My first trek was at age two. It was a trek for gold and I was rewarded with a little piece of gold veined quartz for my effort. My first gold strike!
Of course I have no recollection of my trek, but the story was told and retold to me several times by my mother who took me on my first journey. Our trip would take us to the heart of the tropical rain forest where my father worked in a gold mine.
Peters Mine is located in Guyana, a country that is bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname. Established in 1904, Peters Mine was the first significant producer of gold in Guyana. It lies in the Cuyuni/Mazaruni region of the country, adjacent to the Puruni river. The region is known for gold deposits and the river for alluvial gold, prompting pioneering gold seekers to venture into the area, on foot and in small boats struggling upstream against dangerous currents and rapids.
Fortunately my trek was not on foot. Accompanied by my mother, we were flown part of the way by a small single engine sea plane from the capital city of Georgetown. It was my first flight, and thankfully I have no recollection of our precarious landing in the middle of a river, and being transferred to a boat that would take us up the river. I was told the trip took all day, and was remarkable in itself. One boatman positioned himself in the bow looking for hidden rocks, while oarsmen steered the boat clear of obstacles.
Sailing upriver was not a job for the faint of heart. Apart from navigating over rapids, there were dangerous patches of water with protruding rocks or little waterfalls. The boatmen would pull to the side of the river, unload the boat, and lift it out of the water. Carrying the boat on their shoulders, they would trek up the side of the river until they found calmer water, and launch the boat again. On the way back, the skilled and hardy boatmen would at times ride the dangerous rapids giving rise to local legends and songs about their bravery or foolhardiness.
During the trip, my mother lost one of her shoes. At one stop, wading over rocks with shoes in her hands, one fell and was quickly swept downstream. When we finally arrived, her with one shoe, we were greeted at the boat landing by barking dogs and a scary warning. One of the dogs had just been lost. A large snake (camoudi) had wrapped itself around the dog and pulled him over the landing. The rain forest region is the habitat of many animals and reptiles, and dogs are kept in the mining compound to alert the residents of impending danger.
Our arrival also prompted a little celebration since guests were rare, and a two year old child visitor was a novelty. Most of the guests were native Amerindian people of the region, and I was given a small piece of quartz with a vein of gold as a welcome gift. We ended up staying a month under their hospitality…I will continue my story in another post.