Navigating through the Guianas in taxi collectifs has been a real adventure; there aren’t any public buses, internet sites, or even schedules to speak of and there’s only one main road along the coast. Leaving Paramaribo, we hopped into an old VW bus at 4am and groggily endured a bumpy, swerving 12 hr. ride to Georgetown, the capital of English-speaking Guyana. At one point, we were jostled awake when the bus hit something hard and the driver abruptly screeched to a halt, reversed, and pulled over to the side of the road. From our window, we could see (and smell) the capybara that he had decapitated. The force of the impact was strong enough that its shiny entrails came spilling out of its neck (intestines really are quite long). We soon learned that their purpose in coming back was not to check on the poor creature, but to start making dinner plans. The driver had his boy assistant get out, retrieve the carcass, and put it into the van. There is no doubt that the carcass would have ended up in the trunk on top of Tia’s backpack had she not jumped out of the van exclaiming, “Um, excuse me, at least let me move my backpack first!” Instead, it ended up at the feet of some other passengers, half covered with newspapers and plastic bags. Thank goodness the windows were open.
Little did we know another surprise awaited us in Georgetown: the only road south through the rain forest to Brazil and eventually to Venezuela was impassable. After visits to three travel agents and a couple of airlines, it became apparent that our only option was a flight to Brazil in five days. Hmmm, we hadn’t intended to spend more than a day in Georgetown given that every guidebook and travel blog warned that it was incredibly dangerous.
We inquired about tours to the interior but they were rather expensive, so we slowly resigned ourselves to our fate and began to feel out the city. During the day we wandered around the bustling center, past open drainage clogged with stagnant water and rotting garbage. The first grocery store we went to must have been a reclaimed building because every inch of it stank of urine. We changed hostels after our first night because we were eaten alive by fleas as we slept. The second night we switched because, after managing to fall asleep to the reggaeton and Indian music playing at full blast outside until 5am, we were awakened by what we thought was an air raid and, instead, turned out to be some jackass sitting on his horn for a full minute (Jerries All Nite Long, indeed). We ended up spending our days holed up in a nice European style café, not inappropriately named Oasis.
On the plus side, we met some interesting people. A group of college-aged American girls doing WorldTeach told us about their travails with the Ministry of Education, flight delays, and cold water bucket baths. Later, we spent an evening drinking with a British kid barely out of high school who had spent a year teaching English in the interior, an Aussie who quit his job seven years ago and had been traveling the world on his bike, and a twenty-something English couple. We had noticed the couple a few nights before at a nearby pizza joint and were surprised to learn that they were held up at gunpoint, just a few minutes before we passed along the same road, no more than fifty feet from the hostel. Our dinners were all eat-in after that.
We won’t be forgetting Georgetown anytime soon but, suffice to say, we’re glad we got out.