Cruise ship passengers set sail with happy memories
By Miranda La Rose
May 2, 2003
They came and they sailed away but the mighty Kaieteur Falls and Guyana's verdant forests will remain etched in the memories of the 106 tourists aboard the cruise ship, MS Explorer which docked here on Monday.
Among those asked to share their experiences was 88-year-old Ralph Carpenter whose trip to Guyana makes it 224 countries that he has visited and his wife, Janice, who is now up to 217.
She told Stabroek News that they had signed on to travel on this leg of the cruise mainly to visit Guyana which they had never been to before. Janice made the journey by air to view the Kaieteur Falls but did not climb to the top of the falls because of a knee injury.
At a reception and dinner held in honour of the visitors aboard the ship on Monday evening, the Carpenters were enthusiastically discussing their trip as were their fellow wayfarers who had gone on the nature trails at Kaieteur and Timberhead.
Because of the crime wave, the tourists travelled under heavy police escort, which did not go down too well with some of them.
The duty-free liquor booth which displayed Guyana's El Dorado rums and gold jewellery appeared to have been more enticing than the other craft items including sculptures, ceramics, leather-craft and tibisiri craft.
City Jammers Steel Band lent to a carnival atmosphere to the normally business-like GNSC cargo wharf.
Cathy Grellet, the ship's physician, said that she had not expected Guyana's rainforest to rival that of the Amazon. A seasoned traveller, Grellet described Guyana as a hidden jewel. She said the journey up the Kamuni Creek, a tributary of the Demerara River, was reminiscent of going up the Amazon but without the hassle of having to travel hundreds of miles. She and her colleagues were greeted by a three-toed sloth at Timberhead and a colourful toucan with its head protruding from a hole in a tree trunk.
There were also smiles of approval for Fred Smith, Grellet's husband, who did a good deed by saving a giant tarantula that was stranded on a log in mid-creek. Both nature lovers, Grellet and Smith were married several years ago in the regions of the Antarctica surrounded by a flock of penguins!
Jerry O'Brien from Houston, Texas felt fulfilled by his visit to see Kaieteur Falls. He had already seen Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall.
O'Brien said that you heard so many bad things about a country and it was a great shame when the good things could not get the same publicity. He spoke of the friendliness of the Guyanese people and was appreciative of the attention paid to detail by the tour operators.
Peter Graham of London never imagined that Georgetown's layout and architecture could be "so lovely." He did not travel to the interior but took part in the city tour. One of his colleagues, however, felt that work was needed on the potholes and some buildings needed painting.
Carol Walton, a naturalist, was impressed with the amount of forest and was taken by the "beautiful little golden frogs" at Kaieteur Falls. Walton, from Austin, Texas, has worked on the ship for 23 years. She experienced a wonderful feeling travelling for one hour and twenty minutes over lush virgin forests and says she wants to return to Guyana.
Raymond Woods of Kansas was on his second visit here. He had visited during a period of political turmoil and left the country at the first chance he got, never getting to see the country as he would have liked. Nevertheless, returning to Guyana, he was impressed with the sites and more so with Kaieteur Falls, which brought back memories of the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. He was also happy that 80% of the country's forests are still intact and that efforts are being made to preserve them.
The captain of the MS Explorer, Uli Demel said he was satisfied with the organisation of the local tours and by the professionalism of the Wilderness Explorers staff. In spite of the rains in the interior everyone was flown back to the city within record time.
The MS Explorer's trip to Guyana was organised by Wilderness Explorers. Wilderness Explorer Managing Director Tony Thorne told Stabroek News that the trip took 16 months of planning. Originally it was planned for two days but because of having to co-ordinate with the tides, activities were packed into one day.
The MS Explorer, said to be the world's first expedition cruise ship, has been called the Ship in the Wilderness because it does not run the regular routes and it caters for a smaller, niche clientele. It first came to Guyana on August 21, 1997 and has attracted the retiree market.
The all-inclusive 50-cabin vessel which set sail from Balboa in Panama made several stops, including Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Trinidad and Tobago, en route to Guyana. From Guyana it is going to Suriname, French Guiana then on to Brazil after which it will continue towards Cape Horn and then on to the Antarctica region.