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!