French Guiana

During my flight from Belem, I could see the huge  broccoli forest which covers 95% of French Guiana (the forest looks like thousands of broccolis from the plane).  I reached Cayennes in almost 1.5 hour and I told myself: « That is it I am back in France now! Well, actually, French Guiana is the strangest French department I have ever had the opportunity to visit!

For instance,

-people do not tie their belt while driving here
- people do not consider you as an immigrant from the colour of your skin since most of the native population is black or brown ^^

-  when you go to the postal office called « La poste », you do not wait for as long as in France… you wait for far much longer!

- I found the people quite relax here in comparison to some people in Paris (not too hard!)
- Oh and last but not least! When you celebrate Christmas in French Guiana, you can go to the beach and enjoy the sun with your christmas hat !

This week in French Guyana was intense and amazing thanks to my cousin Lucie who was a marvellous host, guide and heu … cousin :p

Saturday : Fourgassier waterfall and Kaw’s swamp.

By car, I went with Lucie and of her housemates to the Fourgassier water Falls. We were lucky that the road was rebuilt a short time ago so that our car did not stay stuck in the mud. It was a sunny day :) . In French Guyana, unfortunately for them, they can not go to Paris swimming pool known such as Aquaboulevard…  So they have to go to natural waterfalls in the tropical forest… so sad! :p We saw beautiful blue butterflies there called Morpho.

On the afternoon, we joined the pier of Kaw where we started a very nice trip in pirogue in Kaw’s swamp. We visited a small village (Kaw’s village) and viewed many beautiful birds, we listened to the howler monkeys in the forest and we saw the largest rodent in the world (Capybara also called Cablaï which can weight up to 90 kg). As the sun set, the sky got darker and the temperature cooler, we decided to do what every good French people would do…  well… we took the apero!! We parked near a Carbet (a wooden-made shelter typical of the amerindian culture)  and  took some Ti’punch drink. After dinner, we moved on to a caiman hunt! The strategy is to use a lamp torch to detect caiman’eyes (orange color) in the darkness of the night while moving in Pirogue. The hunt was not very fruitful as we were told by the guide but we succeeded in approaching a 1.5m caiman (the guide touched it) and at the end of the hunt, we found some babies caiman (30 cm) and we took them in our hands!

Sunday: Cacao Hmong village and petrol shortage

For my second day, Lucie proposed to go to a village called Cacao (obvisouly no link with the chocolate). This is a Hmong village : « Asia’s Hmong ethnic minority has been scattered by hardship and warfare for centuries, but one of its most unusual destinations was French Guiana in the Caribbean ». Have a look at this link: « http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3498056.stm »

Lucie’s car is a Renault twingo which is as old as Lucie (ok may be less lol) and its petrol indicator does not work well. Thus,  before arriving in Cacao, we were in the red and we knew there was no petrol station in Cacao… We thought we were in trouble. Hopefully, Hmong shops sell everything (computer, butter, cooking oil, massage oil, bike oil and car oil!). This petrol was twice more expensive than in town but we were happy of finding it! THen, we visited Cacao which is rather small but where you really feel as if you were in another continent. We had a good Hmong lunch in the market place and we went to a small museum where there is a passionnate man who introduced us to many kinds of insects (spiders, butterflies, cockroaches, etc). I higly recommend this visit since the man is very interesting. I learned for instance that there is no lethal spider in French Guiana. The only real threat is a tiny scorpion which can go inside your shoes and stings you. So check inside your shoes before getting in!

During the evening, we went back to Cayennes and bought some Madras sandwiches in the famous place « Place des palmistes ». Then, we had fun with some friends of Lucie, quite funny :) .

Monday: An active and rather muddy day!

We started by visiting the town of Cayennes. I was touched by a statue claiming the freedom of ancient slaves. We found the old Fort of Cayennes which is not really a Fort but rather a small tower made of wood. The city of Cayennes is not very big compared to metropolitan cities. However, most of French Guiana inhabitants live there (or in the suburbs). We carried on walking and as it was 1 pm and I was stripped to the waist, I got a sunburn…

Then, we went to the beach. It was beautiful and almost nobody was there since we were on Monday. I swam a little in the brown water and we took nice Christmas pictures with Lucie and our hats :) .

After Lunch we left Cayennes to get the road of Kourou but we did a little stop in a one of the coves on the road. Coves are natural  inlet of sea water which are filled as the tide comes in. This one is called the Patate cove and to access it, one needs to take a muddy path with the car… and of course our car got stuck in the mud ! All alone I was not able to unblock the car by pushing it backward. Hopefully, two other girls were leaving the cove and they decided to help us after a little discussion. Eventually with three people pushing the car, we succeeded in moving it though I got a free mud bath when the stuck wheel moved! Hum, good for the skin, one uses to saying! We reached the cove then being more careful in the paths we took with the car. We rested and cleaned the mud away. We did not swim since the water does not look very nice…Then, we left for Kourou where we found one of Lucie’s friend. We enjoyed together an evening in the Saramacca village (people which originate from Suriname). We ate nice brochettes and drunk a Ti punch at will for only 1.5 euro per person! The cool waiter even ended by joining us for a few drinks lol.

