Monthly Archives: November 2017

Cayenne and the Salvation Islands

We will definitely leave our Airbnb rental, which had bad vibes including a cat, and take temporary domicile in Cayenne, in the pretty and well-located Hotel des Palmistes where we stayed on our first night.  It’s a colonial house, classified National Monument.  After 5 weeks of hardship, we decided we deserved it and that luxury is a much better option.place-des-palmistes

Everything in Guyana, except for its nature and rivers, l’Aproague, le Maroni, le Kourou et l’Oiapock, seem miniaturized, pristine and well-maintained: the towns, houses, narrow roads.  French organization after Brazilian chaos.  This is not the Third-world anymore, but it’s not the First either.  Guyana is populated with small civil servants from the Metropolis with boosted pay, who stay a few years to accumulate a nest-egg; scientists and engineers working on the Space Center in Kourou and a largely subsidized population of unemployed Guyanese.  One could say it’s a welfare state keeping up with appearances, thence the absence of quality consumer goods and upscale restaurants.  But after Brazil, everything here tastes like ambrosia.

We drove to Kourou yesterday.  I mean I drove to Kourou since my friend forgot his driver’s license.  I warned him that I have a very personal style of driving and that it was not for weak natures.    I guess he didn’t know what I meant, but hearing him hissing, whistling and emitting diverse tsk-tsking sounds indicated that my style is making him pretty nervous.  To be honest, driving here with all those blasted roundabouts and tortuous roads makes me pretty nervous too.

In Kourou, we took a Guyavoile catamaran and sailed to Saint-Joseph Island, one of the three island off Kourou having been the sites of penitentiary colonies since late 19th Century until 1958 when all were dismantled.  Guyavoile-1Hard to believe that those islands of breathtaking beauty could have been the theatre of such misery.  Saint-Joseph Island is by far the most beautiful tropical Island I have seen and I’ve seen many.  The reason for that might very well be that nature has reclaimed its rights upon the old penitentiary, that the island is left to the maintenance of two soldiers from the Foreign Legion (one Mongol! and one Pole, that’s probably why they’re called the “Foreign Legion”) and tourism limited to strolling on sandy lanes through the jungle of banyan and coconut trees and swimming in the clear turquoise, but dangerous waters off the beaches.  You can’t swim very far because of a strong undertow.  We could have begged for hospitality to the two legionnaires, just for the privilege of passing the night on the island but didn’t…IMG_1214

We had to get back to the catamaran and that part of the expedition might have been the most pleasant, I don’t remember feeling any less than ecstatic on a sailboat.  After I find my spot near the mast, I need nothing else from life than being rocked as in a cradle, preferably with a good book.  The Planter’s Punch was not bad either.

We disembarked on Île Royale and had lunch in the one hotel on the Island. From our table overlooking the ocean, we could see Devil’s Island with the little house where Dreyfus, accused of high treason, was held in solitary confinement for nearly 5 years before being granted his rehabilitation and reintegration into the French Army.  He apparently wrote more than a thousand letters from Devil’s Island.  I wish I could set my hands on them.  To be researched…

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Devil’s Island with Dreyfus’ detention house

The prison director’s mansion has been turned into a museum.  Suddenly a flash: a large brown “animal runs on top of the banister surrounding the terrace.

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Île Royale, Prison Director’s mansion

Is that a dog?  A small pony?  I can’t see too well.  As I go out, I discover a capuchin monkey.  He stops for a moment, looks at me and scuttles away.

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To be followed…

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