The Guianas are the region made up of three smaller countries on the Northeast coast of South America. They are Guyana (formerly British Guyana), Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana) and French Guiana. They are all unique in their own way but there are also a lot of similarities between all of them. During my overland trip to the three over the holidays I was able to see most of the region and certainly got a great sense of the cultures and differences of the three.
I started off landing in Georgetown, the crumbling capital of Guyana. There wasn’t too much to see in Georgetown except for the old buildings but the laid back Caribbean vibe was really apparent. You felt relaxed but as I stated in my trip blog-there was always a feeling of uneasiness-like something bad or violent was about to happen. In the end, I had no issues and the English speaking people were very nice to me and even helped me arrange a charter plane to see Kaieteur Falls which was easily the highlight of the whole region.
After a transportation meltdown in getting overland from Georgetown to Paramaraibo, the capital of Suriname, I managed to enjoy a great city in Parbo. It really reminded me of San Salvador, El Salvador the way it was set up. There was one really nice area, Torarica, with a strip of bars and good restaurants and everything else kind of sprawled out from there. The Dutch speaking people were unique to me in South America seeming very cosmopolitan and there were a ton of expats working abroad in Parbo. Also, I met a ton of Dutch and European tourists drawn to Suriname by eco lodges and the oppressive heat of the tropics.
After yet another transportation meltdown with the brutal roads in Suriname I made it to French Guiana and the town of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni where I toured the former French penal colony and saw some neat old architecture. Unfortunately my visit was cut a little short because of a few factors but all in all I enjoyed my time there. The big difference I saw in French Guiana versus the other two was that besides speaking French, the conditions of the roads and infrastructure was fabulous. Obviously, they have money pouring in from France which takes its dependency seriously but it was nice to see a little bit of first world after a few days of crumbling and dilapidated areas.
The layout of the land in the Guianas is beautiful and lush. The landscapes were dotted with lush palm trees and shrubbery oozing onto the roads. The biggest problem was that the animals seemed to control the streets, especially in Guyana where cows call the highways their beds. They literaly sleep in the roads and you have to drive super slow to dodge cows and especially the endless amounts of cow feces lining the highway. Its fairly wretched but funny too. India’s got nothing on Guyana for cows in the streets!
Unfortunately, the coast of the three countries is not very nice which is a big reason for lack of tourists and the appropriate infrastructure that would occur with an influx of tourist dollars and foreign investment. The waters are super muddy and the beaches are barely that as they are not maintained and are filled with litter and other trash. The main draw of the coast off the Guianas is that the big oil companies are starting to search for oil there. Guyana and Suriname especially are fighting over the rights to the waters where they are exploring, trying to gain the riches that can befall them if oil is discovered.
That will be seen but for now the three countries are an interesting region to visit and as they develop, hopefully they can gain more in infrastructure. They can further their strength in natural beauty to open more eco resorts in the jungle and really promote eco tourism as Costa Rica has done for example. There are some really beautiful places as I saw, but it is very difficult to get around and nothing moves on time. It’s like your in Africa on Africa time but in the end, a little patience will go a long way and one of the most affordable places on Earth is only a 5 hour flight from New York.