Got up nice and early after a surprising restful sleep and headed to the border. I was first to be stamped through and I headed to the nearest bank to get some Brazilian Reals. Only the bank doesn’t take foreign cards, so now I’m in the back of a shared taxi on the two-hour journey to Boa Vista on a wing and a prayer and a promise that I’ll pay the taxi driver after we find a bank that will take my cards.
Luckily enough for me, I’m sitting next to a particularly yummy mummy from Brazil who keeps breast feeding her six month old baby Jojo. Not the most unpleasant seatmate of the Odyssey I have to say. Oh, she’s doing it again – don’t look, don’t look, don’t… oh, bugger it, this is GREAT! Welcome to Brazil!
It’s almost enough to make me forget about the fact I’m about to enter Guyana, a country endearingly called ‘Conradian’ in it’s own tourist material. As in Joseph Conrad. As in Hearts of Darkness.
Well, at least they speak English. Top Hats at dawn old chap?
Wish me well x
Heading north out of Brazil, I was more concerned with the fact that I couldn’t get on the bloody Internet in Boa Vista, to be too concerned about the road ahead. I got to the border – a brand spanking new bridge connecting South America to Guyana was having its finishing touches added, the guy taking me across the river in a little motor boat told me that it opens next month.
But there is something to be said for taking the boat – it’s a magical moment when you step onto the far bank – you suddenly find yourself in the Caribbean. Goodbye Spanish, driving on the right, the ubiquitous ham and cheese sandwiches – hello spicy food, reggae beats and lashings of good old fashioned cricket.
Although part of the South American mainland, Guyana very much identifies itself with its northern, more islandy neighbours – it’s part of the Caribbean Community and it doesn’t have much to do with its continental acquaintances down south. This might change when the road to Georgetown is sealed, but until then it’s a bumpy, rickety wet and wild ride up through the jungle from Brazil.
I stumbled into the first place I could find – a café-bar called T&M. Coaxed in by a large lady sitting behind a desk, she changed my money, got my passport stamped, arranged my minibus to Georgetown, fed me dinner and passed me an ice-cold beer.
Hooray for Guyana!
Hopped on the minibus at about 6.00pm. Bumped up and down for a couple of hours before we all got off the bus, hired a hammock and were told to go to sleep in a wooden gazebo in the middle of malaria central. Express service is not something Guyana is used to…
Awoken at 4am, we recommenced our journey through the jungle. Over a river on a chain ferry made of rusty metal and some wooden planks borrowed from The African Queen. Then we pulled over for some breakfast, a pee break, a coffee, another pee break, elevenses, twelveses… I got the feeling I was never going to make it to Georgetown.
Then we pulled over again. Why? The guy driving just says “roll over, roll over” and points to the side of the road. A bus coming the other way had missed the bend and fallen into a river. But what was much more unsettling was the fact that there were five dead bodies inside. They had been there for two days. Suddenly my merry little jaunt around the good ship Planet Earth became something a little more real and a lot more scary. I could die doing this.
But don’t worry, I won’t. The statistics are massively in my favour.
Got into Georgetown around 4pm feeling a little shell-shocked. Didn’t think I was going to make it to Suriname before dark, so thought best to leave it until tomorrow. I checked in to the Rima Guest House and crashed out.
Here’s the vid of this week’s daring-do
Up at 4am and on the minibus to Suriname. Thankfully paved roads all the way, and even a nice new shiny bridge over the river meant that we got there in double quick time. The guy driving, Champ, was such a top bloke – he seemed to know absolutely everyone in the country and had smiles and waves for everyone.
We arrived at Molston Creek around 9am and Champ had to lend me the money to get the speedboat across the river – I had underestimated the cost somewhat! But I made it over, was swarmed by taxi drivers on the other side – trying to explain to them that I was just stepping foot in Suriname and that I intended to go back straight away was a bit lost on them.
But there you go – every nation in South America in just under two weeks! Woo! Now I wonder if Africa will take much longer…
On the way back to the hotel I was in a deep panic. I had no way of getting to my next country – Trinidad. There was no ferry. I didn’t want to go back down that damn road to Boa Vista and then all the way up through Venezuela again – and even if I did, the ferry only went once a week.
How the hell was I going to do this?
I got back to my hotel room at 3pm. I got a weak slow wireless connection and after putting up with Internet Explorer cannot display blah blah blah for ages, I managed to get onto my email. There was a message for me from Lorna Brookes who is beavering away back home making phone calls and sending emails trying to get me around the Caribbean. It said that my boat was leaving in 2 hours.
I couldn’t believe it.
I raced downstairs and rang the contact – an agent for Gulf Shipping called Bevaun – in double fast time. He was fortunately just around the corner from my guesthouse. He was there in two minutes. He took me to the docks, and there she was – the container ship MV Miriam, registered in Antigua, crewed by Filipinos and on its way to Trinidad today. I couldn’t believe my luck.
Thank you Lorna, you are an utter LEGEND!!
I was handed over to Bevaun’s colleague, Cedric, who sorted out my exit stamp, let me pick up my bags from the guesthouse and took me for some good old-fashioned Guyanan scran – Pepperpot, Cajun Beef and Jerk Chicken. Oh yeah, I is in the Caribbean now.
Guyana is lovely. A really wonderful place full of noise and smells and friendly friendly people and great big wooden buildings. Well off the tourist track, it’s a shame that not more people get to experience the charm of this isolated little chunk of South America, but with the new bridge (and soon, road) from Brazil and its membership of Caricom (it hosted the Cricket World Cup semi-final in 2007) that may soon change.
So… on the boat and off we jolly well popped.
I had a brilliant night. The crew plied me with enough alcohol to sink a whale, the cook rustled up a HUGE hog roast with some kick-ass hot soy sauce (his own concoction) and we watched some really crap DVDs in the mess.
I fell into bed at god knows what-o’-clock and was asleep before my head touched the pillow.