Day 3: Sunday, November 19
Day three of the FAM Tour began with an early morning 6:30 am rushed breakfast at the Marriott by all four of the Fam Tour Group members. Nathan Fong having successfully been granted his much-desired transfer from the Princess Casino Ramada, compliments of the hard work of the GTA’s Annarie Seecharan and Carla James-Chandra in addition to the outstanding generosity of the Marriott’s Director of Sales Davie Sukdeo.
This was followed by the Group’s departure via GTA provided van transportation for the drive across the Demerara River floating bridge to Vreed-En-Hoop and eventually to Parika. This was the first leg of the Group’s scheduled Essequibo River Tour that was being hosted by the GTA and conducted by the Parika based Old Fort Tours. Accompanying the Group was Hadoc Thompson, GTA’s Product Development Officer, while Corwin Ward was the day’s Driver.
At the speedboat loading point, a few miles distance from Parika’s market stelling, the Group was met by Sean their very expressive Old Fort Tours Guide for the day. Having boarded the sizeable speedboat they set off for the Fort Island first stop on the Essequibo River tour. Encountered engine problems with the boat forced an initial attempted return to Parika, before it was decided to proceed to Fort Island where the boat would be replaced.
On Fort Island the FAM Tour Group, along with other members of the Tour party which had grown in size to 15 individuals including the boat pilot and Tour Guide, spent close to an hour exploring the island’s fort ruins as well as its ultra impressive heritage museum.
Having successfully switched boats the touring party then proceeded to the Saxacali island beach for a brief viewing stop, during which no one accepted the Guide’s offer to disembark. From Saxacali it was onto Bartica where the FAM Tour members enjoyed a forty-five minute tour of the town’s main streets and general market. For Tony it was a nostalgic experience for as a kid he had spent many of his childhood summer vacations roaming Bartica’s streets and beach.
His Uncle (mother’s brother) Dennis Shaw having served as Bartica’s Deputy District Commissioner for many years during the sixties, Tony even eventually recognized his now departed Uncle’s former house which still stands along Bartica’s beach front.
Having left Bartica the Party then made a relatively brief stop at the scenic Baratara Falls before proceeding to the Tour’s final stop, the exotic Aruwai White Sand Resort. Upon arrival at Aruwai they were treated to a delicious lunch of vegetable rice, barbequed chicken and green salad, washed down by some thirst quenching fruit punch. After lunch the Group was taken on a guided tour of the resort including a trek along its white sands beach to the on site mini zoo, which was impressively occupied by a number of animals and reptiles including the famous labba.
A relaxing hour at the resort was followed by the hair raising, 150 mph top speed journey across the fearsomely might Essequibo fiver from Aruwai to Parika, a trip which lasted ninety bone jarring minutes and which, as eventually enjoyable as it was, should not be recommended for the faint hearted!
Upon arrival at the Parika boarding point, the Group was met by Old Forts Co-Owner Camille Boodhoo who handed out Cadbury chocolates to each of the disembarking passengers. That was her impressively generous way of apologizing for the inconvenience that had been caused by the switching of boats from the initially larger vessel to the much smaller one that was eventually used.
Having returned to the Marriott, Syed and Tony’s offsite dinner plans were thwarted by their run in with Johnny Gordon, a Canadian based mutual friend, who immediately invited them both to join him and his friends at the hotel’s third floor Executive lounge. Several bottles of red wine later, the Loungers ventured downstairs to the hotels’ expansive lobby bar where further hookups with additional friends continued well into the evening’s later hours.
Day 4: Monday November 13
An early morning Media Debriefing at the Ministry of Business’ offices was followed by an intense networking session with representatives of the Tourism Hospitality Association of Guyana (THAG), After the networking Session which provided useful contacts, especially for the FAM Tour’s two travel agents Sherry and Syed, there was GTA hosted lunch at the Cara Lodge, which unfortunately was overly delayed in being served. From Cara it was a rushed trip to Ogle Airport to pay a courtesy call on Fly Jamaica’s CEO Roxanne Reece at the airline’s local headquarters.
Upon conclusion of the very pleasant courtesy call, three of the Group’s members Sherry, Syed and Nathan were transported back to the hotel while Tony was dropped off at the Georgetown Cricket Club Bourda Pavilion to attend a scheduled meeting with the Club’s Board of Directors. Unfortunately, much to his chagrin the said meeting never occurred and having waited a good three hours only to be disappointed he made his way back to the Marriott.
Tony’s profound Bourda disappointment was however almost completely removed by the experienced joy of eventually meeting in person, the Marriott’s newly appointed Director of Sales, the ever charming Davie Sukdeo. In a much appreciated demonstration of outstanding customer service, Ms Sukdeo, having completed her extended work day and gone home to spend quality time with her kids, nevertheless took the time to return to the hotel at almost 9:00 pm to conduct a guided tour of its facilities for Sherry, Syed and Tony. A gesture of outstanding hospitality that was most gratefully appreciated by all three Canadians.
That ended the FAM Tour’s official itinerary on a highly impressive note and as such it was three grateful Toronto based Canadians, accompanied by their seemingly less appreciative Vancouver based co-member, who were up at 3:00 am the following morning for the Fly Jamaica flight back home. Roxanne Reece having arranged for the entire group’s upgrade to business calls that flight was that much more enjoyable than the initial one had been.
Having been successfully concluded it is now hoped that the FAM Tour Group members will henceforth share their overly memorable exposure to Guyana’s tourism attractions with as many others as a means of encouraging increased Canadian visitor traffic to the country’s shores.