Wow what a difference French Guyana is to Brazil, to start with it is expensive ouch European prices and in Euro.
As was the usual case we had to board a ferry in the morning, the northern part of S America has so much water and so many rivers, small and VERY large you are constantly hopping on and off ferries. This one was booked for us and consisted of a barge that transported sand up and down the river (cheaper than the official ferry)
On the French Guyana side the first thing I noticed is that it was full of African people. This is due to the large slave trade back in the 16th century. In fact more slaves were traded in South than North America. I did not know this and on reading up about it the one reason cited was that the colonialists found it too difficult to enslave the South America Indians as they would fight back, escape and knew the jungles far too well so were hard to recapture. This trade was focused in French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana, which are all now predominantly African. I found the accents of the people very interesting for example in Guyana many people speak with a Jamaican like accent. The people in all 3 countries are great, very friendly and interesting. Suriname is my favourite and the people are awesome there, but I’ll get to that in another blog.
Postlady at small border town
So we arrive at the border of French Guiana and Brian has a flat, we had almost 30 on the trip with Lee and I being the only people to escape the flat plague. People watching while he had it fixed was interesting and a nice introduction to this part of South America. Flat tire and border formalities completed (so easy 🙂 I love countries that don’t have customs procedures for private vehicles which makes so much sense) we push on to Cayenne the capital. The roads are great, flat but some twisties and real jungle. It was highly enjoyable and I saw a tiny black marmoset monkey sitting eating at the side of the road, plus a lot of birds and a few lizards.
We stopped at a restaurant / bar along the way and chatted to a lovely French lady who moved to French Guyana with her husband 3 years ago and love it. Their closest neighbour is 3kms away and they like the solitude, they have a small rustic restaurant and B&B, in a very picturesque setting. They are obsessed with spiders and snakes (we didn’t get to see them as they are in the house) which was also part of the reason to leave France, well hey one reason is as good as any.
Cayenne itself is a nice city but not as nice as Paramaribo in Suriname (I’ll explain later) it did have great restaurants and it was such a pleaser to have some different food. All the food in S America has been good, no complaints, but this was great. One can see the whole city in half a day so we needed to find stuff to do as we were there for 2 full days. SO the following day we went to see the market, nice and interesting not full of dead animals or live ones stuffed in tiny cages, but loads of vegetables many of which I did not recognise. Plus a great Vietnamese food vendor and a fresh fruit stall, again with the gooooooood food.
One of the first things I noticed the day we arrived were the stuffed spiders in the souvenir shop next to the hotel. The following day when it was open I just had to rush in to see them. There were hundreds mostly bird spiders huge and I wanted one, but it would have been destroyed by the time I got it home.
In the afternoon we went to the zoo, I know sounds crazy but it was so worth the visit. It is a small zoo and I was a bit unsure at first as so often in 3rd world countries the zoos are depressing and I cannot even force myself to enter them. This was a very pleasant surprise. The cages were large and well kept, plenty of trees and ropes and branches etc for the animals. The animals all fat and all looked well cared for. The reason I wanted to go was the see the animals we hadn’t seen in the wild and which most European zoos don’t have. There were lots of snakes and caimans, the birds were fantastic especially toucans one especially who seemed to really enjoy posing he beak for us left then right then up asking us all the time to get his best side or so it seemed)
There were also jaguars and tapirs who swam up to the bridge you walk across their cage right up to up to have a look just too cute. The zoo also has a canopy bridge and walk through the rain forest area, there are no animals to see there but you get a good idea of what it’s like to be in a rain forest.
The following day we went to Kourou to see the space centre. We were told that the museum was open but there were no tours so were surprised when we go there that not only were there tours but that day everything was free. The bad news is that only Peter had his passport with him so the rest of us, me, Jules and Henry couldn’t go on the tour to the launch pads. Damn I was so disappointed as I have never been to a space centre and wanted to see the huge building where they house the rockets, but Pete took plenty of pictures for us and the museum was great.
Eager to go to Suriname we headed to early the next morning to Saint Laurent where we stayed for one night in order to do an early morning ferry / border crossing. I won’t say anything about saint Laurent because it isn’t worth mentioning.