| GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
Guiana in known as French Guiana and Guyane, and is a French colony which have a President of the Assembly. Found in-between Suriname and Brazil, covering only 83.534 square kilometres, and home to 250.109 citizens. The majority of the population lives on the Atlantic coastal zone and is totally dependent on subsidies from France. The European Space Agency is responsible for more than 50 percent of the economic activity. The currency is Euro, worth 7,46 Danish Krone.
French Guiana is home to many different ecosystems: Tropical rainforests, coastal mangroves, savannahs, inselbergs and many types of wetlands. Due to the lack of roads, I will mainly be exploring the northern, costal areas. But; the inland native and relatively undisturbed forests does hold a lot of interesting animals and plants.
I would love to see the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), some of the armadillos like Greater long-nosed armadillo (Dasypus kappleri), the Southern naked-tailed armadillo (Cabassous unicinctus) and Giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), some of the sloths like Pale-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus tridactylus), Linnaeus's two-toed sloth (Choloepus didactylus) and Southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla). Here are quite some primates like Red-handed tamarin (Saguinus midas), Tufted capuchin (Cebus apella), Weeper capuchin (Cebus olivaceus), Common squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus), White-faced saki (Pithecia pithecia), Red-backed bearded saki (Chiropotes chiropotes) and Red-faced spider monkey (Ateles paniscus). Here are Brazilian porcupine (Coendou prehensilis), Red-rumped agouti (Dasyprocta leporina), Red acouchi (Myoprocta acouchy), Lowland paca (Cuniculus paca) and a lot of bats!
Among the larger predators are Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus), Margay (Leopardus wiedii), Cougar (Puma concolor), Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi), Jaguar (Panthera onca). To name a few dogs; Crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous), Bush dog (Speothos venaticus), Crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus), South American coati (Nasua nasua), Kinkajou (Potos flavus) and Striped hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus semistriatus). I doubt I see it, but here are some Brazilian tapir (Tapirus terrestris), where I might catch a glimpse of one of the many opossums.
The flora is just as rich, spread over the nine vegetation types in the Guianas according to Lindeman and Mori: 1. seasonal evergreen forest; 2. mangrove; 3. beach vegetation; 4. marsh forests; 5. swamp forests; 6. herbaceous swamps; 7. savannas; 8. montane vegetation; and 9. inselbergs (granite outcrops). However, more than 90 percent of French Guiana is forested, about 95 percent of which consists of primary forest. Guiana is home to at least 5.625 species of vascular plants, of which 2.6 percent are endemic. I will not be looking for any species in particular.
A short ride, and we are in the European Community! The sign actually say; Welcome to France! Our boatdriver is nice enough to drop us off at immigration. The other boats just drop the locals somewhere else, as none bothers about immigration. I don't dear skipping that formality.
We walk to where the minibuses are found, and find one for Cayenne and one for Kourou. Kourou is on the way, but here are strictly different busses! They are filled as the drivers and helpers get the passengers, and not in line. That means everyone have to wait most of the day to get their bus filled. STUPID! But it is after all France...
Prices are close to Danish, above French. I manages to hustle some lovely bananas from someone, who bought them for them self, but here are not really any vegetarian foot to be found. My bus is s-l-o-w-l-y filling up, while Xavi's remain empty except from her. Lots of small boats are coming in, but apparently they have friends picking them up - or they go into some of the other minibusses. I feel like high-jacking some, just to fill my bus. Paying for the seats is another option, but it is €25 each!
After two hours, the engine is fired up, and we have half a hour to enjoy the fumes. The town turn out to be real small, and here are only a few scatted settlements along the road. At the first one, the girl who was sitting in the car when I got to it, jumps of. It would have been so much faster for her to walk!
We drive through the forest on a pretty good road. The
area is slightly hilly, and it seems a bit more dry then Suriname. Here are
hardly any epiphytes, but the vegetation is dense and lush.
