Living in Guyana again and driving around in my van, I often remember my early life in Georgetown and my trip to St. Stanislas. During my school days at St. Stanislaus College on a scholarship, I stayed during the week with my DeSouza cousins on Carmichael Street in Georgetown, and returned home to Vreed-en-Hoop for the weekend. I was cycling back and forth on my Rudge bike, whether going to Saints on weekdays or back to Vreed-en-Hoop on weekends.
Thinking back to those later days, I remembered how often difficult it was to make the various connections involved on my Rudge bike…. during the week I sometimes had to come from the school grounds on the East Coast (where I played afternoon football for the school, the Galton House team) and had to make sure I left the ground in time to catch the last ferry for the day at Vreed-en-Hoop, where the Martins family lived.
On these weekdays too, in the morning, I had to bring my tail back to the stelling of Vreed-en-Hoop for the first crossings to the city. It was far from a simple exercise because with the crowded conditions on the boat, time was tight, and even though Saints was very close to the Stabroek market stelling, I had to get to the stelling in time for the boat trip. ferry. You might think there would always be room for a skinny Putagee boy with a bike, but some days it could be a risky business, and on the return trip you had to make sure to arrive early because your return trips later today could be a madhouse, with everyone looking for space. I remember my first crossing, anxious to know where to put my bike, only to be told by one of the ferry crew, “Park it sideways na!” as he walked away. The other issue was that when school was over for the day, I had to make sure I got home early enough to catch the last ferry. If I missed that, I would have to force my DeSouza cousins to spend the night with them in their already crowded house on Carmichael Street. Thinking back on it, it’s amazement that I can’t remember missing that evening ferry, I would have taken my mom to hell because there was no way to get a message to her… my cousins had a phone but we across the river didn’t. Suffice it to say, I never missed that return trip, not once.
The ferry trip itself was kind of an organized ruckus, with vendors, vehicles, big trucks, motorbikes, bikes galore, and the lower deck in particular, with the bikes and vehicles, was a mess really organized. With a bow to T&HD, I should note that somehow the whole operation went day in and day out with no missing cargo, no damaged bikes or motor vehicles, and a in general, things went as planned; how they got there, I don’t know. Some of the most hilarious encounters on the crossing had to do with passengers leaning against parked vehicles and grabbing the hell out of the owners, though I never saw things go downhill.
In all of this, the Rudge pedal bike was a blessing, as its moderate size meant I could always find a place to park it, and with the saddle, I always had a place to sit. Likewise, with the boat moored at Vreed-en-Hoop, I was still in that first wave of humanity landing and I was often at home, in the family home, watching the procession from the ferry and happy to to be out of it. With my bike down, I was also one of the first out of the boat and back home. Likewise, on my trip back to Atkinson Field, with my Rudge in the transporter on top of the bus, I’d quickly be home to my sister Theresa’s family (her husband, Joe Gonsalves, was the fire chief at Atkinson),
In all that work and maneuvering for position or space, the Rudge was easy going and I didn’t have to buy gas for it, or vulcanize tires. I didn’t think of it at the time, but looking back on those years, I have to say, “Thank you, Mr. Rudge. You’ve made life so much easier for people like me, by not facing the best of circumstances and not once leaving me on the side of the road with a flat tire – not once! Also, as I write this in Guyana, these conditions are still very present for travelers. There is a bridge now, a few miles from town, but the ruckus of vehicles remains and the bustle is still part of the scene. If you plan to visit Guyana, work in a trip across the Demerara Harbor Bridge and the Demerara River to the West Coast region where taxis roam and buses parade. It is an experience you will remember for a long time!