Over The Mountains Of The Moon

Date: September 13, 2013
Author:  Julie Ghrist, Art of Conservation

From Julie Ghrist

Allison, Dr. Lucy, and I had a few quick hours of sleep at the pretty Cara Lodge in Georgetown before our charter flight took us into the interior of Guyana. This remote and sparsely populated landscape is where in the 16th and 17th centuries Europeans believed that there was a place of immense wealth known as El Dorado. Searches for this treasure wasted countless lives and drove at least one man to suicide. Now El Dorado is referred to as a source of untold riches somewhere in the Americas. At the bottom of this post you’ll find Edgar Allen Poe’s poem where he makes reference of El Dorado being located ‘Over the mountains of the Moon’.

Boarding the plane to Karanambu. ©Art of Conservation 2013Allison and Lucy boarding Trans Guyana Airways charter flight to the Northern Rupununi region of Guyana.

A bit tongue-in-cheek, we were not searching for pots of gold – instead we were on a quest to find eager schoolchildren ready to engage in AoC’s one-health conservation education activities as well as view heaps of beautiful animals in their own biodiversity-rich landscape. Guess what? We found it all and more!

From the plane. North Rupununi. ©Lucy SpelmanApproaching Karanambu Lodge in North Rupununi from the plane. Photo courtesy of Lucy Spelman.

As I mentioned before, Art of Conservation is honored to have been invited by Lucy and the Trust to Karanambu. Lucy has shared stories about Karanambu for all the years I have known her. And Allison and I were really looking forward to meeting the famous Giant River Otter Lady, Ms. Diane McTurk!

Meeting Diane McTurk with Ilze.©Art of Conservation 2013The legendary Ms. Diane McTurk greets us. We are joined by Dr. Ilze. (From left to right: Lucy, Allison, Ilze, Diane McTurk)

Ms. McTurk was born at Karanambu. Karanambu is a 100-square mile former cattle ranch her family owned that is now a Managed Resource Protected Area or at least headed that way thanks to the collaborative effort of the Karanambu Trust and partners. Diane is known for her work in rehabilitating orphaned giant river otters to the wild since 1985. The pelt trade, natural trauma, and people taking them as pets are the main reasons why she has ended up with more than 40 otters.

Allison meeting Ms. Diane McTurk. ©Art of Conservation 2013Allison with Diane McTurk, the famous Giant River Otter Lady or Auntie Di as she is known by all the local Makushi Amerindians.

Before continuing to the lodge, Dr. Lucy was asked to make a quick house call to a sick bull calf. Marvin, a Karanambu staff member, was pleased to receive Lucy’s advise and after a few days the calf was feeling better.

Diane & Lucy with Marvin's sick bull calf. ©Art of Conservation 2013Lucy and Diane treating Marvin’s sick calf.

Toucan at Marvin's at Karanambu. ©Art of Conservation 2013This fabulous toucan is the first bird I saw in Guyana.

There may be as many as 600 species of birds in this area. The number of all animals species found here is high and includes species that are rare in other parts of Central and South America. Perhaps this is because of an integration of 4 ecosystem types: wetlands, savannas, rivers, and forests.

Salvador de Caires invites to the boat. ©Art of Conservation 2013Salvador de Caires invites us onto his boat.

Our final stop for the day – Karanambu Lodge – requires a boat to get there. Salvador de Caires, who with his beautiful wife Andrea run the lodge with the nicest of hospitality, gets us there safely. More on Andrea and Salvador in my next post.

Lucy and Diane on the boat to Karanambu. ©Art of Conservation 2013Lucy and Diane.

This is just a glance at the very beginning of our trip. I have lots more to share with you. Please stay in touch. And here is the poem.

Eldorado by Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied-
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

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