we did enjoy it. Within minutes, we saw 4 blue and yellow macaws, and later up the road I saw my first jaguar, and now with all eyes on the road, a few minutes later we saw a jaguarundi cat. We also passed several species of monkeys. Some of the thrill of seeing wildlife was tempered by the truck that was going in the opposite direction with a hunter perched up on the roof with a high power hunting rifle. I was assured that this was not an example of sport hunting, but hunting for food. I was also concerned with the high number of logging trucks on the road, making me suspicious that the extraction rate might be too high for sustainability.

Logging storage stop along the road

I have been on rougher roads, but not longer rough roads. It was 8 hours of driving (counting our stops, it was 10 hours), most of it on pitted uneven mud surfaces.

One of the many bridges along the way (logs placed over a creek)

One hill proved too much for a truck hauling wood, which had tumbled only the night before (photo below). The driver reportedly escaped serious injury.

After about 4 hours we approached Mabura Hill Immigration and the road broadened out, though it was still pitted. We were able to stop for gas and lunch (okay, a few beers), and now the wildlife we saw was captive, including one red-and-green macaw (photo below) and a capuchin monkey.

After another two hours we were getting close to pavement, and during one stretch break, we realized that we had more than survived without any truck issues. Maybe, just maybe, my luck was changing with field conservation trucks.

Celebrating that we got this far on the Letham Road. Thanks companions and driver!

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