THE KAIETEUR FALL
IN the Kaieteur Fall of the Potaro River, British Guiana has a wonder-work of Nature, which,
when it becomes better known, will probably be given rank as the finest waterfall in the
world. The proportions of this Fall contribute much to its general splendour; it has a
perpendicular drop of 741 feet—which is to say, a height nearly five times that of
Niagara—and a width of from 250 to 350 feet.
At present, the two most famous waterfalls are Niagara, in North America, and Victoria, in
Africa. But very few people have seen the Kaieteur Fall; excluding aboriginal Indians, the
total is, I believe, still well under fifty. Among the fortunate travellers who have
visited both Kaieteur and Niagara—I am one of those lucky wanderers—there is
an enthusiastic preference for Kaieteur. Further, I went up to Kaieteur with a man who has
seen the Victoria Falls; so far, he is the only person qualified to compare the great
water-display of the Zambesi River with that of
 the Potaro River, and, on his authority, Kaieteur is the finer spectacle.
Georgetown, the capital of British Guiana, is easily accessible from the West Indian
Islands, which, being favourite tourist-resorts, are well served by numerous lines of
passenger steamers. We go from Colon to Port of Spain, Trinidad, whence we cross to
Georgetown by the Royal Mail.
The garden city of Georgetown, situated at the mouth of the Demerara River, is one of the
prettiest and most attractive of South American capitals. It has many beauties peculiar to
a flat situation, together with individual charm.
More than once I have arrived home from a wander tour months later than I had intended,
having been unable to tear myself away from British Guiana. As I am bound to get you home
to time, I have taken the precaution of writing to ask that everything may be in readiness
for us to leave for Kaieteur directly we land in Georgetown, so that the capital and the
neighbouring sugar-plantations may have no chance of using their fascination to provide us
with innumerable excuses for extending our holiday.
PAISANO'S HUT ON THE CHILIAN FRONTIER.
All our arrangements for the trip to the interior have been made by the firm of Sprostons,
Ltd., to whose enterprise British Guiana owes most of the travelling facilities with which
the interior of the colony has been provided, including the opening up of a route to
 We start off under very civilized conditions, going by steamer down the Demerara River to
Wismar, whence a train takes us across the forest to Rockstone; here, on the shores of the
Essequibo River, we spend the night in a comfortable hotel.
Next morning, after we have enjoyed the luxury of a shower-bath, an excellent breakfast is
set before us in the verandah of the pretty little Bush hotel. As we survey our
virgin-forest surroundings and listen to the howling of monkeys, we tell ourselves that we
must surely have reached the edge of civilization. But when we go down to the stelling to
embark for the second stage of our journey, we find a trim and commodious house-boat
awaiting us; and specially selected servants, negroes and Indians, come forward in numbers
sufficient for each of us to make choice of a "boy "as our own particular attendant. Our
smart little craft is lashed to the public service launch, and thus we are towed in state
to Tumatumari, situated on the Potaro tributary of the Essequibo. Sprostons' Hotel,
over-looking the Tumatumari Falls, vies with its parent hostelry at Rockstone in providing
us with good cheer.
We continue our journey next morning by launch to Potaro Landing. Here we are met by a
Boviander man, of mixed Indian and white descent, who is to act as our guide and captain.
Van, the champion shooter of rapids and falls, is accompanied by several Indians, who,
like the boys who have come with us from Rockstone, are experienced boatmen and carriers.
 Our luggage—camp kit, provisions, and a change of clothes—is taken a short
distance along a corduroy track by mule carts. Then our crew share the baggage, cut ropes
from the trees, make their packs secure, shoulder their burdens, but transfer the weight
thereof to their heads by putting the handle "rope across their foreheads, and set off for
the night's halting-place at Kangaruma. A few minutes later we strike the trail and follow
our guide through a dense forest. Van says we have walked well when, two hours later, we
arrive at the Kangaruma rest-house. But it is easy to see that the boys have given us a
good beating; although they had but a very short start, they have arrived long enough
before us to unpack, put up the cots, chop wood, lay tea, sling over one blaze in the open
a kettle that is now boiling ready for the teapot, and over another a pot that promises us
a savoury dinner.
