In Search of Internet in Guyana

Once again, we are Internet-challenged. Sad to say, we used to survive admirably well without Internet in our early days of cruising. But now that we do a daily blog, it seems a hardship to do without it. Internet access aboard, via digital modem, has been on our agenda since we arrived here in Bartica. Typically, in other countries, we've purchased a dongle/digital modem, a SIM card and a prepaid data package and though there were hiccups, we (read that David) usually succeeded in getting Internet aboard. It's been a struggle here, however, to access the Internet at all. As you'll recall, we visited the Digicel office on our first day ashore. We couldn't purchase a digital modem here in Bartica (maybe in Georgetown...hours away downriver), but if we unlocked our iPad, we could purchase a SIM and a prepaid data package. Not the best solution, but better than nothing. But Carl, the “unlock” guy, wasn't in his office that day or the next, so we needed to find another alternative … an Internet kiosk. Really? We haven't done that in nearly a decade.

internet in guyana

We found two places offering Internet … one was locked up tight; the other was just opening at 10:15. Internet was G$500/hour … fair enough. David had his iPad and, with a little help from our kiosk friend, was able to get on line immediately. I had a USB memory stick with me loaded with pics and blog posts for Gentry and I planned to use the kiosk's computer. I had problems getting on-line. First, the keyboard letters were missing entirely. Second, all the screen commands were in Portuguese … I forgot to mention, it was a Brazilian Internet place.

I finally accessed Yahoo only to be blocked from the account. “It appears you have not accessed your account from this computer before. For security reasons, we'll send you a code to verify your identity.” They offered to send it to my Yahoo mail (which I couldn't access) or our SailMail email address. Well, we weren't on the boat and I didn't have my computer, so SailMail was out of the question. Luckily, David was already on line, so we opted to have the code sent to the Yahoo address.

We waited and waited. Internet was painfully slow, but not this slow. I asked for the code to be resent. It popped up on the iPad screen a few minutes later. Unfortunately, the message “Downloading this message is taking longer than usual” also appeared. We waited and waited some more. Finally, the Yahoo code appeared … just about the same time that the electricity went out. “Black-out”, murmured our Internet guy. “How long?” we queried. A shrug of the shoulders indicated anywhere between 10 minutes and 10 hours. He told us to return in 30 minutes.

We checked out the flea market alley and a few other shops … Christmas decorations were on sale … and dutifully returned to the Internet shop in 30 minutes. Still no power. We had lunch and returned in another hour … still no power. We picked up some Demarara sugar from the grocery store and returned an hour after that to find the shop closed. A neighboring vendor indicated 6pm was the ETA for power resumption. We gave up and headed back to the boat.

En route, David noted that the generators for the power station, right on the main street, were housed in a semi-trailer in front of the Bartica Power & Light Company. A service truck was parked in front of the trailer.

guyana power and light

Looking up at the bird's nest of wires surrounding each utility pole along the street, we could begin to understand the power issues in Bartica.

birds nest of power wires in guyana

And then it was Sunday … everything was closed. On Monday morning, bright and early, we headed back into town. We found Keevan who handled our iPad unlocking problem. We waited out a torrential downpour then headed to Digicel to purchase a SIM card and 1GB of prepaid data for a whopping G$5000. Ouch!

waiting out the rain in guyana

Looking at the Digicel coverage map in Guyana tells the story of where the population centers are … and aren't.

digicel coverage map

While David waited for the Digicel service to be activated (anywhere between 10 minutes and 2 hours, we were told), I headed back over to the Internet kiosk. We had never paid the fellow for our previous visit (though we'd accomplished nothing) and I was anxious to send blogs and photos to Gentry. This time we lugged my laptop ashore and I could get into Yahoo without delay. The Internet was slow, but at least I got through. Hallelujah! Just as I was finishing up, David arrived with a smile on his face and working Internet on his iPad.

at the internet kiosk in guyana

Do we sound disgruntled and frustrated? Well, we were a bit frustrated, but honestly, the rustic, vibrant feel of Bartica has been enough to overcome the Internet malaise. Life is good, especially now that we're in touch with the world once again.