Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2

Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana


After a bit more chilling I had to head back to Port of Spain, before going onto Georgetown, Guyana. Guyana is a member of the British Commonwealth is not as most people think in Africa, but is on the North Eastern coast of South America. One of the main reasons I wanted to go there was because no-one ever does, and I wanted to know why that was.

I arrived in Chedi Jaghan International airport and was immediately impressed with the lack of anything there that might be useful for arriving passengers, such as a Cambio or similar. Whilst passing through immigration I met an English bloke who was apparently working with the government to try and promote tourism in Guyana as it is not really an industry yet. He told me that having seen me, his first tourist he felt incumbent to talk to me, he didn’t seem particularly interesting so I managed to convince him that I wasn’t really the tourist he wanted, unless he was going to send me on free trips to the sites of Guyana. He told me that was beyond his remit, so I got a minibus to town.

At the guest house where I stayed were a Dutch couple who left, an American anthropologist who was going home the following day and an American sent by his church group for a weeks work. The American anthropologist (or student just graduated really) said I was the first actual tourist he had met or heard of in Guyana and he had been there two months, which I saw as an encouraging sign. I decided to head out straight to Suriname the following day as I was going back to Guyana anyway I thought it easiest if I get Suriname and French Guiana done first that way I know what time I have for Guyana after.

I crossed from Guyana to Suriname by a backdoor route (via from Springlands in Guyana by speedboat to a riverbank in Suriname called Backtrack where some taxis are gathered and not much more). I shared a taxi to Paramaribo, the capital and despite being neither a Christian nor a woman, stayed at the YWCA as it was the cheapest place in Paramaribo. I was surprised to see several tourists (all Dutch looking (it is a former Dutch colony)) wandering around. There are some attractive wooden government buildings and otherwise not a lot to divert interest in Paramaribo, except it was the only place I have ever seen a big mosque, right next door to a big synagogue. Something I thought that was quite nice, that they appeared to co-exist so well. The excursions in Suriname are all of the Eco-tourist variety, not cheap and not particularly different from what I have done in Brazil etc. or is available in Venezuela for less money. So I decided to carry on to Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana. Having been unable to find the immigration department in Paramaribo to get my entrance into Suriname validated, I asked the motor canoeist taking me to St. Laurent, French Guiana to avoid any immigration posts, to avoid any bureaucratic problems.

French Guyana is an overseas department of France and is therefore a part of the European Union (the French like to do things strangely). So I did not need any visa or suchlike to get in and they use Euros as currency. Because of the subsidies that are received there, the country is the most expensive in South America and everything about it is incongruous with its South American setting. The capital Cayenne is not an attractive place and if it weren’t for the fact that I had to do some administrative bits there, I would have left instantly, as it was I left as soon as I could. I headed a little west to Kourou which made Cayenne look positively enchanting. The best way to describe Kourou is to liken it to a tropical, French, Milton Keynes by the sea, with slightly less character (for the non-Brits amongst you, Milton Keynes is probably one of the most characterless places ever built). The reason for visiting there was in order to take a trip to the Iles de Salut (Islands of Salvation). These were a notorious prison colony where France’s most hardened or despised criminals were sent. The three islands (Royale, St. Joseph and Devils) are not very big and far enough from the coast that it can be seen, but too far to swim through the apparently shark infested waters. The remains of the prison buildings are almost completely gone, it closed in 1953 and seems to be something that the government wants to forget. Amongst the most famous inhabitants were Dreyfuss, the French Army officer who was set up as a scapegoat and wrongly imprisoned for many years because he was Jewish and Henri Charriere, “Papillon” who also claims to have been wrongly imprisoned but escaped several times as documented in his book. Whilst I circumambulated the Isle Royale, I got the chance to appreciate the views of the other islands and the wildlife. As the rest of the people that were visiting the island didn’t appear to leave the area where we docked. I saw squirrel monkeys (a cute little type of monkey see a picture at http://www.ecuador-travel.net/information.biodiversity.mammals.squirrelmonkey.htm), agouti (a large rodent, see a picture at http://magazine.naturecom.de/text/agouti.html), common iguanas, lots of birdlife and a green turtle that was regularly diving for food. Being the only one who decided to tour the island I was able to see the animals that would otherwise have been scared off. The time I had on the island though was too much and I was pleased by the time the boat returned to the mainland.

Also just by Kourou is the European Spaceport, where the Ariane rockets are launched from. I decided to visit and go on the tour which was not particularly interesting or engaging. The museum at the main centre was quite good though, although not particularly large.

Having had enough of the delights of Kourou and the expense of French Guiana I decided to head straight back to Georgetown, once again avoiding immigration entanglements. I got a collective taxi, a canoe across the Maroni river to Suriname, another collective taxi to Paramaribo, another collective taxi, another collective taxi, a van, a speedboat across the Correntyne river to Guyana and finally a minibus to Georgetown and back to the guesthouse I had started the little adventure from.

Georgetown is a moderately attractive place with some attractive wooden buildings, including St. Georges Cathedral which is supposedly the tallest wooden structure in the world. The City Hall and High Court are all interesting looking places and the High Court still has an imposing statue of Queen Victoria in front of it. I also visited the odd yet strangely engaging Museum of Guyana with a range of exhibits, not all of which appear to have any relevance to Guyana. Otherwise there were several things I was thinking of visiting in Guyana, such as the Kaiteur falls (the Worlds highest single drop falls), but the costs involved were prohibitive (e.g. 185 USDollars for a day trip to the falls) so I changed my flight to get back to Port of Spain for the weekend.


When I got back to where I had previously stayed, it was nice to catch up with my friends there and that night went out until late dancing etc. The following day about twenty of us (all Venezuelans but me) went to Maracas beach some way across the island and over the mountains. The sea air was much fresher there and it was a nice day chatting, swimming and generally taking it easy. Since then I have been busy socialising with my Venezuelan friends and just taking it easy, but tomorrow I should be going back to Venezuela, as long as I get up in the morning in time to get the boat.



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