Thursday, December 23, 2010


When we arrived at Karanambu in August, one of the very first projects that Salvador had in mind was new staff housing.  He wanted to improve the existing housing and add on a new house.  Salvador and Diane walked and talked and sketched and designed the placement of this new house.  Together, they dreamed a little and made plans for future projects too!  The next step was to meet with the Board of Directors.  THEN the building began and so did the excitement   The goal was to get it finished in time for Christmas! 
 Built in the same Karanambu style with bricks made and fired right here!
Harold arrived! Harold is a longtime worker and friend of Karanambu from the village of Massara who has helped Diane in the past build buildings at Karanambu!  The excitement continued to build…just as the house did.
Everyday you could see the progress!!!
And each day Christmas was getting closer!
We decided to have the staff party in the new Staff house!  
1 - 2 - 3 the house was completed!
And it was such fun!  We hung Christmas lights, which Salvador and I had brought from the States. We gave out funny awards!
Diane’s read: “The Best Cherisher of the Beloved Beasts”
She promptly hung it up in the main house!
Everyone received one….one funnier than the next.  We exchanged Christmas presents and hugs and joy.
It was all Good Fun!
And we officially opened the New Staff Housing!
Just in time for CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Let we go!" - Driving the Landrover

Driving in the Savannah is not for the weak at heart.  You need to be fearless and have a keen intuitive sense of the road.  Bumps, gullies, puddles, all with no sense of depth...laterite boulders poking out from the red Savannah road…understanding this road is a skill. The Landover is a 1955 Series I - in questionable condition - but fortunately Ryol knows every part and how to fix it, even when it doesn’t seem possible.  Ryol is also my driving instructor…finally.
I had gone to him and said that I want to drive the Landover…. oh but how he laughs….”No Mrs.…you don’t” I protest and I promise him that I have driven all over the world and then I beg…and he continues to laugh…then I get angry, ”Look Man, I drive in New York City, this can’t be any worse.”
A little while later he pulls up in front of me and says, “Ok then…let we go” I jump in and he begins to explain all of the pedals, buttons and the knobs. He drives me out onto the small airstrip and turns around and comes back and then he gets out and says, “Ok, come.”  I hop into the drivers seat. This vehicle is a BEAST!  You have to fight with the steering wheel and ride the pedals…and then there is the Savannah Road…. it is indescribable experience…but I refuse to let him see that I am panicked.

Next I am allowed to drive the guests to and from the big airstrip 3 miles away, with Ryol sitting by my side.  He is quiet. His hand out, palm down, moving it to the right or to the left to guide me over the road.  When we get back, I receive high praise, "You know Mrs., you drive this ting better than them boys.”
After a few weeks of practice, I’m feeling pretty confident.  Ryol comes to me and says, “We have too many guests. We have to take both Landovers.  You going drive one and me the other” and you know, I did.  Salvador was beaming as I drove off behind Ryol!
But the real test came a few weeks later when we went to Kwaimatta to give out the Christmas presents to the school children.  Many of our staff had come along with Diane, Salvador and myself.  When it was time for us to go home, Ryol says, “Come Mrs., show these people how you can drive”.  At first I tell him that he should drive.  After all it is 45 minutes to Karanambu AND I have never driven on these roads AND both Diane and Salvador are voting for Ryol to drive. ‘Come Come Mrs., “ I agree to drive out of Kwaimatta to the main road.  I do and everyone is cheering.  But when we get to the main road I stop, Ryol indicates with his hand to move forward, "Let we go” I go a little further, quite unsure of myself.  Di sitting next to me, Ryol next to her.  The back packed with staff and Salvador and small baby and two boys on top of the Landover.  These roads are foreign to me.  The bumps, the gullies are much more severe.  Ryol encourages me, Di says, “I think you are doing brilliantly Love,” There are many times that vehicle tilts as we go over a ridge and the girls scream…and I am terrified.” Go GO GO, accelerate!”” Ryol says. “This road, this is how you will learn”.  At one point we come to a swamp.  Ryol gets out and walks through to see the depth of the water.  He gets back and says “Put it in 4 wheel drive”.  I do and we go through it slowly…but we make it! 

When we finally get home, Diane says, “You know, that was very impressive.  I only closed my eyes once!”  I said, “ME TOO!” 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Caiman Got Waterdog!

