Atlantic Ocean

Day 72: The Atlantic Ocean and finish!!

72 days, over 1000km and an extraordinary collaboration with the Wai Wai community to descent the Essequibo River from source to sea.

We have done it! We have arrived at the mouth of the Essequibo river. As we look ahead all we can see is the open Atlantic Ocean, a sight we dared not dream of till now as we made our way down the entire length of this mighty river. Reaching the ocean paddling side by side with our Wai Wai guides and our wonderful Guyana friend, Fay, who joined us halfway through has been extraordinary as it truly has been a great collaborative effort to make this all happen.

We are all exhausted, overwhelmed and utterly content so for now it is off to have a beer with our team, let the journey and memories soak in, have a shower (people are doing banana walks around us at quite a distance we smell so bad) and get some much needed sleep. We’ll write up a full update and story of these final days after that! Thank you to all our sponsors, our Wai Wai guides and also to you all for following and sending so many messages of support to everyone on the ground here all along the journey – we raise our beers to you all. What a ride.

More to come shortly…

The finale of a source to sea descent of the Essequibo River. Image by Jon Williams.
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Snail’s pace.

Yesterday we managed two miles in a full walking day. That’s with the help from the Wai Wai guys too. It’s both absurdly dense but also increasingly hilly with steep muddy jungle-clad walls blocking our path. Imagine taking part in Tough Mudder, add a heavy rusksack, and a sprinkling of plants with spikes and thorns on them, then just keep going for day after day. Its bonkers – we are running on black humour, stubbornness, and farine.

I’ve had a few comments asking me to put our current trek into some context so here goes…

We are attempting to be the first team to kayak the Essequibo River in Guyana (South America – not Africa – that’s Ghana!). It’s South America’s third longest river and yet, unbelievably, no team, man, nor woman have ever navigated it’s full length. Huge sections in fact have never been recorded or documented.

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Photo: Pip, Ness and Pieman (cameraman) using the BGAN to contact home.

To even begin our attempt we must get to the source of the river. That entailed chartering an aircraft from Georgetown, the capital, and flying to the indigenous Wai Wai village in the south of the country on the Brazilian border.

On arrival we were greeted with huge warmth and the Wai Wai have embraced our project agreeing to help us in both finding the source but also agreeing to paddle with us down much of the river.

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Photo: The Wai Wai are able to literally produce food from the jungle. Fruits, fish and even animals. 

Their knowledge of the jungle is something that has to be seen to be believed. Hunting and fishing with bows and arrows, flicking cumbersome dugout canoes around with a deft stroke of a wooden paddle. We have already made great friends.

The search for the source began in dugout canoes but we are now on foot – the river became too slow with fallen trees and tangled vines. Our trial at the moment is simply patience. We have come too far for there to be a debate about what to do. We just have to cut a route through the dense palms and brambles and somehow make it to the source.

If the pace stays the same we’ll be cutting for the next week.

Ness in water

Ness, Pip and I are honoured to be here and privileged to be in this position – but at times the progress has been incredibly frustrating. Leading the group is a massive challenge for me too – mouths to feed, morale to keep high, tasks to allocate. I climb into my hammock at night and wonder what on Earth I was thinking.

And last night, at just such a moment, and just to keep me grounded (literally), my hammock came undone and I fell to the jungle floor with an undignified thump. No real harm done: I have a grazed leg and bruised ego. Humility is a gift that keeps on giving 😂

Laura x

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