To prison on Devil's island

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South America » French Guiana
December 11th 2012
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Geo: 5.00339, -51.8665

Today the ship moored off Devil's Island, which belongs to French Guiana. For those of you who have read the book or seen the film "Papillon", you will know that this was once a French penal colony. There are 3 islands in the archipelago, since renamed the Iles du Salut or Islands of Salvation. We were tendered to the largest island and from the landing stage there is a pathway first made by the original prisoners. It goes all the way around the island and there are paths and steps up to the summit which now houses a small hotel with restaurant and bar. The building was once the administrative quarters of the prison. On the lowest path we came across some lovely little monkeys. There are capuchins and squirrel monkeys on the island and I think these were the squirrel type as they were small and cute. We passed the children's cemetery and finally found the ruins of the original prisons. We had come over at 8.30 in the morning to try and avoid the heat but it was already in the 30's and very humid so it must have been hell to be a prisoner. The prisoners on this island were the least dangerous so the cells had roofs and bars whereas the prisoners on the other islands were in solitary confinement in cells which were no more than squares in the ground with bars over the top so open to the elements. There were prisoners to up until the end of world war two. It was good to get to the hotel and buy a cold beer. They take Euros and Dollars but as everything has to be imported onto the island it is expensive, but there are some lovely views of the other islands. There are peacocks and cockerels in the grounds and also a small museum with photos of the history of the island but all the descriptions are in French. The path around the island is reasonably flat but the steps up to the summit are very irregular and steep so not for the disabled. There are no beaches and because of the treacherous currents no swimming is allowed. It is easy to see why the prisoners did not escape or if they did they died in the attempt. We however, escaped back to our air conditioned ship for a lovely lunch.

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