In this, the sixth post in my series on far-flung France we’re going on a family holiday to South America, to a little-known location, French Guyana, France’s only Dom-Tom which isn’t an island. Taking us on this holiday is my lovely friend Liz who is not a blogger, just a very prolific traveller. It’s not easy to find people who’ve been to this distant land so I was delighted when Liz agreed to write her first blog post for me.
These are her words….
I’ll admit it, I’m a virgin blogger, this really is the very first time! But when a good friend asks for help, who am I to refuse?
Phoebe’s currently blogging about France’s Doms and Toms (overseas départements and territories), as I’ve been to French Guyana, I’ve offered to help her out, so here goes.
My family gets around a bit, I’m English, my husband Paul is French, and he works for Air France, so not only do we get cheap air tickets we also get to live in different countries every four years. Since 1997 we’ve met a lot of people, so many people, from all over the world. And when they say “do come and visit”, we do, literally. So when friends from our Tel Aviv posting invited us to visit them in Kourou, we jumped at the chance.
We’d planned our trip to coincide with an Ariane launching at the Guyana Space Centre, we were too excited for words. More (or less) of this later.
Arriving in Guyane was like arriving in another French city, you saw La Poste, la Sécu (social security), la Mairie, les écoles maternelles, etc, because we WERE in France. Guyana is not a French territory, it’s a département, like Alpes Maritimes ou Finistère.
We were staying for about 10 days so had a lot to get in. We didn’t hang around. Day 1 took us off to Tour Dréfus on the beach in Kourou, the Kourou Zoo, the Patate Creek, and the Fourgassié Falls, we didn’t venture out too far as we were a little tired.
Our friends live in Kourou, which is not the capital of Guyana; the capital is Cayenne which is about an hour’s drive away north of Kourou. We also had Air France friends living in Cayenne at that time so we popped in to see them too.
So going back to the Ariane launching, the would-be highlight of our trip…. Due to bad weather conditions the launch was postponed by a week or so, what a disappointment! We went on a tour of the Space Centre though which was really interesting, and just amazing to see rockets up close. Thoroughly recommended when you have three boys I can tell you.
We went on a couple of two-day mini trips. The first with our friends, so 10 of us in total, was down to the Kaw River, access to our floating carbet by pirogue only! It was amazing, all ten of us slept in multicoloured hammocks lined up ten in a row on the top floor of the carbet. Activities included fishing for piranhas and swimming with crocodiles, I kid you not. An experience not to be missed.
The second mini trip was just the five of us (at the time my boys were aged 15,12 and 6), where we went on a “canopy camp” expedition, again, only accessible by pirogue. We stayed in a camp built on stilts, about 15 metres high, again, hammocks obliged! Here we went on a jungle trek, did some kayaking, but the pièce de la résistance was “climbing” 40 metres up the trees on to the jungle canopy above. Well, who’d have thought I could do such a thing?
You were attached to all sorts of ropes and levers and literally had to haul yourselves up the 40 metre climb. Our six year old had a little help but the rest of us had to go it alone; it was exhausting. On top of that, it was raining, so we were all soaking wet (from rain and physical effort), not a pretty sight. The view from the top was out of this world, we really were above the jungle canopy and were able to see all sorts of exotic birds and trees, a little misty though at times but the weather did get better.
One last trip was to the Ile du Diable (Devil’s Island), one of three islands opposite Kourou, making up the Iles du Salut. This particular one is famous for housing a prison. Think of the film “Papillon”. Its most famous prisoner was Alfred Drefus, Captain of the French Army, sent there for life for delivering secret documents to the Germans.
Some of the buildings have been transformed into holiday bungalows, we didn’t stay there though.
Guyana was fascinating. It’s a place we probably would never have gone to had we not had friends there, but I’m so glad we did. Madagascar was another trip we did to see other friends, again a place I may never have visited. So be warned, if you say, “do come and visit”, we probably will!
Liz, traveller and expat extraordinaire, with no ambitions to become a blogger…yet. I’m working on her as she should have some exceptional stories to tell from living in Senegal, China, Benin, Israel, France, England and Ivory Coast…quite an eclectic mix. (She also has a holiday apartment in French St Martin!) All photos are provided by Liz.
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