With so many extra travel charges these days, it's very important to know the exact weight of your luggage before boarding a plane. However, knowing your own body weight is not usually a requirement.

So boarding the flight from Georgetown to the Kaieteur Falls, I was slightly caught off guard when the lady at the check-in desk asked, in her own polite way, how fat I was.

She didn't even bat an eyelid at my luggage as she sized me up and down, awaiting the answer.

I think I said something like "Kilos or pounds?" as a way of giving myself a bit of time to ponder. At this point, I felt compelled to lie and tell her my preferred weight, but in the end I told her the embarrassing truth, as I trusted she has good reason to delve into such matters.

Outside on the runway, her prying made sense, as I was pointed in the direction of the aircraft. The plane was parked across the runway but didn't appear to get any bigger the closer I got to it.

It was a small, old, rickety-looking excuse of a flying machine and looked like a bigger - not much bigger - version of those model aircrafts that your auntie used to buy you at Christmas.

Time to regret that breakfast...There was another way of getting to the Falls from the Guyanese capital, but it would have involved a five-day hike and I had neither the time nor the inclination for such an adventure, so the one-hour flight was the only option, even if I was starting to rethink my decision.

Amazingly, there was room for 10 on the plane, although from my seat I was within touching distance of either side of the plane, the pilot and the second from back seat, with only a few more feet to the tail beyond.

The flight, however, was pretty smooth, even if there was an almighty racket as we flew through random rain clouds, and the hour passed quickly as you cannot but marvel at the never-ending lush rain forest below.

Looks like a pint of Guinness being pouredApproaching Kaieteur Falls there was poor visibility, but then the clouds cleared for a few seconds and the runway appeared in the distance. The pilot aimed for the gap and a minute later we bounced down onto the tiny air-strip and parked just off the edge in the adjoining grass.

Our guide, Colin Benjamin, gave a fine commentary walking through the rainforest, which led to the top of the waterfall.

The noise of the water crashing way below was thrilling, if a bit scary, as the flow was almost at full strength as it raged over the ledge.

Getting up close and personal to such a natural wonder was an equally euphoric and spiritual experience, although you have to drop back a bit along the cliff’s edge to really appreciate the panoramic visuals.

The water in these parts is full of iron and from a distance the Falls looks like a pint of Guinness being poured.

The Kaieteur Falls is, not surprisingly, one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, when you combine height and volume.

The drop into the Potaro River is over 700 feet, which makes it five times higher than the Niagara Falls and twice the height of the Victoria Falls.

The ecosystem of Kaieteur is virtually unique and the area around the base of the waterfall is still largely unexplored, so new species of plant and animal are constantly being discovered.

Ecosystem is virtually unique The immediate environs of the Falls is home to a number of rare, threatened and endemic species, principal among them being the Golden Frog, whose entire life cycle plays out in the water that collects in the giant Tank Bromeliads plant.

There are an estimated 20,000 different vascular plant species, of which 35% are endemic, making it one of the richest tropical wilderness areas on Earth.

Mr Benjamin was obviously very proud of the area and made sure that you didn't drop any litter or remove anything precious, like stones or those little golden frogs that were hopping around the foliage.

"All you take is photos and all you leave are footprints," was his motto - I liked his style.

There was still the small matter of the cramped plane ride back to Georgetown to negotiate. The thoughts of a five-day trek back through this wonderful, untouched natural reserve now seemed a lot more attractive.

About Guyana:
Guyana is the only English speaking country in South America, located on the north coast, between Suriname and Venezuela, with Brazil to the south. Guyana is deemed Caribbean due to similarities in culture with the other islands, in particular food, music, sport and language.

The rainforest in Guyana covers approximately 75% of the country - over 16m hectares - and is part of the last remaining stands of tropical forests in the world.

For more information about Guyana, go to: www.guyana-tourism.com.

Getting There:
Flights to Guyana from Europe are generally routed through Antigua, Barbados or Trinidad. There are direct flights from Miami, New York, Toronto, Brazil, Suriname, French Guiana, Barbados, Trinidad and Curacao.

Ed Leahy

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