While Aunty Irene had seen many changes in her community, Guyana had been a step back in time for me.
Around 80% of the country is rainforest and that, combined with the long boat journeys, rich wildlife and lack of commercialism, gave a feeling of true exploration and adventure.
Other than the small party I was travelling with, in 10 days I’d only met two other visitors. But Guyana is home to one of the world’s great natural wonders, and I was heading there next, for my final stop. Would this be where all the tourists were?
Set within the Guiana Shield, a huge ancient plateau, Kaieteur Falls is one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls.
One legend has the name Kaieteur coming from Old Kai, a chief who sacrificed himself to the Great Spirit Maikonaima by canoeing over the waterfall to save his people.
It is a 55-minute flight from Georgetown, provided the weather is behaving, and so makes a popular day trip. Cloud masked my view of the falls flying in, and the pilot headed straight for the airstrip.
There, a few dozen visitors had either just arrived too, or were hanging around waiting to fly back out. We waited until most people had left and then set off to explore.
Within 100m or so we entered a fantastical Lost World, with wraiths of fog adding to the atmosphere.
Kaieteur National Park has its own micro-environment with several new species to science still being discovered here and nearby. We walked through a mysterious forest, and into an area covered with otherworldly giant bromeliads.
We searched down their leaves for tiny golden rocket frogs living in the axil. We could hear the calls of one of the country’s most iconic birds and followed the sounds to a patch of woodland, where a flutter of orange caught our eye.
Sure enough there was a Guianan cock-of the rock, and then another. Eventually we could see five males spread out around the trees, their dazzling colours and feathery tendrils giving them a decidedly dashing look. This was a known cock-of-the-rock lek, and they were all showing off, competing for a female’s attentions.