Guianas - 2008
trip brought me to Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana in 9 days.
Flying from Billund, Denmark through Amsterdam into Suriname, return
flight from Suriname to Guyana, overland to French Guiana and return
from French Guiana through Paris to Copenhagen. The trip was booked
through www.klm.com where you can
make multiple-segment trip planning. 1440 US$
I bought the Guianas chapter on-line at Lonely Planet - you
can buy chapters from the South America guidebook. Costs just a few
dollars. I had also brought an old version of the South American
handbook, but I didn't use it much. I read most of the fantastic 'Shantaram' novel during the travel time - highly recommended, though it is Indian based and has nothing to do with South America...
US$= 200 Guyana Dollars - in Guyana
US$= 2.75 SRD (Suriname Dollars) - in Suriname
Euro = 1,5 US$ - in French Guiana
to leave on the first flight this morning from Billund, so got up
at 3, bus at 4, flight at 6:30, Amsterdam 7:30. The flight on to
Paramaribo was around noon, and I was at the gate 45 minutes before -
the boarding was proceeding, but a huge line and slow x-ray control
caused a delay for 30 minutes. The Boeing 747 was without personal
screens and all the stewardesses looked like the were prototype
17:30 - through passport control, luggage pickup, money change
and customs in 15 minutes. The bus transportation was free (pre-booked
through the hotel) - all hotels have a common bus-collect. It takes
some time to unload a 747 and get everybody through the small airport,
so at 18:30 the last guests were in the bus. Surprised that the driving
was in the left side.
hour later we were at the hotel. Eco
Resort (80$), next to the river and 'the Strip', just north
of the centre. The Strip is an area around Hotel Torarica (a luxury
hotel) with many good eating and drinking places. I had very good
Brazilian 'Carne mixto' and Caiparinha. The country has many Indian,
Indonesian and Brazilian immigrants, so the option for food is very
- Paramaribo, Suriname
hotel was full, and I was the only none Dutch tourist here. Most
at 7 - a good breakfast buffet with my favourite fruit,
Rambutans and other strange fruits.
trip with taxi to the city airport (20 minutes drive) to pick up
tickets with Blue Wing
tomorrows flight to Guyana. "Ah, Mr. Futtrup! We emailed from Denmark!"
- big smile. The flight is fairly new and flies 3 times a week to
Georgetown - 275$ return. There is no connection to Cayenne - the
problem is that it is in the EU, and the restrictions and control of
flights to EU are very strict.
drive through town gave some inspiration of what to see. I rented a
bike from Cardy Adventures & Bike Rental. 10 Euro. Good service and
very popular (20-25 people left just before I came). I got two locks,
pump and repair-kit - and repeated instructions: 'remember! Left hand
traffic!' I got a small map and instructions for a trip to the east
side of the river.
is the size of my city, Aarhus and it is easy to grasp
the layout of the centre. The houses are wooden. Went around to take
some photos - the big Jewish synagogue - literally next door to the
main mosque. The city is multi-ethnical with Dutch, Afro-Americans,
Indian and Indonesian people. The large catholic cathedral has
according to the guidebook been closed for several years. It is
undergoing restoration - so it might open up again.
the river to Meerzog on the right bank. A Dutch bakery is right
on the landing with many tempting lunch-options. Going north, several
kilometres are still 'city'. My thought was that it was much third
world country with half finished houses and messy houses, but not too
much garbage on the street. I had to rethink - yes, the amount of
garbage in the streets and roadside almost break records - it's bad. I
think a deposit on recyclable bottles could do miracles. The
plantations had exotic names like 'Jagtlust', 'Dordrecht', 'Lust en
Rust' and 'De Morgenstond'. In Niew Amsterdam where the Commewijne
merges Suriname river, there is a fort and with some searching, I found
a place to take a boat back to the Paramaribo side of the river. The
rivers are quite big. At places several kilometres here near the coast.
Back in Parbo at 13.30. In the afternoon, I had a ride around the
market and the city centre with my bike, returned the bike and enjoyed
the Torarica (Luxury hotel) and it's swimming pool until 18:30.
the evening, I went to the Strip and had great Indian food, served
by an English speaking Afro-American Surinamese woman whose first
language is Dutch...
found the people to be nice and not too inquisitive; a friend who
travelled about the same time as me found the people quite rude and
were often scolded for taking pictures.
