January 1st I wanted to go to Guyana but you know, holidays…ferry was closed…of course. I swear Suriname didn´t want me to leave! Instead I took a taxi to Nieuw Nickerie near the border and stayed the night. Taxis as I refer here are really hired vans, what many people use, they pick you up and drop you off at home/destination and they go direct (obvious with stops to pick and drop people off) from Par´bo to Georgetown (Gtown). At the ferry you must get off and cross immigration then you jump back in and off you go. Obviously I did not do this because I split up my trip. If I recall well it is like 70 USD in total.
My night in Nieuw Nickerie started out awesome let me tell you. When I arrived the sun was setting and I went on a walk to see what there was to see on a holiday there…the usual nearly everything closed…but I found the main street which was beautifully lined with tall palm trees on each side with the Surinamese flag painted on them and in the middle was a swamp of beautiful lily pads with huge pink flowers so I started taking photos…super distracted as I was really looking for food and money (Republic Bank was right on the corner – btw only this bank (it´s ATM Blue Machine) and Scotiabank in Guyana worked for me on this trip)…I keep walking enjoying the diminishing light…until I found a downed palm tree…of course I walked on it and kept taking photos when suddenly some animal flew into my arm, I freaked out thinking bat not the actual bird it was and chao go pro in the opposite direction…lol. Somehow this didn´t bug me AT ALL even knowing all my photos were on it but I knew I would be there tomorrow at least attempting to find the tiny go pro in a swamp below lily pads…yup. Yes, literally all my photos since I was travelling with a broken iphone that only took selfie photos (crappy fotos) and my Nikon which I used someeetimes…anywho I was off to dinner but first I went to change as I was now bitten everywhere by mosquitoes…aka swamps and Nieuw Nickerie are known for lots of mosquitoes…so this DID frustrate me (Kirsten you would know…lol).
I ate dinner and in the morning I was there in borrowed boots from the house, gloves from the Police station on the same street and searching for the impossible. I searched maybe an hour because I had to catch the ferry which I should have left at 7 am for…it was now 8:10 am (ferry is 30 minutes away and you need to arrive 1 hour before aka I missed it and many times there are only 1 per day…but lucky me police officer called and because it had no service the day before today they had 2 services running! (insert celebratory symbol..yeah) While I was among the lily pads searching I had plenty of visitors..lol…this morning of course they decided to pull the palm tree out! so I had to exit for a minute…good news here is I gained a searcher and well when we both gave up the police man came by and said he called help so I had to wait 15 minutes for more help….by then I had given up and went home to shower. While waiting for the 2nd helper a women approached and said I saw you last night flailing your arms…I was like really!!!…did you see where it went???? As I had looked toward what animal ¨attacked me¨ LOL Again, Suriname did not want me to leave, and the signs kind of freaked me out but later in Guyana I was quite happy…maybe after the drive to G/town.
Dilemma was over and off to ferry….late…beautiful drive there btw through rice fields with looming rain clouds. I got lucky as the taxi from Nickerie normally charge 150SRD (aka 20 usd) but I got one for 70SRD in the rain..hum how, guess my police chief friend helped…his brother came searching for me…lol and well at the ferry I was pretty much last which is nice; no lines, less hours waiting and the boss guy was uber helpful — got me a taxi to G/town right then, found me tour help for return and anything else…talk about well connected! Bad news was ferry service was ending (for maintenance) from January 6-16….my flight the 10th…so I had to decide if I went back early by ferry or flew. Turns out there is another way called Backtrack….small, you might say less safe, boats that leave from Nickerie. They are quicker in general and the same price as the ferry but you must wait for them to fill and well they just aren´t legal….had I known I might have considered this instead and forgot about the damn stamp but too late now.
The ferry finally arrived, gorgeous, slow ride across the river….a light brown river with bright green on all sides, blue sky and the bright sun and clouds dancing above. I went straight to top deck, I didn´t want shade just the view….in the end I got a bit of both as the clouds covered every now and then and left the river view looking amazing with the green, light brown and shadow of the clouds…even if Suriname wouldn´t let me go I was off and it felt great…ferry showing both flags made me happy too :D!!
