Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Islands of Salvation; or Monkeying Around in Guyane

Gotta warn you: this is going to be a blog pretty much of uncaptioned photos:) 

The day after the awful marathon, which is getting to be status quo for me, Guiamo and I headed over to the Harbor for a day on the Iles du Salut, the Islands of Salvation, which were anything but for the 70,000 French prisoners interned there. There are three islands but only two that are available for civilians to travel to: Ile Royal-the largest of the three and the one that caters to tourists(it has a hotel on it) and Ile St-Paul which not many people go to since you have to swim there.

Guiamo and I boarded the catamaran and quickly got talking to the two other marathoners who had raced the day before: Abib, who ran a 2:37, and Benjamin, 2:47, both hailing from France coming to French Guiana just for the race. The four of us hit it off quickly and we spent the rest of the day hanging out together.

Our first stop was Ile Royal where there is an hour hike around the Island on which we were greeted by dozens of monkeys. It seems that although the tourists come in droves to the island, they appeared to stick to the trail directly to the prison and not the trail we were on. Which was fine with us. Great views of the ocean, the other islands, monkeys and pika which I had seen in the Guyana zoo but never in the wild. Guiamo said that eat them in Suriname…

The ubiquitious paca
After the hike we headed up to the prison grounds which were interesting but almost seemed like it was fake as it was hard to see where the actual prison ended and the modified hotel/restaurant started.
Luckily, we then headed to St-Paul which is a smaller and rougher landing so the bigger boats couldn’t get there. Our catamaran itself sails too low in the water so we anchored about 300 yards off-shore and could either swim or take an inflatable raft in. I opted for the swim. It is so nice to swim. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was in Tobago. Every chance now I can get into clean water, I do.

Devil's Island from Ile Royale

This island, being smaller, was covered by us in under 20 minutes which gave us plenty of time to explore the ruins. Unfortunately because I swam, I didn’t bring my camera but this place looked like it had not been touched since the prison closed. The jungle had already done a good job reclaiming it. For a few seconds I felt like Indian Jones but the feeling quickly was overcome with another stronger feeling of arachaphobia. We started to go deep into it and soon were surrounded by tarantulas big enough to see from 100 feet.

We swam back to the boat and soon were served Royal Ti’ Punch which is literally 100 proof rum, some sugar and a slice of lime. Doing my best to fulfill stereotypes of loud, obnoxious Americans, I was soon boisterously introducing myself to all the other passengers on the catamaran, who until that time had been doing their best to avoid the four of us. Everyone else on the ferry were also from France and it was fun to see how different the ones from the North were from the southerners. Probably not as much different as New England from Alabama, but different enough for me to notice without understanding what they were saying.

We awoke early the next morning to head into Cayenne to where my host had graciously offered to drive me-saving me the expense of the taxi ride there. He also gave me a tour of Cayenne and bought me lunch which we ate right on the oceanfront. It was a great last day in French Guyana. I am now awaiting my plane as I fly next to Belem, Brazil-the mouth of the Amazon.

Until next time,


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