Friday, March 18, 2016

Three Guyanas; or Mini-bus, ferry, taxi, dugout canoe, oh the ways to travel

I am currently in French Guiana sipping my first micro-brew of 2016, eating a baguette and French cheese outside on my own little patio. I think of a better way to taper before Sunday's marathon.

I started my trip at 4am yesterday, traveling to Paramaribo Suriname from Georgetown. I typically am more of an observer than an participant when traveling but my two bus rides(to the border and then after the ferry crossing, from the border to Paramaribo) were enriched lively conversations. My first one was with the project manager for a company attempting to establish a private University in Guyana. He supposedly done this many times before and has been successful. His company has something like 135 colleges world-wide. A very interesting person,originally from India but currently residing in Belgium. After ways on the far side of the ferry, I met a  young Frenchman who had spent the last 30 days on a boat offshore Guyana doing oil exploration. He had a few days to explore before reading back to France and wanted to check out French Guyana. It was very interesting to get France's perspective on current politics(negatively) as well as how Obama was viewed(positively) and what he thought about the Saudi induced oil glut and some of the intricacies that I certainly wasn't aware of. These two interesting people made the trip go faster which was a good thing because otherwise it would have gone very slow.

 Normally that's an 8 hour trip but a 2 hour delayed ferry and a bus driver who somehow got lost on the route he plies daily, turned it into a 12 hour day. Add an hour you lose going from Guyana to Suriname(formally Dutch Guyana), and it was dinner time by the time I got there. That was okay. I got some good dinner at one of the food stalls right on the river and enjoyed a Parabo. Not an exceptional beer normally, but becomes more and more exceptional the hotter outside it is. And it was plenty hot.
The view from the cafe on the river

Same seat and same beer as last time I was here

Finished dinner in the dark but Paramaribo is a safe city to walk around at night

My guesthouse's pool. It fooled me because it looked above ground but it was actually fairly deep(partially above ground? 

The dreaded spiral stair case to my room. Glad I didn't stay here after the Suriname Marathon
  The next morning I awoke early to head to French Guiana(or Guyane depending on who you  talk to). My French friend I had met on the bus ride was supposed to join me but I almost guarantee that he overslept because of the hour difference and how quickly he went through his liter of Parbo ;).

The taxi ride to the border(Albina) with French Guyana was uneventful,inexpensive(70SRD) and not filled with ear-drum bursting music. I was a little nervous though because I had originally planned on taking the 8a bus(10SRD) but it was already sold out at 6:45a. I had read that the taxi drivers will rip you off if you cannot get a full car(like 70Euro rip off), but that wasn't the case. My driver, me and his little daughter. Dropped me right off at immigration(which is a little ways away from the center of Albina) went through in 30 seconds and was ready to cross the river.

If you remember, from my trip to Essiquibo, the river mini-buses and I was expecting the same thing crossing into Guyane. But nope. These are legitimately dug out canoes with motors. Like dug out with a tool where you could see the individual cravings. As well as the gaps in the boat where water came in. I had the whole thing to myself and the driver. We crossed the river in about 15 minutes which cost 50SRD(which is about 10 dollars since SRD is getting more and more devalued against the dollar).

The inside of a canoe, those planks are just for show, and to keep you from stepping in water from the ever leaking canoes

I had my choice:)
After the quickly interaction with border control that I have ever seen, I was directed to where the mini-buses awaiting passengers to go to Cayenne and points west.
I think my mom would have walked a mile out of the way to avoid this neighborhood. Which wouldn't have been too bad of an idea considering the residents themselves have grills on their windows and those metal roll-down doors covering them. Luckily I was going through in day-light with a group of other people heading for the buses.
So it was now a little before 10am which means, I had made awesome time. The state bus(if I had been able to get on the 8am somehow) wasn't scheduled to arrive at the border til noon! I was pumped. Then the first hour passed. And then the second. After 2 1/2 hours of sitting waiting for the bus to fill we were finally off. Like most mini-buses I've encountered in this area, it was a circuitous route, dropping people off at their houses along the way. All the time I was noticing how unlike the terrain was from Suriname and Guyana. Specifically, how hilly it was. I probably should have looked up the elevation profile of the marathon because I doubt there's any way it's going to be a flat one...

An A frame in Guyane-wonder why?
After dropping everyone else off at their actual destinations, I just assumed I would get the same treatment. Not so much. Instead I was dropped at the junction where Kourou(where I was going) split from the route to Cayenne. Oh well, I had been doing nothing besides sitting for the last two days anyway I could use the walk. Until it started raining. Hard. Luckily, I am now fairly used to the heavy and somewhat unpredictable rains here so I had packed my pack cover and stasher jacket so after a quick stop I was back in business. My shoes were soaked through but otherwise no worse for wear.

The walk turned into a few hour walk, as I, erroneously, headed to the "water" which ended up being the river not the ocean. After my Brazil trip and getting lost, I had printed out maps this time but only in reference from the ocean. There was no river on the map. But I came across this cool little fishing village and this boat.

I think I am going to post a blog dedicated to just nature taking back vehicles. There are so many cars around Guyana that are abandoned and literally have weeds growing in and around them. And this cool boat. 

I finally found someone who could speak(or was willing to speak) English and directed me to an area where I could find my way. 
Okay this is more like it!

Ah, the ocean. And no trash!

As you can see I went camera happy at the ocean but it was so nice. I am definitely heading down there tomorrow and hanging my hammock up under a tree and read/nap until packet pick-up opens:)

After taking the requisite selfie, I headed to my Airbnb. This is the first time I've used Airbnb and I wasn't sure what to expect. Is it a hotel, get your keys and do your own thing? Or more like couchsurfing where you hang out and really get to know the people? Well, somewhere in between.

As I mentioned at the start, I was having a delightful treat which was courtesy of my hosts. The woman speaks a little English and I'm throwing a French accent on the Spanish I know and it seems to be working a bit. Her husband doesn't speak a word of English and about an hour ago we sat silently next to each other watching French TV. Kinda like in Home Alone:)

The patio is dedicated to me. There is a separate one for the  other guests(who I have not yet seen)
 Okay well, as you can tell, chronologically speaking, I am not still eating my baguette nor drinking my beer(which was very good) but getting ready be social again so I am going to end it here:)

Up next: Marathon L'Space Sunday.

Until next time,


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