At breakfast, I observe a brightly-colored caterpillar: coral and black. It’s very busy trotting on its many little legs, applying saliva to the dining carbet’s banister and sometimes rising its little head which is hard to distinguish from its fan-shaped tail, a bit like a lobster’s tail. Curiously it will turn into a dull colored moth while the fluorescent blue morpho butterfly starts as an ashen caterpillar.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Guyanese prisoners were given the task to catch those mythical butterflies, then used to dye US $100 bills. The three of us leave at 9 for our expedition. We should be at the creek by 12:30. Much more than we bargained for. There is a path to Crique Angèle, but since it’s not often used, it is obstructed by branches, fallen trunks, roots and invaded by vegetation and treacherous lianas that wrap themselves around your ankles. A certain type of root forms traps like croquet hoops, if your foot gets stuck in one, it’s fast plunge forward. We walk on a thick carpet of dead leaves and fallen palm fronds. If you’re not careful feeling the ground with your walking stick, a soft muddy spot may suck in one of of your feet. It can sometimes be quite muddy and slippery allover, particularly in the descents, but Nathan precedes us, hacking us a way with his machete. Black flies the size of hummingbirds are constantly buzzing about us but they don’t seem interested in biting. Nathan fashions a fan of noisy palms to ward them off. Stick in right hand, fly swat in the left, we are equipped. We are also quickly drenched in sweat, going up and down hills. This is not his kind of thing but I cannot renege my Amerindian heritage and forests and jungle throw me in an ecstatic, meditative state, so much so that as we cross a creek on a tree trunk, I miss a step and fall into the creek with my backpack. It’s not very deep, but deep enough for me to swallow a mouthful and get even more soaked than I already was. I’m mostly worried for the contents of my backpack but no choice but to keep going.
Wet and filthy, we reach the creek on time and this is heaven! Five hours away from all civilization, a creek to wash in, as I’m quite dirty by now;
a cascade (which stole my rubber tongs) with myriads yellow butterflies fluttering over in a disneyesque scene; a “carbet” (open shelter) to hang our hammocks and wet clothes that may or may not dry and Nathan’s good sandwiches and rum punch. Of all the hikes I’ve done in my life, this is by very, very far, the best. Hard camping but talk about exclusive! There is absolutely nobody around! The boys have lit a fire and we’ll roast a baby peccary for dinner. Tonight, we’re sleeping deep into the heart of the jungle. Monday, August Crique Angèle I can’t say that we slept all that well. That hammock has me tossing and turning to find an approximately comfortable position. We leave after breakfast and the trek back seems a lot harder on the way out than in, even though it’s only half as long. The sun is out today and created patterns of light and shadow that mask obstacles. All in all, we have walked 25 km since yesterday. My still wet shoes are not that comfortable either. We are grateful to see Manuel waiting for us with the pirogue that will take us back to the “semi-civilization” of Saut Athanase.