Saturday, December 16, 2017

Boating up the Moruga River


Mark Fraser

Our boat pulled out from the area of the Spring Bridge and headed up the Moruga River.

This would have been a journey undertaken many times before by our South Coast First Peoples in their dugout canoes. This is also possibly the scene that Christopher Columbus’s crew just missed as they visited the mouth of this river to collect potable water.

Dense forests and an abundance of terrestrial and aquatic life still remain as those who eked a living in and around the area are no longer present.

My excitement mounted as Eric Lewis, Casiel and Darnelle pointed the boat upriver. This was a time when the river was partly flooded. Water rich in sediment from fertile banks along the channel opened a wide passage for boats.

The original plan was to use oars and row the boat up the river at a leisurely pace but this idea was abandoned because of the distance we wished to cover in just a short space of time.

As we rounded the first bend in the river we began to see the first of the wide variety of avi-fauna that thrived along this life-giving waterway. A blue heron opted to act as guide to our boat as she flew along the river from perch to perch ahead of us.

As a passing shower of rain gave its blessing to this riverine setting, a large fish leapt out of the water and submerged again, too fast to enable us to identify its species.

We pulled in to a section along the bank that afforded shelter under the overhanging boughs of mixed species of forest. We were able to observe the pretty blooms of arboreal vines and tall trees. These blooms attracted tiny birds that whistled the melodies of the forest.

Sunlight returned via soft shafts of light that found their way just along the parting of the canopy above the river. It was then that kingfishers showed us just how much this river teemed with fish. They caught their prizes easily under the watchful eyes of a high-perched turkey vulture that seemed to be more focused on preening its wings in the warming sunlight than interested in what was happening below.

We continued upriver, passing extensive tracts of Roseau and Carat. Lewis made the observation that First Peoples in the area really had the natural resources to survive in these forests. The abundance of carat would have provided shelter for family dwellings and the community Benab.

Our blue heron continued to steer us along the windings of the river. She perched on the protruding stump of a submerged log as if to warn us of the impending danger to the boat. The captain slowed and raised the engine over the threatening log whose length showed just below the surface as we passed over before disappearing into the deeper area of the river.

Large trees such as silk cotton, cedar and figuier formed integral parts of the dense forest along both banks of the river. The bright red colour of the cooperhoop was prominent among the dark green foliage.

After two miles of interesting sights along the river, we reached the confluence where the waters of the Canari River merged with those of the Moruga. We opted to go

up the Canari for wildlife observation purposes as the intimacy of the smaller channel allowed us to keep closer to the forest along both banks.

A ramier flew from one tall tree to another, always maintaining its height above us. We heard the unmistakable sounds of a band of red howler monkeys. However, these sounds were some way off and we did not expect to encounter their presence along the river.

After a mile or so up the Canari River we had to supplement our guide crew as our blue heron could no longer be relied upon.

The route up this river now turned into a true obstacle course as fallen trees presented hindrances to free passage.

We were forced to adopt a zig zag course as the man at the helm pointed to the right then to the left to avoid the possibility of the engine being damaged on submerged material.

We eventually called a halt to the journey. Tidal influx greatly influenced the levels of these waterways. At this point, the influence of ebb tide made the river very shallow along the banks. Our able bodied men had to use oars to push the boat out of the mud.

The peace of the forest settled around us broken only by the persistent tapping of a woodpecker making its way up a royal palm. On our return journey down the Moruga River it was clear that there was potential for successful eco-tourism here.

“The Vincent Ferrer Society plans to conduct bird watching touts up the Moruga River. Of course these trips will be open to people with a wide range of interests. Families would be able to spend the day at allocated spots along the river where we plan to set up Benabs and some necessary facilities for outdoor activities.”

The Moruga River has been part of our recorded history and will continue to make its mark as it flows along, giving renewed life to the area.