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Published: August 11th 2009
Arne and I got picked up at Albergo Alberga in Parbo by a guy called Robbie, a taxi collectif operator, Arne met him when they crossed to Albina from FG and his asking price for transport is cheaper than others, at 40 SRD compared to 60 SRD average. He was half hour early and he drove us to the Central market where all collectifs wait for fare, we waited there for almost an hour him doing his best to fill up the van 7 people max but failed, meanwhile his fellow drivers were yelling at him for some reasons we can't figure out, they are very competitive here for fare. Finally we moved at 1pm only to stop at this warehouse place to pick up something a woman in the van bought, then we hit Parbo traffic, soon we are trully on the road, the first part was ok then the road got bumpy in areas with big potholes some areas roads were completely destroyed. Robbie the driver is driving like mad, as if making up for lost time, 3 hour trip supposedly but we will do it in 4, we broke down with a flat tire and the idiot of
a driver he was his spare tire is also flat and he knew beforehand, he stopped some vehicles to borrow a spare tire! Arne helped him put the nuts and bolts as they change the wheel, Arne claimed Robbie cant even screw the bolts right, oh boy.. the 1st tire was not a match so he stopped 4 more cars until he found a fit, good thing here is the drivers are symphatetic to each other.We have to re arrange the luggages out back, some went to our laps and in the seats to accomodate the 2 other tires he borrowed that did not fit, finally off we go and got to the Albina port by 4:30pm immediately we got overwhelmed with boatmen trying to get our fare. We asked Robbie to let us off the immigration area. The queue was long and took awhile we have to get into this aircon room with one officer handling entry and exit processing.
The sign at the door is in French and Arne and I thought oh no this is the French Guiana customs but too late to leave the queue, so we deviced a plan to explain how we got
here without a Surinam stamp out. we got in the office and Arne started blabbing in French, the officer just stared at us and said please can you speak in English, only then we noticed the Suriname flag patch on his uniform, we apologized and explained we thought he was the FG official, he smiled and processed us quickly, writing our names in the notebook, no computer input here very manual. We hired a pirogue to cross and dropped us off at the immigration side in St.Laurent. The officer did not know what to do with my passport, took him 10 minutes, checking his lists, I guess he does not encounter my passport a lot, stamping me we braved the rain and ran to get a taxi hoping to make it to a rental car company before it shuts at 6pm, it's now 5:30pm we were desperate so we stuck out our thumbs, a Moroccan french dude working here at the port stopped for us and drove us around town shopping for car rental, in the end it was too expensive so we decided to take the collectivo van, the Moroccan dude gave us his phone number in case we
dont get out of town so we can stay in his place.
We took money from the ATM, euros! ahh just like in Europe but does not feel like Europe. we stopped by a shop and bought bread and cheese to snack in the van, we left and took us 3 hours to get to Kourou, it started raining. The little infant boy sat next to me is trying his best to take my bread and cheese, quite entertaining. We got stopped one by the gendarme, passport check, then off again. We got dropped off near a Mcdonalds in the city and we walked 5 minutes to find the guy called Taliko, an Amerindian chief who owns a piece of beach where we can set up camp for 6 euros a nite/person. This is where Arne and Amal my Belgian friends stayed when they came here 2 weeks ago. he was in Cayenne but the ladies of the house gave us approval and we set up in the dark, Arne bulit his tent while I tied my hammock.Then we went out for pizza, some goon looking dudes harassed us in the street, asking if they can have pizza and
if we can give them cigarettes, we ignored them but felt a bit uneasy and they know where we live, shit we got worried they might rob us at night.
We noticed some dude was checking us out behind the house so we tried to be alert, we have all our stuff with us no place to store, when the guy disappeared we went to bed, used my day bag as a pillow in case someone tries to steal it i will wake up. I slept pretty well, the hammock was surprisingly comfy, also helped by a steady breeze, did not get bit by mozzies. Next morning Arne started packing he leaves for Cayenne to catch his 'domestic" flight back to Paris. We walked around trying to find a colletif taxi, we also stopped by Hotel Ballahou to see how much is the room, 46 euros/nite, I have no choice I have to take it, Arne leaves and i dont feel safe alone in the beach especially with those goons knowing where I am ans there is no toilet to wash and do your business, i bit the bullet and booked 2 nites, ouch, this freaking country is darn
expensive! When Arne left I went back to the hammock and fell asleep. Woke up in time to check in to Ballahou, a nice tidy place, the receptionist spoke no English I dont speak French but somehow we managed to communicate, we both speak Spanish the same level! She booked my Iles de Salut excursion, a taxi pick up etc. good service.
Walked around town nothing really of interest, just lots of concrete blocks, housing the people working at the Space center in general. i had lunch at this Vietnamese place, lousy food! then took out money from the ATM, big queue but all waiting for the center teller machine, 2 others on each side no one using so I investigated, got money out and the rest scamper trying to be next after me, geez its like playing follow the leader. had another nap, oh my room has a/c and fridge and tv, still not worth the price! bought instant noodles and beer at the Chinese corner shop and called it dinner. Next morning the taxi was late! got worried i might miss my catamaran cruise, a haitian dude picked me up in this 4 wheel drive taxi, he
spoke good English, quite arrogant though, your dollar is no worth here blah blah, he mocks me, yeah but you're probably illegal here and make shit money that's why you're a taxi driver, i thought to myself. 9 euros for a 5 minute drive! I am definitely walking back! 46 euros for a whole day sailing to the Iles du Salut, nice boat, French and Russians on the boat with me, the Russians probably work at Soyouz at the space center. It was slow getting there took 2 hours, and quite choppy, we went around Ile du Diablo something, then docked at Ile du St. Joseph the captain talked only and explained everything in French, when we got dropped off by a zodiac to shore the catamaran left, I panicked so i asked 3 young french people in the boat, they said we get picked up in 2 hours time. i hate this when they dont even bother to speak English to explain things to me, the captain can speak English he spoke to me when I got on the boat but that was it.
