15 – 20 February 2014
After a couple of relaxing weeks on Bonaire it was time to move on to French Guiana; though in this part of the world there are limited direct connections and many airline companies have reputions for being unliable. So even though I could get a flight to Paramaribo, Suriname, the same evening as I arrived in Curacao from Bonaire, I decided to stay one night to make sure I would catch the flight to Suriname despite Insel Air cancelling the flight to Curacao. Long story short – I hitchhiked to the airport and we arrived in Curacao on time. My previous host Monica was kind to pick me up at the airport and on the way back to town we made a brief stop in Pirate Bay for a drink while watching the sunset. After dinner we all went into town and walked around for some hours enjoying the pleasant evening temperature and the many colourful lights....
Monica took me to the airport the airport the next morning. When I bought the ticket to Suriname I was surprised by the long flight time (5 hours) but I concluded it had something to do with time zones - it turned out we had a stop-over in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, but at leat I could stay on the plane; again we arrived on time after an un-eventful flight. It was 19.00 so I had booked a shuttle bus into town as there were no hostels close to the airport and no local bus at this hour. I tried to get cash but some ATM's were out-of-order while others had “communication problems” - fortunately I could pay everything with US dollars. We waited ½ hour for other people to arrive but they never showed up, so it ended up being a private taxi.... It took about an hour to get into Paramaribo so there was time to get a lot of information from the talkative driver.... I got to my hostel and spent 2 hours trying to get the internet working before I gave up and went to sleep around midnight.
As always when I have to get up early I slept poorly, so I was tired when the alarm rang at 6.30. Morning traffic is crazy so taking a shuttle to the airport would be a lottery unless I went really early - partly because of the traffic and partly because it's impossible to know how many people have to be picked up from other accommodations. Instead I got a taxi arriving at the airport in good time – Suriname Airways has a carry-on limit on 5 kilos and unlike the flight from Curacao they weighed my bag at check-in – close to 15 kilos! They told me to get rid of the extra weight because the bag would be weighed again later - I came up with a story about breakfast, water, etc. and said it would be no problem though I had no idea how to hide 10 kilos. Noticing there was a scale entering the terminal I put most things in my jacket sleeves and carried it over my arm pretending it was light as feather... fortunately they didn't ask, nor did they weigh my bag... Another scale was placed at the gate so I had to repeat the stunt, but fortunately they were occupied with changing people's seats because of a plane change.... The plane was fairly empty and only 8 people got off in French Guiana – I asked the only other traveller (who turned out to be Danish) how to get into town and since there was no public transport we shared a taxi. My host Anaïs had told me she would be home at 15.00 which meant 2 hours waiting time, but luckily her roommate Guillaume was already home and let me in; later in the afternoon I met Anaïs and her other roommate Anna – all 3 French. They were all busy during my stay but most of the time one of them were home when I was there. Unfortunately the language barrier made deep conversations difficult but I did get some insight to life in French Guiana.
It was rainy season in French Guiana, so I guess I was fairly lucky with the weather - about 30C and humid but not too much rain. In spent half a day walking around town – an interesting experience with a mix of old colonial buildings in French and Caribbean style. Some buildings were nicely refurbished but most were ramshackle – an obvious sign that little money is generated in this region. Another day I went to nearby Montjoly to do a couple of trails. No public transport so I walked a couple of kilometres to a roundabout and tried to hitchhike – after 5 minutes and approx. 100 cars no luck most of them signaling a nearby turnoff. I walked towards the next roundabout but before I got there two elderly women picked me up – first we went to a residential area to let one off and then I was taken to Montjoly; however it ended up being a big detour as the driver had no sense of direction. Fortunately, I had a map but the langauge barrier and her unwillingness to turn around when making a wrong turn entailed a long ride around the outskirts of Cayenne. I could almost have walked there as fast but still a nice gesture and also I was out of the heavy shower. I got off at a crossroad and was told it was another 5k to the first trail so I began walking - after about a kilometer I got a ride and the guy took me all the way which was nice because the trail was not signposted.... The trail was Rorota; a walk through a forest past a couple of ponds with only one viewpoint of the coastline though this overcast day it wasn't much to talk about. Many different plants and a couple of flowers but not much wildlife; I heard many birds but only saw a few but I did see sloth – lucky to spot it in the tree top behind all the leaves. It began raining as I appraoched the parking lot, so I was grateful to get a ride to the other trail at the beach in Montjoly. Again it could have been a nice walk but the weather prevented it – the only advantage with the weather was that I was almost alone. I hitchhiked back to the Cayenne roundabout and walked the last kilometres. The rest of the afternoon I relaxed and went grocery shopping for my coming days to Kourou and Salvation Islands (Iles de Salut).