The Watauga Gorge.It’s been on my mind ever since I started kayaking. It was the run, the one everyone would skip work, reschedule meetings, and ditch class for. It’s one of the Southeast’s whitewater gems, and the weekend I was in Damascus, Va., for Trail Days, the Watauga Gorge was running.We left Sunday morning at the crack of noon (at least, those were our intentions). By the time we were geared up and at the put-in some 45 minutes away, it was nearing 2 o’clock. We waited under the blazing sun, in the heat of the day, panting in our dry suits and half-dehydrated from the previous night’s festivities. I, of course, was feeling ever so nauseous at the thought of the paddle to come and was grateful I’d scarfed an egg and cheese bagel that morning before my appetite had completely disappeared.There was a big group of us going down – 10 deep to be exact. I tend to prefer paddling in smaller groups, but I didn’t mind so much this time; most of the group were the guys who taught me to paddle, the ones who’d seen me come up choking for air, carp rolls, and smack rocks with my face time and again. Whether they were tagging along for front row seats to the carn fest or to act as genuine moral support is hard to tell (although I prefer to think the latter).The “do you know where we are” face above the entrance to Stateline Falls.When we came up to one of the first major rapids, Bump & Grind, I’m sure I was green with terror. It wasn’t that the rapid was particularly big and scary (class IV), but the fact that I was entering the Watauga. River. Gorge. In kayaking, hesitancy kills. I’d psyched myself out for so long thinking I couldn’t handle anything above a class IV, that by the time I was actually floating toward the class Vs, it was all I could do to dip my blade in and pull my boat forward. I got pinned sideways on some inconspicuous rock, sliding down the slot at Bump & Grind backwards, but I was fine. Something clicked, and I finally realized: I can do this. Much like my first time down the Upper Yough, that gnawing nervousness faded and grew to pure, giddish enjoyment.Brandon and Chris giving very similar beta on Stateline.Even as I sat above Stateline Falls in the Chapel Eddy, saying my final prayer before plunging over the lip of the 16-foot falls, I wasn’t nervous so much as stoked; this was by far the biggest stuff I’d ever paddled, and I couldn’t have been happier to be sharing the experience with the guys who introduced me to kayaking. Although my line sucked coming off Stateline and I swam deep beneath the falls, finally surfacing after nearly 20 seconds of being tossed and churned beneath the curtain, my mood was hardly dampened (although I wish I’d stomped it). Until next time Watauga…Coming off Stateline, pre-carnage.
Director of the Department of Energy, Dr Mark Bynoe has called on Indigenous leaders to craft a strategic plan to ensure their communities benefit equally from oil and gas resources.Department of Energy Director Dr Mark BynoeThe Department of Public Information (DPI) reported that Bynoe made the call while addressing the over 200 Toshaos and other Indigenous leaders in Georgetown for the 13th National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC).He is quoted by DPI as saying, “It must not just be a band-aid solution to address an immediate need, it should be focused towards where is it you want to go as a community, as a village and how is it you are going to get there… the biggest question that people ask is ‘when the monies begin to flow, how much will come to my region?’ The first thing I say is to have a plan… that in time to come you can have a defined pathway of how you will be able to improve the wellbeing of your people”.The Director also explained that Guyana will not automatically be transformed with first oil since the $62 billion only represents about 10 per cent of Guyana’s current Gross Domestic Product (GDP).“It is important that we understand that as we move forward within this sector… that we need to prioritise. Government also needs to prioritise as there are multiple demands on the limited resources, they have at their disposal inclusive of improvement in healthcare, education, enhanced infrastructure, enhanced water quality, while also seeking to ensure that we have more sustainable livelihood opportunities,” the Director stated.Some of the Indigenous leaders at the National Toshaos Council Conference 2019 (DPI photo)While providing an overview of the new and emerging sector, Dr Bynoe explained that in terms of direct benefits, Guyana is entitled to two per cent royalty and 12.2 per cent of profit oil in the initial stages. As it relates to direct employment opportunities, to date there are over 1300 Guyanese who are already employed directly in the sector. Guyana has also benefitted from over $150 million already injected into the sector.He further outlined that going forward, indirect benefits will include associated gas which can help in electricity stability and the reduction of the cost of energy, and even more training opportunities. Dr Bynoe added that while the Administration is keen on ensuring all Guyanese are getting their “fair share”, just as important is the fact that their capacity is built through training to ensure they are working alongside those external experts to ensure those skills are transferred.The Toshaos called for more education and awareness programmes on oil and gas within the hinterland villages. The Department of Energy Head said that the Department has recognised the need to conduct more awareness sessions in these areas and will be moving in that direction.Guyana first discovered oil in May 2015. US oil giant ExxonMobil has made 14 discoveries while UK company, Tullow has made two discoveries.