We drop people as we go, and pick-up some freight from time to time. After two hours, we are only three with the driver. We drop the other guy at a house in Kourou, and drive 100 metres to my hotel. I had hoped for a hotel in an old colonial town, with cafes and restaurants, along with a nice beachfront - and I get so disappointed. It it is a fairly new residential area, and no food in sight.
It have rained from time to time, and now it really pours
down. The gate is closed, and apparently, the staff at the hotel will only
be here after half a hour. Luckily enough, a painter is working here, and
let me in. It is half pass four, and besides from eating, I have no plans
for the day. I get my car in the morning, and start exploring.
1. I'm up too early, and the weather does not
really invites to a stroll along the beach. But walk I will, and I set of
towards my car-rental company. It is across town, and it seems like a fairly
small one. A big part is made up by the local barracks; Forget! Most houses are quite alike, and not that pretty. A single, short
shower make it real clear; this entire town are not mend for rain. It pours
down from the roofs, the roads and few sidewalks get flooded, and
afterwards, it remains flooded. They get four to five times as much as
Denmark annual! One would have thought they could cope with it, but it is
I leave town, and walk on a major road (if you can call any Guianan roads that) pass some fields. Here are several birds, one is the "Michael Jackson Heron": White with black legs and short, bright yellow socks. It wriggles its toes, to attract small fish. Here are several flowering vines; Some Pasifloraceae and some Cucurbitaceae.
I don't seem to be able to locate Europcar, although the industrial area seems right. I work a bit around, and end at a gas station. The employees do not know anything, but a real nice customer make a call, and direct me to Renault. There are not a single sign saying Europcar, but a nice girl hand out a car, and it is NOT French, and I'm happy. I return to a supermarket I pass, and stock some water, biscuits, breakfast, bananas and tea. I still had some of the great Colombian sugar-tea-cubes, but off all places, this truly expensive hotel is where the ants found them. Well, the ants don't add to the taste, but I won't put them into my backpack.
I drive bye the beach, hoping for low tide - and it is. Here are an perfect beach with yellow sand, but the sea is eating Guiana quit badly. It is said to be a shark-infested water: The book/film Papillon by Henri Charrière, was based on events taking place on the island, 13 kilometres out in the sea. It is too misty to see it, and I'll try later. It is possible to get on a cruse to the island, but I fail to see the point.
As it continues to be cloudy and drizzle from time to time, I head out to the European Space Centre; Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG), which is right outside town. Here are tours twice a day, but I settle for the museum. It is quite well constructed, and here are many original items. If one could read French, I might even be interesting.
They can launch several types of rockets; Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega. An Ariane 5 is displayed in front of the museum. I follow the road further out in the area, hoping for some nature. Here are, but it is not that wild. I pass the assembly hall for the Arianes, and then; I'm not really welcome any more.
Despite the weather still refuses to cooperate, I head
out in the wild. I have found a road, leading to a water power plant, and it
ought to offer some interesting sights.
Here are a lot of flowering plants along the road. Some familiar, some really strange. One of the rivers have a set of benches with roof over, and I eat my lunch, overlooking the river. Afterwards, I walk into the forest, but swamp and dense vegetation make is real difficult. Further more; here are not that many interesting plants anyway.
I stop every two kilometres or so - after to wrecked cars. Sometimes, there are new plants, sometimes a great view over the forest. It just the sun would play along.... I find a few trails, leading into the nature. The ground is either sand or sticky clay, sometimes mixed with gravel or even pebble.
In an effort to get some close-ups of the amassing flowering trees, I walk through some thick vegetation. I get so many cuts from the strange grass, thorns and another nasty things, I look like I've been fighting cats - and lost big time! And it is not really worth is, as the lack of sun dampen the colours significantly.
I reach the huge, artificial lake at the dam, and power plant. Most of the area is fenced in, and I fail to get close to the river. The area is now a natural reserve; La Trinite, but the rain and lack of sun make it a bit unattractive. I do a few short walks in the area, and try a real narrow sealed road - leading to a gate.
Despite it is only three o'clock, I head home. I think the power socket in the car fails to work, and I depend on it for the GPS. I find the company, but the mechanics are gone home for the day. I can try tomorrow after 10 - they have a short working day! I try to check the fuse, but it take special tools, which is NOT here.
