Side step to French Guyana    Click for the chartlet

To have some exercise and to cool down as well now that the rainy season is over and temperatures start to rise to 37°C, we often take a swim in the private swimming pool of our friend Gerben, in a village nearby. PHOTO 1 Together with his brother he owns the fish company in Domburg, which also facilitates our moorings. Sometimes they do jobs for the sailors as well (almost for free); a few weeks ago the foreman made us an excellent swivel, all stainless steel and ball bearing, so our windgenerator can work overtime now.

As a tourist you get a permit for a maximum of six months. After this, you have to leave the country for at least one day. Our permit was about to end in the first week of August, so we went to Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guyana. Apply for a new visa in advance (otherwise they won't let you in again), get an exit stamp in Albina, hire a boat
PHOTO 2 across the Marowijne PHOTO 3 and get entry and exit stamps in Saint Laurent du Maroni.
You can travel by state bus to Albina: a bumpy ride of 4 hours on a bad tarmac road (150 km) for 2 euros pp, but a taxi driver made us an offer we could not refuse so we dashed in a large Toyota with 120-130 km/hour for 9 euros pp in 90 minutes to Albina. At the end of the route parts of the tarmac are destroyed by plundering Bush Creoles. Passing cars have to drive slowly because of the especially created humps and pits, and make an easy target for attackers. The last raid took place about 10 years ago, so the many stories about travelling to Albina is tricky business are quite exaggerated.

In the old days, Albina was a beautiful seaside resort where the rich relaxed in weekends and holidays. Nowadays there is nothing left of the old atmosphere: the town is completely destroyed during the Inland War in the ’80s and taken over by bush creoles. These people have created a giant mess with garbage all over the streets. A pity, because to us Albina is a very special spot as it is the birth place of JW’s mother.

French Guyana is just like Suriname a multicultural community with Creoles, French, Chinese, a few Javanese (imported from Suriname) and obviously the original inhabitants: the Indians. But it is also a real part of France with Camembert, baguettes and good wine. You can buy this typical French food (how exotic) in the many supermarkets which are - just like in Suriname - in Chinese hands.
St. Laurent is also called “Petit Paris” and we fully understood the reason: it is a beautiful town, with many elegant government buildings in French colonial style and shiny Peugeot and Renault cars partout.
PHOTO 4 In French Guyana the neatness and tidyness is striking, contrary to Suriname where you stumble over the empty PET bottles. We only had to get used to the traffic driving on the right side of the roads, but fortunately the French-Guyanese are gentlemen.
French Guyana is, thanks to the financial contributions of the French government, much richer than Suriname. The currency is the euro and the prices are a lot higher than in Suriname (but fortunately not yet on European level). We had a great holiday feeling when we arrived in our hotel for lunch: baguette, French cheeses, Perrier and an excellent St. Emilion. The hotelroom was also typical French with nice broderie around sheets and pillowcases. And... airco and hot water! We both showered five times, and felt completely spoilt!

St. Laurent originates as a facilitating town around the former convict prison, the Camp de la Transportation, that appeals to the imagination if you have read “Papillon” (Henri Charrière) or seen the film.
PHOTO 5 From this bagno Papillon tried to escape several times and strolling around the premises you understand why a prisoner risked his life to escape. The convicts were locked in under miserable circumstances. PHOTO 6, 6A en 7A

Hundred people locked in a cell of 10x5m was perfectly common. ’At night they were chained by the ankles and they slept with 50 men on one plank (two planks per cell); it is not surprisingthat many infectious diseases resulted in a high mortality rate.

The Camp de la Transportation functioned as of 1852 until 1946 and was mainly populated by convicts who had to serve hard labour (the heavy punished), totalling about 55,000 men. Furthermore there were men who sat out their years of punishment but were obliged to stay the same amount of years in the colony (working under supervision); plus some 18,000 banished and a hundred political prisoners.
The Camp de la Transportation was for the first and the last group often an intermediate station, as the worst criminals were often sent to a.o. Devil's Island.
After the camp was closed, it was plundered by Bush Creoles who took up residence there. In 1990 part of the camp was restored and in 1994 it was classified as a historical monument. A memorial of how inhuman people can be; if France will be really proud of it?

They surely can be proud of one thing: their cuisine. We had almost forgotten about salads with warm goat's cheese and honey, and crème brûlée. And even a pizza was a real treat after two years of deprivation. And oh la la for breakfast: croissants with butter and confiture!
We enjoyed ourselves very much in French Guyana and it was a pity that we only had two days (you have to arrange this in advance for the visa). So unfortunately we had to return much to soon to Albina - after getting hold of the necessary stamps, plus a big shopping bag filled with purchases that are common for Europeans: mustard, capres, black olives, grenadine syrup, espresso coffee and pesto sauce.

Previous    Next