First off, a brief apology for the break in writing. We’re well ahead of these posts on our travels, but when you hear about internet being everywhere when you’re in a foreign country, don’t believe everything you hear. Internet has been challenging, to say the least. The next few posts will require reflection, but should depict our up to date experiences for you just the same.
Would you like fleas with that?
A tip we had received from Jace and Sharon in Tobago on the new airline RedJet which boasts short cheap flights between Port of Spain, Barbados and our desired next location, Georgetown Guyana, led us back to the airport. Needless to say, Redjet is not dissimilar to the UK’s EasyJet or USA’s JetBlue. Easy and cheap if you book ahead; frustrating and expensive if you don’t. Another lesson learned. Thankfully, this was to be our last international flight until we leave South America.
In Georgetown, we had one mission – get a visa so we can travel into Brazil. Yes, it would have been easier to obtain one before leaving home, but with too much international travel close to our Trinidad departure date, being without a passport for any length of time was impossible. Don’t believe everything you read. LP had us convinced that Georgetown would be a unique mix of history, architecture, “Caribbean-meets-Europe” charm and good food. It wasn’t terrible, however if it weren’t for needing a visa, it would have been an in and out for us.
Our taxi ride from the airport to the centre was an interesting sort of tour in Guayana-English (a language in which we catch only every few words, it may as well be French). We came into the country with only a bit of TnT and US funds… nothing to even pay the taxi driver. As a foreigner, it’s never a good idea to pay with US funds, Euro or Pounds, even when it’s advertised as accepted. Although it may seem convenient, you will inevitably pay a higher price with a foreign currency. Money changers were abound… literally lining the street approaching cars (in particular those with white tourists in the back) flashing wads of Guyanese bills wanting to buy US funds. A big business here. Black market money changers buy USD for say 100:1 and then sell it for 102:1. USD are in demand in a country like Guyana whose own currency tags along the USD value – the exchange rate never changes and USD is the currency in which import goods business is conducted. As a seller of US funds, you get the same rate on the street as you do from an authorized cambio. As a purchaser, you get a better rate on the black market. It also prevents long lines and tracking of a passport number or ID number if you happen to want large amounts of money changed that would alert the authorities. A piece of advice…. If you change money on the street, get your money FIRST before you hand over the currency you are selling… count it – twice, then give over the funds.
Though there hadn’t been really any warnings as to the safety of Georgetown, the city isn’t considered a highly regarded area. We had to ask our driver where “not” to go. He answered by showing us rather than telling… a drive through the slum area just off the main drag and between our guesthouse and the market was deemed a “do not cross” zone.
Our second morning in the city started with an interesting event. Both of us were in our room, about to carry on some of our work for the day when a raucous started outside.
Arielle – “What is that?” Dale looked out the window.
Dale – “I don’t think we have good neighbours.”
Arielle – “It sounds like someone’s being held captive.”
Dale – “We’re not in a good spot here. I think we should move rooms.”
Arielle – “um, are there guns?”
Dale – “Yes, AKs”
No more talk was required, we wanted a closer look. Stupid tourists.
Peaking through the window of the room next door, down to the alley between the buildings verified guns and captivity. It looked like our neighbour was the local jailhouse. We soon learned from Rima that it was the Majesty’s court house next door. Every weekday morning, prisoners are moved from the Georgetown prison (which we’re sure is a glorious place) to holding cells at the court, awaiting their time in front of the judge. That particular morning, several prisoners had been kept in their dark coloured transport van with only a small slot to breathe in 40+ degree Celcius outdoor heat for over two hours. The disturbance we heard was the result of some very unhappy men as they were finally released from the van and moved into the cells that lined our alley. Nothing to fear, they were all in shackles and the guards had AKs less than 5 metres away. This scene, we would walk past for the next 5 days.
We did settle into a 10-day stay at Rima Guest house; tagline, “the cleanest guesthouse in town”. The use of a kitchen enabled us to eat something other than pizza, fried chicken or Chinese food – the culinary offerings of the city. It was refreshing to cook, and of course, tasty.
Despite our prowess with our rudimentary hand clapping technique of killing mosquitoes, we were at a loss for why we continually woke throughout the night and in the morning scratching like a dog with fleas….Finding a tiny jumping black speck on your leg isn’t a comforting feeling in a place you’ve been sleeping for a week. Great. We have fleas. So much for that tagline.