- Georgetown, Guyana
west out of Paramaribo at 8:00 - a small 10 person's propeller -
Anatov An-28. The flight through Suriname showed plantations in a big
radius from Paramaribo - all of the same type: a canal was made
perpendicular to the river each kilometre - and all plantations then
again laid out on both sides of the canal. Finally it hat to give way
to the jungle. 70 minutes later we arrived in Cheddan International
Airport in Guyana. Guyana - famous for: Jonestown massacre and
birthplace of Eddie Grant as LP highlights. A big plane was just landed
and we had not received immigration papers - so it took 45 minutes to
go through. I had booked a taxi-pickup through my hotel, but it was not
there. A persistent taxi-driver wanted to take me and called the hotel
for me who would check for the missing pickup. After more waiting, busy
phones and entanglements, I went with 'Omar' (a black, English speaking
Afro-American Guyana Hindu with a Muslim name - in a Christian country)
- we exchanged some family stories and pictures and told about the
different factories into Georgetown. About how dangerous it was here -
and in the same sentence that I should bring my family next time...
at the hotel (Ariantze - www.ariantzesidewalk.com
helpful and excused much for the taxi. Michael, a Canadian ex-pat was
very talkative and underlined again how dangerous it was here - and
suggested removing my watch and ring. We had some good talks during the
next days. He was working in the computer industry and was back to give
lectures, ideas and material to high schools - for free, but had a
tough time getting the local government and leaders interested.
bit more about security: You don't go down and have your money
changed - no, the hotel calls the money changer who then arrives at
your hotel shortly after. And my tour to Kaieteur tomorrow - they also
wanted to send someone to pick up the payment instead of me going down
there - 3 blocks away.
to the famous St George's cathedral (allegedly the world's
tallest wooden building). It was open but just a couple of local
tourists were visiting and I spend some time here - it was quiet and
pimped up Toyota vans are out of a boy child dreams. With extremely
wide tires, racing each other through town with deep base sounds
pumping out. The passengers typically with dreadlocks and/or black
sunglasses, heads hanging out the windows. This was the public
transportation. Went carefully on to places that seemed quite
peacefully. Like the Promenade Gardens - it has a special and rare tree
- a 'cannonball' tree where the fruits really looked like cannon balls.
the day, I had not met other white people than a couple at the
airport in the morning. A few homeless in the streets, but besides that
just a few questioning faces. The ex-pat told me that even he was
easily spotted out as a foreigner immediately.
a Pizza from Pizzahut. Pepperoni? No, I could choose between
cheese, chicken or turkey. After eating half, I gave the rest to the
receptionist and cleaning woman. They got really happy - 'we are the
little people' as she said. And it was probably not everyday they got
half a 2000$ pizza.
the price level - it is kind of weird. Things are 'expensive'
(taxi was 22 US$ from the airport, the hotel 65 US$, the Kaieteur trip
190 US$ etc.). And still is has the messy feel like third world
Pizza and a small bottle of red wine brought from home were to
celebrate my country no. 50.
- Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
slow morning. Pickup at 10:45 - a 'special flight', as the guide Ann
from Dagron Tours called it since only two others were joining. Ron
from New Jersey and
Stephen from Australia. Both had travelled a lot, but in different
ways. Stephen was writing a book about a person that had been in Guyana
at some time in his life. We quickly got along well. There was some
waiting time before taking off. It turned out that the pilot had to
finish his 'nap'. Meanwhile we were weighted, and it almost became
13'ish before taking off. It was a 6 person Cessna plane - an old,
noisy one. Out of the city, it was endlessly jungle, only disrupted by
a river or a bauxite mines (for aluminium). One hour later,
tree-covered mountains came up, and I thought I could see Mt. Roraima
to the west. Back home I checked it on Google Maps and it showed as
no-name mountains - Mt. Roraima was further north west out of sight.
And then out of nowhere the huge waterfall came into view - Kaieteur
Falls. We had two circles over it - spectacular. The runway was right
next to it. The fantastic thing was that there were just the 3 of us
and a guide (and the pilot sleeping again in a bush). Incredible that
you can find solitude at one of the worlds wonders. I think the
waterfall looks a bit like Gullfoss in Iceland or Lower Yellowstone
falls, just much bigger - 210 metres. And very spectacular with the
the river down through the canyon. We visited 3 different viewpoints -
all right on the edge of the cliffs, and the last one, you were right
next to where the water spilled out over the cliff. We had talked about
taking a swim, which we ended up not doing, but we could jump onto
rocks a couple of meters before the edge. Two blue Macaws flew right
over us and the waterfall. We also saw the strange red national bird,
Cock-of-the-rock, but no golden frogs. Just impressing. We had about
2 and a half hours in the places, so we were all satisfied when
talked about the 'missing tourists' in Guyana. Stephen thought he had
heard about 450 visitors came each year - I asked the guide and he said
he had about 10 visitors a day at the Kaieteur Park.A lookup at the internet says
100.000 tourists to Guyana - but that can't be true at all. So the
right number is between 450 and 100.000.
back at 18:00. Later in the evening, I went to the best hotel
in town - the Le Meredien
who had a 'Bangkok weekend' where Indian and
Afro-American Guyana people in Thai suits were serving. Very cozy next
to the pool under the palms and starlit sky. Many people including
about 10 white people. At the next table were 3 couples - a black
couple, a Mexican couple and a 'Escobar'/Godfather type with a woman.
