Retracing my steps to Belem: Guyana and Suriname (4th October to 8th October)

Guyana

I have to say I wasn’t thrilled to return to Guyana as it really is my least favourite country in South America as it is just filthy, however this time I did meet some wonderful people. The other reason is that you are such a target for people who want to take advantage of the ‘’walking wallets’’ we represent as tourists especially since I was staying in a nice hotel (frequented by wealthy business people) and not a B&B or hostel (my preferred choice of accommodation when travelling alone)

The taxi driver who fetched me at midnight from the airport was 24 years old, very friendly and chatty. He told me his whole life story and he had recently become a dad so showed me a ton of pictures of his gorgeous baby girl. I held onto his smart phone as long as a could with each picture so that he would keep both hands on the steering wheel and watch the road, it was the longest 45min drive ever.  Since the hotel pays for the taxi service (you are charged at the end, but they pay initially) the taxis get a very small cut as they are 3rd in line from the hotel to the taxi company to the drivers. So I gave this guy a very big (on my budget) tip and to my surprise it was obviously not enough and his whole attitude changed in a nanosecond. He actually said I thought it was a 50usd, to which I answered if I had 50s to give away I would not be riding such an old bike.  I was quite saddened actually as I always like to keep my faith in humanity even though it gets dashed time and time again.

A similar thing happened when I left the hotel. On the second day of my stay I went to get my Suriname tourist card and packed up all my stuff, repacked my panniers and threw a lot of stuff out.  I also went to post some things home but was told that in order to post a parcel I needed proof of address in Guyana and my hotel key was not enough I needed a bill from the hotel and a letter… yah righty like I was going to go all the way back to the hotel by taxi just to get that, guess I won’t be posting anything then. Anyway in the afternoon I was called to reception as the security team had found a young boy trying to steal stuff off my bike. He had tried to get the petrol bottles off the back. I tried to act all cross and stern but my heart was breaking, here was this kid no more than 10 who should have been in school out selling plantains (green bananas that need to be cooked and taste like cardboard) for his parents. He was clearly in shock at having got caught and could not say a word. All 4 security guys were there giving him a hard time threatening to call the police. Anyway scared to death we let him go on the promise that he would not have come back. In retrospect what I should have done was taken him aside on my own and have a heart to heart with him which I think would have done more if he was in fact trying to steal stuff or got the truth out of him if he wasn’t. I now wonder if he wasn’t just an inquisitive kid who was looking at my bike and who made the security guys day by being at the wrong place at the wrong time and giving the security guy a chance to look good… I’m not sure why but that is what my gut feeling is telling me but I’ll never know.

Needless to say the security guy made a big show to me and his boss of how he’s saved my bike.  He was a really nice guy and we’d got on really well having a good few conversations about Guyana. So when I left I dropped him a tip and a thanks, once again I saw that instant attitude change as soon as he decided the tip was not enough, and all the talk the day before of I’ll be here to wish you well and say goodbye  when you leave etc was quickly forgotten.

However my faith in humanity was restored again on three other occasions in Guyana. The first was another taxi driver who took me to the Suriname embassy. He charged a pittance compared to the hotel and had to wait almost an hour for me at the embassy. When I paid him I simply rounded up and told him to keep the change. He said no I need to give you your change I believe in honesty, to which I answered I know and that is why I want you to keep it … go on Guyana create more people like this.

The second time was in a restaurant after I left Georgetown on my way to Skeldon where I was staying for the night so that I could do an early run to the border for the ferry. When we arrived in Guyana as a group we’d stopped at this restaurant and the waitress remembered me. She was so sweet and asked all about the trip and how I was and even remembered that I had coke the last time I was there. When I paid the bill again I just rounded up and said that is fine keep the change,  she was visibly embarrassed and looked around sheepishly for her boss, she then tried to slide the bills back to me and I slid them over to her again and she quickly put them in her pocket.  It was just very sweet and innocent.