From the Karanambu Trust Website:
"Diane has offered refuge to injured or orphaned wildlife.  Sadly, the animal that appeared most often was one of the most endangered: the Giant Otter.  By necessity, Diane became a world expert on the care and rehabilitation of this species.  She has raised over 40 orphaned otter cubs, returning most of them to the wild for a chance at freedom" 

"Waterdog" is the local name for the Giant River Otter. Currently, we have 2 one year old orphaned otter cubs at Karanambu.  
Martien came flying up the path from the river on his bicycle….
”Caiman Got Waterdog”.  So we all took off full speed for the river. Of course just when Diane was not here. I just kept thinking how am I going to tell Diane. When I got there the caiman had just let Philip go, and he was swimming back to the bank. I kept calling him and encouraging him. I could tell he was hurt and very tired. He dragged himself out the water and up the bank, dragging his back legs. He crawled under a bush and allowed me to sit right next to him and just pet him and calm him down and talk to him. Meanwhile the boys were trying to coax Belle out of the bush where she had taken off after the attack. 
The otters had been across the river and were swimming back over because they heard a boat coming. Philip was in front, Belle right behind. The caiman just came out of nowhere and snatched Philip. He went down with him, which is what they do in an effort to drown their victim. But I think Philip was biting him seriously and he came up with him three times. Meanwhile, Jasper who was at the river as their guard got into a boat and rowed over furiously and whacked the caiman in the head with the heavy wood paddle and the caiman loosed Philip.
Belle eating a Fish
We were able to talk to Dr Lucy on skype and take pictures of Philip's wound to send to her. She is a wildlife Vet and the secretary of the Karanambu Trust. But, how to get him up from the river was the next problem. He would not eat but after an hour or so of me talking and calming him down we were able to walk him up slowly. He was able, with much coaxing, to eat two pieces of fish so I was hopeful. I had a good look at his injury. One puncture just in front of the right back leg and some long scratches around the leg. The caiman had him by the back and not the head as he would have been finished. Lucy recommended baby aspirin. I stayed with him throughout and he was a real sweetheart. What a change from his normal biting vicious self.
He is starting to put his weight on the leg now and is moving around much better. Think he will have a limp for the rest of his life, but he is alive. This afternoon after no river for six days we took them down to the river and he was great. We went slow at his pace. He would not go too far out, but seems to be swimming good. Of course there were three caiman lurking on the other side of the river. Jasper said the big one looks like the same one. We stockpiled a set of large stones and had the boat at the ready. We are going to have to deal with the big one as he or she is very brazen.. Philip even caught a small fish, so it is looking good.. Phew that was a close one. Luckily the boats were there and not on a trip or I do not think it might have turned out as ok as it did.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

City Girl, have you adjusted?

Guests at Karanambu frequently ask me the inevitable question, "Have you adjusted yet?  This must be such a change for you.  After all, you are such a city girl".   After 4 months I can laugh about it and honestly say, "I am getting there". I remember so clearly the very first guests that we successfully transferred from Karanambu by boat to Genip Landing. Salvador and I were elated!  We did it!  Everyone got where there were supposed to be and on time!  Yea, us! Right? 
WRONG!  Diane looked at our smiling faces and said, "But your hands are empty Love."  It took me a minute to understand.  You see, because we are so isolated at Karanambu, you must always take advantage of every trip in and every trip out to bring in supplies.  Even if you think you have everything...think again! No one ever comes into Karanambu without bringing, eggs, ice, fresh veggies, fruit. 
Although it is true, we do get our fish right out of the river...and our beef, is organic, home grown...and Salvador has planted a kitchen garden, and many of our vegetables and fruit do indeed come from that garden.  Even so, we are still so very grateful to our neighbors in Yupakari.  Every time we go there or they come here, they always make sure to provide whatever they have. BUT there are countless other things, like flour, sugar, rice, toilet paper, soap powder, cooking oil, etc. etc. etc., and all of these things must come all the way from Georgetown, and it's a process...
We have a very good friend, Gavin, who been of such tremendous support to us.  We send him our "wish list", he arranges to have all the items picked up and packed up and put on the big Intraserve Bus which leaves Georgetown at night and arrives in Annai the following morning.  The boxes are then dropped off in Annai with another very good friend, Colin, who takes those boxes by vehicle to Genip Landing where our boats are waiting to either pick up guests or drop them off.  We then pick up the supplies and take them by boat, 1-1/2 hours back to Karanambu.  

So in all honesty, the most difficult thing for me to adjust to (other than missing my daughters and my Mom) has been the inability to just run out to the store to pick up something for dinner.  You really have to plan everything. And most importantly, you don't dare run out of anything!!

The heat, the insects, the limited electricity...none of these things have been as big an adjustment as the logistics of it all!  But we are learning everyday, step by step, laughing all the way...we're getting there, thanks to the best teacher of them all, Diane!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Video of a Giant Anteater at Karanambu

Every morning, we have our coffee at 5:30 a.m., 
under the Neem tree, just before sunrise.
 This morning, after coffee, 
we all piled into the old Landrover out in search of
the Giant Anteater 
Sometimes we are lucky and we see one...sometimes we don't.  But because this is the real wildlife experience,
and not a Disney ride, 
we just can't predict what we will see and when.  
But this morning, 
there he was and lucky for us, 
Gerry had his video camera ready!!! 
He was SO BIG! 
He was SO CLOSE! 