All women where half the age of the men - and yes, they were drug
barons, I quickly discovered. One of them told about his trafficking
business and that he at a time had to pay 28 million us dollars to
avoid going to jail. Well, they were at the finest hotel, but couldn't
spend much more than the 20 us dollars the food cost. Ran into Ron
again before going home. I had actually booked the tour through Rainforest Tours,
and actually planned the tour for a 'guaranteed date',
but it was another company, Dagron
Tours, who did the tour. Glad the companies work together to
do the tours.
- Georgetown, Guyana
wrote to me that she had just found out that I was not home on
our wedding day (6.3) - shock - embarrassing! I guess we have been
married for a long time - no, it won't happen again. Leaving camera,
watch and ring behind, I visit the Stabroek market though Michael (the
ex-pat) and others warned me against it. I was happy I did - it entered
directly in my top-3 list of best markets I have visited. Very diverse
and mixed bunch of shops: pirated DVD's, clothes, meat, song-birds,
Indian, Muslim, Rastafari, gold, fruit etc. - yes, very interesting.
Had coffee in a shop outside, people watching. At the post office to
buy some stamps. Later in the afternoon, I posted my postcards and
continued on to the botanical gardens and the zoo (200 Guyana Dollars/1
US$). They have a small lake with a family of Manatees - had heard that
those in Odense Zoo (Denmark) were from this place. Some animal cages
were fine, others not - the Lion was better off dead. Their three harpy
eagles were huge, the fish miserable.
4.3.2008 - Georgetown, Guyana to
St. Laurent, French Guiana
was one of the days with a tight schedule. The plan was to take
morning flight to Paramaribo, Suriname and the bus to the border and
take the last tour of the penal colonies in St. Laurent at 16:30. I had
yesterday made a deal to go with Ron's tour (private car to the border)
for 50 Euro - to enhance the chances of carrying out my plan. At the
airport, a torrential rain shower poured down, and we left about 9:30.
11:00 we were in Paramaribo and quickly on our way to the French Guiana
border. Thick clouds covered the sky, but our driver made good progress
and just made it to the ferry for the 15:00 ferry - there was one later
at 17:30, it turned out.
first and preferred hotel (La Tentiare) was full, but the Star had
rooms. Not so nice, and the first room was being rebuilt - which I went
back and told them - which they didn't understand - but I did get
another room. 50 Euro were a lot for this. I was out again at 16:10 and
made it to the Camp de la Transportation 8 minutes before the last
tour! The tour was in French and I had no clue was they were talking
about, but I had a small pamphlet with descriptions in English. You
need to go on one of these tours to be able to see anything of
interest. So we saw the highlights of 'Papillon', including the place
of the guillotine and the cell with the inscriptions of Papillon.
Great! Perfect that we made it. Some of the houses were identical to
those from Con Dao in Vietnam I visited last year -large slabs of
concrete where the prisoner's legs were chained to a long rod.
tour lasted an hour and I think nobody found out I didn't
understand French. Back at the hotel, I could again use my cell phone
(back in the EU). The children now told everybody that 'Dad is in
America' and every morning asking if dad was coming home today? Love
5.3.2008 St. Laurent - Kourou -
Cayenne, French Guiana
at 6 - the night receptionist sent me back again - no transport at
this time. At 7, the day receptionist (spoke English to my surprise)
sent me to the southern end of Av de Gaulle where the small piroques
came in from Suriname. There was also a van ready and another one
saying 'Kourou' came an hour later. Lots of people came and went. When
a car came, 5 piroque owners raced to capture the client. Twice the
police made a raid and 'captured' several people - probably people from
Suriname without Visa. A guy jumped into the water and swam out to a
boat - and returned after the police left. He thought himself as a hero
while trying to make his wet cell phone work.
the time passed. The trip to Kourou takes 3 hours, so 9:45 was the
absolute last time to be able to meet one of the trip's highlights -
the tour of the CNES space centre. It was the last item on my carefully
planned itinerary and it was about to be missed. After 3 hours of
waiting, not a single other person was in the bus. It was 9:45. I
walked back to the hotel and the receptionist had no other suggestions
than renting a car - she called ADA close to the hotel. Within 10
minutes I had a car for two days and I could return the car in the
airport near Cayenne - perfect! Lonely Planet wrote it was extremely
expensive, but I thought 210 Euro was OK. Full speed east through the
jungle - good roads (like home, actually) - could easily drive 100
km/h. Almost got caught speeding by a radar patrol. And you know
I made it to the Space Centre... 9:40.
