Imagine waking up to a breathtaking view of the sun rising over the Pakaraima Mountains, visible from the comfort of your bed. Or taking an afternoon hike up the nearby mountain to get a glimpse of the expansive Rupununi Savannahs. These experiences and so much more are being offered by the Pakaraima Mountain Inn to anyone who is desirous of enjoying the “Rupununi experience.”
The humble bed and breakfast inn is located in the North Rupununi, just outside of the Yakarinta Village in the Aranaputa Valley, and is run by the husband and wife team of Charles and Veronica De Freitas.
In an interview with Sunday Stabroek, the couple chronicles their efforts to complement the Rupununi’s tourism sector with their almost self-sufficient bed and breakfast. According to Charlie – everyone calls him as Charlie – it all began in 2004, after the site for what is now the Pakaraima Mountain Inn was selected for a home by Veronica, who grew up in Yakarinta Village. At that time, the location was devoid of any development which resulted in the family having to start from scratch. At least three wells were dug before one was actually found that was viable for the sustenance of the home.
Construction of the building continued over the years with most, if not all of the material being sourced from the Rupununi. This exercise included the utilisation of rocks, white cement, wallaba wood and a little bit of creativity to generate what is now the Pakaraima Mountain Inn.
“We have arrows and herring bone structures done in the lounge and mixed rock and wood decorative style done in the walls, and the floor is done in huge wallaba squares,” Charlie said, while adding, ”Basically, we wanted to showcase the North Rupununi’s striking landscape and its unique collection of flora and fauna.”
Upon its completion, the family welcomed friends, most of whom almost instantly fell in love with the ambiance that surrounded their home, and they encouraged the couple to consider opening an inn.
“It was supposed to be my personal home but what happened is that we would have had several visitors, such as Elizabeth Hughes, Salvador de Caires and Andrea de Caires, who encouraged us to share it with the rest of the world. It started out as a fun project, and it still is a fun project, more so since it’s father and son working together to get the work done. We feel very proud of what we did upstairs. Sebastian [his son] did all the drawings, he builds his own windows and sliding doors out of the wood we found in the area,” the much laid back Charlie noted.
“Everything in the building, except for the pine doors, was built by us. The materials are from the location, the labour is from the location, the artistry all from the area. After we got the experience with building our home on the ground, we started to get smart and improve the techniques,” he revealed. The picnic tables and Berbice chairs are also the products of Charlie and his son Sebastian’s efforts.
As the years passed and the compliments grew, Charlie and Sebastian embarked on the construction of a bungalow just midway up a mountain, made accessible by a terrace consisting of rocks leading up from the foot of the mountain. “Not many people know that we are there or anything, so everything that has been happening there has been through friends. They like to call it the best kept secret, but truth of the matter is we just doing what we want to do,” Charlie said.
‘Complement not compete’
“The truth is everybody has a little bit to offer to the tourism sector. I don’t think that one particular place can do it on their own. We aren’t here to compete, we just want to complement what is already there,” Charlie said.
“We are only part and parcel, we don’t see ourselves as competition. We doing we lil thing in we own way and people can come and visit to see what going on and we would show you with pride… So, what it is then we see ourselves as a little organism within a whole framework. We don’t see ourselves competing with places like Rock View. We just want to say, listen, at our lil neck of the savannah, you can come and enjoy this, this is what we got,” he casually observed.
“Veronica introduced something up there that we call Yakarinta Fun Day, which happens on the Saturday before Easter. We have a lot of village life that people can come and enjoy, but we don’t see ourselves separate, the whole valley should be preserved.
“What we do see is the villagers and the councillors closely involved with us. There is a dying culture system there in terms of arts and crafts, which we want to revive…hammocks handmade,.…balata carvings…needlework…[maybe] the visitors at the Inn can be a market,” Charlie shared.
At present, the bed and breakfast offers accommodation in the form of hammocks, double rooms and even complete self-contained rooms in a relaxing environment, along with meals, comprising both indigenous and traditional Guyanese cuisine.
Charlie also made mention of the fish eye view of the valley from the patio of the bungalow, two large fish ponds, a budding citrus grove and even a man-made reservoir which functions as a swimming pool, all of which contribute to making the inn unique.
“When we were building the top we didn’t want any posts to block the view, so the building was constructed in a way that it allows a perfect view. We want you to feel like you’re in a huge cinema, only that you’ll be looking at nature since the view allows for almost a 360-degree view of the valley,” he explained
“The Rupununi goes through two extremes—either too much rain or no rain at all—so, what we did, coming off the side of the mountain, has thousands of gallons of water coming down, and I made this semi-circle thing and we block off the water with a bottom valve so when we swim in that pond, you’re swimming and have a great view. In the rainy season, you have a refreshing, ice cold swimming pond,” he divulged.
“The idea is that you are comfortable and have the opportunity to have a little adventure. Whether it be on the river or doing some birds; whether you want to hike to the top of the mountain and get more views. At the end of the day, we are offering you a stay at a quaint and humble place with beautiful scenery that you can enjoy in a comfortable manner. This is not making money, this is about sacrificing yourself to present something that the area has naturally; we are offering something unique at a reasonable rate,” he further shared.
Right around the corner from the homestead also happens to be the Yakarinta beach which not only gives way to the pristine “white water” of the Rupununi River, but is also considered the most “natural, unspoiled” beach in the Rupununi.
Interesting to note, is that Pakaraima Mountain Inn is powered mainly by solar energy, as generators are only used for construction purposes.
“We don’t use generators. But really we don’t want to be hearing the humming from a generator at night; we are powered by solar and use walkie talkies for communication. We have a wire rope that we use to transport stuff between the inn and the house. We also have Wi-Fi available downstairs, as well as telephones that can receive calls from Canada and the USA thanks to the GTT tower,” Charlie shared.
In response to being asked why persons should stay at the Pakaraima Mountain Inn, Veronica De Freitas said, “To me, I think people should get away from Georgetown, and as I am there, I am at peace, if they come to join us here, they will feel the same. The environment there can lift your spirits. There is a view that you won’t get anywhere else. Unique view with an ambiance that is unchallenged which can be enjoyed place by soaking in the sweetness.”
For more information on the Pakaraima Mountain Inn, persons are asked to visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pakarminn