Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Arrowpoint Nature Resort, West Bank Demerara, Guyana

Arrowpoint Nature Resort is located within the Santa Mission and on the banks of the Pokerero Creek. The resort is named after the many arrow trees that are used by Amerindians in the construction of arrows. Although caimans line the Creek at night looking for prey, swimming in the black water on the white sand beach is a daytime routine.

Santa Mission, West Bank Demerara, Guyana

Santa Mission is a small Amerindian village with Arawak and Carib inhabitants on the Pokerero Creek (off the Demerara River). The magnificent tree is a silk cotton tree (see Melville's Ventriloquist's Tale, p. 218), planted by the British. A craft shop sells local crafts, especially weaving.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Roy Geddes Steel Pan Museum, Georgetown, Guyana

We had the pleasure to have dinner at the home of Roy Geddes in South Ruimveldt, Georgetown. Roy is a master Steelpan Tuner and has a home museum filled to the brim with newspaper clippings and souvenirs. He is the leading authority on Steelpans in Guyana. Roy is well known for his band the Silvertones.
He can be seen on YouTube at

Sea Wall, Georgetown, Guyana

The Sea Wall is a dyke that protects much of Guyana's coast from high tide and runs for 280 miles. The so-called "kokers" or sluices are adjusted on a daily basis to allow for controlled water release into the canals. Note the hand crank mechanism and the hanging ballast.

Clearly, the Dutch, who originally settled the area in 1598, eventually known as Stabroek were up to the challenge of fending against the encroaching sea and established the sea wall, canals and kokers (look like guillotines as observed by Guyanese author Melville in Ventriloquist's Tale, p. 36) in 1783. Streets on a grid were laid out at this time. The Dutch continued to rule (with short wartime interruptions by France and Britain) until 1814, when the colony was ceded to the British.

Canals were needed for the sugar cane plantations. Eventually, many of these canals were filled in and now feature promenades lined with shade trees (Royal Poincianas in photo). Cannonball trees, Samaan trees line other promenades. Latin names are Delonix regia, Couroupita guianensis, and Samanea saman.

Promenade Gardens, Georgetown, Guyana

At one time, the Promenade Gardens claimed the widest collection of wild orchids in the Caribbean. Rehabilitated in 2006, the Gardens are reminiscent of the days when Georgetown was called the 'Garden City.' The bandstand was erected in 1897.

Christ Church (1836) and a large private residence face the Park.

Quamina St., Georgetown, Guyana

Tunku Varadarajan wrote a beautifully wordsmithed piece for The New York Times (2/6/2000) in which he states "The city of Georgetown is not ugly. It is haggard. And it is hovering on a vulgar cusp, the other side of which lies a great civic shambles."

The wood used by the British was a mix of hardy local greenheart and pine (which came from the U.S. as ship ballast). Laborers were Madeiran at the time. The use of wood nourished the Victorian conceit that the British were a people adept at taming their surroundings.

Quamina St. runs east-west and is home to the Cara Lodge. These photos span downtown about 5 blocks and capture the Tropical Victorian architecture in a splendid fashion, conditions ranging from fully maintained to benign neglect. Note the street vendor selling CDs with an Israeli umbrella ! The photo below shows a cheap Chinese restaurant known in the creole dialect as "dutty Chinese."

Le Repentir Cemetery, Georgetown, Guyana

This fabulous cemetery, the largest in Guyana has been neglected for decades, the final resting place for many of Guyana's most prominent citizens. I fiirst heard of this cemetery through Pauline Melville's novel The Ventriloquist's Tale (p. 71). One can only imagine the secrets it holds, but most of the tombstones and mausoleums are overgrown. Clearly, it had a grand design at the outset. Note the withering Century Palms, so named because it flowers once after 100 years and dies.

Downtown, Georgetown, Guyana

The Stabroek Market is the centerpiece of downtown. In 1881, the corrugated-iron building and signature four-faced clock covered an open-air market dating to 1792.

The High Court (red roofs) dates to 1887, mixes Gothic and Tudor architecture. It is stood guard by a marble statue of Queen Victoria (1894). The statue had been vandalised and later repaired.

The neo-Gothic City Hall (1889) was designed by Father Ignatius Scoles, perhaps the most striking of colonial wooden architecture in Guyana.

The Prime Minister's residence (Main St.) was built in late 19th century for Mr. Sandbach, the director of Booker Bros., a shipping firm. Legend has it that he used to sit in the top of the square cupola to watch the ships come into port. The captains would always have the port side of the boats freshly painted.

St. George's Cathedral, Georgetown, Guyana

This towering church (1894) is one of the tallest (143 ft) free-standing wooden buildings in the world. It was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield. It is constructed of mainly greenheart.