Magazine article Geographical

Going with the Flow

Magazine article Geographical

Going with the Flow

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In February last year, 23-year-old explorer Charles Montier and two local companions embarked on a daring expedition through Guyana's remote interior to navigate the Potaro River from its source to its mouth. Here, he tells the story of a journey that involved an ascent of a 2,000-metre tepui, days of hauling their boat through thick jungle, and death-defying paddles over wild rapids and at the edge of one of the world's largest waterfalls

It's day five of our ascent of Mount Ayanganna and the jungle has taken on a whole new character. I look like I've been attacked by a pack of wild dogs, my hands and calves (shorts were a bad idea) a complicated road map of lacerations--a reflection of the ever-increasing hostility of the thick rainforest lining the slopes of this 2,041-metre sandstone tepui. I now understand why few people have ever climbed the eastern face of this isolated flat-topped mountain, as every step forward is punished by razor grass and knife-like leaves. But we ignore the discomfort and fight on. We must reach the top. The Potaro River flows off the summit and the source of this great waterway marks the starting line of our expedition.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I first came to Guyana in 2007 to undertake a three-week jungle survival course run by Bushmasters. The incredible beauty of the country's rainforest and the finely tuned survival skills of the Amerindian guides inspired me to plan a river-based expedition in the Guyanese interior.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A year later, I returned to carry out a two-week training expedition with Wai Wai guides on the upper Essequibo River. The paddling was tough and the wildlife amazing. In one day, we had giant river otters swim up to our dugout, a jaguar glare at us from the river's edge and multi-coloured macaws fly overhead.

With these experiences driving me on, I returned to the UK to finalise the logistics and continue searching for sponsors for the 'big trip'. Finally, in January last year, I once again returned to Guyana, ready to attempt a world first. Accompanied by two Patamona Amerindians, I would attempt the first descent of the Potaro River-from source to mouth.

But first, I had to fight off a serious bout of dengue fever that put me in intensive care in the capital, Georgetown, for two weeks. Friends spent three days running around town looking for a suitable donor for a much-needed platelet transfusion. I was severely weakened and couldn't walk down the street without feeling faint, but I fought hard to get fit again and three weeks later, the expedition and my physical strength were back on track.

TRAIL TO THE TOP Numb fingers clasped around my cutlass handle, I widen the trail being painstakingly cut by Rupert, my older, more experienced Patamona team-mate. I'm shaking from the cold, yet I'm a stone's throw from the equator. The persistent mist and rain ensure we're permanently soaked, while the fresh breeze, introduced by the gain in altitude, cuts straight through us.

The barely visible trail we're supposedly following--cut five years ago by a group of locals and naturalists during the first ascent of this eastern face--has now disappeared completely. We've been fighting our way forward for seven hours, yet according to my GPS, we've only advanced about 800 metres.

Eventually, we give up and huddle together under a tarpaulin, the rain beating down as we try to activate ourselves. Exhausted, freezing cold and shivering uncontrollably, our usual efficiency at setting up camp and getting a fire going has crumbled; my first real test as expedition leader is upon me. With daylight fading and the wind chill increasing, we urgently need shelter, fire and dry clothes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Rousing myself, I delegate tasks and we get to work in the heavy rain. Self-pity turns to anger as I wildly fell small trees to use for the shelter. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.