Our time in Suriname has come to an end and it is time to head for the border, cross the Corentyne River and enter into Guyana at Moleson Creek. I picked up a copy of the book Wild Coast by John Gimlette for the journey. The book tells the story of the authors travel through the Guianas – Travels on South America’s untamed edge. Should provide some interesting tales from the area that we venture! The day started early with a pick up at 0400 hours…
A scene from the Walking Dead
It was an early start of the day for sure as we pulled out of the front of Hotel Krasnapolsky in the early hours of the Paramaribo darkness. Traffic was well beyond light and we quickly made our way out of town in a western direction towards the border facing Guyana. Not even the frogs were awake at this hour and I’m not too sure that I was awake myself as I made my way into the bus. The same goes for my fellow travellers that all stumbled into the bus as walkers out of the Walking Dead.
We had a lot of ground to cover today, making it all the way to Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, with a few stops along the way. We also wanted to catch the early ferry across at the border hence the early start.
Not the best start
It’s good to get an early start, but sometimes things just don’t work out the way you hope and plan. It’s part of the journey and a basic ingredient of an adventure, but when you end up with a flat tire after less than an hour out of Parbo at 4:30 am, in the middle of nowhere…Well, it’s hard to grasp the beauty of the situation. Even so when it turns out that the wheel can’t be removed, as the bolts are to tightly secured to be loosened with human force.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that we were parked in a haven of blood-thirsty mozzies. It was a blood-fest for those annoying godforsaken creatures! I’m sure we all collected quite a few itchy souvenirs to bring back home…
On a flat tire, we rode along
The poor driver really did what he could and I felt sorry for him as he struggled to sort out the situation while the rest of us were trying our best to desimate the mozzie population of Suriname. It became evident that we just wouldn’t be able to continue in this state and had to call for a new bus to catch up with us along the way as we slowly drove along with one flat tire in the direction of Guyana.
Suriname at 100 km/h
Broken by the determined and persistent mozzies we climbed back on board the limping bus and continued the journey with the new bus catching up with us about two hours later. After a quick reloading of the luggage we were back on the roads as the sun made its way over the horizon at our back. With the sun at our back and with a determined driver to take us to the ferry in time, we had to hold tight as the Suriname landscape swooshed by outside.
The wrong thing for the right reason
The ferry was set to depart at 09:00 am and we were surely to miss it, which meant that we would have to wait for a few hours until the next departure, which would certainly mess up the schedule for the rest of the day…Sometimes we just need to do the wrong things for the right reasons and today was one of those days when a small white lie was justified. A phone call away laid our savior, as the border control was made aware that we were late due to a puncture and if we didn’t catch the ferry we would miss our flight!
A beer welcome to Guyana!
The ferry was held only for us and never before has a border passing via land been so smooth and quick! We ran through passport control, with a quick exit BANG in our passports and probably missed customs, as I don’t recall having seen it and onto the ferry. Suddenly we were on the ferry with our luggage, with sweat sipping from pores as the sun welcomed us with its scorching warm rays, as we were out in the open. Good bye Suriname and a warm welcome from Guyana as Banks beer commercial welcomed us in the distance!
If only the entry procedure would match the exit, but I guess we had to be grateful to be on this side of the border and not stuck on the shores of Suriname waiting on a ferry…
The Wild Coast
I read a bit in the new book I picked up and found the introduction of the Guianas quite amuzing.
As far as the Amerindians are concerned, the land between the Orinoco and the Amazon has always been Guiana, the ‘Land ot Many Waters’. European explorers, however, took a while to appreciate this name…they all had other more suitable names in mind. In the end they thought of a name which expressed what they felt. It had about it the promise of danger, risk, wealth and perhaps even desire. It was de Wilde Kust, ‘The Wild Coast’.
…900 miles of muddy coastline give way to swamps, thick forest and then – deep inland – ancient flat-topped peaks. It’s never been truly possessed. Along the entire shore, there’s no natural harbor, and beyond the mud the forest begins. It covers over 80% of Guiana, and even now there’s no way through it. Such roads as there are, stick mainly to the coast. Without an airplane, it takes up to four weeks to get into the interior, and there the problem begin…
What a sales pitch!
How about that sales pitch to promote and introduce a destination!? It actually works very well on me and though we’ve already experienced parts of it in Suriname I’m thrilled about to see what Guyana has to offer. We’ve been told that it’s about to get a bit more adventurous now and I guess we’ll be facing the problems soon, that John Gimlette write about…Whatever they might be, I’m more than happy to face them!
Stockholm in Guyana!?
We were picked up at the border in Guyana, at Moleson Creek and continued along the coast through small villages and across the Berbice River. Little did I know that you can actually find a Stockholm in Guyana! All of a sudden a sign told me ‘Welcome to 75 Stockholm’. Weird stuff man…Very weird.
I don’t know if it was just that we’ve missed out a bit on the pace of Suriname, but I almost immediately got a feeling that Guyana is a bit wilder and rougher with more pace. I might be wrong about this and it could also be the fact that not long after Stockholm, as we pulled into New Amsterdam, we had to seriously dodge an approaching van that came on us at full speed sending other cars and people out of the road, in order to avoid a head on collision, with a pickup following it close behind, with two guys in the back waving an AK-47…Was this where the problem begins?
We did a quick tour around New Amsterdam, the second largest city in Guyana, located upriver from the Atlantic Ocean mouth of the Berbice River. During the 1763 slave uprising, the rebel leader Cuffy, made New Amsterdam his headquarters. When the revolutionaries were forced to retreat in 1764, the town was almost completely torched but was rebuilt in the 1770s.
Mangrove Heritage Trail
We continued onwards for our lunch and visit at the Mangrove Heritage Trail, a project that aims to protect and replant lost mangrove forest while also informing about the importance of the mangrove forest in Guyana.
After lunch at the 150 year old colonial visitors center, we were told about the mangrove conservation and management project, before setting off on traditional horse cart. We did a brief stop at Victoria Village, the first village purchased by former slaves who pooled their money to do so following Emancipation in 1839. This was the birthplace of the cooperative concept and where the first agricultural fair was held in Guyana.
Turning towards the Atlantic Ocean, we continued to the sea wall for the educational mangrove tour, the heart of Guyana’s first mangrove reserve, owned and managed by the community.
Inspiring ambition and enthusiasm
As the tour came to a close, local drummers from Victoria Village joined us with traditional folk songs. Such enthusiasm and positive energy from these guys! The project is beautiful and important and though the actual tourism product needs a bit of development, the experience was really nice and it was very much to these young volunteers and guides that are doing one hell of a job with such inspiring ambition!
Long day but only halfway through
The last leg of the journey back to Georgetown took longer than expected as we were already late and got caught in the jam-packed rush hour traffic. Georgetown is certainly bigger and more chaotic compared to Parbo in Suriname. We checked into the Cara Lodge in central Georgetown, one of the oldest and grandest structures in Georgetown, and is apparently the best known and most popular hotel in Guyana. It was built in the 1840s and originally consisted of two houses. It has a long and romantic history and was the home of the first Lord Mayor of Georgetown.
Time to quickly freshen up before we are to take a quick Georgetown city tour before it’s time to travel to the Roxanne Burnham Gardens area and visit the Roy Geddes Steel Pan Museum. More on this later! Looking back at the day I just wonder if this very long day will ever end…