Shipwrecks and Sand Shoals

Wreck of The MazaruniSome snapshots of the M/V Mazaruni wreck along the banks of the Essequibo…
Wreck of The Mazaruni

And the creek behind the shipwreck, a quiet, shady winding waterway where we spotted boa constrictors in the water, and powder blue morpho butterflies.
Gabriel's Creek
Gabriel's Creek
Gabriel's Creek
Gabriel's Creek

We nearly became a shipwreck, ourselves, entering the Essequibo…we hit a sandy shoal as the tide was going out, and had to sit leaning onto our side for 7 hours, waiting for the tide to come back in and float us free.
Guyana April12 In just two feet of fresh river water, we had the brilliant idea of jumping into the river and making use of the time having a wash, rinsing the accumulated salt from our deck, our dishes…I very nearly did the laundry, but the tide was coming back in by then.

It was a bizarre sight, this sailboat in the middle of that wide river, surrounded by water, walking around their boat, heads crowned with shampoo bubbles…

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Song of The Open Road

DSC_0209I immensely enjoyed the audiobook version of Rolf Potts’ Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, though I must be honest and say that I probably didn’t NEED the book, as I find myself living with a natural-born vagabonder who has been living this way since he was 15 years old.

But if you’re new to the experience, feel an attraction to the idea of incorporating travel into your life as something intrinsically part of that life, and not just spending a load of money to go for a short, predictable, industry-designed tour, then this book will show you where, and, more importantly, how to start.

Most people think that traveling for extended periods of time is only for the extremely rich, or the extremely irresponsible and feral. But travel as a way of life is an ancient and honourable way of discovering how to become fully human, and discovering oneself as well. And it’s really not as difficult as you’d think. The same measures that a vagabonder takes in order to SAVE money are the very things that also provide that traveler with the most amazing experiences and a more in-depth, satisfying, life-changing encounter with that country. A willingness to eat where the locals do, travel side by side with them in buses or on ferries, stay in locals’ homes, accept invitations to local events, and learn the language of your host country, will give you something that a 10-day holiday by the pool of a hotel catering to foreigners and hanging out with tourists from your own country, can never provide.

Kris and I saved money for just two years…he, working as a boat carpenter for the local fishing industry, I as a salesgirl in an art shop. Okay, we have the boat, which is probably the ultimate way to vagabond because the biggest expenses you will encounter on your travels will always be 1) transportation and 2) accommodation. With our home-built, no-engine, no-electronics, super-basic sailboat, we have cut both those expenses to a fraction of what it would cost to fly around countries, stay in hostels (which, even though cheaper than hotels, can vary greatly from country to country in price, and will eventually take up a lot of your budget), or buy gallons of fuel for a more conventional sailboat.

We don’t have a lot of money, but that’s okay because when we are running low we can look for work, or just decide to head home. There are no iron-clad schedules to follow…we like a country, we stay as long as we can. We don’t like the country, we leave the next week. That said, you’d be amazed at how cheaply you can live in other countries, if you live almost like the locals. In Brazil, we were spending an average of US$2,000 a month. For two people. In Guyana, that’s gone down to an amazing US$600 per month. Either way, both places cost much less than it costs us to live back in Australia, AND we are getting the experiences of a different culture, learning new languages, making friends, and tucking away inspiration for a whole new body of art and creativity for when we return home.

So if traveling and experiencing a new culture at the grassroots level—their food, home life, environs, people, language—gives you a little buzz and thrill of excitement, know that it’s MUCH easier than you think. There’s no need to commit to a period of time, and two months is as legitimate a vagabonding stint as two years. I RECOMMEND this book! It’s inspiring, it’s practical, it’s a better book to have than any Lonely Planet guide, which only leads you down the well-trodden paths, to boringly safe and touristy places, to have uniform experiences like everyone else.

Botany, Baby

It’s impossible to sketch in Guyana, and leave out the greenery. One is surrounded by riverine forests, and on our walks around the surrounding islands we come across interesting plants all the time, so my sketchbook is starting to look a bit like a botanist’s records of the New World.

This flower belongs to the same tree that Kris brought his weird jungle fruit home from. I painted the fruits on postcards, blogged about them here. Found this specimen growing in Gabriel’s Creek.
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I also painted a Cecropia leaf. Cecropias are apparently yummy, as we have found both howler monkeys and sloths in their branches. The Amerindians use the leaves medicinally.