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Rupununi Thanksgiving

At first we weren’t going to really celebrate Thanksgiving.  Most of our guests recently have been from England…some how it just didn’t seem to be the appropriate thing to do.  We were sort of feeling out of sorts...our first Thanksgiving away from family and our traditions. But, much to our surprise, the group of guests who arrived were American!  And so the fun began!  We don’t have turkey here….so we decided to have Lukanani (Peacock Bass).  Lukanani is a very special, very tasty local fish. Very pricey in town, but local here in the Rupununi River.  I decided that I was going to cook for everyone!  Staff, Guests, Crew, EVERYONE.  In order to be sure that we would gave enough fish to feed a crowd, of 30 people, I offered a Fishing Contest!  The one who caught the most fish would receive his/her very own chocolate cake!

The Fishing and the Fun began….
 Martien was the winner!!

Then cooking began…
Macaroni and Cheese, Pholourie with Mango Sour, 
Mango/Paw Paw Curry, Rice, Salad

We skyped our family in New Jersey and let everyone say “hello”

We sat down to a full Thanksgiving dinner

with rum soaked fruit filling for Dessert
 Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Balahoo, Parakari and the Beasts!

A few weeks back the "Balahoo" from the Village of Simuni arrived at the landing.  They had things to sell; mostly just bananas, plantains and farine (grated and roasted Cassava meal that is the staple of Savannahs). I went down to the landing and did my shopping, while Diane inquired as to where they were going.  They were on their way up river to Yupakari to visit and shop and sell.  They were camping at our landing, at least for tonight.

We did not have any guests and everybody was finally having a breather.  The staff quickly gathered down at the landing and next thing I knew, there were buckets appearing.  There was squeezing of Cassava pulp through strainers and into buckets.   "Parakari" or "Kari" is basically Cassava Beer.  It is fermented for a few days and used to be chewed up and spit out into a large old canoe by the women and left to ferment.  These days the women still do most of the "brewing", but it is made with sugar, instead of saliva.

I put up a good fight. I waylaid two buckets on the way up to the staff quarters.  But it was a loosing battle.  It came round through the bush, through the back, up the path....the staff was down for three days.  It is very difficult to describe the Amerindians on alcohol and they really like it. So, we had to help out with everything.  And the guests came on the third day, but it was only four of them, so we got through it.  I took the Otters down to the river a few times, careful to keep my feet away from their mouths.  Andrea got caught on the top of the rock, waving as the guests were leaving and took her eyes off Philip (the bigger one) for two seconds and nearly had her tendons ripped out. These two are nothing like Buddy.  Don't let that cute face fool you.  They are vicious and powerful beasts. And these are only babies.
Then of course, there is the "Bandito",
who is always into mischief. Toothpaste is his favorite thing!  At night he goes hunting, but often ends up in one (or several) of the cabins checking out what the guests have brought that he might like! All too often, the guests still have the little pink, sweet, sweet, sweet, cookies that they are served on the plane. "Bandito" is famous for unzipping bags and finding them and hiding under their beds and "CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH". He's sweet...but don't trust him either...he too is a wild animal!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Emergency Medical Response Training

All of the equipment arrived for our Emergency Medical Response Training.  Some by boat, some by plane.  Nurse Gravesande arrived and the training began.
After 3 days of intensive training on everything from Childbirth to CPR, from Spinal injuries to massive disaster, we were ready for a DRILL.  The Alarm (our old symbol from Rachel’s drum set) rang out across the compound and we all moved into action as if it were a real emergency!
We work so well together…and very seriously…we got everyone in position and stabilized! 


We practiced again...another SERIOUS DRILL...TWICE!!  After this training, Karanambu became the first lodge in the Rupununi to become certified in Emergency Medical Response!

Special thanks to Captain Malcolm Chan-a-Sue for making this happen. Our gratitude to Nurse Marcia Gravesande, who has become a dear friend to all of us at Karanambu.  And a BIG BIG CHEER to the Staff of Karanambu who where absolutely BRILLANT!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Every morning Diane has a ritual, after breakfast, she takes a few slices of Auntie Doris's homemade bread.  She tears them gently into tiny pieces and sprinkles milk and sugar over them and feeds this mixture to the Red Capped Cardinals.
So today, Auntie Doris had 2 loaves of bread which she was getting ready to give to the animals, because she wouldn't consider serving the guests bread that wasn't made the same day,   I said, "WAIT!  We can make Bread Pudding for dessert."  The girls had never heard of Bread pudding...but I started to make it...I got the big glass bowl and started to tear the day old bread...I mixed the milk and sugar (butter, egg and spices, dates and raisins) and began to make my bread pudding...the laughter began..."Oh, but Auntie, you are making BIRD FOOD PUDDING"...when it was done and the whole house smelled of that delicious smell, we served it up for the guests in true Karanambu style with "Lashings of Creme"...the girls just could not control themselves....because these guests (all 12 of them) were BIRDERS...and they were eating "Bird food pudding".
You can find the recipe for Bird Food Pudding 
if you click on Karanambu Recipes at the top of the blog.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Savannah and River

