Monday, April 25, 2011

Bartica Regatta 2011, Gasoline + Pollution

An idle realisation that neither of us had 'been' to the Bartica Regatta led Mich and me to wake up early on Sunday to make our way to Parika. Of course we needn't have bothered as the Boatguy wasn't there and as we were debating an hour later whether to catch the regular river Transport, the rest of the crowd for the boat turned up. Mainly women with children, one of whom had her husband in some sort of competition at Bartica.  We also took up four drinking guys, one was very loud and insisted on stopping the boat at Scott's, roughly 2/3rd of the way, to restock the beers. I was sitting just in front of them and I couldn't understand most of the dialect and I think it was Guyanese they were speaking-- my hearing must be going!
Although we got there for 10am, the actual event was poorly co-ordinated. It took about an hour for the first event to get started and even then, only three boats started and two finished-- to the despair of the announcer. They had an insipid David Granger address the crowd with a sound system that kept cutting off- he tried to make a point that Region 2 had a riverine connection with Region 7 and maybe it would be a good idea to involve the Native Peoples-- like a paddling canoe race with/by the Amerinidians. I looked around and saw a few Amerindian families who came early to sit in the stands get bullied by fat/larger people (including the Head of the EU Delegation) coming late and wedging themselves in and squashing the children - a couple of little boys electing to get up and stand up somewhere.  They were also well represented in the Miss Bartica Contest-- the current queen appearing to be a teenaged Amerinidian girl and over half the current contestants having Amerindian blood!

Check out guy in red T-Shirt!
The boats themselves were not the locally-made ones based on an extended dinghy design but imported covered-Katamarang-designed ones, the different races in different 'power' categories seemed to require changing the outboard motor, as I thought the boats very similar. After three hours of eating and waiting for the contestants to get to the starting line, the girl sitting next to Mich confirmed that it was the same people in the same boats racing with different motors- roughly 3-6 people including those from the Pomeroon! So it really boiled down to the nouveau-riche miners ( the vieux-riche like Ming having pulled out a couple years earlier) and a Boating family in the area showing off their new toys--in fact it was the middle-aged Jet-skiers who kept zooming up and down to the annoyance of the announcer as he felt it contributed to delaying the races. This reached its natural conclusion whereby Scott's (he of the gasoline station mentioned earlier) son went out of the country and imported a Yellow racing boat of unknown but suspected higher-than-everybody-else's-horsepower and entered one of the Races without permission and led for all of the way before he pulled out just before the end-- needless to say that was the most exciting race of the morning!

