The adventures in the Guiana’s are now a memory gone by, as I’m on the flight from Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago, heading for London Gatwick, where I will arrive in the morning. I’m absolutely exhausted after the two weeks spent in the Guiana’s and what an adventure it has been!
I stayed on for an additional two days after the main group left early on Wednesday morning. I took some time to get to know Georgetown a bit better, while also visiting the Demerara Destillery, where the world famous rum El Dorado is brought into this world and nursed to the exquisite and splendid rum it is. It was an interesting visit and fun to see the very basic distillery. Apparently, the distillery has the only wooden still in the world and this could possibly be the success of the rum? A nice visit but nothing to rant and rave about to be honest unless you’re very dedicated to rum. Which I am…
The last day of my stay in Georgetown was spent with the Wilderness Explorer’s team, in a company workshop, where I did a shorter lecture on responsible tourism and an introduction to the Nordic region and the tourism industry there.
Bound for Trinidad & Tobago
As I got on the BW662 flight, bound for Port of Spain at Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Georgetown this morning, I sat back and just started to think back at what I’d experienced since that arrival in the middle of the night, in Paramaribo exactly two weeks ago. With the amount of experiences that we had during our trip, I can honestly say that it feels as if we’ve been away for much longer than two weeks. Yes, the pace has been high, but I must admit now afterwards that it is based purely on what we’ve seen, the activities we did and the nature and culture we’ve experienced with all the history attached to it.
I fell quickly into a light slumber on the flight, immediately as we took off and surprisingly I snapped out of it just minutes before we were to touch down at Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain about an hour later.
10 hours in Port of Spain
Due to a schedule change by Caribbean Airlines, my stopover in Port of Spain, went from only 2,5 hours to almost 10 hours and I wasn’t to thrilled about this fact after our stopover there on our way to Paramaribo. The airport hasn’t got much to offer and therefore I opted to head out to a nearby shopping mall to kill some time.
Traffic in Port of Spain can apparently be very heavy and I was told not to head into the city, as I would probably just get stuck in traffic jams and possibly miss my flight. Therefore I chose the un-cultural activity of walking up and down the hallways of a gigantic shopping mall, which provided me with no real excitement. It just keep on surprising me that shopping malls throughout the world are all more or less the same, except for different stores and a few different food stands in the food court area…
I grabbed a late lunch and watched a cinema in the world’s coldest movie theatre. I kid you not when I estimate it to have been close to 15 degrees in there!? Why oh why would you keep the temperature at that level? What’s the point? In order to keep people from falling a sleep? Avoiding people to get undressed? Increase sales of hot drinks? It was ridiculous and I can’t even remember the name of the movie that I saw…
Reflections at 37,000 feet
After that freezing movie experience and a few hours of waiting a the airport, I’m now back up in the air, bound for London at 37,000 feet, somewhere above the Atlantic ocean and it’s time to reflect back on the trip and the countries visited.
Coming on this trip, I knew very little about the region and the countries here. I had no real expectations apart from a very rich and untouched nature, which would provide us with true wildlife experiences and witnessing dense primary rainforest. That was about it, and apart from the countries being former colonies of France, Netherlands and England, I knew very little.
What have I learned?
So what do I know now after two weeks in the region? Well…It’s hard to know where to start, but I’ve learned a lot during the trip and I’ve realized how much interesting, eventful and tragic history that exists there. Since the first explorers came upon ‘The Wild Coast’ in the 16th century to where they are today, with the uncomfortable past of slavery (only abolished in Suriname by the Dutch in 1863) and the mix of different cultures that today make up the countries and the untouched nature of the interior with its wildlife and spectacular landscape…I’m blown away and I really question how the region only have so little visitors given what is on offer.
I expected a real nature experience from the trip, but got double fold (at least) of that in return, together with the addition of a melting pot of cultures, an intriguing history and remarkable food. The blend of different ethnic influences – Indian, African, Chinese, Creole, English, Portuguese, Amerindian, North American – gives a distinctive flavor to everything in the region, not to forget to mention the fact of all the different religions living side by side without much issues.
Did my expectations live up to the experience? Many times over and these are my true words as an experienced traveller, having visited quite a few places around the world. Yes, one must admit that the tourism related products that are on offer, sometimes aren’t of the highest quality and some are quite undeveloped, but this is what you can expect from such a young tourism destination as the region is.
I think I wrote in one of my first posts that Guyana attracts about 2,500 tourists a year while Suriname gets approximately 60,000 Dutch visitors. That’s not a lot and though success of tourism mustn’t be measured by volumes, it becomes very evident that destinations with this raw and authentic potential, needs more tourists in order to develop the tourism related products and provide important income and much needed access to foreign currency for the countries.
Invest and lead the way
On Tuesday night we attended a debriefing and media event at the home of the British High Commissioner where the Director of Tourism in Guyana also attended. I listened carefully to the presentation held, where Guyana’s tourism development plans were introduced. I’ve attended and listened to way too many presentations in the past, to become enthused, but all the right things were said and Guyana wants to develop into a definite ecotourism destination with community owned products and projects in order to secure a sustainable future of the tourism industry. It sounds promising, but so far the words are only words in a presentation and in order for them to become reality it means investments and strong leadership.
I believe that the potential is already there but a decision needs to be made if tourism is something to invest into, and if so, which way should it go? Small-scale tourism products that sustain what is there, with local ownership and development based on what is present and manageable, or an easier way out, to rely on foreign investment and a quick fix solution? There is only one way to go and I hope that the Ministry of Tourism soaked up the feedback given from our trip, to cooperate within the region and to develop a united Guiana development plan with joint marketing efforts. Each country is too small to make it all on its own and the whole region would benefit from cooperation.
Waiting for you!
This region has nothing artificial about it and nothing is laid out for tourism. It is real and it is truly genuine. I will do my part to spread the word and message of the Guianas to everyone I know and beyond. Guiana has affected me and influenced me in a positive way and it will forever be a part of me. I will be back soon and I’m already looking forward to it! Question left to be answered is…When will you go?