Thursday, October 13, 2016

Making Peace, Art, and Wine in the Wilderness

What is one to do when inundated with the travails of daily existence, the oppressiveness of impassive routines, or when as in Jerry's and my case, you are buffeted from above by an overbearing sun or pounded from beneath by a hot and an unyielding asphalt road? You get off the beaten path (the Soesdyke/Linden Highway) and you drive, or better yet walk (like Jerry and I did) for about a quarter of a mile to Pandama. Once we arrived at the place an energetic and warm tail-wagging greeting awaited us. There was no pretense in the welcome given by those three affable canines, nothing fake or contrived. It was all genuine and just what we (tired and beaten by the noonday sun in the hilly, sand, and clay area of Guyana) needed.

Already disarmed by the effusive welcome of those three lovely dogs, we were next swept up by the warm and engaging smiles of hosts Tracy and Warren who themselves in their style and fashion embodied the earthiness and simplicity of the place. I looked around and I observed "things" about the place - an ordered yet random arrangement of craft, tools, hand crafted materials (made from already available materials - for why re-invent the wheel as they say) in an enclosed and at the same time in an open space, a hang-out space, in the outdoors where the ground is a soft white sand and the surrounding vegetation natural, green, and varied. And dotting the forest-like landscape here and there were little cabin houses with brief stairs leading to comfortable beds with bug nets. As I stood in one of those structures during the tour that Tracy gave, I almost had a childlike feeling of being in a treehouse, like being held aloft in the without the dizzying effect - a childlike feeling without losing my sense of adulthood. I could only imagine the thrill children would feel being in one of those cute structures. 

And then there were the art works, the paintings, Tracy's paintings, adorning the doors and windows of those almost treehouses, paintings evoking feelings of hope, peace, joy, contentment, freedom, and highlighting the colors of the surrounding forest. There was nothing nihilistic there in the Pandama art, nothing modernist; one would have to go elsewhere for such art. On that brief stop at Pandama I found peace. In that brief visit I felt at peace with myself, with nature. On that brief visit I felt at peace as I  swung in a hammock, as I soaked my tired feet in the black waters of the nearby creek, as I snacked on the delectable variety of fruits grown on the property, as I strolled leisurely along the forest, and as I sipped a few samples of wine made by Warren himself.

For me, the wines constituted the charm of the place. When you do decide to pay Pandama a visit, do not go their like I did, with the preconceived notion that the best wines are made from only grapes. Lay aside for a while the knowledge of the grape varietals with which you might be familiar - Grenache, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, etc. Get used to the idea of sophisticated wines made from fruit. Yes, fruit. Like guava, sorrel, pineapple, almost any of the fruit grown in Guyana. And lay aside also the idea of vintage, in which the age of wines (of the grape varietals) determines their quality). Forget also your hoity toity and elitist wine-tasting analyses, and all those seemingly artificial customs and constructs of the grape wine culture. At Pandama you will quickly learn that wines are not to be subject to hollow intellectual scrutiny but are simply to be enjoyed.

Since I was merely passing through, I did not have the opportunity to sample the food served at Pandama, but based on the concepts that Tracy and Warren promote, I have no doubt that the food they prepare emphasize simplicity, the use of organic products, variety, and exotic taste. What is certain is that once I am through with my project of backpacking the length and breadth of Guyana, I will definitely be returning to Pandama to enjoy the self pampering, the simple rhythm and flow of the place, the peace nature affords, and some quality time of conversation with two of the most amazing hosts - Tracy and Warren.