Upon arrival the people kind of start running to immigration, I joined, ha ha but found quickly it was not needed for me, foreigner….duh! Taxi driver put me in front seat, he later asked how the ride was and mentioned that I had diplomat treatment today…I was like what? This dude was one of the craziest drivers I have ever had….and diplomat meant front seat, grr why did he even ask how the ride was…so evil. The road through the Guyanas is single lane…aka 1 lane in each direction and forget shoulder space….besides I think lanes are less wide here…think country roads (never mind..not even those are that tiny…at least not if you think in the US…Europe, Latam yes). Besides the road being skinny, they were filled with loose roaming animals, people biking or walking and other cars, good god! Fun ride, let me just say we didn´t kill any animals or people…though I did see a donkey, goat and cat who did not make it… anyway, he had the nerve to give me his card at the end of the ride (he has done this 16yrs…crazy)…BS. P.S. This is not the worst ride….that would be Bangladesh….which I had to compare it to in order to calm down. hum. I rant sorry. Not all drivers are like this there but I will add this info: on the radio they mentioned (remember here they speak English) on the 5th of January that already 3 people had died in car accidents…not great stats there…sorry Guyana.
In the end my trip to Guyana ended quick as I decided on the 4th that ferry was my better option….after going back by ferry I wasn´t sure 100 usd savings was worth the time to go back by slow ferry but decision is decision and later I was glad I choose this over the other. I will add the ride back to the ferry was not nearly as hectic…much better speed (only be aware they might transfer you to a different car half way and not pay enough to get you all the way…yup this was my case…but again negotiating with a car acting as a taxi – the wife and daughter were also there – I paid 2 more dollars (the ride costs 2500 dollars normally – 200 is 1 usd).
Upon arrival, sunset time, I went for a run to see anything I could. They say don´t walk at night, go alone, be female, etc, etc….I didn´t listen and I felt perfectly safe in G/town and really liked it except there was not much to do…aka after 7pm streets empty because of safety issues; this city is super dark. I stayed on the 4th floor of a building and at night you saw nothing….there was a full moon while I was there and we had unaltered views and darkness for photos.
Two things I learned on my run, I won´t be walking alone at night and the sea wall where everyone said to run was very lonely and dark at night, do not go there! Besides that, all good. The next day I explored a bit, mainly on an AM run, yes I ran 2x in less then 12 hours but it is the best way to quickly see the city and maybe safest…ha ha This day I also fixed the iphone because now I was with no go pro and the screen wasn´t gonna make it, plus I did other errands including book a tour to Kaieteur Falls for the next day. I really wanted and hoped to hike there but I couldn´t find a company to take me for a decent price…they wanted 900 USD…eekk no thanks so I did 170 usd flight instead and well then I returned on ferry to Suriname because it missed me. Humm.
Georgetown had some pretty buildings and great food and walking paths but many things are really run down. I loved it here because it felt like a city, it was more active, it is bigger than Paramaribo. It had more fresh fruit, more Indian roti with some pumpkin and eggplant, not just chicken every time. The houses were more colorful then the nearly only white Par´bo buildings and the details on the houses were intricate. Plus the ocean was right there (it is below sea level – the seawall and canals are the only thing keeping the city above water). Finally people spoke Spanish (Cubans and Venezuelans mainly) and schools are teaching it, everyone thought I was Latina (ha ha dream finally came true!) and I could buy books (yippie English!).
The highlight in Guyana for me was definitely the trip to Kaieteur Falls, my trip of 4 hours in total, perfect because it was like going to see the Amazon in 1 day and without mosquitoes I might add (due to a local tiny red moss looking plant that eats them…yeah!). It was a 1 hour flight in a 15 passenger Cesna plane to the mountains, well some 1500 ft up, either way much higher above sea level than Georgetown. Again with pure luck, I snagged the last seat on the plane and when I was about to board I was asked to co-pilot – ha ha…I was selected to share the seat next to the pilot (a female pilot I might add) I imagine for weight…and I was all worried about snagging a window seat…lol Any who upon arriving they do several fly overs and then land, maybe 1 km from the falls. So with sunblock on we walked with a guide to 3 view points along the falls. Some of this was through thick jungle and made me wish the whole trek thing worked out b/c it was very pretty…the real deal…Besides the gorgeous falls, I liked the view of the valley and the tiny waterfalls nearby more but all was great really! We also got to see the Golden Frog and the Cock of the Rock in their natural habitats, and someone spotted a unique wild mushroom…all of these made it so worth the trip…too bad it was only 4 hours….yup
I was super casual on this trip, very relaxed and I let no one make me feel rushed…several times they said you must leave at 5 am and I said no way I will go later. It always worked out including my return trip to Suriname because I confirmed schedules. This time I took a shared taxi near the bus terminal (there are also mini buses there) but before I went for a fast run, I got some roti, I took out money and well literally took my time and when I got to the ferry I still had to wait like 2 hours…again I got there last…ha ha with everyone asking, how I knew to come later…on the am ferry there were so many people and cars (b/c remember the ferry closed service for like 10 days) they turned people down and when I arrived they were still waiting there (omg). The first ferry went with 300 passengers…woah…later I met someone who spoke of the French Guyana ferry which is smaller…only lets 7 cars and maybe 50 people…they said for the holidays there were 100s of cars lined up to cross…ridiculous…good thing I didn´t venture over there!