Home to charge a bit and check-up on the visibility of the Devils Island. It is still covered in a light mist. I drive down town to an area with a few restaurants and alike. A Chinese sell me two flutes; one with cheese and the other one with vegetables. They are a nice change. Then it is home to work as usual. Day 2: Space, Lake, Nature, Devil's Island
2. I start the day at the office, as I have to wait for the mechanics to start working, and the weather is not that great anyway. When I finally get a mechanic to look at the car, he claim the cigarette-plug is broken, and it take a month to get a new. I say, "Bon", and decide to find a nail or something alike, and change the fuse myself. The bloody fuses can't be replaced without special tool! And the plug can't go broken; it is just a piece of plastic and two metal parts, and it look as it supposed to.
I'm already partly out the right way, and I do the first bit quite fast, as it is the same road I drown yesterday. The sun lights up the hilly landscape in short moments, while the showers last a bit longer. I refrain from long walks, as the vegetation is soaked, and I rather not. The lower parts are swamps and lakes, and a specific plant is dominating. Besides from it, here are so many flowering plants, one more impressive than the other.
After quite some short walks, I reach Pripri De Yiyi national park. Here are a big building and a watch tower, but not a soul. I find a trail, leading out into the delta. A long, skinny snake is keeping guard at the first bridge, and it not really likely to give it up. A bright green baby Green Iguana is way more easy to scare. I see the backend of several Anolis and a gecko, while the lizards are numerous. A large agama or something alike run a bit too early for identification.
The butterflies are everywhere. Here are so many
different species, and in a dark, dense part of the forest, I find one of
the huge Morpheus Butterflies. Here are some mangrove-like areas, lakes,
grass and bushes, and I keep seeing new interesting things.
I find a narrow sidetrack, which probably are not on the official maps - if they even exist. It twist and turns into a forest of big trees. Here are hardly any epiphytes, but quite some climbing vines. Without any warning, a deep, loud and rather scarring growl fills the air. I briefly run through the dangerous animals found in this part of the world in my memory, and come up with nothing.
Then I guess on Howler Monkeys, and it turns out to be a group of Guianan Red Howler Monkey; Alouatta macconnelli. They are in the top of the canopy, and I'm not able to make any photos. However, I do get to record the impressive sound.
Somehow, I end back at the entrance, and here, the most dashing "kingfisher" I ever seen give a show on a signpost. Every time an insect are within two metres, it catches it. Unfortunately, the light is not good, but it have the most fantastic metallic colours. It turns out to be a hummingbird. I head on through the lake-lands, and do more breath stops.
Then I reach the little village - or truck-stop of Iracoubo nearly halfway, and decides this is the perfect place for lunch. A single cafe serves the travellers, and one of the girls speak a bit of English. I get 70 centimetres of flute with vegetables and cheese along with a Vita Malt. In the back of the room is a big plastic bottle: Tuborg Skøll; a strange French beer/vodka/fruits.
On the other side of town, a small savannah area starts. Some parts might just be flooded and covered in floating plants. Then I pass a huge river, and reach the old colonial town of Saint-Laurent du Maroni. I start with the Suriname consulate, as I want to secure a new Tourist Card for later.
I find the office after a bit of asking around, but despite the sign outside claim they are open, the doors are closed. I try knocking on a window, but they only ask me to return Monday: I'm a bit offended, but at least; I don't have to enter Suriname right now.
I find my preferred hotel - although the price have gone up from €63 to €70. And I can only stay one night. While I'm at it, I find another hotel for tomorrow, as I expect here is a lot to see and experience. I ditch the car at the first hotel, and start exploring the town.
Here are not that much to see actually. Some paint-hungering old wooden houses, some former glorious brick-houses, the old military barracks and the river. Here, several old iron ships are rusting away - but slowly. One is rather big, but to judge from the trees, growing on it, it have been here for quite some years.