We then wandered to buy some coconut water and I was mildly surprised to find out we have better in 'Town'-- past all the music boxes which were now gearing up to deafen everybody-- sadly this passes for entertainment in Guyana - Loud Music, people standing about aimlessly shovelling the repetitive unhealthy food down their throats and drinking more that's good for them! But the lovely ladies we travelled up with refused to leave at 3.30pm although the Boat Captain was relieved that we wanted to return to Parika; I was puzzled why as they were just clustered up in groups by themselves-- not even like in my younger days when you would chalk-up having 'pulled' someone thereby making it a successful outing, worth the killing off a few senses for a few hours! He had hopefully got most of us into the boat where we got soaked by the swells from racing boats/jet-skies when the ladies refused point-blank.
Then the BIG MISTAKE occured-- feeling too lazy to walk down to the regular stelling to catch the regular passenger boats, we got the captain to 'find' a boat going back to Parika-- he stuck us in the boat of a large jovial Afro-guyanese family from Pomeroon ranging from Granny to the three-yr old. So Mich and I stood in the second row looking for space between the 4 children innocently sitting there. I wedged in my butt and was told by one of the mothers at theback that I should sit at the end as the chubby 5yr old who was there would more easily be thrown overboard. I felt a bit bad squashing up the children but made a note to self to try and avoid being the most vunerable in society as you would certainly have your Rights stomped on and end up being squashed.
The boat had just turned around when the two brothers renting the boat realised that the Captain did not spend the time gainfully at Bartica refuelling and we only had five gallons of gasoline! Amid the abusive shouts at the Captain, Mich (who has been to many interesting spots around the World)'s self-preservation instincts kicked in, shouted that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to get in this boat and we should get out-- that was exactly my thoughts but seeing that we were in very choppy waters just off Bartica it didn't seem like there was much we could do. I nudged the 5yr old to wedge in the bulky lifejacket that didn't close and the poor thing had to sit leaning forward uncomplainingly over the Large IceBox his uncle and father had wedged into the space in front of our feet. The two brothers who were strong over-sixfooters, the teenaged and adult boathands crammed into the smallest row in front  - the backseat bar of which breaking unsurprisingly half-way through the trip and as Mich said that alone would have exposed the inexperience of the Captain as putting the heaviest weight on the front of the boat would cause it slow down.
We were gunning down to Scott's when the lead brother did something I didn't see and the women asked the Captain to stop so Brother 1 could pee off the side of the front of the Boat! Never in all my travels in Guyana had this happened but we were approaching a new Low; Brother 2 who was quite gentlemanly, sat up to preserve my Victorian sensibility but actually I was more worried about the wind blowing urine in my face so I was grateful for the shield. Then them boyz had to crack open a New Bottle of Vodka and I learnt about why they call it Chasers, cos real drinkers swig the Hard stuff straight from the Bottle and while that bottle is being passed around the bottle of Cranberry Juice is taken out and 'chases' the Hard stuff-- oh I didn't know that-- we usually mix the two.
With all these delays--- the inevitable happened -- we ran out of petrol in the middle of the Cuyuni River about five miles from Scott's. I was amazed that Brother 2 could recognise boats speeding towards Parika from a distance and he flagged down a few-- to their credit they all stopped-- this must be what makes Guyana run without Emergency Services as the Coastguard and River Police were gainfully employed keeping drunken middle-aged Jet-skiers out of the the path of the racers!  The first was a boy and his granny heading to Karia Kaira, then the second was a Captain who had a feud with our Captain and drove off, then Brother 2 saw a boat he 'knew' and the guy handed over his reserve tank of petrol to get us to Scott's. At that point MYself-preservation instinct told me to change boats mid-river but I was concerned Mich might not be up for it - she later told me the same thing occured to her but as we were sitting at opposite ends of the row, communication was limited to being Public.
To celebrate the acquisition of petrol, the food was brought out and there was a round of Fried Fish and Channa being shared around. I noticed the giant Brother 1 had washed his hands in the Cooler unknowingly after his bladder evacuation so the impromptu picnic posed no problem! After we got to Scott's, who had run out of petrol but spared three gallons, the soft drinks and juices were shared around to the women and children. At that point I stopped the 5yr old and 9yr old from copying their father and throwing the plastic cups the river by telling them that Mich works with the Sea animals who see the plastic things in the ocean, eat them and die and we didn't want to kill the animals did we? I would have got them to throw everything into a plastic bag but Mich, having just come back from a Conservation thing in California where the engineers carried their own cutlery everywhere to cut down disposable waste, had us buying things without the inevitable plastic bag, so I told the 5 yr old to throw it in the boat and when we get to shore we would put it in the bin-- the sweetie actually remembered when he had his juice later-- there is a glimmer of Hope for the Future. I caught the 9yr old trying to sneak the cup into the river behind my head and made him throw it into the bottom of the Boat.. I'm sure the rest of the adults must have thought that I was demented!
Further down the river, the 9yr sitting next to me, indicated to the women in the back that he wanted to have a shit! I have no idea of how this family communicated its bodily desires so secretly but he made his way to the back of the boat, did his business and mercifully was told to stay there. I would be dismissive about their manners but now that I think about it, I don't recall seeing any Public Toilets in the Golden Beach area where the Regatta was being held-- Mich and I went to a hotel I knew and to her parents' friend. But surely the 9yr old could have gone when we went to Scott's?
Anyway we were running short of petrol again and came to another riverside dwelling selling petrol at 1+1/2 times the regular roadside price-- I felt sorry for the family to be skinned in this way and the adult boathand moaned to the Captain how could he not have Petrol, that petrol was transport and without that you were lost?  And I got thinking about how all these River people will punish when the World Fuel Prices rise yet again at the behest of the Oil Companies and the rising World Market demand, and what will happen with them?


  1. Oh oh.. i not going anywhere wid u..

  2. i’m from Bartica and i laughed from the time i started reading. you dealt with these issues for one day, i deal with it every day. the parts that made me laugh the most:

    > i think it was Guyanese they were speaking - u mussy de wan no wuh deh de talkin bout (you must have wanted to know what they were talking about)

    > all the wedging that was taking place

    > the race with the driver Scott was indeed the only exciting race of the day, it was a pity that Scott was not allowed to race since he spent millions (US tens of thousands) to prepare for the races.

    > you actually found coconut water

    > past all the music boxes which were now gearing up to deafen everybody-- sadly this passes for entertainment in Guyana - Loud Music, people standing about aimlessly shovelling the repetitive unhealthy food down their throats and drinking more that's good for them! - LMAO, i could not have described that scene better , spot on

    > chasers: gal you know i was a drinka, hope you heard that song

    > 'A' for observation on the emergency services (same as on land)

    > littering , what can i say...i know you saw the condition of the country and believe it or not (based on what you've witnessed, you believe) the 'golden beach' is still 'tarnished' form the activities

    > the kid who took a dump, at least you now know that's possible

    it was fun reading your post, but sadly it's all true. i love my native land but we have to change and quick too. i hope that other guyanese read this post and learn from it (guyanese because this happens all over the country, not only in bartica)

    by the way, the revenue from the regatta activities is supposed to be spent on the community and every regatta the coordinators claim to suffer losses.

  3. Hey 55beg,
    Thrilled and pleased you enjoyed this piece have no idea how to publicize it though-- just have to depend on Google to list it on Search Engines!
    Our people are warm, wonderful comedic beings but horribly myopic!

  4. hey you should added the few more things you told us today!