Hi everyone hope you're all well and looking fwd to Xmas, just to let you know
how I'm getting on...
Well it took about 3 days traveling to get into the Guianas and 48 hours to
get out again and it was 3 of the hottest weeks of my life but nonetheless
it has still been an interesting area to travel in.
French Guiana finds itself in the interesting position of being a
deportement of France despite being in South America. I had fairly romantic
notions of the place as a penal colony based on a few Somerset Maugham
stories and of course the Steve McQueen film Papillon. In reality there
aren't any convicts there anymore and the standard of living is essentially
that of France due to it being subsidised to a ridiculous extent. This means
it was unfortunately v expensive (i.e. slightly more expensive than France)
but unlike in France the people were extremely friendly and it was safe
enough for me to sleep on the beach every nite I was there. The highlight
was definitely visiting the penal islands called the Illes de Salut
(Salvation Islands). Lush rainforest and surprisingly abundant wildlife were
all around the remains of the notorious prisons and you can see the ruins of
all the prison buildings. I also got the chance to spend a nite in a cell
that was used about 60 yrs ago, whilst making for a gt anecdote it really
did scare me. The cell was only about 8ft x 4 ft and in the pitch black I
really could feel and hear everything that went bump in the nite. I was very
pleased when the dawn came and I got to return to the mainland.
Next up it was onto Suriname which I daresay a couple of you might not have
even heard of, both my travel nurse and the lady at the foreign office didnt
and the only thing I knew about it was that it was the only other country in
the world to speak Dutch. It is however a really surprisingly interesting
place. The people are made up of Indians, Chinese, descendants from the
slave plantations as well as Indonesians and a few Dutch too but with a
Caribbean flavor. The food was really good and it was interesting talking
to people about their various backgrounds and how they ended up in such a
random part of South America.
After a week in the Suriname jungle i journeyed into Guyana which has the
unfortunate distinction of its 2 major claims to fame being the site of the
Jonestown tragedy and one of the most crime ridden places in the world. On
the day I got there a 10 yr old was killed by a 12 yr old for his cricket
pads. This was only in the newspapers for 2 days and in the week I was there
3 other children under the age of 10 were murdered for various reasons. This
is in a national population of 700,000 so with all due respect it kind of
put a case like Damilola Taylor into something of a perspective for me. The
country really is unfortunately riddled with problems; public services don´t
work, the crime rate is simply shocking and this is all underpinned with the
2 communities (Afro-Guyanese and Indian) hating each other to the extent
that there are 2 of everything for the different communities(political
parties, food stores etc).
I didn't see a single traveler in the month in the Guianas and its kind of
easy to see why by looking at Guyana. The cost of living is bewilderingly
high for very low value for money and to do any touristy stuff in the jungle
cost something like 100 pounds a day so was well out of my budget.
The one thing that really saved it for me tho was meeting up with a lad
called Damien on the boat coming from Suriname. I stayed with him in the
capital Georgetown and I saw 3 cricket matches, 2 football matches and it
just generally gave me the chance to do stuff like have a beer in the
evening and mix with Guyanese which as a white man there's no way I could do
very easily by myself. It did mean I didn't really get to see much of the
Indian community so much but was very grateful for his company.
Anyway I am now back in Manaus, the most important city on the Amazon but on
Tuesday I shall be taking a flight East to the Ilha Marajo which is an
island in the mouth of the Amazon that's slightly bigger than the size of
Switzerland(!) b4 working my way across the coast to a pre carnaval festival
in the city of Natal at the beginning of December.
Let me know how you're all doing.