We finished our day by making our bed or rather installing our hammocks under a amerindian shelter on the beach. It sounded great and It was beautiful. The downsides of this experience might be the mosquitoes, the leaks in the shelter which let the rainfall reach us in our sleep and eventually the sunrise which wakes you up quite early! Otherwise, it was nice!

 

Tuesday: « Les îles du Salut ».

In the early morning we reached a pier in Kourou to take one of the catamarans which bring tourists to the  Salvation islands located in front of Kourou coast. Waiting on the pier, Lucie and I observed the fishermen who were starting their day. Two of them were quite keen on brushing their teeth, they brushed their teeth for at least 15 minutes, loll, shiny! After around 1 hour by boat we got to the Salvation Islands. They are a group of three small islands. Historically, they are well known as a French penal colony built in 1852 with a reputation for harshness and brutality.

We started by the Royal island. I noticed that the water was blue there whereas it is usually brown along the coast. We saw animals like small monkeys which throw you coconuts to make you leave their territory, we saw also small funny mammals, parrots and turtles. I liked those islands very much, it gives me a small feeling of what Robinson Crusoe life is :p. After a Ti punch offered by the skipper of the boat,  we moved to the second island (Saint-Joseph) where there are the ruins of old penal buildings, scary!! Only the ants can thrive there! Normally, you can not really visit the old jails in the center of the isle and you are just allowed to walk along the periphery. However, the skipper of the boat gave us a tip: he told us he knew the island keeper and he had planned to have lunch with him today… so during their lunch, we were free to explore the center of the island where the old prison is! It was quite fascinating. Furhtermore, there is a beach made of small pieces of sea shells at the back of the island (heavenly!), we rested there and swam :) . At the end of the afternoon, it started raining heavily but for short. We came back to Kourou by catamaran and then by car to Cayennes.

 

Wednesday: Kayak in Gabrielle creek near Roura. Sludgy great !

Here we came, Lucie two of her friends and I in some kayaks on the water. We planned to visit Gabrielle creek and a lake, however the circumstances prevented us from reaching the lake… Indeed, when we called the Kayak center in the morning, they told us to come in the  afternoon because it was the good time relatively to the tide… I guess they wanted to rent the last available kayaks because actually, the tide was not here for helping us! On our way inland, the tide was going down (counter-current) and of course on our way back in direction of the sea, the tide was going up (counter-current). So we did not reach the main creek though we had quite a good time, taking our time and observing the bubbles on the water surface which were a good indicator of the direction of the tide. At some point, we got a bit tired and I saw a place where we could get off the boats and walk a little…We approached this king of small pier and two people among our group tried to get off the boat: a friend of Lucie and I. As a consequence we both got our legs swallowed in a sludgy matter up to the knees. I almost lost my shoes. Well, this was a weird sensation but anyway I had already been introduced to the mud on the last Monday. After this stop, we carried on rowing a little and went back to the Kayak center, ending at counter current … Before leaving the center we saw a little Matoutou (a kind mygale) which was sleeping (or digesting) in its thick spider’web.

In the evening, Lucie was trying to get more information about what we will be doing tomorrow. In French Guiana, there is no big GR (hiking path) as in France and when you want to go for a hike, you had better know people who have already done it, at the risk of ending lost and eaten byt the caiman…

Thursday: Virginie Rock Savana and a little party

We left Lucie’s house in the early morning and we headed towards the village of Regina. To find the hiking path we had precise indications: drive 13.4 km after Regina’s bridge and park near a small cairn of stones along the main road. Then, hide your car in the vegetation (not to get something stolen). So, we did it, we parked our car near another car which was obvisouly completely burnt lol… Then, we started hiking in the tropical forest :) and after around 1 hour and half we got to the Virginie Rock Savana! The Rock Savanas are called inselbergs in geological terms. An inselberg  is a small mountain which comes from past volcanic activity. The inselbergs represent extreme environments in comparison with the tropical forest:  temperature, dryness and sushine are  particularly high partly due to the dark color of the rock. For a glimpse of the Virginie Rock Savana, look at « http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-j9e4B5U2g ». We enjoyed the sun on the top of the rock and took time to discover the surroundings. It was beautiful and hot. Then we went back to the car and went to the village of Regina which is along the river called l’Approuague. There is a small museum in the city, there is also a small Brazilian community, especially one guy who has coloured his house with the Brazilian colours and who listens loudly to Brazilian music all the day… You ‘d rather enjoy samba when living nearby!

In the evening, there was a birthday party at some Lucie’s friends, this was nice though I was a bit tired , I had the opporunity to try to dance the tilili dance! (see « http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGRKtjPBMtw&feature=related »). And after that, a good dodo!

Friday: resting, packing and coming… back!

I woke up quite late of course, packed my luggage and swam in the municipal swimming pool (hot water evidently :p). Then, in the afternoon Lucie drove me to the airport where we joined a friend of her who was going back to France in the same plane as me. We got almost no delay, and at my disappointment during the flight I was the only one wearing a christmas hat! A bit sad for a 24th of December evening. Anyway, I arrived in Paris on time with my Christmas hat and my short (yea a short, I was already missing French Guiana). I got back to Neuilly sur seine, quite on time for Christmas lunch, not difficult since everybody was late lol!

This has been an intense, unforgettable week, full of activities, surprises and smiles… full of life! Thanks again Lucie!

A bientoute!



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