Jungle Book

Jungle Book

The last of the 10 handmade journals commissioned by my friend Riitta had this on its cover. It was a book and it had jungle plants, hence the name (I’m often stumped what to call each design).

The image is a mishmash of river and island memories…of which there are many, because I have been living in or near water since I decided, at 25, to spend the rest of my life with a salty sailor (who keeps the sea as a mistress).

I was inspired by the limestone islands of El Nido, the jungle surrounding the Essequibo, the tepuys of Venezuela, the birds of the Orinoco and the Rio Dulce, and the green mangrove water of Sadgroves Creek in Darwin, though I kept the design light and simple, no grand or profound truths in this little illustration!

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Jungle trials, er, trails

Jungle Trail
We explored the nature trails on Baganara Island…the resort keeps these trails cleared, and there are a few old but informative labels on some of the trees and such.
Jungle Trail
Jungle Trail
Kris went often, in all weather; I enjoyed the trails until it rained…then the paths became little creeks of squishy leaf mold and mud, and the wildlife—insects, small snakes, frogs—would be swimming around my feet.
Jungle Trail
I am just so not an “Outdoors Person”, even though I love looking at nature. Something about having my feet ankle deep in mud, sucking my flip-flops off my feet, and the rain soaking my backpack and endangering my camera gear, that I find so stressful. (I blame my mother, who had a phobia of mud, and instilled the same fears in me…)

Jungle Trail

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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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.

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!