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.
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
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
across the Marowijne
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.
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.
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.
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
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.