When we first arrived in Guyana, we heard about this pretty awesome three-day event on the border of Brazil called Rodeo. The trip consisted of a 15-hr bus ride to the south-west part of Guyana to see Brazilian and Amerindian barefoot cowboys ride bareback bulls and horses, while feasting on meat on a stick and drinking Brazils famous Caipirinhas. You can imagine how quickly we decided that this adventure would definitely make it onto our bucket list while in Guyana. And here we are a year later and can report back that the hype was spot on, because Rodeo was unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
We started our trip two-days before the first kick-off event which was to occur on Friday night. Together with 11 other Peace Corps volunteers and about 20 other Guyanese, we jumped onto two buses at 8:00pm Thursday night to head out on our 15-hr bus ride. Unfortunately what was supposed to be 15-hrs turned into 20-hrs because we got stuck in the mud twice and had to be pulled out by a truck and our bus couldn’t go up a steep hill due to the weight, which meant we had to get out of the bus in the wee hours of the morning to walk alongside the bus in the middle of the jungle. Mind you there is no road; it’s just a dirt path. About two hours before our arrival in Lethem we stopped in the village of Annai and got our first taste of Brazilian meat and some Suriname beer. We ate our first of many servings of Calabrese sausage cooked in a typical Brazilian churrasco barbecue.
We finally arrived at our hostel, the Savannah Inn, at around 6pm on Friday, quickly showered and began our nightly festivities. But before we headed to the pageant, which was the kick-off event, we first had some dinner and ate some of the most incredible Brazilian pizza. Who knew Brazil was not only known for its meat, but its pizza too. Unfortunately, the pageant got rained out, but nevertheless we got to socialize with other volunteers and Guyanese friends in a cool outdoor bar.
"Brazilian Big-Boy Beers"
Saturday morning, we woke up and started our day with Bloody Marys that we packed with us all the way from Georgetown- can’t start a weekend in the sun without some Bloody Marys first. Before heading to the grounds we walked around Lethem and did some window shopping, which felt almost surreal, because I can’t remember the last time I went shopping in an actual store (we even tried on clothes!) Lethem looks and feels very different than our site. I am sure it has a lot to do with the proximity of Brazil, which is only a 30 minute drive. Lethem is mostly savannah with some of the oldest mountains in the backdrop. It feels like the Wild West, everyone drives a truck or rides a horse, and wears a cowboy hat and most people speak Portuguese. As you walk around you can almost hear the theme song of the “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” playing in your head. A little after lunch we headed to the grounds for our first taste of rodeo.
We arrived to what looked like a state fair ground with a large rodeo arena where all the riding occurred. The events that took place throughout the two days consisted of bareback bronco riding, saddle bronco riding, bareback bull riding, saddle bull riding, bull roping, greased pig catching, (which we missed) and a watermelon eating competition. All the cowboys or “vaqueros” which is Spanish for livestock herder, as they were called were mostly barefoot when doing all their riding, which I am told is way harder to do. Even though we are in Guyana and close to Brazil all the music they played throughout the day was American country, which I found pretty funny. And not only was it American country, but they played the same 6 songs on loop. Normally this would have gotten on my nerves, but because we were having so much fun it was actually nice to able to sing along to all of the songs.
Rodeo finished each day at around 6pm and then the night time fair-atmosphere would erupt. There were all sorts of fair games and bounce houses, cotton candy, and a huge dance party, which Nate and I partook on each night.
But wait I haven’t spoken about the food…oh the food! How I miss thee. Nate and I ate our body weight in meat on a stick in a matter of two days. We had T-bone on a stick, ribs on a stick, chicken on a stick, sausage on a stick and the list goes on. With every portion of meat we also ate farihna, which is powdered cassava that is made into flour that is normally used as a seasoning like salt and pepper. But at the grounds they would add other seasonings to it and put in a cup for you to eat as is. Surprisingly, it was delicious. If you got lucky, some stalls would have farihna that would be sautéed and pieces of dried meat, like beef jerky, would be mixed in. Needless, to say I ate so many cups of this that I made myself sick. To wash down all these delectable meals, which we had probably 6 a day of, we drank Brazilian beer and like I mentioned before Caipirinhas, which is Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça, which is sugar cane rum, sugar and lime. I even got to practice my Portuguese, which well…wasn’t great. But I was able to order food and communicate most of what I needed and wanted and was even able to throw in a few jokes. To make an awesome weekend even awesomer, we got to meet the president of Guyana and take a picture with Mr. Ramotar. Nate was psyched about this, as this was one other thing on his bucket list. Big weekend for our bucket list…huh?
So now a few days later, after recuperating I can say that the 20-hr bus ride was absolutely worth it, though on the way back the 18-hr bus ride back seemed a little less worth it. Funny how that always happens.
Till next time.