Hey kittens, it’s about time for David and I to head off on a corporate-sanctioned adventure of ten days or less. This time, we’re heading to South America, a continent neither of us has ever visited. Machu Picchu, you ask, or perhaps Patagonia? I hear Brazil has some lovely beaches, too, right? All of those destinations, while lovely, seemed a bit too mainstream for us (or, let’s be honest, flights were a bit too expensive and required too much transit time), so instead of Ipanema or Buenos Aires, we’re off to the least visited nations on the continent: Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana!
If you’re thinking, “Where is Suriname?” then you’re in good company. The most Googled thing about Suriname is “Where is Suriname?” Most folks, upon telling people I was heading there, thought it was in Africa. Others, taking a clue from the film adaptation of “The Silence of the Lambs,” thought it was in Asia. In truth, Suriname, along with Guyana and French Guiana, is nestled into the least explored section of the Amazon Rainforest, on the Northeastern corner of the South American continent. I probably don’t need to say this, but the region is largely untouched by foreign tourism.
A small historical primer: The Guyanas, throughout history, have been colonized by a number of European imperialists – namely the French, British, and the Dutch. The nation of Guyana today was once known as British Guiana, Suriname was once Dutch Guiana, and French Guiana, well, remains French Guiana, an overseas department of France. Each is best known for different nefarious reasons. Guyana mostly for the Jonestown massacre, the 1979 event when nearly a thousand people took their lives under the director of Jim Jones and his People’s Temple. French Guiana for housing the most severe of penal colonies under French Imperial rule, inspiring the film “Papillon.” Suriname has perhaps the smallest amount of mainstream baggage, but has its own demons – from the bloody civil war in the 1980s, to the current troubles with gold mining (legal and otherwise – mostly otherwise) in the country’s interior. That said, the region is home to some of the most untouched rainforest wilderness in the world – home to flora and fauna that wouldn’t be out of place in “Avatar.”
Alright, so with that, allow me to give you the gist of what we’ll be up to while we’re there:
We’ll be flying on terrible airlines (sorry Frontier, you reap what you sow) on a red eye to get to Miami, where we’ll hang out with some friends for the day before flying directly to Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, on luxurious Surinam Airways. The day after we arrive, on David’s birthday, we’ll be taking a teeny prop plane to the main draw of the country: Kaieteur Falls. The subject of a Werner Herzog film titled, “The White Diamond,” Kaieteur Falls seem to come out of nowhere, cascading over 800 feet (or 250 meters to my metric friends) in a single jump to the river below. For perspective, that’s about four times the height of Niagara Falls, and taller than Seattle’s Space Needle.
The day after that we’ll tool around Georgetown in the morning (fingers crossed we don’t get robbed, as all I seem to read about Georgetown is how crime ridden it is) before flying on another puddle jumper to Paramaribo, Suriname’s capital. There, we’ll have a day to explore the UNESCO listed old quarter, and eat our weight in roti, before moving into the deep jungle. I have high hopes for Paramaribo – the combination of colonial architecture, an extremely multicultural society, and loads of veggie-intensive street food make it seem like a destination we’ll love. I have grand plans for us to paint the town, and foresee it joining the ranks of Tbilisi, Sarajevo, and Riga as a member of concrete and kitsch’s MVP cities club.
For our Amazon experience, we’ll be heading to a quaint jungle lodge, likely with a bunch of middle aged Dutch folk, called Knini Paati (coincidentally visited by the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler back in 2014). I’m not sure exactly what we’ll be doing there, but what I do know is that there will be a shit ton of bugs, and I’m currently investigating how much DEET I’m allowed to transit internationally with.
After a refreshing few days worrying about Dengue Fever, we’ll return to Paramaribo for a night. The next day, we’ll be day tripping to France (er, French Guiana) to visit an old penal colony. I hate to be a country counter, but I’ve never been to France, and I really want French Guiana to take my France cherry. THERE, I SAID IT.
After our quick jaunt to French Guiana, we’ll be flying back to Seattle via Aruba, Miami, and San Francisco. I’m not counting on our flights operating on time, and our layover in Miami is scarily short (as in, I fear being stuck in Miami overnight), so we’ll see if we get home as planned. Either way, the day after we get back, I’m due in Jacksonville, Florida for a work event. I’m sure I’ll be super fresh and thrilled to be there. Anyway, it’s sure to be one of our more adventurous trips to date!
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