Arriving back in Suriname I didn´t go to Par´bo like nearly all others, I returned to Nickerie because I wanted to go to Bigi Pan; a large lake known for birding near Nickerie. (Yes, one more night in Nickerie and still no go pro..lol. This time I stayed at a cheaper apartment I randomly found) Obviously for Bigi Pan I did not want a tour so I managed to get a direct contact to one of the lodges. (I now was becoming more local I think, understanding the country maybe as now everything seemed to just flow.) Speaking to them directly helped a lot, they helped me out with a better price and even picked me up, basically I became part of the family for a few days and went along with those on tour.
I loved Bigi Pan the first second we started off…we saw 2 different species of money in the canal, plus a few birds I had never seen and fun jumping fish that occasionally joined us in the boat lol. Where we stayed was an elevated house in the middle of the lake with areas to lounge including right outside the room and some brutal breeze. Food was amazing, all Javanese…yeah!! and many dishes I had never tried…I actually started liking ginger for the first time and found a new fruit that was intriguing because it looked like grapefruit but it was sweeter!!! 😀 I also loved that we didn´t just arrive and that ended our day…no, no we went on 2 more tours that same day. The sunset tour was amazing, we got to see Pink Flamingos fly and the Red Ibis (amazing to watch when lighting is perfect) and many others. Besides the birds, the lake has dead trees everywhere giving everything shadows, reflections, bright colors and cool contrasts. Then with the water taking form from the wind…I was overloaded by beautiful surroundings. The night tour found no Cayman but we did see snakes, a first for me! The next morning I did some kayaking and we did one last tour to a beach on the Atlantic Ocean to play in the clay…ha ha it was sooo fun, we were slipping and sliding on it, covering ourselves in it and swimming through it…again here the contrasts were amazing and birding excellent! I managed to find Red Ibis feathers and a Pink Flamingo one too! This one night tour left me sad to leave but turns out the owner was headed to Par´bo so I rode with them back and hung out with them when we arrived, we ate dinner together and all…great tasting Chinese food…really tasted legit!
My last days of vacation I spent riding a bike to see some plantations on the other side of Suriname River, seeing previously closed museums and doing more local (I am from there) stuff.
Biking to the plantations in Nieuw Amsterdam was a great plan, it was fun to take boats across the rivers from the Leonsberg Ferry Terminal with the bike and have a 73 year old Javanese man give a tour of the now ruined factory and tell of his experience working there. At another plantation, that is now a resort, be the party crasher that arrives on bike instead of with a tour…ha ha I really enjoyed the bike ride…even the fact that they drive on the left side was amusing for me…a bit hectic at first as I often found myself on the right side when taking a turn…thus quickly corrected. I guess they drive on the left because of someone from British Guyana who came over..and it just stuck…b/c the Dutch don´t drive on the left normally, that is for sure.
Since I spent enough time in Par´bo I actually got a bit bored and went to the local pool to swim which was amazing in the end because I met locals, yes on my last few days, and learned that here they swim on the left side…what??? I ended up swimming on the right and it took 2 laps to convince the others in the lane that it was the correct way…at some point a group of 10 Dutch students jumped in and it became too crowded in those 50 meters that I changed lanes…as I did that I noticed they went right back to left side swimming…oops! A little culture even at the pool, cool, right?
Now that the holidays were over, I finally made it to the recommended museum, Fort Zealandia, which is small (and in an old fort, obviously) but helped me understand more and learn a bit more of the Surinamese culture…including the 100m butterfly Olympic gold medalist they have…speaking about swimming…right.
My last few hours got extended when I did online check-in for my flight and realized now instead of an 11 am flight, it was at 4 pm flight (only downside to the change was my original dreams of Eagle Beach in Aruba plan for my 5 hour layover were crushed and instead I would have a rushed 1 hour between flights)…With this news I decided I should go out on the town with my new friends and in the morning I could now run, eat more roti, send my postcards, take my time and maybe see the Hindu temple on my list!
Overall I´d say it was a good trip, even though relaxing for me I found my own action, I learned quite a bit and got to know the culture. If I had more time in Guyana I would have loved a boat trip down the Essequibo River making my way to Batika and maybe stay a night in Berbice (near ferry because it seemed like it had something to offer in a relaxed way). In general I would have liked to go more into the interior of either country and visit an Ameri Indian tribe. Fishing also sounded interesting as they seem to have several different methods of fishing…one was called spin-fishing…humm — but that alone as a female just doesn´t sound too appealing…this is not the first time I wanted to do that…on Zanzibar I wanted to go on a Dhow overnight and fish…crazzy?….cool?