Whether it’s dipping in cool refreshing water or just relaxing and enjoying nature, the Kumu Falls located about 30 miles from the Lethem Town, Region Nine (Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo) is the perfect place to picnic during the weekend or any other day you just need a place to cool down.
As visitors enter the area, they are greeted with the sounds of water tumbling down the mountainside and birds chirping. The falls, which lie at the foot of the Kanuku Mountains, have multiple layers and stretch some 50 miles through the village before pouring into the Takatu River.
A ten-minute walk through track will lead to the first layer of the waterfalls. Visitors are also greeted with the simply breathtaking sight of water tumbling over the huge, gray-brown rocks in a cold, never-ending white spray.
After another ten minutes’ walk over large rocks and hopping over smalls streams, lies another layer that is twice the size of the first, surrounded by lush multi-coloured greenery. For those who prefer a more relaxing atmosphere, there are a number of palm-thatched benabs with seats and tables located upon entry of the area.
The falls has been attracting visitors for years and in recent times, with the development of trails, the number of local and international visitors, as well as Brazilians has significantly increased.
Kumu’s Senior Councilor, Emric Francis said that residents are very protective of their water as many depend on it for their livelihoods. It is for this reason that the Village Council has sought to put systems in place that will establish rules to prevent any contamination of the environment whilst generating income through the development of Kumu Falls as a tourism package.
“We have our Falls and we have a lot of people entering the Falls but we never sought to promote it. We have people just coming in and out without monitoring their entry to the falls…So we established a toll gate that includes a fee and implemented rules so that we can monitor persons coming in and out of the village to visit the Falls,” Toshao Francis explained.
Other more intrepid visitors can take the day-long trek to the 3,500 feet Schomburgk’s Peak, the highest mountain in this part of the Kanuku. The top of the mountain is the habitat of the rare Cock-of-the-rock; there the males court the females on the flat rocks on the peak and visitors always get to see the gymnastics of this mating dance. At nights, from the lights of the surrounding villages as well as Lethem and as far as Normandy, Brazil, can be seen.
With the increasing influx of persons travelling to the Falls, Francis said that the Village Council is in the process of developing a plan to further improve the services offered at the facility.
While there, persons will be able to experience the indigenous cuisine, such as tuma pot and cassava bread, and the indigenous arts and craft. “We will also be building cabins for persons to rest and perhaps leave their baggage and their bicycles and other items they don’t want to take to the falls,” Francis added.
Visitors will also be given a souvenir produced from resources of the mountains, upon entry.
The Village and its people
Kumu Falls is located in the Village of Kumu, a satellite community of St Ignatius Village. The name Kumu is derived from the Makushi word ‘Kumua’ – a vine used to make nibi and other indigenous craft. Francis explained that the Kumu was the only village where this vine was found. However, years ago, a fire caused the entire stretch of a hill bearing the vine to burn.
Kumu is a quiet, close-knit village of approximately 400 persons, mainly of the Macushi tribe. Some of the homes, found scattered across the community, are built of concrete and zinc but most are built of mud-brick with thatched-roofs.
The Village Council is in the process of establishing a uniform housing area that will be located in proximity to the school, health centre and other amenities.
Many of the older residents are subsistence farmers. However, there is a community tractor for persons who have excess produce to transport to Lethem for sale. Councilor Francis said this is particularly beneficial for young persons who are now starting their families.
Residents usually leave the community to seek other jobs in Lethem, Brazil, or in mining. To this end, the Village Council is currently initiating programmes to encourage the youths to remain in their community and serve. Through the HEYS project, 20 youths received training in a number of skilled areas. From this batch, four have created their own businesses while others have opted to further their studies at a higher institute of learning.
Kumu also has a vibrant cultural group, which allows the young people to maintain and preserve their traditions through dance, art and craft.
Emric Francis said that his plan is to create an environment, where young people will be able to realise their potential and contribute meaningfully to society.
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