I find the local fishermen beach - which is made up by 50% beer bottle fragments. A few of the large trees are covered in one large species of bromeliads. Here are not many shops, but it seems like half of those who are here, deals in colourful waxed tablecloths.
I find a cup of tea at the rusty ships, and then go for another walk around town. Finding a restaurant proves to be hard. Either here are none, or they only opens late. A pizzeria with three guys in, promises to open in a bit over an hour, and one of them get "vegetarian". I return to the hotel to start working, and after dark, I return: Great pizza.
3. Despite the dubious weather, I start early. The plan is to investigate the north-western corner of Guiana. Here are not really a coastal road, as the coast is swamps. I drive through the inland with its small sheets and tiny fields. Then it opens up to real huge grass fields, but I only see a few cattle.
The soil is white sand for most of the way, and in some areas, it seems rather dry, despite the rain. I get a few glimpses of the sun and way more rain. One area have some huge Cereus cacti, but they might be brought here by man, ages ago. I walk short distances from the car, when interesting areas alien with a short period of dry weather.
re-find many of the beautiful flowers and interesting plants I have seen the
last day, but beside from the Cereus, I find only a few new species. One
being a Asclepiadaceae with white flowers.
I reach Reserve Naturelle de l'Amana on the corner of the country. It is the hatching ground for the mighty Leatherback Sea-turtles - but not this time of year. Here is a little village, probably based on tourism. Today, it seem fairly dead. I have the beach to myself, except from a pitiable dog. I actually end up giving them some of my biscuits - and that take some big eyes!
The sun just won't play for more than fragments of minutes, and a perfect beach with palm kind of demands that. I walk along the coast, finding clusters of bulbs, seeds from mangrove trees and a few Atlantic Portuguese man o' war; Physalia physalis. Nothing else at all! I return, and wait for some sun. I even grab a nab, hoping for a hole in the clouds.
I give up, and follow the coast east on. Well, follow it five kilometres inland, and the canals and swamps prevents me from reaching the coast. It seems like the coastal area might be farmed or at least grassed, and here are quite some slightly nicer houses along the road. I stop several times to botanise, but I find more animals than plants.
Here are some huge wasps, dragonflies, lizards, and I stumble over a pigeon's nest on the sand. The weather is slightly improving, and it keep dry, although without much sun, and I walk around the little town of Mana. Most houses are old wooden ones, serving the termites better than the humans, it seem.
I get to see most of the town, before I return to the
little snack-bar I parked at. I get some noodles, steamed letish and cooked
yams. The best is his homemade juice. I get my mug filled with hot water on
the way out.
I reach Sentier de la Foret des Sables Blancs; White Sand Forest Trail. Well, it use to be, but it have not been maintained for quite some years. Here are a few interesting plants, one is an epiphyte I can't place. I find the first huge millipede, which I had expected to see many of in Southern America. I manages to find my way back to my car; BabyBlue, and head on.
reach the mainroad from Cayenne, and head homewards. I stop a few times,
although I did see this part of the road yesterday. At a river, I walk down
the river in the water. Quite nice, if it wasn't for all the plastic trash
left from the swimmers. I get home way earlier than I had expected, probably
due to the lack of sun and surplus of rain. I gas the car, and the price of
€1,55 is - like almost everything else in Guiana, 5-7 times as much as
Suriname and Guyana. There must be an intense traffic across the river!
I check-in to my new hotel: Two euro cheaper, two stars less. Like the two
other Guiana hotels, here are the minute ants. I have not had ants in any
other hotels the last two months.
I spend the two hours I have to wait for supper, on working
diary and photos. I also find a "cheap" hotel in Cayenne; €46. Most are four
times as much! Then I try the bar/restaurants salads, hopes set on a low
level. The only vegetarian they can offer is a €10 Mozzarella/tomato salad.
I had hoped for a meal, but it is just an appetizer. I could add a banana
split, but at €10, I suddenly remember the three bananas I bought this
morning. I didn't eat them as spare lunch, but they can be spare supper. I
don't mind paying quite some money for a great meal, but here, there are no
connection between the price and he quality of the meal!
From the west, I now enters the east in Diary 2