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These pretty flowers smell like jasmine, though it is a small tree and not a shrub at all. A single pink petal encloses the others in the bud…the other petals are white. Grows on Baganara Island, hanging over the water, on the resort grounds.
flowering branch

Note: Most of my blog content these days is from two or three weeks back, because of how difficult it is to get onto the internet; so while my posts may be about terrible, rainy days and so forth, the rain had actually eased by the time I could post about the experience, and we are enjoying a mix of rainy nights and sunny days, at the moment. Since then I have been to Georgetown, even! But I am still working on my posts for that part, and most likely won’t post about them until we get to our next destination. Incidentally, we are hoping to leave Essequibo River on Friday, the 19th, and Guyana itself by the 25th or so. We are headed for Granada, it may take another 10 days or so, so my next posts will start to show up in the first or second week of July.

The Wreck of the Mazaruni

Wreck of the Mazaruni sketchKris was going crazy with the rainy weather, too, and didn’t even have me to talk to, once I got into my painting. At last we decided to go exploring the Essequibo River a bit…rain or no, at least the sailing part would give him something physical to do, and we’d have a different foggy grey jungle view to look at…

We headed back down the river, the way we came when we first arrived. We’d seen a wrecked ship along the banks, halfway down, that had fascinated us…the jungle was taking it over, growing over its bridge and filling the cracks in its hull with vines and ferns. So we headed for the same spot, and anchored for two days near the wreck of the ship “Mazaruni”.

Of course, the first thing I did was sketch the ship…once, in pen on brown bag paper, and then a (less successful) watercolour, in a brand new sketchbook that I had bought at the Darwin airport to use up my Aussie dollars, and decided to finally use.

DSC_0200(My first experience with Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks, I have to say I was very disappointed, the paper is crappy, only 20% cotton and with a tendency to bleed a bit. What gets me is that, for the exorbitant price I paid for the thing, I could have bought nearly 2 pads of Arches 100% cotton watercolour paper. Shoot.)

Kris, on the other hand, went exploring in the dinghy…around the ship, and discovered a creek that ran behind it. Up the creek he saw Morpho butterflies (common in Guyana, but magical nonetheless…Vladimir Nabokov collected these iridescent blue butterflies. These days they are being farmed for jewelry and collectors, so the wild population has managed to recover from the past centuries’ mania for naturalist collections) and a large boa constrictor.

We started calling the creek Gabriel’s Creek, after a scene from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, where Jose Arcadio Buendia and his band of men come upon a galleon smothered in jungle, miles away from any sea.

Jungle paintings are on Society6


My two recent jungle paintings are available on my Society6 page as art prints, or prints on canvas.

Cheers! Nat

Back in the arms of colour

back to colour

Thank you, Dave & Sharynne, for the concerned e-mail! As I mentioned in my last post, whatever mood my posts may depict, chances are that the moment has long since passed, by the time I manage to write about it. I can’t paint and stay glum for very long…so whatever mood my paintings are in, I am probably feeling better simply for having painted them.

Just to reassure you that I have not fallen into a swampy morass of riverine jungle moodiness, this is something I painted more recently…as you can see, I have “climbed back up” into the saving arms of colour…

It’s nice to know that there are beautiful people looking out for me, though! Thanks, again.

N.

Scarder, Pauline, and me

Mr. Scarder
Scarder is our butcher in Bartica. We came upon him one day, cleaning and cutting up cow’s heads. they’re used in a dish called “souse”. No part of an animal is wasted here…like many non-Western cultures, every bit can be bought, cooked, and eaten. It’s practical, and it would never occur to people here to cover it up, or pretend that what they’re eating is anything but a dead cow.

Miss Pauline
Also paid a visit to my favorite roti and curry shop…Miss Pauline not only agreed to a photo, but asked for one taken with me, so Kris took this shot.
Me and Pauline, Queen of Curry
Before this photo, I had not looked in a mirror for 7 weeks…we don’t have a mirror on the boat, and I was gauging how I looked by other people’s reactions to me…from the cheeky rastafarians amorous proposals, to the way old ladies or small children smiled at me…

I was shocked by the amount of grey at the temples! On the bright side, I have lost more weight, I am down to 74 kgs. now, from 94 kgs. three years ago. Those too-tight dresses I bought a year ago are now a “relaxed fit”. Yay!

Into the jungle

green world 1As the gloomy days stretched on, I moved from my journal and making postcards on recycled oatmeal boxes, to a small canvas…expanding on the plants and elements of the previous two, I painted these two fantasy jungle scenes, using plants and details both real and imagined.

DSC_0198They match up to form a bigger picture.