Friday, September 10, 2010

From Guyana to Venezuela

Places less visited, like the roads less traveled are often the places where people are the most humans and welcoming. Guyana is one of those place, the less touristic place in all Latina America, nobody talk about it...a forgotten land. We disembark on the Guyanese land without a problem thanks to the Surinamese authorities who had arranged everything for us. We didn´t even had to ask, we went to the police station just to ask for some information and the day after we were on the boat. the difference with the two other "Guyanas" strikes us immediately. Getting out of the customs, we got assaulted by a horde of shouting faces with bills in the hands trying to convince us to jump on their buses. As soon as they understand we are traveling without money, the crowd open and wait for the next victims.

We are in a new world, Europa is far away now, imperialism didn´t last so long here...Guyana got independent in the 60´s. We discover different kind of people, a darker skin, shinier smiles, more honest...more humans. Thumbs up, right out of the customs, a car stops. They said hitchhiking is hard in Guyana...We get quickly to the next town. It seems like they are not so many tourists who pass by, everyone look at us, some talk to us and invite us to shake hands and chat a little bit. They are all curious. We meet many people, Hindus (more than 40% of the population), people from African origins, Muslims, Christians, all curious, welcoming and generous.
They is only one road that leads to Georgetown, a road that crossed a beautiful savanna and a couple of rivers, oasis of palm trees and coco trees. All along this way, there are houses that stand as if it was a long city offering a fresco of colors and architecture, wooden houses on stilts, funny hindu´s houses with bright colors, small sheds, richer and poorer living side by side. On the burning asphalt, some animals wander in freedom, cows, donkeys, pigs...that are responsible for 70% of the car accidents. We had ourselves two enriching experiences, our first accidents on the journey, two in two days on this road...everything all right, makes it just more fun! Cars, pick-up, trucks, all vehicles stop for us and bring us to Melanie. the first Guyanese we had met, in the customs, a inspired Rastafari had invited us to come to see him there...doubting we could achieve to see him the same day...but we are hitchhiking masters and we knock at his door in the night. We can enjoy the rhythms of the Caribbean English and enjoy the Guyanese hospitality!
In the morning, on the way to the capital city, we open our eyes on one of the main problem of Guyana, the filth and especially all the plastic packages, glass bottles, polystyrene that are everywhere, on the road sides, in front of the houses, pile waiting to be burned, in the channels...a true ecological disaster that shows its best when we get to Georgetown where most of the population live, about 400 000 souls. A young girl walks holding the hand of her father...she eats a chocolate and leave the plastic on the reaction, normal thing. It is raining a lot here, rains that irrigate the lands and clean the streets, removing the rubbish into the channels then to the sea. No one on the beach, just trash, some fires set up by the locals to burn their garbage, a sad view on modern society.
Guyanese people are surprising, a subtle mix of African, American, European and Asian origins who live together in peace, all proud to be Guyanese, in accordance with the motto of the country: "one people, one nation, one destiny". Half of the population is Cristian evangelist, the other half mainly Hindus. All believe in god but just a few are committed to protect their planet. Streets are joyful, wooden architecture with the tallest wooden church in the world, most of the buildings are painted in white giving to the place a pure feeling. We spend a couple of days in the city, understanding the failures of the system in terms of education and environment, green washing in the billboards but complete absence of public consciousness. No containers nor bins, no connection with the nature...a rapid growth that goes out of control.

A third traveler joins us, Nieves, the Girlfriend of Raphael who wants to discover the humanity with us, open herself to the world and leave her soul to destiny with one goal: share and love. We meet Charlotte through couchsurfing, a lovely human being who is committed to make this world better, vegetarian and sharing most of our values and principles. A lovely little women who offered us her place. She is a volunteer here for VSO, a British organisation that send volunteers all around the world to train and help the locals to develop sustainable strategies. We meet a bunch of those volunteers freshly arrive from Europe. We enjoy they company, getting as much energy as we can from these lovely people who decided to abandon their comfortable life to serve humanity.
Soon, our legs are trembling...the road is calling is...we go back on the street to head right to Brazil. As a matter of fact, they are no official way to go directly from Guyana to Venezuela, no borders, Venezuela is claiming all the west part of Guyana. We decided then to cross the marvelous jungle to get to Brazil and from there enter Venezuela. Starts then a wonderful adventure through the wild, on the back of pick up, wood trucks with experimented drivers who go like crazy on the muddy roads. Deeper we go on the jungle and friendlier are the people, the Guyanese treat us as kings, they offer us shelters, food, rides and they have always tons of questions to ask about where we come from, what are we doing here, etc. We enter then the natural park of Iwokrama where live the indigenous people. Paulette, one of them and responsible for the park introduce us the story of the place and arrange a night in one of the villages. The people there are trying to save their cultures inviting tourist to discover their world, they are friendly, hospitable...until the night comes and many of them, transformed by the alcohol are getting annoying and vulgar...a sad situation that doesn´t attract the tourists...

It takes us a couple of days to cross Guyana, the rivers, the roads that are blocked for hours when trucks get stuck in the mud. Hopefully, we found good drivers as Colin and his "land cruiser", he even said that his car was the favorite car of Ben Laden. We get to Lethem without a problem with a 4x4 from a strange Brazilian who travel with a gun and a fridge...We leave finally the amazonian jungle after two lovely months on her landscapes open to our sight, flooded savannas, green mountains...After one night in Lethem, enjoying the hospitality for the last time in Guyana, we come back in Brazil...just passing....enjoying the savanna and the beautiful natural park, recycling a bit of food in Boa vista and join the Venezuelan border...

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Discovering Venezuela


  1. Los felicito a todos por su aventura a conocer nuevos mundos y a descubrir a la humanidad en todo su esplendor:-D! Good luck young people;-D!

  2. Hi there. I just found this blog. The experiences you describe sound amazing. 2 months in the Amazon? Wow. There must have been many things there which you learned.

    As far as the litter in Georgetown. I'm reminded that poorer countries often times don't have as good a waste management, and the culture is used to throwing banana and mango peels etc. But really, what I was reminded of is that the poor, or poorer countries, often live with what the rich hide away and pretend doesn't exist. In some ways it's more honest to live amongst all the trash than have a neat and tidy city while large portions of the countryside or ocean are dedicated to hiding our real filth. Best of luck! I look forward to reading more.

    BTW-my name is Jesse not Grace. I don't know why it says Grace.


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