Guyana is, mostly, a country of nature: the immense rainforest, waterfalls, wildlife; indeed, the number of inhabitants of the entire country is lower than many cities elsewhere. Contrary to what you might expect, the history of the country is quite interesting and has left behind several traces. The country had been inhabitated for a long time by indigenous Amerindian people before the first Europeans set foot on Guyanese soil in the 16th century. Columbus already saw the lands of Guyana in 1498, Sir Walter Raleigh was in the Guianas searching for El Dorado, but the Dutch were the first to establish colonies here: Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara, all located close to the Atlantic Ocean. One of the depots for indigenous goods was built on a small island at the junction of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni rivers; soon, a small fort was built in 1616 for protection. This would develop in the de facto capital of the Dutch colonies in Guyana. The fort was called Kyk over Al. Meaning See over All, it described well what the function of the fort was: to establish a fort on a strategic location overseeing the Mazaruni, Cuyuni and Essequibo rivers.
Apart from its function to protect local warehouses where indigenous goods were stored which were to be loaded on ships for transportation to Europe. Moreover, it was also the centre of administration for the Dutch. It was taken by the English and the French, and recaptured by the Dutch, and served its function until 1716 when the fort and the island became overcrowded and a new fort was established on Fort Island, closer to the Atlantic Ocean on the wider Essequibo River. Since the Dutch had managed to reclaim the land here from the Ocean, focus of economic activity shifted north and Fort Kyk over Al lost its function. Fort Kyk over Al was largely demolished and the materials were used for the construction of a sugar mill and plantation. Research in 1910 revealed that the bricks of the fort were of Dutch origin, it showed the layout of the fort. Clearing the island revealed cannonballs, clay tobacco pipes and glass bottles.
After passing the Mazaruni prison by boat from Bartica, we sailed south on a vast expense of river. The muddier, milk chocolate coloured Cuyuni and the darker Mazaruni meet right here. Shortly after, I saw the small island which so far had seemed just part of the river banks. A long light blue jetty allowed for an easy entrance, and an information board. The only visible remains of the former star-shaped fort was an arch; the contours of the fort can still be seen. What remains underground is the entrance to what some claim is a tunnel leading from here all the way back deep under the river bed to Mazaruni prison - also built by the Dutch. It is these, and other stories, as well as a sense of history, that make a visit to the fort interesting. Unfortunately, very little remains, but with some imagination, a visit to Fort Kyk over Al can still be interesting.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Fort Kyk over Al (Guyana). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Fort Kyk over Al.
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