of the 60 on the tour, I was the only non-French. First we were in
the 'Jupiter-room' for an hours where only a 10 minutes film had
a dubbed English sound (through headsets). I could understand something
since the 'lecture' was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. The 3
presenters (women) could speak English, and they asked me several times
between the sessions if I had any questions. The second part was more
interesting - the tour out to the launch pad in busses - wow- it was
cool, and about 200 meters from the pad, we could get out of the
busses. The last 45 minutes was in another centre, where I didn't
understand anything at all.
with Birgitte afterwards - my daughter Johanne (2) said: 'Now only
sleep two nights - then dad comes home!'
to Cayenne (1 hour) and checked into the Best Western Amazonia in
the centre (70 Euro). I didn't have a reservation, but there seemed to
quite a few people. Found a well-equipped Internet cafÃ© on
Mole, close to 'de Gaulle'. The was one other non-French speaking girl
(first I heard today), and met her again at the restaurant I was going
to - so we got to talk. Sarah had travelled for 9 months in South
America and was finishing with the northern countries. Had been robbed
4 times. Was going to get visa at the Surinam embassy the next day, and
was hoping for a quick service since her founds were draining quickly
because of the exorbitant prices in French Guiana, and wanted to move
on as quickly as possible. We had been to many of the same places and
were inspired by the way she travelled - like I did 15 years ago.
French Guiana - Cayenne -
French are quite good at brewing coffee the way I like it. Walked
around Cayenne for a couple of hours; didn't find it that inspiring.
All my plans had succeeded and now I had an extra day and a car. One of
the places I had read about was Cacao. A small village 80 km south of
Cayenne in the middle of the jungle - with 1000 Lao descendants. In the
70'ies a French, Catholic nun Anne-Marie Javouhey helped Lao Hmong
refugees to start anew here in French Guiana.
hour on a good road, and the last 14 kilometres took half an hour on
a potholed road and first gear driving most of the way. I was there
2 and a half hours and a bit disappointed. Yes, it was easy to see that
was Lao-people, but they were all in regular western clothes and there
was just a few of the wooden buildings left - they were all replaced by
new brick ones. The church was beautiful, though. The gardens were
really nice with lots of flowers, rambutan-trees and other exotic
had a 4WD and a small platform truck (and/or a tractor). Most
seemed to work hard and their prosperity seemed well earned.
a 'salad de papaya' for lunch, but it didn't have any papaya in it...
whatever it was, it tasted fine. Called home and told Anders that 'dad
is on a jungle trip'. Johanne said: 'I miss you dad'.
mega shower flooded the streets with red water (the earth is red
here), and it continued to rain most of the return trip.
got searched big time in the customs. When the customs officer heard
that I had only been in the country for two days and been to Guyana and
Suriname, I was immediately asked to step into the search room where
everything was taken out and inspected. They looked in my passport and
my many stamps: You have been to Australia??? The sniffer dog also had
a couple of rounds in the waiting room.
18:30 with Air France - much nicer stewardesses, good food
(the red wine was already on all trays, own screen and a good choice of
7.3.2008 Paris - Copenhagen -
in Orly, France 7:30 and an easy transfer (every half-hour)
with bus to Charles de Gaulle. Long wait until 12.45, and a slow bus
from Copenhagen to Aarhus. Wonderful reception of Birgitte and the
children at the bus station.
retrospect, it would make sense to book a return ticket to
Paramaribo, visiting Guyana as I did, but returning through Suriname.
This could easily be done by public transport from Paramaribo to the
French border, rent a car in St. Laurent and returning the car again
there after travelling in French Guiana. Having a car in French Guiana
should make travelling from Cayenne to Paramaribo possible in half a
surprised me was that I only met Ron and Sarah who were travelling
the 3 countries; those visiting were only visiting one of the
countries. This also explains the lack of transportation between the
countries and the no-flight option to French Guiana.
Visa for Suriname
The only country in South America where Danes need a visa is Suriname.
The application was a bit difficult to figure out, but after a bit
searching, it worked out nicely. The Embassy in Holland is: http://www.consulaatsuriname.nl/ and the visa application is here: visa.consulaatsuriname.nl/
The page is only in Dutch, but you can use e.g. babelfish.altavista.com
to translate the page.
1. One month before your travel, you fill out the online visum
application (you can only apply one month before your travel)
2. Pay by bank transfer (pay for the visa + post costs)
3. Send your passport to the Surinamese embassy in Amsterdam with an
A multiple visa costs 64€ + 9€ for posting and the banktransfer.
It is expensive...
Remeber that if you go to on of the nebour countries, you need to pay
for a multiple entry visa...
you have enjoyed the travelogue - please write me if you found it
useful or if you have questions.