Run Softly Demerara

Run Softly Demerara

Run Softly Demerara

Run Softly Demerara

Excerpt

As we flew over the coastline of South America on the last lap of our flight from Trinidad we looked down to where a maze of branching rivers meets the sea in a vast delta, turning the coastal waters to the brown of café au lait with silt borne down from the distant Andes. The Orinoco: whose magnitude and volume told Columbus and his companions when they reached it that here they had struck the edge of a major continent. The sight of this coast-line, and of the river up which Raleigh sailed in search of Eldorado, turned my thoughts to the history of Europeans on this continent, a history which covers a meagre 563 years of the millennia of the earth's existence. Here was the coast along which, after Columbus, came the Conquistadores, where later pirates came to sack and ransom the Spanish cities. Here was the continent whose fabled gold whetted the appetite of the old world, where naive aboriginals were happy to offer the invading Spaniards trinkets of their common yellow metal in return for such wonders as glass and steel. Here was a land where horses were unknown before the Spaniards shipped their Cordovan cavalry across the sea to help them in their conquests.

The great rivers and dense forests upon which we gazed from the aeroplane were the same which I had seen in the background of quaint engravings in old books, pictures in which naked savages with feathers in their hair stand on a tropical shore waiting to receive a group of Europeans in Elizabethan dress who are landing from a long-boat; out in the bay a galleon rides at anchor.

To the traveller approaching by air, Atkinson Field, the airport for Georgetown, seems at first sight to be merely a clearing in thick forest. On all sides of the grey landing-strip waves of . . .

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