There to Here – Exploring the Guianas

Continuing the ongoing saga of From There to Here … 

 Ruins at Ile Royale 

Ruins at Ile Royale 

the Guianas were the only areas of South America we had yet to visit. Our arrival in French Guiana after 26 days at sea was more than welcome. It was wonderful to be on land again … albeit small islands ... and stretch our legs. Only two of the islands of Iles du Salut are accessible to tourists … Ile St. Josephs and Ile Royale. The infamous Devil’s Island is off-limits to visitors and can only be viewed from the shore of the other islands. Click on the links above to explore the islands with us.

 View of the infamous Devil's Island from Ile St Joseph

View of the infamous Devil's Island from Ile St Joseph

Not familiar with French Guiana? No problem … read a little about this French overseas territory here.

We spent three days at anchor at the Iles du Salut, walking and exploring the islands before heading along the French Guiana mainland coast and 20 nm up the River Maroni to St. Laurent du Maroni.

 Sailing along the French Guiana coast was hot and steamy with a blazing sun overhead.

Sailing along the French Guiana coast was hot and steamy with a blazing sun overhead.

A sleepy little river port, St. Laurent du Maroni is dilapidated and tired, but enjoyable in a charming, French way. The market was lively and wonderful and river life was interesting. The town is, however, best known as the location for “Le Camp de la Transportation”, the infamous prison for thousands of Frenchmen incarcerated here between 1890-1946.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.

While in French Guiana, we had the opportunity to rent a car and explore the territory a bit. Cayenne, the capital city, was top of the list as was the Hmong Sunday market at Cacao. We also stopped at the European Space Center in Kourou, but missed watching an actual launch by just a couple of days.

Down the Maroni River in French Guiana and 35 nm up the Suriname River to Domberg, Suriname. It was hard to remember in the blazing sun and all the tropic heat and humidity that I’d been complaining about freezing just a few weeks ago. Suriname, previously known as Dutch Guiana, proved to be an interesting place. Once again, we picked up a mooring in the river and settled in to enjoy and explore a new country.

 We sailed past Parimaribo on the way up the Suriname River to our mooring in Domberg.

We sailed past Parimaribo on the way up the Suriname River to our mooring in Domberg.

Paramaribo, Parbo to the locals, is Suriname’s capital city and “big smoke”. We wandered through the city, visited parks, forts and museums, sampling the street food and picking up on its obvious Dutch influence. We even managed to watch one of the more unusual national pastimes ... a bird singing contest one Sunday morning. Check it out ... including a video!

 Unusual Sunday morning pastime in Parbo ... bird singing contests.

Unusual Sunday morning pastime in Parbo ... bird singing contests.

The mix of nationalities, ethnicities and cultures in Suriname lends itself to a cultural and religious diversity that is profound as evidenced by the mosque and synagogue situated next door to each other … not far away from a cathedral and a rather large Hindu temple. Pretty impressive.

 Mosque and Synagogue side by side ... they even share a parking lot.

Mosque and Synagogue side by side ... they even share a parking lot.

As always, the clock was ticking and we needed to move on. We motored back down the muddy Suriname River back to the Atlantic and plied our way through the shallow waters along the coast, then finally up the Essequibo River to Bartica, Guayana, previously known as British Guiana.

 Up the Essequibo River.

Up the Essequibo River.

Compared to both French Guiana and Suriname, Guayana was much more rustic almost “wild west” in nature, especially our arrival river port town of Bartica about 50 miles up river. A mining town, Bartica is called the “Gateway to the Interior” as it's the key jumping off spot for freelance miners, known as pork knockers, that scour the alluvial fields of Guyana's interior for gold and diamonds.

 Welcome to Bartica, Guyana

Welcome to Bartica, Guyana

After a couple of days anchored off Bartica, old cruising friends provided an introduction to the folks at Hurakabra Lodge just a short way down the river where we found a calm anchorage and a warm welcome. We ventured downriver with them to Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown where we spent several days exploring the city. From Georgetown, we boarded a small plane to head to the interior for a visit to Kaiteur National Park, described as the world's widest, single drop waterfall and considered a must-see while in Guyana.

 Kaiteur National Park, Guayana

Kaiteur National Park, Guayana

Hurricane season was over in the Caribbean and December and the holidays were fast-approaching. Nine of Cups was in need of some TLC, maintenance and repairs. Trinidad seemed a likely place to haul out and have work done. The 349 nm, 4-day trip was pleasant enough. We hustled to get Cups hauled, settled on-the-hard and buttoned up before heading to Boston for the holidays.

 Masts, masts and more masts! Arrival in Chaguaramas, Trinidad - December 2015

Masts, masts and more masts! Arrival in Chaguaramas, Trinidad - December 2015

It’s always seemed it was a whirlwind tour wherever we went, though compared to most tourists, I guess we had oodles of time. How could all these years have whizzed by so quickly? During our Atlantic passage and time in the Guianas, we had been contemplating what to do now that we were nearing home once again. Join us next week, most appropriately, the final week of 2017, for the final leg of our trip back to the United States mainland and the final installment of From There to Here!