Since my last blog, I have been away trekking primarily in the South American rain forest seeking herbal and natural remedies that grow there. However, this post is not about a remedy that cures some ailment, it is about the tragic experience of a young trekker. I am compelled to share this with you, because it is a serious threat to be taken into consideration when trekking in strange places.
Guyana is a country located in the South American continent, and is considered an eco paradise, with virgin rain forests, waterfalls, rivers, and indigenous people living in the hinterland. Link to Rainforest tours
The coastal plain is small and borders the Atlantic Ocean. The city of Georgetown (named after King George) lies on the coastal plain, and attracts many tourists who visit to admire its historic wooden structures (St. Georges Cathedral is reportedly the largest wooden cathedral in the world).
One such visitor was an eighteen year old British citizen, who arrived in Georgetown in October 2015.
This was Dominic Bernard’s first trip to Guyana, and being an aspiring film maker, he brought his filming equipment and a considerable amount of cash with him. He planned to make a film of his travels and return to England after a couple of weeks, but never showed up for his return flight. His parents became alarmed and alerted a friend of mine to spread the word around, and to be on the lookout for him. I assumed he was stuck in some indigenous village in the rainforest without transportation, due to floods or bad weather.
Traveling to the rainforest from the city is done by small aircraft and small boats or canoes, and transportation is unreliable in bad weather. However, no one had seen him, nor could locate him, and he seemed to have disappeared without any trace. Local law enforcement was contacted by his parents, and a nationwide search began. Despite weeks of searching, nothing turned up, until a few days ago, when the police received an anonymous tip that he had been seen in a certain area of the coastal city.
A frantic search in that area by a team of law enforcement officers revealed horrible and tragic results. Dominic’s partly decomposed body was found in a shallow grave. He had been robbed of all his possessions and murdered on the very day he arrived in the city. Everyone was devastated by this heinous crime, and terrible tragedy, and the police launched a massive investigation. They found and arrested two people who had picked up Domenic from the airport, drove him to the city, and then lured him to his death in a wooded area on a filming pretext.
This sad and unfortunate incident is not usual in this small historic city, but the fact that it did happen has, not surprisingly, cast shock and fear into many tourists.
Could this tragic situation have been avoided? From my experience as a trekker in these parts, I think it could have been avoided, but bear in mind, this was a young impressionable film maker, inexperienced, and on his first trip to this region.
My advice to young trekkers: research area thoroughly, contact local embassies for safety information, plan your visit so your itinerary is supervised, never travel alone preferably, and have hotel transportation or authorized contact pick you up, preferably in a group from the airport.
Also, it is important not to reveal your money, keep expensive cameras in suitcases, and be wary of all strangers, especially those with unauthorized taxis who try to grab your suitcase and take it to their cars. It is better to be careful than sorry. And I hope this sad story will not keep you from your trekking.
Some other things to look out for:
A few weeks ago, an acquaintance was searched at the airport before boarding. The airport official took his wallet, counted his money and gave it back to him. On the plane, he checked and found $100 USD bill missing. He alerted the plane security, and they searched the airport official….they found the $100 bill folded up and hidden in the official’s blue latex glove. So please be careful trekking!