Walked around the island quite nice but the beaches were rocky and the waves
are pounding the shore, but still people swim, some camped here for the weekend, they have their hammocks tied to trees and water supplies and food, I was quite envious. I went around the island then sat in the beach and ate my lunch i packed myself. The peanuts or the cheap Chinese chorizo did not go well with my tummy and i feel sick, I need to go to the toilet, but managed to keep it inside for the time being as there are no toilets here. from here we hopped to the other island the bigger Ile Royale, went up the hill there was a museum that only opens 2 hours in the am and pm. The auberge and restaurant is at the top, it is so muggy here if the breeze was not blowing i would suffocate. This island is nicer, killed time by lying on a shaded bench and listening to my mp3, went back to the museum but was still shut. The young french people told me there was a prison at the other island, I missed that one, i did not find the path, oh well.
We got picked up and refreshments were ready
in the boat, a green and red colored drink and one with booze, the Russians emptied that one in no time. my tummy by now is rumbling and I am suffering inside, one hour sailing, with our sails up but was faster, only 1 hour. we arrived at the port and i hurried to get back, it's still light so i decided to walk and turned out to be a 45 minute walk back, I was surprised I was able to hold on for that long, when I got back to my hotel room, Mt. Vesuvius exploded, very relieved, i grabbed a can of beer in the fridge.
I decided to see if i can book another night so i went to reception which only opens from 12 to 2 pm and 6 to 8pm. The kind woman told me she is booked, maybe a blessing as it is too much money but i dont know what to do tomorrow after the space center tour, shuttle runs once a day only to St.Laurent at 4am! She advised me to hitchhike, she made me a sign in a cardboard and gave me tips which road to hitch hike, we had
fun practicing in French what to say to people when asking for a ride.My last resort was to stay again at the Amerindian beach, not safe for a single person but no choice. I stopped there to pay for our one night stay, no one speak English but a dude came out and can speak Spanish but very impatient, I ran out of words quickly and left him.
Got up at 5:30am the plan is to walk to the space centre, 10 kms away, left at 6;15am At a steady pace I made it there in an hour, with an hour to spare i took photos of the replica of Arianne 5, we were supposed to meet at the Museum, there were already bunch of people there by the looks of it young French legionnaires. crew cuts, tattoos, smokes like a chimney. I was surprised to see a lot of people signed up for this tour, very popular well its free so... we checked in have to leave our passports at the desk, i saw my name on the list with a note ENG, hmm again i am the only non French speaker, the lady at the desk told
me they will take care of me being the only non french speaker, the tour is in french but am hoping they will explain it to me. we got on a bus, we had security check first, the guy found my Chinese "Swiss knife" and confiscated it for the time being, then we picked up our hard hat.
The tour went around the complex, quite impressive, we went to the launch pad, liquid oxygen plant,a bunker thing, the Arianne launch center etc, i did not understand a thing of what they talked about, none of the 2 guides pulled me aside to explain in English, it seems like they try to avoid me like a plague, i did not pursue, i just enjoyed the moment of being in such a cool place, never been to Canaveral, been to Baikonur in Kazakhstan but only outside and this is cooler because its in the middle of the jungle with wild animals around. We watched some movies at the jupiter launch center right at the museum complex then the tour is over. Picked up my passport and toured the museum for 4 euros. Picked up my knife and left. Took out my
hitch hiking sign and started walking towards the main road. I am a bit apprehensive, I have never hitch hiked on my own, this will be the first. Thumbs out and sign out I stoodon the side of the road with a big smile hoping for some folks to take pity on a poor backpacker. 30 minutes later no catch. In the searing heat I wilted quickly and contemplated giving up and going back to town, it is now almost 1pm, i told myself by 2pm if no one takes me i go to the Amerindian beach to spend the nite in my hammock.
Suddenly a van behind this massive truck stopped, it was a woman with her young boy, she said get in so i did. very nice woman a school teacher with perfect English, wow a blessing and quite good looking too. She said she lives 3kms out of town of St. Laurent she will drop me off near her house, I said ok, I will walk the rest. We talked about so many things time went by fast, i complained the French refuse to speak English to me, she said she had the same problem in
Paris, she is Black and she felt discriminated in Paris. While driving we saw bush meat being sold on the side of the road, aguacatis a small rodent like creatures and 2 dead toucans hung on a rope by its feet! Sad to see, she also said lots of Brazilian gold miners comes to FG illegally through the forest and they rendered the streams and rivers brown and contaminated with poison, she pointed to one river she claimed when she was younger it was clear and beautiful, now brown and mucky, she also warns me not to eat fish in Albina or St. Laurent as the river there is also contaminated. She decide to drop me off at the port, i felt bad as we passed by their housewhich is on the main road, she made the effort to drive me to the port, she doesnt have to, we exchanged emails and said goodbyes.
A rasta dude asked me if i want to cross to Suriname, i said yes but wait until i get through customs, 2 French Guianese girls were also in the boat, we got dropped off at the immigration in Albina for 4 euros for a
5 minute jaunt. We got processed so quickly, the bored officer whipped out the stamp and stamped us in quickly, no forms filled out, no notebooks to write our names. Outside a taxi driver haggled with us for the price to Parbo, we did not agree so we went with this guy with a collectivo van for 12.50 euros each he took us to Parbo after a half hour wait to fill up the seats, it was fast only about 2 1/2 hours and we are in town, he dropped us all off at our hostels, back again in my fave hostel Albergo Alberga and same room again, cant wait for my Parbo beer.
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