A Travellerspoint blog

The Guianas

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.
From Manaus,
Barney

Posted by carlswall 04:35 Archived in French Guiana Comments (0)

SE Venezuela and NE Brazil

Hi everyone Im just jotting down the first email from my travels to let you
know what Ive been up to. So far Ive seen the Angels Falls, gone swimming
with pink dolphins and done a striptease to Ýou can leave you hat on´in
front of about 30 people. So yeah its been an eventful first month or so!
I flew into Caracas in Venezuela which is a fairy attractive city bordered
to the North by green hills and just 30 minutes away from the Caribbean.
Unfortunately my bag didn't come with me and I had an agonizing two days
waiting for it to turn up.
I stayed there a few days and then went to fulfill a childhood dream in
seeing the Angel Falls in the South East of the country. The falls are
genuinely in the middle of nowhere, despite being 983m high it wasn't even
discovered till the 1930´s and the trip to get there was pretty epic. An hr
and a half flight followed by a 4 hour boat ride followed by a 2 hour walk
through the jungle. Twas definitely worth it however as it is a truly
spectacular sight off a sheer cliffed, table shaped mountain called a Tepui.
Genuinely wasn't disappointed with the hype and a great way to start the
trip.

After Angel Falls I went and climbed another Tepui called Mount Roraima on
the Brazilian/Guyanan/Vennezuelan border. Conan Doyle based his novel the
Lost World on Roraima and it is easy to see why. A unique landscape at the
top with hundreds of endemic species of plants and animals make it a very
strange and somewhat eerie place to be. Odd shaped rocks contend with pink
beaches and beautiful pools for highlights of the summit but there was a lot
to see.
The trek took 6 days (inc 2 at the top) and involved a lot of enjoyable
walking through incredible scenery but the only downside was one of the guys
I did it with had to be pay 1300GBP to be airlifted off the summit after he
busted his knee. Ouch.

From Roraima I travelled with 3 Spaniards I met down into Brazil into the
´Paris of the tropics´, Manaus. It´s so called cos it has an Opera house and
is surprisingly cultural considering its location. Here we saw ´The meeting
of the waters´where the Amazon becomes one river and the Cafe Au Lait
colored Rion Solimoes runs side by side with black coffee colored Rio
Negro for 13km without mixing. Very strange to look at but beautiful too.
We went into the jungle for a few days and the highlights for me were def
swimming with the pink dolphins. They´re born black but a slightly acidic ph
in the water strips off the top layer of their skin so they become this
bizarre but glorious fleshy color. We also got to hold a sloth which is an
incredibly cute creature with a teddybear like face and was somewhat sad
when we had to leave to return to the city.

For 2 days I was on a boat up the Amazon towards the coast and can now say
that Ive taken a slow boat on the Yangtze, Nile and Amazon. The river
really is huge, up to 4 miles across, the other bank can at times be nothing
more than a green color on the horizon. I got on really well with the guy
on the hammock next to me and he v kindly invited me to stay with his family
in Santarem. I really enjoyed living with him for a few days and got to
happily drink beers and smoke cigarettes with very ordinary local
Brazilians. Ive found the people to be extremely friendly so far and very
hospitable to me, despite my very limited Portuguese (which is much harder
than Spanish).
They have a comical obsession with tele novellas (soap operas) for some
reason with stars being definitely more famous than musicians, films actors
and even the football players! My favorite is definitely Rebelde, a Mexican
soap set in a boarding school for the children of the rich and famous:
www.rebelde.com.br

Finally I went to a beach resort on the Amazon (yeah its big enough to have
quite a few of them) and was camping on the deserted beach. I wondrously
found myself swimming naked under the stars in a warm laguna. So yeah I'm
pleased to be away.

From Santarem Im gonna get another boat up to a city called Macapa from
where I will endeavor to go into the Guianas which looks like I will be
going well and truly off the beaten track and so am excited if a touch
apprehensive.
Anyway Ive realized Ive written shed loads but this is probably a gd sign of
how much I'm enjoying things (so sorry if I rambled on a bit!).
Let me know how your doing anyway and from Santarem,
Barney

Posted by carlswall 04:28 Comments (0)

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