30.06.2012 - 10.07.2012 90 °F
“So, where are you going this time?”
“Wow, Africa? That sounds interesting…”
It’s true, most people have no clue where Guyana is or what it’s about. It’s one of those places that is right in front of you the whole time, but you would never realize it existed unless something in particular draws your attention to this country.
I also would’ve probably hardly ever noticed its existence had the opportunity not presented itself that my two good friends, Nate and Ilana, were stationed there as part of their Peace Corps assignment. And so, I decided to pay a visit…
Situated on the northern coast of South America, the "Guianas" are actually three distinctly separate countries each with a different background. French Guiana (Guyane) is still a French colony and therefore a part of the EU. It’s by far the wealthiest of its neighbors, with France pouring in plenty of money to build a stable base for their space program.
Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana) borders French Guyana to the west. Dutch is still the main language in this country, but they have achieved independence form the Netherlands since the 1950s.
Nestled between Suriname to the east and Venezuela to the west is Guyana. It was formerly a British colony and therefore, the only English speaking country in South America. A direct 4.5hrs flight from Miami made it a breeze to get there, but the conveniences ended there.
We landed in Georgetown at 945 pm. Georgetown is the country's capital and also the largest city. It is on the northern (atlantic) coast of Guyana. 90% of the country's population lives along the northern coastal belt, which accounts for only 4% of the land mass. The country takes its influences from a variety of cultures, including Chinese, European, Brazilian-Portuguese, and Amerindian. Also, because of their proximity to and frequent trade with other Caribbean countries, most inhabitants actually consider their Guyana Caribbean as well.
As in most large cities of third world countries, Georgetown is no exception to having sketchy neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it seems that way for the entire city. We were warned multiple times not to leave our hotel at night, especially alone (well, that one is just common sense), but even as a group...always take a taxi that was called for by the hotel, never hailing one on the street. One overwhelming eye sore was the amount of trash polluting the city in every direction. Trashcans were pretty hard to find, even when you looked long enough.
Our hotel, “Ocean Spray,” was a nice stay for Guyanese standards. For ~$70/night, we had a room on a top floor with two queen beds, hot water showers (a must for me!), a mini-fridge, clean and spacious rooms and “ocean views.” The ocean was anything but the beautiful turquoise water with white sand beaches that usually comes to mind when thinking of the Caribbean. The Demerara River rises in the forests of central Guyana, flowing northward to meet the Atlantic Ocean at Georgetown and dumps its dark brown/tea colored water there, giving the ocean a very somber grey shade. Combined with pollution on the beach and a seawall full of graffiti, an ocean view in Georgetown leaves a lot to be desired.
We spent the first night here catching up and downing a few of the local brew - Banks. In the following morning we began the day-long journey to Mahdia, our outpost for Kaietur Falls.