Karanambu is 150 square miles of the North Savannahs, through which the Rupunnuni River meanders. The landscapes change with the time of day.
Savannahs in the early morning

In the early mornings, just after dawn, we take our guests out in the Landrover to search for the Giant Anteater.  Some morning we are very fortunate and get close enough to see him.  This morning we met a young adolescent Anteater.  Still plenty room to grow…
The Wetlands in the morning
Crested Caracara
The Rupununi River
 Capuchin Monkey

Friday, October 15, 2010

R.A.M - Remote Area Medical

We are settling in and learning so much each day!

RAM Remote Area Medical is a service which provides medical care and emergency care for those in remote areas, such as ours. 
Click here to see their website:  RAM  

We are in touch via skype and email.  Today, I received a message that one of our girls was scheduled for a medical procedure. The plane would be landing before lunch.  I went to discuss it with her and her husband to make sure that it was still ok to go ahead with the plans.  Once I received their permission, I emailed back their request for the baby to travel with her Mom.  Terrence (the RAM pilot) was able to stay in touch with me as he flew. “I’ll be there in 17 minutes, landing at the small airstrip”. 
And there was Great excitement when we heard the plane coming.
We all stayed and watched her board, with her baby. 
Everyone waved as the plane took off….
 and then, it was back to work!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Let the Unpacking Begin!

The water had dropped dramatically in the 3 weeks that we had been gone.  The road home from the big airstrip, which we had traveled by boat, was now accessible by land rover.  It was quite amazing to see the difference.

And once we arrived home, a big surprise awaited us.  Our truck had made it as far as Yupakari, where everything had been unloaded at our neighbors, “Caiman House”.    Much to our surprise, the staff of Karanambu began to shuttle our things over, using boats and land rovers, and by the time we arrived home almost all of our things were waiting for us!

It is really hard to describe what it was like to see various possessions that have endless memories of family and friends seemingly, just waiting for us to arrive…
as we got out of the land rover, we gazed at the countless boxes,  barrel, mattresses,  our old oven and televisions (?), Rachel's artwork and the furniture that we sat in under our grape arbor in the backyard in NJ. 
Slowly we began to make sense of it all and carefully we began to create a new home.  
The staff was fascinated by what we brought, actually so were we!  Some of it was fantastic and much needed, like the stove. Auntie Doris had been cooking for 24 people using a tiny 4-burner oven.  And now our old oven seemed like a HUGE HUGE luxury.  As Ryol hooked it up, I told Auntie Doris about all the meals I have cooked on that stove, the German Chocolate Cake I baked each year for Alissa and Shannon's birthday, (which is coming very soon now).  We unpacked pots and pans and cooking knifes.  It was amazing!  And to see the expressions on the faces as they carefully studied my favorite cooking utensils.... with a big smile, one asked; "this knife, Miss use this to kill cow?", she laughed and laughed...."NO!" I laughed back, "It's great for chopping garlic!"  Which of course, as the words were coming out of my mouth, seemed totally ridiculous, and the laughter continued! 
Then there was the mattress fiasco!  We brought our King Size, “pillow top” mattress.  Well, again, the laughing and the teasing had begun even before we had arrived.  It was surely the real “Princess and the Pea” story.  What else could it be!  Such a bed!

It had gotten a bit wet coming over by boat, so it was put out in the hot sun, in the middle of the compound.  The guys lifted it on top of the heavy metal table base, which was last used in our backyard in NJ…(Kenneth has promised to make a new tabletop for it). We did not bring the box spring, because the wood ants would devour it “quick time”.  The bed frames at Karanambu are quite old.  Some are metal and some are wooded.  But all are short.  There was no way that our mattress was going to fit on any of them.  But we tried.  It was way too big and the frame was way too small…and the laughter began again…then we tried to leave the old thin mattress on the frame, but then it was so high!  The laughter began again!!!  “Get a ladder!  Uncle Salvador gunna climb to bed!”  Finally…we set up the bed frame which we brought with us, but because we didn’t have a box spring to set the mattress on, Kenneth built a platform of wooden board to place under the mattress!  After hours and hours and many thanks and lots of laughter, we actually had our own bed!

We had to remind ourselves 
"it’s only been two days,  
we’ve gotten a lot done!"
But there is so much more to do!