The third and best encounter I had with the people of Guyana was at the ferry. I arrived early as I know from experience that the border formalities can take a long time.  This was no different and to start with the border guards were just downright unhelpful and rude. I stopped my bike at the gate where I had seen a car go through to the border control section. A guard came out and told me to move my bike to the side and that I had to go see the police before I came through. I did that and had to really play the dumb innocent tourist for about 30 minutes as I had to register my bike with them when I arrived. The customs officials told both me and Rand that we needed to do this but when we told Mike from Motolombia he said no one had told him and it was not necessary, hmmmm say no more. Anyway after that I went back to the gate and waited there for the border guard to come open it, the bastard (sorry but this was so intentional) instead of opening the gate inward like he did with the car opened it outward so that I had to push my bike back to then go around the gate and into the compound, just unnecessary. Then off I went to buy the ferry ticket and go through immigration. The lady at the ticket box was phenomenally rude, she very angrily told the man in front of me to put his money on his passport. So when I went to the window I did the same to which she said ‘’what is this’’ I said it was my fair and that I was told they take USD. She threw the money at me took my passport and did the necessary on the computer and then said it is usd27 (is Guyanese Dollars it is 4100, usd 21) okay I said and handed over 27. She took the bill and said this is dirty do you have another 20, I didn’t but the lovely lady behind me offered to exchange the 20. So I then handed her 4100 Guyanese Dollars. She said it is 5700 I disagreed and said no I know it is 4100, she hit the calculator with her long red painted nail and said 5700. Sadly there is only so much arguing you can do at a border crossing. Smiling sweetly but seething inside I gave her the money.

I then had to wait 1.5 hours for the customs officials to get to work … I kid you not they were just not there so everyone with vehicles simply had to wait. Another driver just shrugged and said this is Guyana everyone starts work late.  The unbelievable pleasant surprise was that the customs official was super nice and simply took my temp import slip and said that’s it have a great trip … wow super cool.

The best part of the trip was that while I waiting in the heat for the customs officer a young man came over and said his mom asked if I’d like to come and sit with them under a tree as it was cooler.  How sweet and thoughtful. Romey, Golin and her friend Ann were just the nicest people I had met on the trip.  I had such a great conversation with them about Guyana the economic and political situation and its future. Their friendship positive attitudes and general kindness completely overshadowed any negative encounters I had while in Guyana. THANKS 🙂

 a very Guyanan cactus (I’m guessing because of all the children at the border crossing but I still love it)

Suriname

After meeting Romey, Gouli and Ann my good mood continued into Suriname, not so much the border process which had us all standing in a line for 2 hours to get our passports stamped but that is just life in a third world country the customs process for the bike was seamless the customs officer simply took my registration papers filled out a form and gave me half of it saying don’t forget to submit this when you leave Suriname … I love customs like that which only take 5 mins.

I really like Suriname and just being on the road here is great and comfortable and easy and made me feel good. I stopped under a lovely shady tree just outside a police station just over half way to Paramaribo for a break and had another lovely encounter. A police lady came out and said she wanted to meet me as they never see ladies riding motorbikes and touring, in fact they see very few motorbikes tourists but never ladies.  The other 3 policeman including the commandant came out and were nice enough for me to take pictures of them. We had a brief chat about the crime in Suriname, and I told them they were clearly doing a good job because it was very low, but they said they had seen a slight increase over the recent years, I guess that is just the way of the world. Suriname is so safe and has a lovely comfortable feel to it.

I arrived at the hostel at 16:30 (I got up at 5:30am in order to get to the ferry/border crossing early when it opened at 6:30 ), phenomenally hot and sweaty but so late only because of the 6hrs the border crossing took, including a very late ferry.

The Guesthouse Un Pied-à-Terre  is lovely in a renovated old colonial style house I just fell in love with it and thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the backpackers especially Arno who is from France and has been travelling for 2 years in Latin America and is thinking about spending a year in North America before settling down.

 Guesthouse Un Pied-à-Terre

a beautifully restored old Dutch colonial house what the unrestored places look like

Since I like and especially Paramaribo Suriname so much I decided to stay for an extra night also because I could not face another border crossing the day after the one out of Guyana. I also needed to continue researching the options of getting the bike shipped / transported to the South of Brazil as I was having serious doubts about getting got Buenos Aires by the 30th October to met Joern. I’m getting very mixed statements about the state of the road the availability of petrol, food and accommodation all of which could slow me down if anything goes wrong. If I can get the bike transported that would be a lot easier as these transport trucks travel up to 800kms a day which I could never do and am not prepared to kill myself because of a deadline.  Also the demons are in my head again, whispering about how crazy I am to attempt this and how dangerous it is how my bike is old and wont’ make it … I hate these demons this is not gut feeling this is fear and I wish I knew where it came from because it is not like me.

Spending the day in Paramaribo was just nice especially the food at Soupos the cutest little restaurant in one of the suburbs, and sitting there outside under the roof in a tropical storm (catching up on my blog) … I love rain especially tropical thunder storms … when I am not riding in it.

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