As we leave Georgetown, the stars are vivid over the sugarcane fields. Frogs whoop dreamily in the canals that divide one plantation from the next. The Big Bus blows its airhorn every time we overtake a pedestrian, and my cheekbones vibrate in sympathy. We pass the El Dorado distillery, reeking urgently of warm rotting sugar with a hint of urine. We pass tiny Hindu temples in people’s front gardens, a minibus emblazoned with ‘In God do we Trust’ (very wise, with that driving style), rum bars with their bare concrete walls and oddly cosy striplights. At the Linden highway, we leave the Demerara river perpendicularly behind us, and begin the long journey inland.
After two hours we reach Linden, where all buses must check in at the police station. There is a delay whilst a man is charged. The woman constable is shouting that he is a murderer, a wife-beater, it’s attempted murder, ‘dat why he fit for da lock-up’. The male police officer is smiling and joking and trying to write up the initial report. A minibus-load of passengers is being looked over one by one, Creole hurled at speed, a raised eyebrow when the Brazilians fail to understand. Eventually they wave us off, not even checking names. The Big Bus has a bona fide reputation, so the police concentrate their attention, snide remarks or hostility (depending on mood and professionalism) on the minibus passengers. The Brazilians melt away too, looking at the floor, perhaps grateful to the wife-beater for the distraction.
Next comes six and a half hours on heavily rutted unsurfaced road. Five times we stop and the lights go on- two more police checks, three toilet stops (three beers just before the journey wasn’t clever last time guys, and it isn’t this time, but I bet you’ll do the same thing next time too!). It’s a fitful and languid sleep, but somehow pleasant with the breeze swooshing through the bus. At 5:25am we reach the upper Essequibo. B is sleeping like a granddad, mouth hanging open, stertorous breathing (I love that word and have never had a chance to use it before- thanks B!). I get off the bus and spend the next hour and a half watching the sun rise over Kurupukari crossing.
It isn’t a dramatic sunrise. At first I just gaze, dazed with sleep. Then I plug in my ipod, for the first time in weeks. My father is playing Liszt, softly, into my ears (with the caveat ‘-and if it’s not good, I shall wipe it!’). The rainforest looks friendly here, domestic. The trees are not tall, many of the leaves look like familiar deciduous trees of my childhood. The sun falls on the opposite bank with a caress today, not a fanfare of trumpets. I have one of those rare prismatic moments; where every colour, relationship, event of my life, past and future, is concentrated here, now. The vivid, thrilling richness of it appears as a fact, not as a challenge. As if my past and my future want nothing of me, except to be welcome to join me here on the bank of the Essequibo, listening to beauty that was created for me as a gift, and looking at the road that lies ahead, cutting into the welcoming forest on the other side of this river.