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We were up at 3:15am to quickly get ready for our transport to take us from Georgetown, Guyana to Paramaribo, Suriname. It was meant to pick us up at anytime from 3:30-4am. Not nice! Georgetown had been an interesting experience, but we were happy to move on.
We were picked up at 3:50am and then the frustration began. They parked in the middle of the city, doors and boot open of the van (exposing our bags and us) as we waited 45 minutes for someone to get there. For a city known for its crime and indiscriminate shootings, we didn’t really feel at ease, and we were quite annoyed by the whole thing especially since we could have still been sleeping.
After getting over being freaked out that we were going to get killed, it did give me time to think about the crime and security situation in Georgetown. Although I’m sure they probably do have a high crime rate, it’s hard to believe it’s as bad as its reputation. It’s not like most Latin American cities where houses are behind huge fences with barbed wire and barred windows and the fancier ones have security guards. The restaurants tend to be behind bars but I didn’t notice any shops like this. Josh saw a couple of security guards in businesses but I didn’t see any. The houses don’t seem to take any more security precautions than we do at home and once I got over my paranoia, it didn’t feel that unsafe in the city in the middle of the night. If we had been somewhere like Guatemala City, I think something definitely would have happened to us.
We were happy when we finally set off. The ride was uneventful except for a river crossing by ferry in the middle. It wasn’t that exciting, but did take an hour and a half all up. Some people got out of the van at this time and I was able to lay down and get perhaps ten minutes sleep. The van was pretty simple so sleep wasn’t an option while sitting. It was also full as the driver stopped to pick up people and drop them off on the way. It was annoying since we had paid so much, but it didn’t seem to slow us down so didn’t really matter.
The narrow strip of coastal lowland that we traveled along holds 90% of Guyana’s 768,000 person population. There weren’t many strips of road where we were surrounded by forest instead of houses. The town names seemed to change every 100 meters though, kind of weird. They varied from looking quite nice and well to do to run down and full of trash. We saw quite a few Hindu temples and it was very evident that there are more people of Indian descent outside of Georgetown.
We arrived at Moleson Creek for the ferry to Suriname at 9am which gave us plenty of time to get organised for the 11am ferry.
On arrival, we were given our tickets for the next bus to Paramaribo (the capital of Suriname) although we never had to show them to anyone. We bought our ferry tickets, filled in a form for immigration and got our exit stamps with no problems. We progressed to the ‘departure lounge’ which sounds much posher than it is (just some wooden benches and a tiny kiosk) and waited. We bought some biscuits which was the most substantial food that was on offer. We hadn’t eaten yet as I had stupidly left the food we had bought in our hotel room (hard to think clearly at 3:30am).
We ate these and read as we waited. Josh also fell in love with the one duty free shop situated here. They only sold alcohol, and we have never seen prices like it. Practically any spirit you could think of (even more expensive ones like Jaegermeister) were around US$10 for a liter and even XO cognacs were only US$90 a liter. Biggest bargain was perhaps a liter of Johnny Walker blue label only US$125. Sure beats any airport duty free although maybe not cheap enough to be worth the journey here!
We hopped on the ferry a bit after 11. It was quite scenic crossing the Corentyne River with jungle lining both sides and little sign of humans. Neither immigration point is in a town and it really is in the middle of nowhere. There is only one ferry a day, and this is the only land border crossing point. There were maybe 50 people crossing over with us, none obvious foreigners so it shows you the amount of traffic between the two.
It took about half an hour and we were standing in Suriname. The line for immigration was quite a joke with people pushing in everywhere so we had to wait a little while. It was no problem though and we weren’t asked anything. It took about an hour for everyone to get through and then we were on our way in a minibus.
We had lost an hour entering Suriname so it was 2pm by the time we set off and we had been traveling for nine and a half hours. We got the crappy side seats in the minibuses (the little seats they fold out in the aisles) and it got quite uncomfortable before too long as there wasn’t any back support and the first 45 minutes was on a crap pot holed road. I started to get tired and irritable cursing long journey days. Josh was enthusiastic for awhile longer (he still hasn’t done enough long journeys to hate them as much as me) but soon he was tired and sick of it as well.
It took about four hours to get to our hotel in Paramaribo. I am not really sure why it took so long as it wasn’t all that far and after the first 45 minutes the road was smooth and we were gunning it along.
Most of the road, until we got close to Paramaribo, was surrounded by farms. As we got closer it became more built up than in Guyana. The architecture was different. In Guyana, most houses were on high stilts, here most are on the ground and not so many are made of wood. The road had a lot of water on it in parts which made me wonder if they would be better off with their houses on the stilts.
By the time we arrived in Paramaribo, it was starting to get dark. We checked into our hotel (‘the one where all the white people stay’ our bus driver had told us) and quickly set out to visit an ATM and have some dinner.
Just from watching TV, we could see the diversity of languages here in Suriname. We only have local TV (which thankfully is a higher standard than in Guyana) and saw shows in what I believe was Hindi, Chinese, English and Dutch. I believe Dutch is the official language and the signs on the road are mostly in this however there is a lot of English around and surprisingly on TV when a show wasn’t in Dutch or English, it had English subtitles.
Minibus service from Georgetown to Paramaribo $10000 GYD (approx. $50 US), Moleson Creek-South Drain ferry $2000/$3000 GYD ($10/$15 US) one way/return leaving each side at 11am.