KAYAKING - IS IT POSSIBLE?
Linda Rutherford The Chronicle October 1998
TWO blithe spirits boarded a Roraima Airways Islander around on Thursday and headed south-west for Dadanawa, in the South Rupununi, the starting point of a 23-day reconnaissance into the viability of kayaking as local eco-tourism product.
The area under investigation is the approximately 350-mile stretch of rapid-infested waters between Dadanawa and Omai Landing. The quest is being undertaken by Oscar van Dam and Hans ter Steege, two Dutch scientists attached to the Tropenbos-Guyana programme.
The expedition is as much pure adventure for them as it is for the benefit of Wilderness Explorers, a local tour operating outfit which partially funded the venture.
The journey is to be done, by kayak of course, in four stages - the first being from Dadanawa Ranch to Karanambo Ranch, at which latter destination they are to be the guests of proprietrix, Ms Diane McTurk, for one night, and to load up on fresh stocks sent up in advance. This leg of the journey is projected to take five days.
ter Steege anticipates that the waters along the Rupununi River, between Dadanawa and Karanambo, will be "fairly calm", with probably two to three rapids as they enter the Kanukus (the mountain range dividing the Rupununi into north and south), and one as they exit. Time permitting, he said, they would also explore the Napari River, reputed for its idyllic scenery.
Upon leaving Karanambo, they may stop briefly at Annai, so as to "make a quick call-in by radio" to base - Tropenbos' Garnett Street, Campbellville, head office - from Colin Edwards' place, the famed Rockview Guest House. They will be, however, definitely making a stop at Apoteri, not only to call-in but also to "do a bit of shopping" at the Guyana Stores Limited (GSL) outlet there.
From Apoteri, they will head for Kurupukari and the Iwokrama field station, where they plan overnighting and again take opportunity to call base. The last leg, which, according to ter Steege, is the longest and "most potentially dangerous" of all, is from Kurupukari to Omai.
Said ter Steege about the potential dangers they face: "We know Yakariba Falls; we know Waraputa. We've both done them a few times. But just above Yukariba, there is the Itanami, and that's a fairly big one".
He hopes, however, that the Iwokrama captain with whom they both had occasion to travel through `Frenchman', just below the treacherous Itanami, "quite a few times", will be able to advise them on the best route to take over the rapids.
He rather suspects, though, that they may have to portage - landing the boat before the rapids and either walking over the rocks in the middle, if that is at all possible, or taking to the shore either side of the river bank and dragging the boats through the forest.
A water sport that is believed to have originated with the Eskimos, kayaking, ter Steege said, has grown to become quite popular in Europe and the USA.
Coming in many forms, he said, there is sea, flat water and white water kayaking. In Europe, he said, the sport is mainly pursued in either the Alps, the Balkan side of the Pyrennes, or the Ardennes.
In the Netherlands where he comes from, ter Steege said, kayaking is permissible in the surf of the sea, particularly if there is a north-westerly gale when the waves are at their most spectacular.
Unlike him, he admitted, the vessels in which are undertaking the expedition are capable of taking on the Grand Canyon, reputedly "some of the most awesome rivers" in the state of Colorado, in the USA.
They measure about four metres long and 60 centimetres wide, and are made of polyethylene, a fairly pliable material not prone to damage like polyester or fibreglass.
They are, also, repairable to some extent. ter Steege's, however, being somewhat dated (as in close to 15 years old), has already begun to harden, at which stage it is difficult to repair.