So I said that the drive to Georgetown was “an experience“. I’ve said there were no sealed roads in Guyana. I’ve mentioned we were picked up at night. Well… I would liken the trip to driving in convoy with a group of frat boys. Every minibus driver seemed to be racing each other, the roads being wide enough to circle potholes side-by-side trying to gain an edge. And it’s hardly a shock that the Guyanese like to drive with the soundtrack at full blast. We started with a standup comic, moved through 90s pop, some power ballads, the Shaggy album, and more traditional Caribbean music before we arrived at 4pm the next day.
Almost immediately we stopped at Surama Lodge until 3am for the driver to get some shut eye (paying G$500 for hammock space). The real reason is three hours north, through the Iwokrama National Park you must cross the Essequibo River, and the first pontoon is at 6am. From there it was a bum numbing eight hours before we reached the sealed road 60 miles from Georgetown. I was so glad we weren’t going back the way we came like some people do!
It has a reputation for crime. It’s meant to have a similar crime rate as Kingston in Jamaica, but with a bit of sense (don’t flaunt valuables, don’t go down dark streets at night…) we didn’t have any problems. We couldn’t find the YWCA listed in LP so stayed at Rema Guesthouse (G$7,000 for a twin) a lovely little place with really friendly and helpful staff, especially Michelle.
We spent three full days exploring, mainly due to our need to get a Tourist Card to get into Suriname. Their embassy are very strict on dress code, in fact they wanted work shoes so I was lucky my scruffy dunlops passed their standards! Apparently leggings that are longer than the skirt in their picture were not…
We had to go back the next day, properly dressed.
G-Town has a lot of wooden colonial buildings which are worth a visit, the History Museum explained the heritage as well as the indigenous animals, and the market is recommended. Guyana was originally a Dutch colony before the Brits took it over. They gained independence in the 60s, became a republic in 1970, but remain part of the commonwealth.
On the second day we tried to climb the lighthouse. Well, we managed, but it was a mission. Weirdly, the tickets (G$160) are sold in a government office round the corner, you must again be properly dressed to buy tickets, and I waited next to a man getting his boat license. Very surreal!
The thing that lets G-town down is the dirt and litter. It’s everywhere. The Caribbean coast was an absolute dump. It was never going to be Kadidiri, but it was worse than Blackpool!
This lead to some people taking a very negative attitude towards Guyana as a whole, which I don’t think was fair. As long as you expect the poor infrastructure and the disparity of wealth, it really is a great country, one that I want to return to. In fact it’s probably at the top of my revisit list right now.
The icing on the cake was a trip to the Demerara Distillery.
Producing a lot of sugar cane has lead to rum production, why wouldn’t we head over for a tasting! We took a cab there and back (G$2,000) with Nicholas, who had reappeared, and Richard a very well travelled, retired Brit. The El Doradotour is G$3,000 and our guide Eric was lovely.
The tour includes very generous taste testing of El Dorado 8 year, 12 year and 15 year, then I also tried the spiced rum. By 11.30am we were rather merry. Being Brits we obviously headed off to a curry house.
Guyana is a wonderful mix of Amerindians, Indonesians and Indians, leading to a fabulous array of cheap foods and cultures. They speak English, but with a strong Caribbean accent. It was acceptable to call me “white girl” and we learnt some great phrases. A favourite being “Nobody want no dutty powder!” It really was a shame to leave, and that we couldn’t afford to see more of the spectacular interior before it becomes more built up and the disregard for waste damages it.
Guyana, in the words of Arnie, I’ll be back.