Travelling to the Rupununi
I frequently get questions about how we have been travelling between Georgetown and Lethem and vice versa, so I have written down some of the advice I always give people, what I personally bring and how the journey would more or less look like with stops etc. Remember everything can change on the trail and this is a subjective description based on my own experiences.
Sophia Hauch, Untamed Adventures
Kurupukari Crossing - Photo by Simon David, LRTT FellowWhen Crossing Kurupukari in the morning you get a spectacular sunset over Guyana’s longest river, the mighty Essequibo
Everybody helps getting the bus through the mud!When travelling in rainy season you should not be surprised to be woken in the morning to help the bus get out of being stuck in the mud. Great experience and makes you feel you deserve reaching the final destination.
Black Caiman at Kurupukari crossingA big black Caiman at the Kurupukari crossing following the ferry.
How to travel between Georgetown and Lethem
There are 2 means of transportation between Georgetown and Lethem, plane or bus. – yes you can also do it on bicycle and motorbike, just remember it is MUDDY in rainy season! It would as well be possible once in a while to catch a ride with someone if you are lucky – just be safe right. But the 2 means of transport I wanna talk about is plane and bus. There are 2 airlines doing the trip, ASL and TGA. They both fly from Ogle airport outside Georgetown. A taxi from the center to Ogle or vice versa is around 2000 GYD. It takes around 1,5 hour to fly between Georgetown and Lethem. There is only one airstrip in Lethem, and it is a small town, so it should be easy to find. If in doubt anyway, it is behind Takutu Hotel and in front of Shirley’s shop.
The cheapest, most adventurous, discomfortable and most frequently used means of transport between Georgetown and Lethem is the bus. There are several companies doing the trip and the price is between 9-12.000 GYD for a one way and 17-24.000 GYD for a round ticket. We mostly use Cindy and Carly,s Bus Service on Rob and Oronoque Street (Georgetown) or Barrack Retreat (the main street) in Lethem – across the street from the banks, but there are several other companies as well.
If I had the money would I fly? – Most definitely!
It is an unforgettable journey to go with the bus, zigzagging on the red muddy dirt roads through the jungle till you reach the open savannah. I will always recommend people to do it once, just because you really get to do like the locals and the people you wanna get in contact with. And if you are awake just before the sun comes up, when you are still driving in the rainforest, you will actually have a chance of spotting wildlife. I have seen a puma, a Powis (big black bird) and a Tapir on that road from a bus. It is a bumpy bumpy journey – but you will get to see some more of Guyana this way – good and bad.
I have taken the bus countless times by now, so I am getting pretty hardcore though – and I learned to prepare! It seems as it gets easier every time, probably because I am prepared for the journey, but also because I know the journey – therefore I am sharing with you the journey details and what to bring with you.
Here are the various stops – some might vary depending on the driver and the speed/condition of the road.
From Georgetown to Lethem:
You are asked to be at the bus around 5 PM, but the busses normally don’t leave until 6 PM.
- Stopping for gas (sometimes stopping to show passport)
- Short break in Linden (vary – sometimes they stop to show passport as well)
- 58Mile about 15 – 30 minutes break (clean toilets, food and drinks)
- Mabura Hill Immigration (stop to show your passport)
- Kurupukari Junction (vary depending on time) (toilets, food and drinks, hammocks – you can get a hammock to sling for 500 GYD, remember to ask the driver when you leave – I have had everything from 2 minutes to 4 hours of sleep here)
- Kurupukari ferry crossing 6 AM (there is a small snackette – sometimes it is a small boat that ties to the side of the ferry and offers food and coffee)
- Iwokrama Immigration and customs (stop to show your passport and sometimes open luggage)
- Iwokrama immigration (last stop to show your passport) – Damendras / D&D or Oasis Cafe about 10-15 minutes break (vary! Clean toilets in the back, food and drinks)
- Arrival Lethem! Again the arrival time in Lethem depends on the condition of the road, rainy or dry season and everything else, but you can expect to be in Lethem between 9 AM and 2 PM.
From Lethem to Georgetown.
You are asked to be by the bus around 5 PM and the busses here as well don’t leave until around 6 PM. Sometimes you will stop at either Damendra/D&D or Oasis where you can buy food and drinks. You will sleep at Surama Junction (clean toilets, possible to rent hammock for 500 GYD, food and drinks) instead of Kurupukari. Going from Lethem you normally reach the junction around 10 PM and therefore have the chance of an okay nights sleep. Then when you leave in the morning you will have to stop for immigration to show your passport, and then again at immigration and customs in Iwokrama and then you cross with the ferry and sometimes go to Kurupukari Junction, where you can buy breakfast (I recommend the tapioca pancakes) and something to drink. And then the rest of the trip is the same as going down. Arrival time in Georgetown will again depend on the condition of the road, rainy or dry season and everything else, but you can expect to be in Georgetown between 10 AM and 4 PM. I have tried it taking 24 hours though – therefore I can recommend preparing!
Don't expect sleep
When taking the bus make sure you pack all of your most fragile belongings in the bag you will carry inside the bus. The buses carry A LOT of load, so most of it will go on top of the bus, and even though they wrap it with tarpaulins it can be risky business. Everything on the list below goes in the bag you carry inside the bus as well.
What I always bring to make the journey better:
- Passport and money, which I often have in a smaller bag that I can carry on me, so I don’t have to start looking for my passport in the dark in the middle of the night when I have to go show my passport.
- Watch with alarm or a cellphone – I hate it when the driver has to come and wake me up, or I wake up in panic to a honking horn and a bus full of people staring at me!
- Blanket! I use it as a pillow, so my head doesn’t bang against the window or Anders shoulder.
- A scarf – well because I use my blanket as a pillow. The busses either have AC, so you freeze! or they have the windows open, in which case you will have a constant wind on you, so you freeze! It can also be handy in dry season where your hair will be full of red dust if your don’t cover it. – remember to wash your face when you have stops in dry season.
- Big bottle of water, sometimes 2! You never know if you will have a puncture (or 7!!) – you will get stuck in the mud or something else, so always bring water.
- Snacks like nuts and fruits – be careful with bananas and other fruits that can get smashed or be squeezed. The bus is often cramped and the floor can get disturbingly hot.
- I always carry a pair of long loose trousers and a long sleeved shirt to sleep in, since it can get quite cold – another good reason for the blanket, and there can be mosquitoes!
- Toilet paper (never count on toilet paper anywhere – must say it has gotten better along the Georgetown-Lethem road, but it always come in handy)
- Toothbrush and paste – you will love yourself for it!
That is pretty much it – oh yeah bring a camera!
Just in case
reading this post has made you nervous, I wrote down a short motivational pep talk that I gave some guests a while back: This journey might be a hard one, but without a doubt a memorable one. You get a chance to travel the exact same way as most of the locals and you get to travel straight down the entire spine of the country. You will go through Linden, former known as Mackenzie – a historically important town in Guyana’s history. You will pass by logging areas and roads leading to the gold bush – cross the Essequibo River, drive through the Iwokrama Rainforest and out into the open savannahs, where you will pass both the Pakaraima Mountains and the mighty Kanuku Mountains. This is undoubtedly off the beaten track – so prepare for the journey, laugh and keep up the spirit, appreciate it, but most importantly enjoy the adventure!
Oh ! and don’t be afraid to ask the drivers if you have any questions – they might look and act tough (some might have tattoos in their face) but they are as soft as the mud they are driving on.
Thanks for reading!
I hope this has been useful and wish you an amazing travel. Feel free to share if you know someone who longs to travel off the beaten track.
Taking the bus can also allow you to stop along the way – and there is plenty to see! Amerindian villages, rivers, mountains and ranches. I will give you a post about the things to do another day.