Early next morning we start off in a tent-boat. In peaceful stretches of water the crew
sing native love ditties and comic folk-songs, beating and keeping time with their
paddles; Van encourages the performance of chanties, for the singing helps to make the
boat travel, besides amusing us. But Van and his boys have a still stronger hold on our
interest when they are fighting with turbulent waters for our lives and their own. In
shooting rapids and running falls they perform feats which win for them our highest
admiration and respect; their skill gives us such confidence in them
 that experiences which we expected to find fearsome prove most exhilaratingly exciting. On
this fourth night of our trip we camp at a rest-house which stands on the brink of the
unnavigable Amatuk Falls.
The following morning all our kit has to be carried over a portage to the far side of the
falls, where a second tent-boat is awaiting us. On this fifth day we voyage through
beautifully mountainous country. By the middle of the day another unnavigable fall is
reached; we picnic on shore whilst the crew transfer the baggage to a third tent-boat.
Before sunset we are comfortably installed in the Tukeit rest-house, at the foot of the
Have you not by this time become so accustomed to not seeing anyone but the members of our
own party, that the appearance of any other human being would seem to you more of an event
than the Lord Mayor's Show or a Royal Procession at home?
By sunrise we have struck camp, for every moment of the cool morning is particularly
precious to-day. It is an 800 feet climb up to the Kaieteur Plateau. After we have been
mountaineering for about a couple of hours Van calls a halt; he tells us we are more than
half-way. As we are far from feeling at our last gasp, we are inclined to pat ourselves on
the back. Suddenly we realize why we have been invited to rest awhile—we are at the
base of a practically perpendicular cliff; the fear of disgracing ourselves by not being
able to negotiate the ascent ahead of us turns
 pride into dogged determination. When we see the heavily-laden boys walking up that cliff
as easily and unconcernedly as we should walk through Hyde Park, we feel still more
strongly that we must make a good show or perish in the attempt. The ascent proves much
less difficult than it looks, for where the rocks do not provide natural steps there are
roots in which we can get a foothold, and trees for banisters.
The gloriously fresh air on the top of the Plateau is so stimulating that we take to our
heels and race to camp. The boys run to meet us, and present us with bouquets of mountain
flowers, which they have picked to bid us welcome.
After breakfast Van takes us across to the Fall, which is close by the rest-house. He is
an ideal guide, for in silence he leads us from vantage-point to vantage-point, in silence
he stands, kneels, or lies beside us as we watch a peacefully-flowing river suddenly and
ceaselessly taking a dive from a precipice platform, dropping majestically over the mouth
of a cavern to form a massive curtain that is veiled with the finest of lacework,
disappearing amidst clouds of spray in the depths of a rainbow-spanned ravine, and
reappearing in a valley of rocks as a turbulent torrent fighting furiously for a passage
to the restful level of a distant plain.
The commonplace remarks of a parrot-trained guide, or any idle chatter of admiration,
would sound blasphemous in such surroundings.
The grandeur of the Kaieteur Fall is enhanced by
 its forest setting far from the haunts of civilized man, and by the natural rockworks,
reminiscent of Greek mythology and Cyclopean architecture, over and between which it
Downhill and downstream we hasten back to Georgetown, catch the Mail, and arrive home to
time by the skin of our teeth. Is it not good to be back again in our native land after a
long spell of travelling? And after revelling in greeting and being greeted by relations
and friends who have journeyed to the quay to meet us, do we not still feel so excited
that we want to shake hands with the porters? And yet I, for one, know that it will not be
long before the call of South America will be haunting me again, luring me one minute with
the vast possibilities of helping in the further development of the great continent, and
the next with the promise of a holiday to the end of my days in the forests where the only
earthly necessities for a blissful life are a hammock, bow-and-arrows, and a canoe. To one
and all of us South America offers a choice between the two most adventurous and
fascinating paths to a career—the high road to fortune-making and the trail to the
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics