SHORT STORY: GUYANA: Incident In A Jungle Path – By Ted Eric Matthews

By  Ted  Eric  Matthews

We arrived at Kurupung Creek Mouth at about 5.00 pm.

River sounds and jungle shadows, semi-dark and mottled undergrowth, shimmering leaves, all seemingly playing with the fading patterns of the late afternoon sunlight on vines, on the barks of tree trunks, on everything botanic. River and jungle sounds were all around us, enveloping, pulling us into the dark, heaviness of the unfamiliar, the spirit of the forests, and of the mountains; the spirit of the “bush,” the pull of the “interior.”     

Our party of ten included an experienced Amerindian guide, and a retired army cook. We unloaded our motorboat and spent the night at the GDF camp right there at Creek Mouth. The camp was manned by several army personnel and comprised of four or five well-constructed wooden buildings each resting on a series of solid 5-foot high wooden uprights. We were tired after our 2-day upriver journey, which included a haul-over at Itanami , and by midnight all of the gaffing, and joking and story telling had ended.

At about 4.00 am I was rudely awakened by a serious “belly wuk” and a thunderous heavy downpour.   A “foredaymarning” jungle rain is no joke! You must live it, to know it!  I jumped up from my canvas cot, threw off my blanket, found the nearest exit, and suspended myself by hands and feet in a conveniently narrow space between two buildings. I relieved myself. The deluge finished the job.  A helicopter was due to fly in by 2.00pm to begin ferrying us from Creek Mouth into Kamarang on the Upper Mazaruni River.

About 300 yards upriver from the army camp was a line-cutters camp manned by a small party of expert bushmen who were preparing some groundwork for a proposed new road to help open up the region. I decided to take a walk along the narrow river bank path and visit the line-cutters camp.

I was told that someone, most likely the camp cook, would be there. And since part of our mission to the Upper Mazaruni River region was to gather information from people who lived and worked in the area, I thought that a visit with a member of the line-cutting crew might be useful.  I set off along the fairly well beaten path at about 10.30am. When I reached about halfway between the two camps, I espied a slithering movement ahead, about twenty yards distance. It appeared to be a large serpent heading towards the river to my left. I stopped, then made two heavy steps forward, then stopped again. The creature sensed my presence, stopped, raised its head, did an about turn, and disappeared into the dense underbush. I did the same, an abrupt 180 degrees, and beat a hasty retreat!  My heart was thumping, and the upsurge of adrenaline hastened my footsteps. I realized the potential danger.

Was it a CAMOODIE? Was it a BUSH MASTER? Was it a HYMERALI? Each very dangerous and lethal in its own way.  I was not fool enough to try and find out first hand.  Both the snake and I took the right course of action.  We avoided each other.

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